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

Bible Prophecy about Self-Love in the Last Days

Daily Devotional: Day 160

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy” (2 Timothy 3:1-2, NASB).

We’ve been living in the last days since Jesus ushered in a new generation with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:14-21). The last days is a long period stretching from Pentecost to the Last Day when Jesus shall return to judge the living and the dead. During this ‘last days’ period, the Bible gives us prophecies regarding specific events that will occur. Some of these events have happened; others are happening now; and still others are yet to happen.

In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul predicts nineteen (19) specific moral traits that will be characteristic of people during the last days. At the end of the list, Paul cautions Timothy to avoid such people. Today, we will focus solely on the first trait: “men will be lovers of self.” Before we continue, let’s note that before Jesus came, people were showing these traits. However, Paul’s prophecy is signaling that these traits will become so pronounced, prevalent and so obvious that it will be impossible to miss or deny; not only that, the context also suggests that this trend is not expected to improve until Jesus returns.

Paul’s prophecy is unfolding before our very eyes with breathtaking accuracy. We are ‘officially’ in the age of self-love and self-worship. We have a new religion, and the god of this religion is SELF (me). The temple is me; the high priest of the religion is also me. Membership in the religion is restricted to one person, me. You’ll find this self-worship in nearly all facets of life.

Social media has become the ideal platform for self-glorification and vanity. Moreover, the emergence of SELFIE is a much welcome technology for lovers of self. With it, it’s easier now for people to pose from anywhere and flaunt their flesh for the world to admire, like and praise their looks. Adults and young people alike are caught up in it. Adults are behaving like kids, and kids are behaving like adults. Desperate for affirmation, some social media users, for example, will like their own post or post things like, “I love me,” “Happy Birthday to me,” etc. Self-centered worship has even crept into our churches. Our preaching is becoming more about self-improvement and self-realization; how to unleash the best you. Prayers and songs are tailored to fit this line of messaging with an emphasis on positive “I am” declarations.

We are even seeing a trend toward sologamy, i.e. self-marriage. Yes, people are marrying solo. It’s not legally recognized, yet. But make no mistake; the legalization of every lifestyle begins with the first step. If you’d like to find out more about this phenomenon, click here to see a news report about it.

We can understand why Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). Bible prophecies are meant to instruct, warn and encourage us, so that we can watch and pray, and not be overcome by the snares of satan. A major obstacle between us and Jesus is our self. Let’s die to self and embrace the freedom in living for the glory of Christ alone.

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

For further study: Galatians 2:20

Is Jesus Your Number 1?

Daily Devotional: Day 113

“He who loves father or mother more than Me [Jesus] is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37-38, NKJV).

Anything or anyone you love more than Jesus is your true god. It’s that simple. 

The love Jesus extended to us is radical. It is so radical that it defies human logic (see Charles Wesley’s beautiful hymn about God’s amazing love. Pay attention to the lyrics). Similarly, from those who wish to follow Jesus, He demands nothing less than radical love, i.e. a love that puts Jesus above all things and above all relationships – a love for Jesus so strong that it is ready to pay any price to remain faithful to the Master. It is at this point that Jesus truly becomes the Lord and King of your life. Jesus doesn’t want to be your second or third love. He wants to be the only King of your heart.

Jesus says that if you love father or mother more than Him, you are not worthy of Him. Also, whoever loves son or daughter more than Jesus is not worthy of Him. Finally, if you do not take up your cross and follow after Jesus, you are not worthy of Him. These are strong words coming from the loving Savior. Yet, He speaks truth. What do Jesus’ words mean? Jesus isn’t asking us not to love our family. His point is, if your love for your family collides with your love for Jesus, He expects you to choose Him over your family. Or if your love for your family appears more important to you than your love for Him, then you are not worthy of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t want us to sacrifice our love for Him on the altar of our love for creatures.

In fact, if our love for anyone or anything begins to grow in importance over our love for Jesus, we have a decision to make: keep Jesus and let go the other love; or keep the other love and let go Jesus. We can’t have both occupying number 1.

And carrying our cross means our readiness to cheerfully bear the cost of following Christ. This cost can range from suffering, time, money and spiritual discipline to humiliation and rejection by people. Jesus bore His Cross cheerfully. He expects nothing less from His followers. If we grumble and whine, it doesn’t count for carrying our cross cheerfully. Put Jesus first always, if He is your number 1.

Pray to the Father about today’s message.

For further study: Mark 10:17-31