New Inside

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

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character (Phil) is stuck in a small town where February 2 keeps repeating. Phil tries desperately to get out of this town and out of this day, but nothing he seems to do gets him out of the endless loop. He becomes smarter and richer each day, but at the end of the day, everything resets to the beginning. 

It’s frustrating! 

God’s people of the Old Testament had their own “Groundhog Day”—the Day of Atonement that came every single year. This was the day their sins were confessed, forgiven, and atoned for, and had a very specific set of sacrifices and rituals. Much like Phil in the movie, they began to go through these motions almost entirely without thinking. 

Year after year, millennia after millennia “the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, [couldn’t] make perfect those who draw near to worship” (see Hebrews 10:1-4). 

Even those who were God-fearing and tried their best to live perfectly righteous lives could find in the law provision for those who “sin unintentionally” (Leviticus 4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:15, 18, 22, 24, 27-29). It was just another reminder that the loop of sin-confession-repentance-forgiveness-atonement was never ending. 

And as if all the requirements of the Torah weren’t enough, Jesus came on the scene and seemed to raise the bar, telling us even though our outward actions might look righteous, our inward thoughts and attitudes made us just as sinful (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28). And then Jesus even dropped this on us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)! 

Perfect?! As perfect as God?! This could easily make people throw their hands up in resignation, “I give up! Why even try?” 

Through Ezekiel, God prophesied an internal change. This wasn’t something I must do, but something GOD will do—

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27) 

The solution to our endless loop of sin-confession-repentance-forgiveness-atonement must become internal. It’s no use trying to correct the fruit if the root is still evil! That requires an inside job. 

On Good Friday, the last words Jesus spoke before His death were, “It is finished” (John 19:30). 

What was finished? Our struggle to get ourselves out of this endless loop. The writer of Hebrews had this to say about Jesus: 

But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. … For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:12, 14) 

Remember Jesus told us we had to be perfect like God? The root word for “perfect” in that verse is telos. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” He said one word in Greek: tetelestai. This also comes from the root word telos. Jesus perfectly finished all that was necessary for us to become perfect in God’s sight. 

Christians often use the the phrase “I invited Jesus into my heart” as an expression of their faith in what Jesus did for them on the Cross. That word “IN” is a good reminder. 

Jesus comes IN and the fear of punishment—the fear of being eternally stuck in the endless loop—has to go out. “There is no fear IN love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect IN love” (1 John 4:18). 

The word “perfect” in that verse is also from the same root word telos. 

Not only does Jesus come IN to our hearts to make them new, but He also takes us IN to His perfection. “Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith—giving the first incentive for our belief—and is also its Finisher—bringing it to maturity and perfection…” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP). 

Jesus shared a last supper with His disciples. His last supper was the first Communion. At this time Jesus told them He was establishing a “new covenant.” How do we square this with His previous statement that He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it? 

Jesus said this new covenant was IN His blood. His blood doesn’t abolish the law, but it perfects the law. His perfect blood makes out hearts new and takes us out of the external loop and IN to His prefect righteousness. 

Jesus accomplished all that was needed to make us perfect inside, and then to perfectly take us into God’s presence. As the hymn The Old Rugged Cross reminds us, “In that old rugged Cross, stained with blood so divine, a wondrous beauty I see. For ’twas on that old Cross Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me!” 

May we always cherish the perfection that was purchased for us on that Cross. 

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Good Friday Services

Issac Watts penned these beautiful words—

Not all the blood of beasts,
  On Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace,
  Or wash away its stain.

But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
  Takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name,
  And richer blood than they.

Good Friday is the day we remember and celebrate the noblest of sacrifices that purchased our freedom from sin.

Please join us for our 30-minute Good Friday services. We have two services available for you: noon and 5:30 p.m. 

The Gift Unmistakably Seen

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

We saw last week that John 3:16 tells us of God’s greatest Gift—Jesus! 

This Gift was not an after-thought. God didn’t say, “I’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked so I guess I have to send My Son.” NO! The Gift was foretold right from the very moment Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:15, 21). In fact, we can even say it was planned before the beginning of Time, as John describes Jesus as “the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made” (Revelation 13:8). 

John also writes for us one of the most beautiful and succinct statements of God: God IS Love (1 John 4:8). 

Paul wrote an inspired definition of love. Check out what happens when we put “God” in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, God always trusts, God always hopes, God always perseveres. God’s love never fails. 

This description of God means that He wasn’t forced to send Jesus as the ransom for our sins, but rather that His love foreknew the perfect moment to send this Gift for us. 

Neither did Jesus feel trapped by this plan His Father made. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but Jesus came to make Calvary happen (John 17:24; Hebrews 12:2; John 10:17-18). 

Jesus made His Gift unmistakable:

  • He predicted the unmistakable events leading up to Calvary—Matthew 20:17-19, 26:2; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33; John 13:19 
  • He predicted the unmistakable way He would die—John 3:14, 12:32-33 
  • And His Father unmistakably confirmed all of this—John 12:27-28

(check out all of the above verses by clicking here) 

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus gave His followers an unmistakable example of love to follow. He said that His love radiating out of His followers would show the world an unmistakable picture of His love (see John 13:3-5, 12-17, 34-35). 

I may say, “Thank you so much” when I open someone’s gift, but my true gratitude is seen in what I do with their gift after that. Do I put it on a shelf and forget about it? Or do I cherish it, use it, and tell others all about the one who gave the gift to me? This is just as true with how I treat the Love Gift that I was given in Jesus. 

Q: How unmistakable is my gratitude for the Gift of Jesus? 

A: It is unmistakably seen in how I love others. 

Here’s the test: Can I put my name in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8—

Craig is patient, Craig is kind. Craig does not envy, Craig does not boast, Craig is not proud. Craig does not dishonor others, Craig is not self-seeking, Craig is not easily angered, Craig keeps no record of wrongs. Craig does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Craig always protects, Craig always trusts, Craig always hopes, Craig always perseveres. Craig’s love never fails.

The Holy Spirit wants all Christians to be able to truthfully insert their names in that statement. He wants to help us make necessary changes that will allow the amazing Gift of Jesus to be unmistakably seen by everyone. 

God’s plan is unmistakable. The death of Jesus is unmistakable proof of God’s love. Now, let’s make sure that our love is also empowered by the love of God shining unmistakably out of everything we say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

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“My God, My God”

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

Jesus has been hanging on the Cross silently for three hours. And now He gathers His strength for four final statements that all come in pretty close proximity. His first three dying declarations have been declarations of love:

But now comes a word of sheer, unparalleled agony. A word from a heart that is experiencing the depths of betrayal and pain that has never been known—or even approached—in all of human history: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani! (Matthew 27:45-46; Mark 15:33-34)

Does this sound like a good Friday message: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? 

This is the only one of the seven dying declarations of Jesus that Matthew and Mark record, and they do it nearly identically: 

  • It’s spoken in the everyday language of the people: Aramaic 
  • It’s translated into the worldwide language of business and literature: Greek 
  • It’s a direct quotation of Hebrew Scripture 

This is a word for everyone: Jews and Greek, nobles and commoners, religious people and pagans. 

This dying declaration comes from words taken directly from Psalm 22. David wrote this psalm 1000 years before the crucifixion of Jesus, but note the amazing accuracy in the despicable treatment of Jesus, gambling for Christ’s clothes, even the crucifixion itself (which was unknown in David’s time), and then there’s the heart-wrenching cry My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?  

Matthew and Mark say Jesus “cried out.” This can mean a cry of joy or a cry of pain. They also record that He cried out with “a loud voice.” The Greek words here will sound very familiar even to English ears—“loud” is the word megas, and “voice” is the word phoné. Literally: Jesus raised a megaphone voice to make sure everyone heard His cry! 

Remember that cried out can either be a cry of joy or of pain? Which one was it? You could make the case that it is both of these meanings. But there is a third way of using this word: a cry for help. 

Jesus is about to take a plunge. He is about to descend deeper than anyone else ever has. He is about to voluntarily go into Hell itself. This megaphone cry is His battlecry before storming the gates of Hell! 

Christ’s megaphone battlecry was heard in Hell and in Heaven as Jesus descended to decisively defeat hell, death, and the grave! Make no mistake, Jesus undoubtedly won that battle! That same descriptive word megas is also used for… 

  • …the stone in front of His grave is a megas stone 
  • …the earthquake that rolled away that stone on Resurrection morning was a megas earthquake 
  • …the joy of Christ’s friends at seeing the tomb empty was a megas joy 
  • …the trumpet sound at Christ’s Second Coming when He returns to earth as the Conquering King will be a megas blast, and His shout a megaphone cry (Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16)! 

Jesus went to the deepest depths to take us to the highest heights! 

His megaphone declaration from the Cross on Good Friday was a cry of pain over our sin, a battlecry as He stormed the gates of Hell, and a cry of joy over His coming victory! 

So now we can say, “Where, O Death, is your victory? Oh yeah, you don’t have one because my Savior has totally defeated you!” 

If you’ve missed any of the other dying declarations of Jesus from the Cross, you may access the full list by clicking here.

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“Father, Forgive Them”

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

In our system of law, special attention is given to someone’s dying declaration. If our legal system gives such weight to the last words of an imperfect man, it seems to me that we should take special note of the dying declarations of the only truly innocent Man who ever walked this earth: Jesus Christ. 

After being nailed to the Cross, the first dying declaration from Jesus was: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). 

Let’s say that Billy is dying on a hospital bed after being fatally shot, and all he can muster the strength to do is point at Johnny and whisper, “He… shot… me….” We would know who the “he” was in that situation, but who exactly is the “them” in this declaration of Jesus? 

Who offended Jesus? Who mortally wounded Him? Who caused Him such anguish? Maybe it was…

  • His disciples who couldn’t stay awake to pray with Him 
  • Judas who betrayed Him with a kiss 
  • the nine disciples who ran away 
  • Peter who denied three times that he knew Jesus 
  • the false witnesses in Caiaphas’ house
  • the members of the Sanhedrin who hit Him and spit on Him 
  • the members of the Sanhedrin who were silent 
  • the temple guards who mocked Him 
  • those who spewed lies when Jesus stood before Pilate
  • those who lied about Jesus when He stood before Herod 
  • Herod and his soldiers who mocked Him 
  • the Roman soldiers who abused Him 
  • the Roman soldiers who stripped Him naked and crucified Him 

To all of the above, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them”!  

Listen to how Peter described the response of Jesus to all of this: When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats… (1 Peter 2:23). That word for insults means to heap abuse on Him or to pile on. This was a fulfillment of a 700-year-old prophecy: He was oppressed and afflicted… (Isaiah 53:7). Isaiah uses similar words, where oppressed means tyrannized, and afflicted means a humiliating, painful loss of dignity. 

Christ’s own disciples afflicted Him, and so did the temple guards, and Pilate, and King Herod, and the Roman soldiers… and you and me. All of this mistreatment and humiliation and tyrannizing was handed out by us too (see Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 2:24-25). That’s why His arms were spread so wide when He said, “Father, forgive them,” because there were so many that needed forgiveness! 

When Jesus said forgive, He was asking His Father to take away our guilt that kept us out of God’s presence. Think of a courtroom scene where God the Father is the Judge, satan is the prosecutor, Jesus is the victim, and I am the defendant. The evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible, and I am pronounced guilty. My punishment is a death sentence. When Jesus says, “Father, forgive him,” He is taking the death penalty in my place! 

In another beautiful fulfillment of an Old Testament practice, Jesus became both our sin offering and our scapegoat, making atonement for us at the mercyseat in the Most Holy Place, and allowing us to be welcomed into God’s holy presence (Leviticus 16:15-16, 20-22; Hebrews 9:12-14). 

When Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,” He was saying, “Father, bring them into Your presence!” 

You and I need to accept by faith the atoning work done on the Cross, the forgiveness of sins that was purchased for us. Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but to lovingly restore us, and for that we are eternally and humbly grateful. 

Please don’t miss out on any of these dying declarations from Jesus. You can find my thoughts on all of the confessions of this dying Man by clicking here.

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Confessions Of A Dying Man

In our justice system, rarely will a judge allow hearsay testimony to be introduced in court. But there is one notable exception: a dying declaration. 

A dying declaration is the statement of a mortally injured person who is aware he or she is about to die. This statement is admissible testimony in court on the theory that a dying person has no reason not to tell the truth. 

Jesus was nailed to a Cross. Mortally injured, unable to escape, He had no reason to lie. In His dying moments, struggling to get enough air in His lungs to be able to speak, Jesus choked out seven statements that still have a profound impact on us today. 

Join us this Sunday as we learn the invaluable lessons from the confessions of a dying Man. I would love to have you join us in person or on Facebook. 

Here are the confessions of Jesus we have already discussed:

[Reblog] What’s So Good About Good Friday?

I posted this 10 years ago on Good Friday.

Good Friday? Good for whom?

For you and me? Yes.

Good for Jesus, no. It was Bad Friday for Him, wasn’t it?

Or was it?

The writer of Hebrews says, “For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the Cross, scorning its shame.

What joy?

It was for the joy of what was nailed to the Cross.

So what exactly was nailed to the Cross?

Isaiah records an unusual statement from God—

Comfort, comfort My people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

That seems unfair! We receive double(!) for our sins! Here’s a 2-minute video where I explain what this means culturally—

Only when invoices were paid-in-full did they get doubled-up.

The Bible tells us that we’ve all sinned, and that the invoice or penalty for our sin is death. We have the IOUs of sin nailed to the door of our heart where God says “You owe Me your life!” But we cannot pay this debt by ourselves.

But Jesus can. And Jesus did! Check this out—

He personally carried our sins in His body on the Cross…. (1 Peter 2:24 NLT)

Having canceled 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 He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to His Cross. (Colossians 2:14 AMP)

That’s what is good about Good Friday. Jesus knew that taking our sins on His body, and then allowing His body to be nailed to the Cross, would double-up and nail-down our sin once and for all!

When Jesus said, “It is finished!” He was really saying, “It is paid-in-full!”

Book Reviews From 2019

Six Hours, One Friday

“Six hours, one Friday. To the casual observer the six hours are mundane. A shepherd with his sheep, a housewife with her thoughts, a doctor with his patients. But to the handful of awestruck witnesses, the most maddening of miracles is occurring. God is on a Cross. The Creator of the universe is being executed. Spit and blood are caked to His cheeks, and His lips are cracked and swollen. Thorns rip His scalp. His lungs scream with pain. His legs knot with cramps. Taut nerves threaten to snap as pain twangs her morbid melody. Yet, death is not ready. And there is no one to save Him, for He is sacrificing Himself. It is no normal six hours . . . it is no normal Friday. For worse than the breaking of His body is the shredding of His heart. His own countrymen clamor for His death. His own disciple planted the kiss of betrayal. His own friends ran for cover. And now His own Father is beginning to turn His back on Him, leaving Him alone. Let me ask you a question: What do you do with that day in history? What do you do with its claims? If it really happened . . . if God did commandeer His own crucifixion . . . if He did turn His back on His own Son . . . and if He did storm satan’s gate, then those six hours that Friday were packed with tragic triumph. If that was God on that Cross, then the hill called Skull is granite studded with stakes to which you can anchor your soul forever.” —Max Lucado, On Calvary’s Hill

Sovereign Love

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

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. 

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