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 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

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

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

Why Do Christians Continue to Sin? (Pt 5)

Daily Devotion | Day 355

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NKJV).

At the beginning of this series (in Part 1) we listed some of the common factors (reasons) which explain why Christians continue to sin. So far, we have discussed two of those reasons. Today will talk about a third factor, which is: a majority of Christians believes that only Jesus could live a sinless life; no other person can live that way. One of the main Bible passages quoted in support of this belief is what we have in our opening Scripture (Hebrews 4:15-16). People who hold to this belief feel it preserves Jesus’ uniqueness. Being sinless is the exclusive attribute of God and of Jesus. To suggest that someone else is (or can be) sinless would, in their view, amount to blasphemy and heresy. I must admit, for years I used to believe this until the Lord led me to examine the Scriptures more attentively.

In this discussion, we are not interested in whether people have ever sinned or not. What we are discussing is: Is Jesus the only person who can live a sinless life or we, His followers, can (and must) live the way He did? And if it is impossible for us to live the way Jesus did, then what is the alternative life God wants us to live? Finally, if it is true that only Jesus can live a sinless life, then no one can blame us if we continue to sin. What does the Bible say about these things?

Before we examine Hebrews 4:15-16, let us briefly consider what is wrong with the picture which portrays Jesus as the only person who can live sinless. Holiness is the attribute of God. Yet God said to the Israelites, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). Peter applied this passage to Christians when he said, “But as He who called you is holyyou also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15; 16). All would agree that when God says, “Be holy, for I am holy,” it means He wants His people to be just as He is. It further means God has given His people the ability to be holy as He is. In the Old Testament, the word “holy” is a broad concept which can be applied to people, ceremonies, rituals, places and even objects used in worship. That said, the command to be holy primarily deals with how God’s people must conduct themselves, just as Peter indicates in the letter he addressed to Christians.

The command to be holy deals with issues of obeying God, i.e. issues related to not sinning against Him. The point is, God is without blemish and He wants His children to be just like their Father. Sin is the one thing which can put a blemish on us. Therefore, when God said, “Be holy,” He could also have said: “Be blameless;” “Be spotless;” or “Be sinless.” When Jesus said, “Sin no more,” (John 5:14; 8:11), He meant “Be sinless.” The two statements are equivalent. If we tell our bank that we want no more paper-based bank statements, we mean we are going paperless. “No more paper” and “Paperless” mean the same thing.  Similarly, “Sin no more” and “Be sinless” imply the same thing. Jesus, as far as we know, has not adjusted the standards. He expects nothing less from us.

Throughout the Bible, God says the same thing in different ways. For example, He told Abraham, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1). The way to be blameless in God’s sight is to obey Him and be without sin. That is how Jesus lived, and that is exactly how He wants us to live. The alternative is to continue sinning from time to time and hope (in vain) that somehow God will look the other way because of the Cross. The reality is, the Cross does not excuse us from living a sinless life. On the contrary, it is the Cross which gives us a reason to live without sin.

If the Lord permits, we will continue tomorrow by looking at Hebrews 4:15-16. Until then, enjoy the blessings of holiness. Amen.

For further studyEphesians 5:1-27 and Psalm 1:1-5