Sovereign Love

Jesus is on His passionate journey toward the Cross. Every step on this journey is a step of love. 

After Jesus finished His last supper with His disciples, they all went to one of their favorite places to pray—the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a place they all knew well. Including Judas, who had been looking for an opportunity to turn Jesus over to the religious authorities when He was out of the public eye. 

Jesus knew this time was coming (Matthew 10:33-34; John 13:1, 3; 18:4), and His knowing prompted His serving. So we can say that His foot-washing service was as much a reminder to Himself as it was to His followers. 

After they entered the garden to pray, events began to unfold at a fast pace, ultimately culminating in Jesus being crucified. 

But let us never forget that through all of this horrific, inhumane mistreatment and torture, Jesus remains the King of kings, the Son of God. In fact, very God Himself.

The Jewish religious leaders knew this too (John 8:54-59; 10:31-33). And without “knowing it” the soldiers that came to arrest Jesus knew it as well.

Just look at the absolute authority of the King of kings. Grown men—religious leaders and hardened soldiers—fall to their knees at just three words: “I am He.” 

Christ’s kingdom has overruling authority. It collects no taxes, it has no standing army, it requires no checks-and-balances because its Sovereign IS Truth and Love. This unequaled, unrivaled power was contained in Jesus—“You would have no authority over Me unless it was given you from above.” 

Which makes His submission to Pilate and others even more amazing! One word from Him could have crushed legions and toppled governments—yet for love’s sake, He submitted. Let that sink in—Sovereignty submitted.

What appeared to be the cruelty of man was the sovereignty of God. 

No one can take My life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what My Father has commanded. (John 10:18) 

“Christ’s death was not the death of a martyr, who sinks at last overwhelmed by enemies, but the death of a triumphant conqueror, who knows that even in dying He wins for Himself and His people a kingdom and a crown of glory.” —J.C. Ryle 

Christ has bought us out from under the doom of that impossible system by taking the curse for our wrongdoing upon Himself. For it is written in the Scripture, “Anyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed” (as Jesus was hung upon a wooden cross). (Galatians 3:13 TLB) 

Sovereign love submitted to the cruelty of man SO THAT you and I could be saved from the inescapable doom that will inevitably crash down on us. Jesus loved us so much that He allowed the Cross to happen to Him. 

The question now remains—what are you doing with this sovereign love? 

Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Have you received this gift He willingly, lovingly purchased for you on the Cross? 

If you have, let me ask you another question: Christian, are you living in a way that leads others to this sovereign love too (John 13:34-35)?

Anytime you see the Cross, remember what sovereign love did there for you. 

Poetry Saturday—Christ Jesus Lay In Death’s Strong Bands

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands,
For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand He stands
And brings us life from heaven;
Therefore let us joyful be
And sing to God right thankfully
Loud songs of hallelujah.
Hallelujah! 

It was a strange and dreadful strife
when life and death contended;
the victory remained with life,
the reign of death was ended;
Holy Scripture plainly saith
that death is swallowed up by death,
his sting is lost forever. 
Hallelujah!

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—
so strong His love!—to save us.
See, His blood doth mark our door;
faith points to it, death passes o’er,
and satan cannot harm us. 
Hallelujah! —Martin Luther

The Fire Of Greatness

“It is not wrong to aspire to greatness. The warning here is to be careful to never confuse fame with greatness. Otherwise, you may be aspiring to what is not really greatness at all. Fame is what you do for yourself; greatness is what you do for others. Jesus has unveiled to us how greatness is achieved in His kingdom. To be great, you must serve. So don’t give up on your ambition to be great; instead, change your definition of what it means to be great and how greatness is achieved. … 

“The words samurai and deacon have the same core meaning. They both mean ‘servant.’ … Too often we have confused humility with powerlessness. Humility cannot be achieved from a posture of powerlessness. As long as we see ourselves as victims, humility does not come from a position of strength. True humility can be experienced only when we have come to know our power and use it for the good of others and not for ourselves. … 

“Greatness is never found; it is gained. Greatness never comes easy; it’s always the outcome of great discipline and hard work. If you’re comfortable with where you are, if you’re complacent, you will never discover the greatness that lies within. Complacency is like pouring water on coals. It is so important not to misunderstand the words of Jesus. Remember, He never said, ‘Don’t be great.’ In fact, His invitation was for only those who aspire to greatness: ‘Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.’ You will never know the power of servanthood until you know the fire of greatness.

“Whatever God has placed within you that could ever be described as great was never meant for you, anyway. It’s a stewardship that has been given to you. Greatness never belongs to the one who carries it; it belongs to the world that needs it.” —Erwin McManus, The Way Of The Warrior (emphasis mine)

You can read other quotes from The Way Of The Warrior here and here.

Thursdays With Oswald—Do You Pass The Tests?

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Do You Pass The Tests?

     In these verses [Matthew 7:15-20] Jesus tells His disciples to test preachers and teachers by their fruit. There are two tests—one is the fruit of the life of the preacher, and the other is the fruit of the doctrine. The fruit of a man’s own life may be perfectly beautiful, and at the same time he may be teaching a doctrine which, if logically worked out, would produce the devil’s fruit in other lives. It is easy to be captivated by a beautiful life and to argue that therefore what he teaches must be right. Jesus says, “Be careful, test your teacher by his fruit.” The other side is just as true, a man may be teaching beautiful truth and have magnificent doctrine while the fruit in his own life is rotten. We say that if a man lives a beautiful life, his doctrine must be right; not necessarily so, says Jesus. Then again we say because a man teaches the right thing, therefore his life must be right; not necessarily so, says Jesus. Test the doctrine by its fruit, and test the teacher by his fruit.

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Yes, we should test our teachers and preachers by: (1) the fruit of their life, and (2) the fruit of their doctrine. But all Christians should also make sure our own lives pass the same test. 

Chambers goes on to share these thoughts—

“It is appallingly easy to pretend. If once our eyes are off Jesus Christ, pious pretense is sure to follow. … We have to beware of pretense in ourselves. It is an easy business to appear to be what we are not.” 

“If we say we are right with God, the world has a perfect right to watch our private life and see if we are so. … Fruit-bearing is always mentioned as the manifestation of an intimate union with Jesus Christ (John 15:1-5). … Jesus Christ makes publicity the test; He lived His own life most publicly (John 18:20). … It is God’s law that men cannot hide what they really are. If they are His disciples it will be publicly portrayed.” 

“God’s spiritual open air is the Bible. The Bible is the universe of revelation facts; if we live there our roots will be healthy and our lives right.” 

We need to always listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit when we ask, “Am I passing these two tests of true fruitfulness?” 

7 Quotes From “He Chose The Nails”

Max Lucado takes us in for a closer look at the Cross and all that Jesus did there for us. Please check out my full book review and then read this book—you will be glad you did! 

“Maybe you’ve never spit on anyone, but have you gossiped? Slandered? Have you ever raised your hand in anger or rolled your eyes in arrogance, have you ever blasted your high beams in someone’s rearview mirror? Ever made someone feel bad so you would feel good? That’s what the soldiers did to Jesus. When you and I do the same, we do it to Jesus too. ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’ (Matthew 25:40 NLT). How we treat others is how we treat Jesus. …

“Allow the spit of the soldiers to symbolize the filth in our hearts. And then observe what Jesus does with our filth. He carries it to the Cross. Through the prophet He said, ‘I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting’ (Isaiah 50:6). Mingled with His blood and sweat was the essence of our sin.” 

“‘He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s Cross’ (Colossians 2:14 NLT). Between His hands and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins. Dangling from the Cross is an itemized catalog of your sins. The bad decisions from last year. The bad attitudes from last week. There, in broad daylight for all of heaven to see, is a list of your mistakes. … The list God has made, however, cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by His hand; those down the list are covered by His blood. Your sins are ‘blotted out’ by Jesus (KJV). ‘He has forgiven you all your sins: He has utterly wiped out the written evidence of broken commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it to the Cross’ (Colossians 2:14 Phillips).” 

“Seats at God’s table are not available to the sloppy. But who among us is anything but. Unkempt morality. Untidy with truth. Careless with people. Our moral clothing is in disarray. Yes, the standard for sitting at God’s table is high, but the love of God for His children is higher. So He offers a gift.… a seamless robe… a robe worn by His Son, Jesus.” 

“What appeared to be the cruelty of man was actually the sovereignty of God. Matthew tells us: ‘And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn into from top to bottom’ (27:50-51). It’s as if the hands of heaven had been gripping the veil, waiting for this moment.” 

“Why is the Cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer look no farther than the Cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal—the other vertical. One reaches out—like God‘s love. The other reaches up—as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of His love; the other reflects the height of His holiness. The Cross is the intersection. The Cross is where God forgave His children without lowering His standards.” 

“‘Just look what they did to me!’ we defy and point to our hurts. ‘Just look what I did for you,’ Jesus reminds and points to the Cross. Paul said it this way: ‘If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you’ (Colossians 3:13). You and I are commanded—not urged, commanded—to keep no list of wrongs.” 

“Knowing His last deeds would be forever pondered, don’t you think Jesus chose them carefully? Deliberately? Of course He did. There were no accidents that day. Jesus’ last moments were not left up to chance. God chose the path; He selected the nails. Our Lord planted the trio of crosses and painted the sign. God was never more sovereign than in the details of the death of His Son. … The message: ‘I did it for you. I did it all for you.’” 

Your Incense…

…to God and the world.

Let’s follow this thread from the Old Testament into the New Testament—

“When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.” (Exodus 30:8)

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

“For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:15)

“The incense which you shall make, you shall not make in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be holy to you for the LORD.” (Exodus 30:37)

“Our lives are not to be about us, lived out in private and for self-glory. Our lives are to be about God, lived out in full view of the nations and for His name’s sake.” —Dick Brogden

What incense is your life—your witness, your testimony—sharing with those around you?

He Chose The Nails (book review)

Max Lucado has an inimitable style of writing that immediately draws us into his subject—in this book the focal point is what Jesus did for us on the Cross—gets us to look at it in a new light, and then helps us walk away with a fuller understanding. The title of this book is really the answer to the sub-title—Q: What did God do to win your heart? A: He Chose The Nails.

In keeping with the theme of God answering the book’s question of how He won your heart, all but two of the chapters use statements from God as their title. Statements like “I will bear your dark side,” and “I forgive you,” and “I understand your pain,” and “I will love you forever.” In each chapter, Max takes us nearer to the Cross and to the Savior who bled and died there to show us how much God loves us. 

This is a book that can easily be read together with your family or a group of friends; especially if you then utilize the study guide questions for each chapter at the back of the book. This is a book that could be read rather quickly, but because Max paints such a vivid picture of God’s unexpected love you will want to read slowly and savoringly. This is a book that could be read at any time, but I would recommend you read it during the days and weeks approaching Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. 

Whether reading alone or with friends, reading quickly or slowly, reading it during the Lenten season or at another time, I can promise you that your heart will beat more strongly with the assurance of God’s overwhelming, mind-blowing love for you. 

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