“It Is Finished”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Just before Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” John tells us that Jesus knew everything written about Him in the law had been completed and all of the prophecies about Him had been fulfilled. Jesus knew this to be true but no one else standing there would have said “Aha!” because of that statement. But Jesus left no doubt for any of us when He next said, “It is finished!

These three English words are just one word in Greek: tetelestai. It’s in the perfect tense, telling us that nothing more needs to be added to Christ’s work. It not only shares the same root word that John uses for completed and fulfilled, but it closes the circle of another dying declaration of Jesus when He quoted Psalm 22:1: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” His “It is finished” statement is also the last verse of Psalm 22.

The root word telos translated as completed, fulfilled, and finished has a very rich meaning. Here are three definitions we should consider: 

(1) To complete or bring to a conclusion

Jesus told His Father that He had finished (telos) His mission (John 17:4). Q: How do we know His mission was completed? A: Jesus sat down! Think about this: There were no chairs in the Old Testament temple because a priest never rested, there was always more work to do. But when Jesus finished His work, He sat down (see Hebrews 10:1-4, 11-12). 

(2) To discharge a debt

Since Jesus was the only One who could make the final “once for all” payment, that means that we were hopeless debtors prior to that. God foretold of His forgiveness using the picturesque language of a debt being “doubled up” when it was paid in full (see this video where I explain this concept more fully). Here’s what Jesus did: 

Having cancelled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us. This note with its regulations, decrees, and demands He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to His cross. (Colossians 2:14 AMP) 

Q: How do we know the debt was paid in full? A: The curtain that had separated us from God’s presence was torn in two.

(3) To fill up what’s missing

In this case, Jesus took what was missing by switching cups with us. He drank the cup of God’s righteous wrath—which was justly ours—and gave us His cup of righteousness in its place! (see Isaiah 51:17-22; Matthew 26:39).  

Q: How do we know we have a cup of righteousness in place of a cup of wrath? A: Dead saints of God were resurrected when Jesus died. “It is finished” was not Jesus giving up, but death giving up … it was not Jesus defeated, but death defeated! 

Jesus paid it all! There is nothing I can do to add to His completed—tetelestai—work, so I can now do what formerly was impossible: I can live a holy life for God’s glory. I can now finish (telos) my race on earth and receive the rewards God has stored up for me (see 2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Christ’s tetelestai confession is our empowerment to live holy! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the dying declarations of Jesus, you may access the full list by clicking here.

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The Inspiration Of Scripture

In 2021, I am discussing our 16 foundational beliefs, attempting to illuminate why we believe what we believe. 

Foundation belief #1: “The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.” 

The phrase “verbally inspired” comes directly from the apostle Paul who said, “all Scripture is God-breathed.” The Greek word theopneustos that he uses literally means “breathed out by God” (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20-21).  

In our culture today, it seems as if science is opposed to Scripture, but let me attempt to clarify this point. Science can answer the what/how questions (like how did the universe come into existence) but it cannot answer the why questions (like why did the universe come into existence). 

On the other hand, the Scripture can tell us not only what exists but also why it exists. That means Scripture can also tell us how to live our daily lives. 

Consider a scientific philosophy of life versus a Scriptural philosophy of life. 

Philosophy ponders beginnings and endings, and from those, it then proposes how to live today. Science says we are here by lucky coincidence, and that our life after death is unknowable. A scientific philosophy must therefore conclude that we should live today looking out for #1: survival of the fittest, do what’s best for me, pragmatically, unconcerned about the consequences. 

Scripture says God created our universe—and each individual human—on purpose, and that our life after death is not only knowable but can be determined based on the choices we make. A Scriptural-based philosophy must therefore conclude that we can know how to live our lives today to receive entrance to Heaven afterward. 

There is also other apologetic evidence that I believe makes it reasonable to believe the Bible is truly the inspired Word of God. Things like the accuracy of biblical texts over thousands of years, extra-biblical corroboration, fulfilled prophecy, the discoveries of archeologists, and so forth. You can check out some of these pieces of evidence by clicking here and here. 

But I think the best proof of the life-changing power of the Word of God is a life changed by the God of the Word. The one with an experience is never at the mercy of the one with an argument. I love being able to tell people how my personal relationship with the God of the Bible has made all the difference! 

Check out the video of this full message, and be sure to check out all of the messages in this Foundation Stones series by clicking here.

Year-End Review (2020 Edition)

I have the privilege of pastoring Calvary Assembly of God. One of the things I am honored to do is share a message from God’s Word with our church each week. Sharing the messages is one thing, but reminding folks of what has been shared is another. This is something that resonated with both the apostle Peter and the apostle Paul. 

Peter wrote, “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking” (2 Peter 3:1). And Paul not only told the Romans that “I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again” (Romans 15:15), but he also taught his protege Timothy to “keep reminding God’s people of these things” (2 Timothy 2:14). 

With that backdrop, here is a listing of the sermon series that I presented this year. Clicking on each series title will take you to a list of all of the sermons in that series. 

Prayer Plan—A Christian’s strategy is worked out in the prayer closet. John Piper noted, “Why do God’s children so often fail to have consistent habits of happy, fruitful prayer? Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the reasons is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.” These messages taught us to have a plan to pray. 

Where’s God—We’ve all asked that question. Something happens that rocks our world, and we wonder where in the world God is. We call out to God and He seems silent. We search our hearts to see if we can discern something we’ve done wrong, and seeing nothing amiss we cry out again, “God, where are You?” So where is God in our heartache? In our abandonment? In our sorrows? In our distress? In death? Believe it or not, God may be closer in His silence than you’ve ever perceived before. 

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. 

Selah—The word Selah appears nearly 70 times in the Bible, almost exclusively in the Psalms. Although it is primarily a musical term, it applies beautifully to our summer series. It means a pause. Throughout the Psalms, Selah appears at the end of a verse, at the end of the psalm, or sometimes even mid-sentence. But each one of them is perfectly placed by the Spirit-inspired authors to get us to take a breath and deeply contemplate what we just read or sang. 

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets—Sometimes the naming of things gives us an inaccurate picture of the thing being named. For instance, many people think the “old” in Old Testament means outdated or perhaps updated by the “new” in the New Testament. When in fact, both Testaments are needed to give us the full picture of God’s love and glory. A similar thing happens with the headings “major prophets” and “minor prophets.” It makes it sound like the major prophets have something major to say to us, while we could take or leave the minor messages of the minor prophets. In reality, they were given these headings simply because of the volume of writing—the five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of their writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power! 

Thankful In The Night—The psalmist wrote, “Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me” (Psalm 42:8). Notice that the psalmist was praising God IN the night, not praising Him FOR the night. Many people have gone through what has been called “the dark night of the soul.” I don’t think anyone has ever given thanks because of being in a dark time, but certainly they have given thanks afterward because of the lessons learned in that dark time. Quite simply put, there are some things God wants to teach us that we can learn in no other way than to go through a dark night. So we can learn to be thankful even IN those nights. 

Do Not Be Afraid—There are more angels sent by God concerning one event than anywhere else in the Bible—the Advent of Jesus. Clearly, this is a big deal: The coming to earth of God Himself! You would think this would be an occasion for great joy. But all four of the angelic appearances around the birth of Jesus have the same message: Do not be afraid. Why are people so afraid? It’s because fear invites us to make a decision to trust God completely. People remain crippled by fear when they try to deal with fear by themselves. But when they learn to fear God instead, there is an almost inexpressible joy and freedom that explodes in our hearts! 

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2021, and we’ll be launching some brand new ones as well. In either case, if you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, I would love to have you join us! 

Discovering True Friends

Last week I shared that a mark of a maturing saint is one who when he realizes he is in a trough begins to praise God in anticipation of the blessings which are coming! I believe a keyword in this statement is realizes. Once we realize that we are in a trough, what will help us turn our mourning into praise? In a word: meditation. 

Notice Asaph’s words at the beginning of Psalm 77. Twice he says he “cried out” to God. This literally means that he called aloud, not caring who heard him. It wasn’t a whimper, but Asaph said he was “distressed.” As soon as he realized the distressed state he was in, notice the words of meditation in the next four verses: 

  • remembered (2x) 
  • mused (2x) 
  • thought 
  • inquired 

Asaph also began to ask himself questions, all of which have the obvious answer “NO”:

  • Will the Lord reject me forever? NO! 
  • Will He never show His favor again? NO!
  • Has His unfailing love vanished forever? NO!
  • Has His promise failed for all time? NO! 
  • Has God forgotten to be merciful? NO! 
  • Has He in anger withheld His compassion? NO! 

Again, Asaph meditates (notice the words thought, remember, meditate, and consider once again in the next three verses). His conclusion leads him not to self-pity, but to praising God.

Asaph taught us that when we get our eyes off ourselves we can see what God is doing in us, around us, and through us. 

One lesson I learned in a very dark night time of my life: Who my true friends are. When all my “fans” stopped cheering and started jeering, I ended up in a very dark place. But as soon as I realized the valley I was in and began to meditate on God’s presence even in this dark place, I began to see what was happening around me. One of the things I saw were two men who stood up for me against all the foes attacking me. They stepped in when all my “fans” stepped away. 

The apostle Paul had the same realization in the dark night of his Roman prison cell. He stated, “at my first defense no one came to my support.” But he also saw those who stood by his side: Luke, Timothy, and Mark.

Dark times can quickly lead us to self-pity UNLESS we will realize we are in a dark place and begin to meditate on all that God says in His Word about His faithfulness. Once we get our eyes off ourselves and onto Him, we will begin to see the lessons God is teaching and the amazing things He is accomplishing. 

I can be thankful IN the night because the dark nights have shown me my true friends. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, you can find them all by clicking here. 

Keep Up Your Spiritual Health

In Workmen Of God, we have a collection of lectures Oswald Chambers delivered to those “reliable men” and women (see 2 Timothy 2:2) who were either already working in pastoral ministry or preparing to do so. Chambers talks to pastors about their work among those entrenched in their unbelief, those who are skeptical, those who are backslidden, those who are hypocrites, and those who have sick souls. He especially challenges pastors on how to minister to themselves so that they are prepared to minister to any soul in which God brings them in contact.

It’s in that light that I think this passage is so vital for anyone involved in Christian ministry—

“So remember, it is absolutely necessary to be like the cedars of Lebanon. Do you know the characteristic of a Lebanon tree? The cedars of Lebanon have such extraordinary power of life that instead of nourishing the parasites it kills them, the life within is so strong and so robust that instead of feeding the parasites it chokes them off. God grant that we may be so filled with His life, may flourish as the cedars of Lebanon, so that He can trust us down in all the dark, difficult places amongst the souls of our brother men and be able to pour His tremendous health and power through us. … 

“Do you remember, then, that it is necessary for the worker to be healthy, and beware of this mistake, that by working for God amongst men, you develop your own Christian life; you do not unless your Christian life is there first. It is so obvious that it needs to be said over again—you cannot develop your own Christian life unless it is there. The advice given that if you work for God you develop your own life often means that if you work for God you get right yourself; you do not, you have to be right with God first.” 

Pastors and other Christian workers, remember that you cannot give to others what you do not have yourself. You MUST make regular time to abide with Jesus, not for sermon preparation, but for your own robust spiritual health. 

Although written over 100 years ago, this book is still a treasure-trove for anyone in church ministry today!

The Holy Spirit Keeps Christians “Oscar Mike”

Military squads dispatched to achieve an objective will receive a briefing, be given the resources they need to complete the mission, and then they will launch out to complete the task. They will report back to HQ: “We are Oscar Mike”—which means “we are on the move” or “we are on mission.”  

Jesus was always Oscar Mike while He was on earth, and He has also called His followers to remain Oscar Mike with the objective He has given us. 

Christians need to remember that our mission isn’t a destination and it’s not a one-time accomplishment. Without the Holy Spirit’s help, this is a difficult concept to keep in mind. 

Jesus told His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, which they probably interpreted as the place where He would say, “Mission accomplished.” They were thinking in terms of Jesus reestablishing Israel as God’s HQ. So we can understand how baffled they were when Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him, insult Him and spit on Him; they will flog Him and kill Him.” In fact, Luke records, “The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what He was talking about.” 

They obviously became more confused when a blind beggar stopped Jesus, and when Jesus stopped to eat at the house of a notorious tax collector. Jesus sensed their misunderstanding so “He went on to tell them a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” 

Christ’s parable challenged His followers to stay Oscar Mike. He explained how they were to keep on investing in people. This is exactly what Jesus was doing: using the proper verb tenses, Jesus explained that “the Son of Man came to keep on seeking and to keep on saving the lost”(see Luke 18:31-19:13).

Don’t get so focused on the destination that you lose sight of the mission. 

Earth is not the Christian’s home. We are just passing through and we must remain Oscar Mike as we do. 

Jesus said that being baptized in the Holy Spirit would help us stay Oscar Mike because the Holy Spirit will give us…

  1. … vital information  
  2. … ongoing communication
  3. … real-life application of God’s Word to our circumstances

(check out John 16:12-13; 1 Corinthians 2:10, 16; Isaiah 30:21; Romans 8:26-27; Acts 10:9-15, 28; 15:28)

If Jesus was so reliant on the Holy Spirit while He was on earth, what would make us think that we should be any less reliant?

You and I need the Holy Spirit! 

Stay on mission until God calls you home. Then you can say with the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn what it means to be a Pentecostal Christian. 

Honoring Veterans The Right Way [repost]

Disclaimer: I’m a patriotic crier. I love the United States of America, and proudly call her the greatest nation in history. So whenever I watch a patriotic movie, or serve at a veteran’s funeral, or even sing the national anthem before a Cedar Springs football game, I get misty.

I believe we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our veterans. But I also believe we may not be honoring that debt in the right way.

We usually honor our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have given “their last full measure of devotion” by playing taps at their funeral, firing a 21-gun salute, or even putting a flag in the sacred ground of their burial site every year at Memorial Day.

But what about our vets who are still living? Don’t they deserve more than just an occasional visit on Veterans Day?

In many ways, we treat Veterans Day like we do Thanksgiving Day: it’s just one day on our calendar to take care of our obligations to be grateful, and then we can continue on with business-as-usual until the next year.

Wouldn’t it be more fitting for us to treat Veterans Day—like Thanksgiving Day—as a culmination of another year full of gratitude? After all, it’s very likely that we wouldn’t even be able to enjoy our business-as-usual lives if it were not for the sacrifices of our veterans.

The Apostle Paul gives us a good pattern to follow. Four times in his letters he says, “I thank God for you every time I remember you” (Romans 1:9; Philippians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 4). In these times of thanks, he is remembering others who put their lives on the line for freedom, just as our veterans have done for us.

Here are at least three things we can learn from Paul’s thankfulness to apply to our gratitude for our veterans —

  1. Keep mementos of remembrance around you. Perhaps it’s an American flag, or a picture, or a Veterans Day program. Simply find something that will jog your memory frequently about the debt of gratitude we owe to our vets.
  2. Pray for our veterans. Paul often told his friends that when he was filled with thoughts of gratitude about them, he turned those thoughts into prayers for them.
  3. Turn your feelings into actions. When you see one of your mementos and say a prayer for a veteran, take it a step further. Jot a note to a vet, send an email, send flowers, or take them out to lunch. Perhaps you could invite a veteran into your home for Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter, or “adopt” a veteran on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

The point is this: Let’s not make honoring our veterans something we only do on November 11. Let’s remember them often, be thankful for them always, and turn those thoughts and gratitude into action all year long.

The Christian Leadership Cycle

…an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God… (2 Timothy 1:1). 

Paul tells his protegé Timothy that he didn’t choose apostleship, but that God chose him for it. The same should be true for all Christian leaders. To use a personal example: I didn’t choose to be a pastor, but God chose me for the pastorate. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who knows that God chose him to be a leader.

Knowing that, there are now choices that all leaders can—and should—make to steward their calling in a way that glorifies God. 

Paul tells Timothy that a pure conscience and a genuine faith allowed him to maximally use the gift of apostleship that God gave him. With these, Paul could use God’s gift without fear, but lovingly and with a sound mind (see vv. 3-7). 

This clear direction allows all Christian leaders to never be ashamed of their calling or of the fruits that come as a result of their leadership. This clear direction and sincere belief that I am doing what God has called me to do keeps me committed to an utter reliance on God’s supply all the way until the end (vv. 8-12). 

Finally, my commitment to effectively stewarding my God-ordained leadership is reinforced by holding fast to sound doctrine and remaining sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit (vv. 13, 14). 

It looks something like this—

This is part 41 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

The Genealogy of a Healthy Church

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

Paul list four generations in this healthy church—Paul ➡️ Timothy ➡️ faithful Christians ➡️ others. 

We all have a role to play, and every role is vital in a healthy church. Are you a…

Paul: a first generation Christian that needs to start the ball rolling?

Timothy: one who needs to pass along what you have learned to the next generation?

faithful Christian: someone that is actively living out what has been taught to you?

member of the Body of Christ: one that needs to reach out to someone who isn’t a part of the Body yet?

Every single role is indispensable if the Church is going to remain healthy. If any part of this genealogy is lost, the whole Church suffers.

5 Lessons From An Amazing Mother

There is a Pentecostal Christian woman that we first meet in the Book of Acts, and then we see her name scattered throughout Paul’s letters. She may be the most prominent woman among all of the Apostle Paul’s companions and probably is responsible for spreading the Gospel more and farther than any other woman recorded in the Bible. 

Scripture doesn’t tell us if she had children of her own but she is certainly the spiritual mother of more Christians than we will ever be able to count!

Prisca is her birth name. She is a Jew, and most likely a freeborn Roman (just as Paul was). She is from the prominent Acilius family, so combined with Prisca her name is called Priscilla. She married Aquila and they both worked as leather makers (also known as tentmakers). 

Let’s take a look at Priscilla’s travel itinerary—

Pricilla left Rome because of Emperor Claudius’ decree in 49 AD and traveled to Corinth, where she met Paul (Acts 18:1-3, 11, 18-19). 

After spending almost 2 years with Paul in Corinth, they traveled to Ephesus with Paul, where she met and mentored Apollos (Acts 18:24-26). Apollos became a trusted friend to Paul; in fact, Paul calls him a synergos (where we get our English word for synergy). In other words, Paul thought his ministry was more effective because of his partnership with Apollos, but that is all thanks to Priscilla’s involvement! 

Priscilla returned to Rome sometime after Claudius’ death in 54 AD. She probably returned home to prepare the way for Paul’s visit there (Romans 1:10-11; 15:23-24; 16:3). 

And at some point she returned to Ephesus, probably to help Timothy as he pastored the church there (2 Timothy 4:19). 

Here are 5 lessons we can learn from Priscilla’s life—

  1. Be baptized in the Holy Spirit. This is what she taught to others, so it is undoubtedly how she lived as well. 
  1. Use the gifting God has given you. Except for one place, Priscilla is always listed first ahead of her husband. This is unprecedented anywhere else in the New Testament. That tells us that despite what the Greco-roman culture tried to enforce, Priscilla was the predominant teacher/preacher in her family.
  1. Work hard. Priscilla had to be fairly well-to-do to be able to travel to at least three major cities and to host churches in her home, and yet we see her working with her hands to provide for her family and for the church. 
  1. Be bold. Jesus said the baptism in the Holy Spirit would give us boldness, and Priscilla demonstrated that powerfully (Romans 16:4). 
  1. Be synergistic. Paul also called Priscilla a synergos. Paul used this word sparingly for people who had put everything on the line for the sake of the Gospel. He used synergos for people like Apollos, Timothy, Titus, and Luke. Priscilla is the only woman who gets this invaluable term.  

We don’t know if Priscilla was a biological mom, but she was definitely a spiritual mom. She was empowered by the Holy Spirit, and probably is responsible for spreading the Gospel more than any other woman recorded in the Bible. You can follow in her footsteps! 

If you missed any of the messages in this series, you can access the full list of messages by clicking here. 

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