What Was “Finished” at the Cross? (Pt 6)

Daily Devotion | Day 365

“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).

Today we will look at the final part of Gabriel’s prophecy (Daniel 9:24) regarding the Messiah’s work, which is: “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” As we go through the Scriptures, we will realize that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy and called us to manifest the fulfillment in our conduct. Jesus’ death on the Cross marked the end of sin’s reign and ushered in the reign of righteousness. As Paul said, “those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17; see also v. 20-21 and 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead serves as the power source and the pattern for believers to walk in the everlasting righteousness of God. Hence, Paul writes, “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Therefore, to live in the resurrection power means to walk in newness of life. This newness of life refers to a life of everlasting righteousness. The “walk” refers to our conduct.

Risen with Christ, we conduct ourselves in accordance with the gift of everlasting righteousness received at our new birth. Paul emphasizes this point when he writes to the Christians at Ephesus: “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk . . . put off concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts . . . and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:17, 22, 24). Peter confirms this when he says, “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:14-15). To be holy in all your conduct simply means to live a life that consistently manifests the everlasting righteousness of God.

Peter reminds us again that Jesus “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). In other words, Jesus died for our sins so that freed from sin, we would go forth and live righteously for the rest of our lives. This is how Gabriel’s prophecy (Daniel 9:24) that the Messiah would “bring in everlasting righteousness” is fulfilled. The father of John the Baptist, Zachariah, knew about this everlasting righteousness. Recalling God’s oath to Abraham, he prophesied by the Holy Spirit that God had made a way for us to “serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life” (Luke 1:67-75).

In Christ, the Father has created His project of everlasting righteousness. It is a perfect work of the Father, executed perfectly by Christ. We who believe in Christ are called to be the living expression of this righteousness project. The Father’s design is flawless. He has provided everything we need to manifest His righteousness and shine in the world as children of light. What we need to do is reject every doctrine that says we cannot live without sin. The only person who stands to gain from such a doctrine is satan. He, the devil, loves those who sin because he relies on them to grow the kingdom of darkness.

Everything we have said in this series (as well as the preceding one) is to defend the Father’s plan of righteousness and sinless life for His children and to expose the false beliefs that hinder us from enjoying freedom from sin. The Holy Spirit knew that righteousness would come under attack through a distortion of the Scriptures. He knew that people would come who would tell us that Jesus has made us righteous and after we receive this righteousness, nothing we do can make us unrighteous.

The Spirit knew also that there would people who would tell us that if we make any effort to live righteously, we are adding works to the finished work of Christ. Therefore, He inspired John to warn us, “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He [Jesus] is righteous . . . In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:7, 10).

A new year is upon us. I wish you well in all your endeavors. I pray blessings upon you. As we bring an end to the Daily Devotional, I hope it has been a blessing to you. Keep running the race of righteousness.

I will leave you with the following words of our Father. After reading those words, ask yourself: Can I live the rest of my life walking only in holiness and righteousness? I hope your answer will be an emphatic, “Yes, I can! And yes, I will!”:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Happy New Year!

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 2)

Daily Devotion – Day 362

“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).

Today we will look at two more things in Daniel’s prophecy. Daniel prophesied that a time was determined (a) to finish the transgression and (b) to make an end of sins. As we pointed out yesterday, these prophecies refer to the work of the Messiah and the expected outcome of His work. Jesus, as we know, is the Messiah. We know also that by Jesus’ death on the Cross, the Father has reconciled us to Himself. This means our reconciliation was finished (done) on Calvary. But that is not all. Daniel’s prophecy identifies other things that would result from the work of the Messiah: finish transgression and make an end of sins. We will look at each of these prophecies, starting with “to make an end of sins.”

To make an end of something means to defeat, stop, destroy or render it powerless. By His death on the Cross, Jesus made an end of all sins. This means He defeated sin, dethroned it and rendered it powerless, so that sin can no longer multiply (as sins). We must emphasize that Jesus accomplished this once and for all time. That is why Jesus will not die for sins again (Hebrews 9:24-28). How did Jesus make an end of sins? The Bible provides the answer in many different ways and in several passages. We will look at three of those instances. 

Through the death of Jesus, God “condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). Notice the past tense. To condemn something means to make an end of it. That is what God did to sin. When God Himself condemns something, we can be sure that that thing has been brought to its knees. Another important passage is from the First Letter of John: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (3:8). “The works of the devil” is referring to sins. Satan is a sinner and he gains power by getting people to sin like he does. That is how he controls people. But Jesus died on the Cross to destroy the works of sin, so that people would no longer do the devil’s works, i.e. commit sins. 

The next passage is from Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” This passage is telling us that sin has lost its dominion because it has been dethroned. This took place through the death of Jesus. Calvary was where the battle against sin reached its climax. In that battle, sin lost and Jesus won. On Calvary, God made an end of sins. And Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled.

We will pause here and continue tomorrow, if the Lord permits. In the meantime, understand that Jesus has made an end of sins. Sin could not defeat Jesus. It cannot defeat you, either. Sin is powerless against the Holy Spirit in you. The power of God in you is infinitely stronger than any temptation you might face. Walk in this truth and you will overcome every temptation just like Jesus did. Live free from sin. Live for Jesus alone. And enjoy the blessings of the born again life. Amen.

For further studyHebrews 7:1-28

Why Do Christians Continue to Sin? (Pt 8)

Daily Devotion  – Day 358

“For the death that He [Christ] died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:10-11, NKJV).

In the entire chapter 6 of Romans, Paul has but one message for Christians: You can live sinless, so live that way. Recall that at the beginning of this series (Part 1), I briefly mentioned Romans 6:1-2 and recommended that everyone take a look at it. I said at that time that we would return to that passage later. The time has come, so to refresh our memory, this is what Paul said: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Everything Paul said in this chapter is held together by the first two verses (which we have just quoted) and verse 14 where he writes, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” In Paul’s mind, those who have died to sin can no longer live in sin. In other words, they can no longer sin. That is what he implies by the rhetorical question, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” 

Some would say that there is a difference between living in sin and merely committing a sin. But this is just another way of avoiding Paul’s point. The Bible makes no distinction between committing sin and living in sin. When someone sins, in that moment the person is living in sin, even if the sin lasted for one minute. The one whose sin lasts one minute and the one whose sin lasts one month both lived in sin at some point. Hence, attempting to draw a distinction between committing sin and living in sin amounts to splitting hairs. The implication of Paul’s rhetorical question (“How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”) is obvious: Because believers have died to sin, they can no longer continue to sin; the only life befitting their status as God’s children is a life of righteousness, a life without sin. 

Paul knew believers were (are) fully capable of living without sin because of the abundance of grace available to them. In case people had any doubt about this, he emphatically stated, “For sin shall not have dominion over you . . . for you are under grace.” Notice Paul’s choice of words. He did not say, “Sin shall have dominion over you from time to time.” Rather, he says that sin will have no dominion at all. This means Jesus has opened the door for every believer to live sinless. What remains is for us to take advantage of the opportunities grace has set before us. 

Not only is it possible for a Christian to live without sin, it is the expected normal life of the believer. The believer has no other life. This is good news, that we can live righteously as Jesus did. Therefore, we need to preach a Gospel that includes the cessation of sin so that Christians can experience the joy that comes from reigning over sin.

To be continued tomorrow, God willing. Until then, meditate on Romans6.

For further studyRomans 6:1-3

Why Do Christians Continue to Sin? (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 352

“Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you’” (John 5:14, NKJV).

Yesterday we listed some of the common responses people offer to explain why Christians continue to sin. From today we will look at what the Scriptures say about those responses. Because some of the issues overlap, they will be handled accordingly.

We will start by addressing one of the major reasons offered, which is: No one can stop sinning.  When people say this, they do not imply that no one can stop any form of sin at all. Nor are they saying it is acceptable for Christians to sin. Rather, they mean it is not possible to cease from all sin in a definitive sense without committing sin again in one’s life. This is the position held by the vast majority of Christians. Hence, the logic is as follows: If it is not possible to cease from all sin in a definitive sense, then that explains why Christians continue to sin from time to time.

Before we go into the Bible, we need to point out some weaknesses in this line of reasoning. This position suggests that it is possible to stop some sins, but it is not possible to stop every other sin; or, it is possible to stop sinning for a time, but it is not possible to stop sinning for all time. But here is the problem. If I can stop fornication, what prevents me from stopping stealing? The power by which I am able to stop fornication, can that same power not help me stop stealing also? Or, if I can stop fornicating for one week, what prevents me from stopping it for one month, one year and possibly forever? What makes it possible to stop some sins but not others?

Another weakness in the logic is this: If it is impossible to stop all sins definitively, then why, for example, do people act surprised and get mad when their spouses have an affair? After all, complete stop to all sin is supposed to be impossible. Or, are we saying that some sins are ‘acceptable,’ but others are not? Why are people judged over something everyone knows is impossible to accomplish? And why does God judge people when He knows they cannot cease from sin? Some would reply, “That is where grace comes in.” Although it sounds pious, this response does not hold water. As the series continues, we will find out why.

Now let us look at our opening Scripture. Jesus had healed a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years, stuck at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:2-8). A short time later, Jesus found him in the temple. And He had this message for him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14). “Sin no more” means to cease from sin altogether. Moreover, “Sin no more” is equivalent to: Do not sin again. Jesus did not tell the man to try his best. He did not tell him to put a stop to certain sins but not others. Nor did He expect him to stop sinning for only a season. Jesus left no room for ambiguity. His command was as precise as it could get.

In fact, Jesus even gave a timeline the man was to stop sinning. When He said, “Sin no more,” Jesus meant His command took effect that very moment. He meant, “From this moment forward, sin no more.” Whatever the man had done in the past, that was it; that chapter of sin was closed. From the moment Jesus gave the command, the man was not to sin again. Instead, he was to begin a new chapter, the “I sin no more” chapter.

 The question is, did Jesus believe it was possible for the man to sin no more, to not sin again? Did He believe the man could do it? If our answer is, “No,” then we are admitting that Jesus was evil and unjust to issue a command which He knew was impossible to accomplish. If, however, our response is, “Yes, Jesus knew it was possible for the man to sin no more,” then where did we get the idea that it is not possible to cease from all sin definitively? Either Jesus is correct and we are wrong, or He is wrong and we are right. But we know Jesus is right. What He told this man, He said the same thing to the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11).

Throughout the Scriptures, one will find that “sin no more” (even when those exact words are not used) is God’s standard for His people, and there are examples of people who lived up to the “sin no more” standard. Could it be that we have changed God’s standard and replaced it with, “Try your best to avoid sin. But in this world, no one can completely stop sinning . . .?

To be continued tomorrow, if the Lord wills. Until then, dwell in the secret place of the Most High and abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Amen.

For further study:  Isaiah 1:1-20