Finding God’s Favor

“It was because of His grace that God the Father sent His only Son to die in our place. To say it another way, Christ’s death was the result of God’s grace; grace is not the result of Christ’s death.” —Jerry Bridges

God had been showing us His love throughout the Old Testament period, but the Advent of Jesus made it abundantly and unmistakably clear that God is for us! 

Check out how Luke focuses on God’s favor in a way that no other Gospel writer does:

  • John (the one who would announce the arrival of Jesus) means Jehovah is a gracious Giver.
  • Elizabeth (John’s mother) said that God had not only shown His favor to her by making her pregnant, but she also said God had removed her disgrace. 
  • Mary (the mother of Jesus) was greeted by the angel with the phrases “You are highly favored” and “You have found favor with God.” 
  • On the night of Christ’s birth, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” 
  • Jesus, in His first public sermon, quoted Isaiah’s words, saying He had come to proclaim God’s favor. 

But please notice this truth—We don’t try to find or earn God’s favor. It’s already there; we just need to realize it’s there! 

You see, we don’t grow in God’s favor, nor do we get more favor, but we progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with God’s favor that is already there. Check out what Moses said:

If I have found favor in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, perceiving and recognizing and understanding more strongly and clearly and that I may find favor in Your sight (Exodus 33:13)

The angel said to Mary, “You are HIGHLY FAVORED” (Luke 1:28). God uses the same word when He says to us: God made us ACCEPTED in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). 

How can this be?? Because on the Cross, Jesus switched places with us. He took all our sin and DISgrace, and gave us all of His righteousness. Now when God the Father looks at us, all He sees is the righteousness of His Son. Now all praise to God for His wonderful kindness to us and His favor that He has poured out upon us because we belong to His dearly loved Son (TLB).

God’s grace is undiminished. It is as full today as it ever has been. God could never love you more than He already does. God could never love you less because of anything you do. Keep your eyes on Him and you will find just how much favor He has for you! 

Join me this Sunday either in person or on Facebook Live as we continue to learn more about God’s favor. 

A.L.I.V.E.—The “V” Is For Verified Prophesy

This is part 4 in my 5-part series, “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of ….” I have already addressed A—Apologetics, L—Lives changed, and I—It is finished. Today I want to consider the prophesies that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus supposedly fulfilled. 

We have all heard about “copycat” crimes. Could the life and death of Jesus fit that? Since Jesus was born from the family line of King David, and His family really wanted the promised Messiah to finally appear, perhaps He was pushed that way. Perhaps He lived in a certain way to make it look like He was fulfilling prophesy. 

Detective J. Warner Wallace wrote, “Homicide detectives are perhaps the least trusting people in the world. My own experience investigating murders has taught me to consider everyone a liar—until, at least, I have good reason to believe otherwise.” 

So was Jesus a liar? Was He following some copycat script to make it merely look like He was the Messiah? Or do we have good reasons to believe He was telling the truth? Consider a couple of points—

    • How could David describe a crucifixion scene in 1000 BC, since the Persians didn’t invent it until around 400 BC (see Psalm 22:12-18)?
    • How could Jesus control others’ actions (i.e. Judas’ betrayal; being killed by crucifixion, not by stoning; soldiers gambling for His clothes)? 
    • Even His own followers—whom He would need to perpetrate the hoax—didn’t understand what He was doing (John 12:16). 

Prosecutors have to present enough evidence to convince a jury that they have arrested and brought to trial the right man. One of the key terms is beyond a reasonable doubt—“a part of jury instructions in all criminal trials, in which the jurors are told that they can only find the defendant guilty if they are convinced ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ of his or her guilt.” 

Let’s consider a hypothetical case that a prosecutor might present: 

  • multiple eyewitnesses saw a man fleeing the scene, and all of them identified the suspect in a police line-up
  • the shoe prints at the crime scene were the same size and design that of the suspect was wearing when he was arrested
  • prosecutors presented text messages in which the suspect threatened to do to the victim exactly what was done to the victim
  • the wounds made by the weapon which was used on the victim correspond with the weapon the police found in the suspect’s car
  • the blood on that weapon matched the blood of the victim
  • the fingerprints on that weapon are the suspect’s fingerprints

That is the evidence. From that evidence, the jury is asked to draw inferences about the reasonableness of that suspect being the one who committed the crime. 

I have listed just six pieces of evidence. How strong do you think the prosecutor’s case is? What if the jurors were presented with 50 pieces of evidence? What about 100? 200? How about 300 pieces of evidence? 

Jesus fulfilled at least 300 prophesies—which were made before He was born!—in His life, death, and resurrection!

Math professor Peter Stoner calculated that the odds for just one man in history to fulfill only 8 prophesies is 1-in-1×1017. How amazing is that!? To give us a little perspective, Stoner says that 1×1017 silver dollars would cover the entire state of Texas in silver dollars two-feet thick. If just one of those silver dollars was marked, and a blindfolded man could select that one marked coin on his very first attempt, that would be about the same odds of Jesus fulfilling only 8 prophesies. 

As a juror, if you weighed this evidence, do you find enough proof to “convict” Jesus? 

But ultimately Jesus didn’t come just to fulfill prophesy; He came to rescue you and me from the penalty of our sin (Luke 4:16-21), and that is the best news of all! 

Join me either in person or on Facebook Live this Sunday for the final message in this 5-part series. 

A.L.I.V.E.—The “I” Is For It Is Finished

Throughout history, lots of martyrs have died for what they believe. But only One had been resurrected from the dead to prove that what He believed and taught was true.

Jesus, however, is not a martyr. His life and His work weren’t cut short. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but He came specifically to die on a Cross. He knew what was going to happen to Him. Check this out…

So we can know Jesus is alive by His “It is finished” declaration from the Cross—

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” … When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”

Actually His “It is finished” wasn’t just a statement, it was a yell that reverberated throughout the countryside. The Greek words Mark uses are megas phōnē, which sounds a lot like our word megaphone. Jesus wanted to make sure everyone heard Him, and then look at the result:

Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed His last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

The curtain that separated God’s presence from mankind was torn in two. The writer of Hebrews notes, “Our High Priest offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”

What do you conclude from all this? C.S. Lewis offered this challenge:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great man or a moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool… or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

Jesus told us that He would die, how He would die, when He would die, why He would die, and that He would be resurrected. If you heard all of these claims before His crucifixion, you might think He was a lunatic or a braggart. But after His It Is Finished! declaration, we have only one logical conclusion: Jesus is exactly who He said He was. It was out of love for you that Jesus laid down His life and picked it up again. Will you put your faith in Him today?

We are working our way through 5-parts of this series: “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of….” We’ve already covered:

A.L.I.V.E.—The “A” Is For Apologetics

This is part 1 of a 5-part series with a simple premise: “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of…” and then I am presenting evidence for each of the five letters. This is a look at the letter A” for Apologetics for the resurrection of Jesus.

For some of my evidence, I am going to use historical texts from the Bible. When I say “historical” I mean that in the scholarly definition: this Book is attested to by historians and literary critics to be an accurate record of actual historical facts. You can read more of the apologetics for the Bible’s authenticity in a post I previously published here.

I would ask you to weigh the evidence for three possibilities concerning the claims of Christians regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus.

(1) Jesus didn’t actually die.

The Romans didn’t invent crucifixion, but they perfected it to be one of the most gruesome forms of tortuous death that history has ever known. This leads one to wonder how could anyone go through the torture Jesus did and survive?

A team of medical examiners, after examining the historical account of Jesus’ death concluded: “The difficulty surrounding exhalation leads to a slow form of suffocation. Carbon dioxide builds up in the blood, resulting in a high level of carbonic acid in the blood. The body responds instinctively, triggering the desire to breathe. At the same time, the heart beats faster to circulate available oxygen. The decreased oxygen (due to the difficulty in exhaling) causes damage to the tissues and the capillaries begin leaking watery fluid from the blood into the tissues. This results in a build-up of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) and lungs (pleural effusion). The collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get sufficient oxygen to the tissues essentially suffocate the victim. The decreased oxygen also damages the heart itself (myocardial infarction) which leads to cardiac arrest. In severe cases of cardiac stress, the heart can even burst, a process known as cardiac rupture. Jesus most likely died of a heart attack.”

Besides that, the dead body of Jesus was also thoroughly examined by both the Romans who conducted the crucifixion (see Mark 15:43-45) and His friends who prepared His body for burial (John 19:38-40).  In addition, two contemporary historians who aren’t friendly to the cause of Christianity (Tacitus and Josephus) both attested to Christ’s death by crucifixion.

(2) Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead.

Some say the disciples were delusional from their intense grief. But Jesus was seen on more than one occasion, sometimes by one person, sometimes by twos, and several times by large groups (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Some of Jesus’ closest friends weren’t convinced by second-hand testimony but had to see Jesus for themselves (John 20:19-20, 24-28). All four biblical accounts record women seeing the resurrected Jesus. This is significant because women were not allowed to serve as “legal witnesses,” so this wouldn’t have helped the “delusional” disciples at all.

Some say the disciples stole the body of Jesus. But this is problematic because of the armed guards at the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 27:62-66; 28:11-15). 

(3) Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” So after looking at the shortcomings and difficulties of the first two options, let’s consider this third possibility: that it happened just as the historical records in the Bible indicate.

Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace said of this third possibility, “The last explanation (although it is a miraculous, supernatural explanation) suffers from the least number of liabilities and deficiencies. If we simply enter into the investigation without a pre-existing bias against anything supernatural, the final explanation accounts for all of the evidence without any difficulty. The final explanation accounts for the evidence most simply and most exhaustively, and it is logically consistent…. The final explanation is also superior to all other accounts (given that it does not suffer from all the problems we see with the other explanations).”

Check out the video where I discuss all of these points in more detail, and join me either in person or on Facebook Live for the next four Sundays as we continue looking at the evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus.

How Confident Are Your Prayers?

David hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s never tried to lead a rebellion against King Saul. In fact, he’s never even talked poorly about Saul. And yet Saul is out to kill David!

David tries to get as far away as he can, choosing to live in the desert so that he might get some relief from Saul. Still Saul comes after him with a force of 3000 men! Every time David moves, Saul’s men are hot on his trail. David described his situation like this

My mortal enemies surround me. Their hearts are cold and calloused toward me, and they speak terrible things about me. They track me down and surround me. They are like hungry lions, crouching, waiting to pounce on me!

If you were in David’s sandals, how confident would you be that God could get you out of the situation? Remarkably, David’s confidence was as high as it could be!

David not only was confident that God would hear him, but that He would listen to him. More than that, David knew God would pay attention to him. And then David boldly said, “I call on You, O God, for you WILL answer me.”

How could David pray such a confident prayer? The answer is in this principle…

There is a direct correlation between intimacy and confidence.

David made two very intimate claims about his relationship with God:

  1. You will keep me as the apple of Your eye
  2. You hide me in the shadow of Your wings

The apple of the eye is the pupil. Our eyes are amazingly designed to not only take in information but to protect themselves. If something is getting too close to our eye, the eyelids blink in protection faster than we can consciously tell them to. So David was claiming that God would protect him by reflex!

The shadow of Your wings was a reference to the top of the Ark of the Covenant; a place called the mercy seat. Here is where the priest sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial lamb to atone for the people’s sin and to appeal to God’s mercy. The mercy seat was over-shadowed by two angels’ wings.

David was saying that God kept him in this intimate place—covered by God’s mercy and protection!

Jesus also told us about intimate confidence when He said, “If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).

  • Intimacy: remain IN Jesus, and let His words remain IN you
  • Confidence: ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you

Are your prayers this confident? If not, don’t work on raising your confidence, but work on increasing your intimacy. Check your intimacy level with questions like:

  • Am I abiding in Jesus?
  • Are His words abiding in me?
  • Do I have any unconfessed sin?
  • Is my prayer a “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” prayer?

Focus on intimacy, and then watch your confidence soar! 

If you are interested in learning more about the prayers of David, I have also discussed his prayer for help, his prayer of crying out loud, and his prayer of praise.

The Embers Of Church Contention

“When such embers of contention begin to smoke among Christians, we can be sure satan planted the spark; he is the one great kindle-coal of all strife.

“Whenever there is a storm in the spirits of saints, and the winds of emotions are high and loud, it is easy to see who has stirred up the tempest. The devil practices his black art on unmortified lusts, that enable him to raise easily many storms of division among believers. …

“There is nothing, next to Christ and heaven, which satan begrudges believers more than their peace and mutual love. If he cannot separate them from Christ, and stop them from getting to heaven, he takes sinister pleasure in watching them get there in a storm. …

“Saints who live in strife and contention are sinning against the strong prayers which Christ Himself uttered on their behalf [John 17:11, 21].” —William Gurnall, The Christian In Complete Armor

(I have many more quotes from this classic book posted here, here, here, and here.)

Help!

David and his men are on the run from King Saul, but they hear that the small town of Keilah is being harassed by the Philistines. The bad guys are stealing the harvest from the people of Keilah, making it a very real possibility that they would starve during the upcoming winter. In his usual habit, David prays and asks God if he should help the people of Keilah, and God gives him the go-ahead to attack.

David and his men defeat the Philistines, not only returning the crops that had been stolen but also delivering some livestock that they took from the defeated Philistines. You might expect that David and his men were given a ticker-tape parade. Instead, as soon as David was within the city’s walls, he finds out that the people of Keilah are planning to sell him out to King Saul. Talk about ingratitude!

David and his men flee to the Desert of Ziph, where they won’t be a bother to anyone. Except the Ziphites get word to King Saul that they will gladly turn him over to the King whenever he asks for it.

What is David’s response? As usual, it’s prayer. His prayer is short and straight to the point—

Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men.

In other words, David asks God, “Where have all the decent people gone?” It’s no different in our day, as Paul told his friend Timothy that people will only become more hypocritical liars, with their conscience not bothering them a bit!

What I love about David’s prayer is that he quotes God back to God. Check out the quotation mark: “Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise. I will protect them from those who malign them.” And then David is quick to add that God’s words never fail! 

I am convinced that our spiritual battles are largely lost or won in our minds. We need to recall God’s Word—Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail (Lamentation 3:21-22).

So we cry, “Help!” to God because He is the only One who can help us: The Lord is my Helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6).

But David has an important question to ask: “How long do we continue to call for help?” Have you ever asked God that?

Jesus said that the key to our successful praying is for us to remain in Him and for His Words to remain in us, like a branch remains connected to the vine (John 15:7). So let me ask you a question: How long should the branch remain connected to the vine before it’s ready to go off on its own?

The answer is simple—if the branch wants to remain alive and fruitful, it must stay in relationship with the vine forever!

So once again, look at how Jesus answers the “How long?” question—Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking reverently and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

“Help!” is a great prayer that God loves to answer. “How long” do we pray that prayer? Until it’s answered … keep on, keep on, KEEP ON!

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