Glimpses of the Cross Day 15; Why Only Jesus Could Save us

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. John 1:1-3 NKJV

We all know the sacrifice had to be spotless and perfect. Still, I believe there is a greater reason why only Jesus could atone for our sins. I believe the reason is found in John 1:1-3. Jesus, the Son of God was our Creator.  When Adam and Eve sinned and ate of the forbidden fruit, they did more than eat a piece of fruit they were told not to. They stopped believing in God’s love to make them happy and decided to trust the serpent instead.

In order to solve the sin problem God had to do more than just provide an atonement for eating a piece of fruit someone was told not to. In order to solve the sin problem God must win back our faith in His love. On the cross God had to convince us that He loves us, so we would believe in His love again, and to heal us from the sin of not believing in His love.  Sending an angel to die would not convince us that He loved us. It would have only convinced us that God did not care about the angels either. The only way God could convince us that He loved us, is if He, our Creator died for us Himself.

Why was it the Son of God who had to die? Because it was the Son of God who created us, and on the cross He wants to win back our love and loyalty. He knew that sending someone else to die would not accomplish that purpose. He died for us Himself, to prove once and for all that the serpent’s accusation was false. God was not withholding anything back from us that would make us happy. Contrary to the serpent’s accusation God would give anything to make us happy-even His own life!

Glimpeses of the Cross Day 14; A Tree Makes A Bitter Life Sweet Again

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they [were] bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree, [which] when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,  And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I [am] the LORD that healeth thee.  Exodus 15:23-26

Why did God have Moses put a tree in the bitter water? How did a tree make the water sweet? In 1 peter 2:24, Peter refers to the cross as a tree. In a world of hate and bitterness, Jesus died on that tree to save us from a bitter world. Sin has caused suffering and bitterness but Jesus was lifted up on the cross to make our lives sweet again. I and many others believe this is why Moses used a tree to make bitter water sweet again.

If life has made you bitter, I would like to invite you to experience the grace that can make your life sweet again, by visiting the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. If you are not in the Tampa Bay area, you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world here.

Glimpses of the Cross Day 13; The Messiah Prophesied in Scripture

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Several years ago, I was showing a set of Christian books to a lady. There were several hardbound books in the set, which also included beautiful art work. The lady loved the books, and asked how much they were. I told her, “Four-twenty-nine.” She was delighted, and exclaimed, “Is that all!” I said, “Yes.” I  went on to explain the payment plans, of cash, credit card, or down payment of 15% and then 12 monthly payments. She looked confused, and then disappointed when she realized, that by four-twenty-nine I meant $429.00 and not $4.29.

The lady was like most all of us. We hear what we expect to hear. We read the Old Testament Prophecies that depict Jesus’ sacrifice, like Isaiah 53, and wonder why the Jews did not understand that the Messiah was coming to die for our sin and not set up an earthly kingdom.

The Jews were looking for a Savior from Roman tyranny because they read  prophecies, such as Isaiah 52:13, “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” And also Isaiah 9:7, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” They thought Jesus would come and set up an earthly kingdom. Would we have thought differently?

There was nothing wrong with the prophecies. The prophets were right on. The Jews, the disciples, the lady I was trying to sell  books to were all just like us. We hear what we expect to hear.Even the disciples misunderstood and heard only what they expected to hear. Jesus told them in Matthew 16 amongst other places, that He would be crucified, but Peter and the others simply refused to hear of it. The weekend of the crucifixion they were devastated. It was a great disappointment.

Some scoff at them for not knowing better, but are we any better than they are? Do we not make similar mistakes?

Jeremiah 23:6 promises to save the kingdom of Judah.

“In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

This led the people to dream of a kingdom prosperous and above all others. However the text also promised righteousness for the people.  It seems the people were not so interested in the righteousness as they were in the prosperity. That is just like us today. InMatthew 6:33 Jesus says,

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Many today are seeking the kingdom and all those other things that will be added to us, but how many of us are seeking His righteousness? How many of us today are taking up our cross daily and following Him? How many of us just want the prosperity? Even if we are seeking a heavenly kingdom above an earthly kingdom, we may still be materialistic, unless we are really seeking His righteousness.

Could we today be like the children of Abraham, dreaming only of prosperity, and forgetting that God once asked father Abraham to sacrifice his son and future prosperity?

When Paul was reasoning with the Jews, showing them that Jesus was the Messiah, he had his work cut out for him. Below is a study on the Messiah, showing the prophecies predicted in the Old Testament, and their fulfillment in the New Testament. Paul probably used some of these Scriptures when he taught the Jews about the Messiah.

At the crucifixion the disciples were devastated and hurting. Jesus  looked past the mistakes of His disciples and saw the pain. On the road to Emmaus, he took pains to demonstrate to them from the Scriptures that His life had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. He probably used some of these Scriptures as well.

Event Prophecy Fulfilled
The place of His birth Micah 5:2 Luke 2:4-7
His virgin birth Isaiah 7:14 Luke 1:26-31
The slaughter of the children Jeremiah 31:15 Matthew 2:16-18
His flight into Egypt Hosea 11:1 Matthew 2:14,15
The time of His baptism Daniel 9:24,25 Luke 3:1,21,22
His rejection by the people Isaiah 53:3 John 1:11
His entrance into Jerusalem Zech 9:9 Luke 19:29-38
His betrayal by a friend Psalm 41:9 Luke 22:4748
The price of His betrayal Zech 11:12 Matthew 26:15
Spat upon and beaten Isaiah 50:6 Matthew 26:67
Crucified between two thieves Isaiah 53:12 Mark 15:27,28
The wounds in His body Zech 12:10 John 19:3420:27
Given vinegar and gall to drink Psalm 69:21 Matthew 27:34
Gambling for His clothes Psalm 22:17,18 Matt 27:35,36
None of His bones were to be broken Psalm 34:20 John 19:32,33
To be buried with the rich Isaiah 53:9 Matt 27:57-60
His resurrection Psalm 16:10 Luke 24:1-7

Seeing how Jesus met all the Old Testament predictions affirms our faith that He is indeed the Messiah. It also affirms our faith in the Bible.

Greater yet, it affirms our faith that He will come the second time, just as the Bible promised He would come the first time. There are actually twice as many Bible promises about His second coming than there are about His first coming.

Glimpses of the Cross Day 12; Focused on His Mission

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it. Mark 15:23

Jesus sets for us the perfect example of temperance on the cross. If healthy living was just about living longer, then Jesus might as well have gone ahead and drank the wine, because He was going to die when He was going to die anyway. But living healthy is about having a clearer healthier mind to feel impressions of the Holy Spirit and to keep our thinking clear and focused on our mission. Jesus, on the cross, was on a mission and had to keep His mind clear and focused.

In the Old Testament priests were forbidden to drink wine as they needed to stay focused on their ministry and mission. The New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers. Therefore we all need to follow Jesus’ example of only eating and drinking at all times, that which will aid us in our ministry and our mission of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For more on the topic click here.

Glimpses of the Cross Day 11; Sometimes Silence is the Answer

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers.  But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!  Luke 21: 12-15 NLT 

Sometimes people get discouraged when they are trying to defend their faith, and the Holy Spirit does not give them the right words to say. What we have to remember is, our faith is something we share, not something we defend. In other words, sharing God’s love will do more good to win people to Jesus than just trying to prove we are right all the time. Also, just because we are not given words to say does not mean the Holy Spirit is not with us. The Holy Spirit was with Jesus but sometimes He remained silent.

Herod was delighted at the opportunity to see Jesus, because he had heard about him and had been hoping for a long time to see him perform a miracle.  He asked Jesus question after question, but Jesus refused to answer.  Luke 23:8-9 NLT

Even though He was accused, Jesus was not in a position where He needed to defend Himself. If Herod’s questions had been more sincere I believe the Holy Spirit would have given Jesus something to say. The Holy Spirit is not going to give us words to say, if those words are just going to be “pearls cast before swine.” Jesus lived a life that did not need to be defended. Remember, sometimes when you defend yourself against accusations, all you are doing is giving merit to the accusations. If the accusation has no merit, sometimes silence is the best answer. It was for Jesus.

Glimpses of the Cross Day 10; Jesus Cares For His Mother

 
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.” John 19:25-27 NLT 

 

As the eyes of Jesus wandered over the multitude about Him, one figure arrested His attention. At the foot of the cross stood His mother, supported by the disciple John. She could not endure to remain away from her Son; and John, knowing that the end was near, had brought her again to the cross. In His dying hour, Christ remembered His mother. Looking into her grief-stricken face and then upon John, He said to her, “Woman, behold thy son!” then to John, “Behold thy mother!” John understood Christ’s words, and accepted the trust. He at once took Mary to his home, and from that hour cared for her tenderly. O pitiful, loving Saviour; amid all His physical pain and mental anguish, He had a thoughtful care for His mother! He had no money with which to provide for her comfort; but He was enshrined in the heart of John, and He gave His mother to him as a precious legacy. Thus He provided for her that which she most needed,–the tender sympathy of one who loved her because she loved Jesus. And in receiving her as a sacred trust, John was receiving a great blessing. She was a constant reminder of his beloved Master.
The perfect example of Christ’s filial love shines forth with undimmed luster from the mist of ages. For nearly thirty years Jesus by His daily toil had helped bear the burdens of the home. And now, even in His last agony, He remembers to provide for His sorrowing, widowed mother. The same spirit will be seen in every disciple of our Lord. Those who follow Christ will feel that it is a part of their religion to respect and provide for their parents. From the heart where His love is cherished, father and mother will never fail of receiving thoughtful care and tender sympathy. –Desire of Ages, Page 752

Glimpses of The Cross 9; The Power to Forgive

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Lord I believe in you! Please remember me when you set up your kingdom. Jesus turned His head towards Him and said, “I promise you today, When I return with the glory of my Father, I will take you home with me to paradise.” Luke 23:42-43 CWB

As the son of God, Jesus had the right to wear a crown of gold, but He let man take it away and give him a crown of thorns instead. Jesus had the right to wear a royal robe, but Jesus let man take that too as He hung naked on the cross. Jesus had the right to live, but He let men take away His life. On the cross Jesus gave up all of his rights except one which was the right to forgive sin. When a lifelong sinner, turned to Jesus on the cross, Jesus would not give up the right to forgive sinners. On the cross the only power that Jesus exercised was the power to forgive sin. The only thing He asked was, “Father forgive them.”

That prayer of Christ for His enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time. Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God. To all, forgiveness is freely offered. “Whosoever will” may have peace with God, and inherit eternal life. -Desire of Ages, P. 745

Glimpses of the Cross Day 8: Accursed of God

 

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.  And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening.   Joshua 10:25-26   

 By hanging these five kings on five trees, Joshua was saying that they had their opportunity to accept Israel’s God, but they rejected Him, so it was good-bye to life forever. This is the death Jesus tasted for us. He did not taste the death of the righteous as He did not save us from the death of the righteous. He saved us from the death of the wicked, therefore He tasted the death of the wicked. Jesus faced the death of the wicked which meant facing total oblivion Obadiah 1:16.      

Hebrews 2:9 tells us Jesus tasted death for every man.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

If Jesus was only tasting the first death, with the hope of salvation, then why does everyone still taste that death themselves? Jesus did not save us from that death. We still experience that death ourselves. Jesus and Paul always refer to the first death, with the hope of salvation as sleep. See 1 Thessalonians 4. 1 Corinthians 15 John 11.  Paul does not say in Hebrews 2:9 that Jesus tasted sleep. This time Paul says “death” – meaning He felt accursed by God, like the five kings in Joshua 10. 

 “Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.” -Desire of Ages, Page 753.

Circumcision; Gospel or Barbaric Ritual?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson, mentions circumcision, which some people in some cultures now classify as barbaric. I have heard a few good Christians question why God chose circumcision for a sign that you belonged to Him? I have heard Christian men ask, “why the penis of all places?”

We all know circumcision is no longer a sign of a covenant between God and us – thank goodness! Still it puzzles some believers as well as unbelievers alike as to why God ever had anyone do this. My purpose here is to answer the question, “why did God ever tell us to do this” and in the process we will see the gospel where before many people only saw a painful ritual.

The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. Galatians 4:22-24 NLT

God had made a covenant with Abraham and promised him a son. All God needed Abraham to do was believe the promise. Abraham saw that his wife was old and not even menstruating anymore, so instead of just trusting in God’s promise, he took his much younger handmaid Hagar and worked things out on his own. Together they had a son. This is the old covenant, which is man keeping the commandments in his own power, instead of just trusting God to write them on our hearts. The old covenant is legalism, or the works of the flesh. It’s a me-plus-Christ mentality instead of “Not I But Christ” (SeeGalatians 2:20), the motif Paul shared as the crux of the gospel.

So God had Abraham practice circumcision.

Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.” Genesis 17:9-14 NLT

Abraham’s part in the covenant was to keep himself from doing those things God had promised. Abraham was trusting in his flesh to work things out, so God had Abraham circumcise the part of his flesh he was trusting in, so that he could realize the gospel is not “me plus Christ” but “Not I but Christ.”

For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort… Philippians 3:3 NLT

… like the birth of the child of Abraham, and that of Mary, was to teach a great spiritual truth, a truth that we are slow to learn and ready to forget. In ourselves we are incapable of doing any good thing; but that which we cannot do will be wrought by the power of God in every submissive and believing soul. It was through faith that the child of promise was given. It is through faith that spiritual life is begotten, and we are enabled to do the works of righteousness. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 98

Abraham had that part of his body circumcised because that was the part of his body he was trusting, more than he was trusting in God’s power. Now we have baptism as a sign that we are casting away self-confidence, as we go under the water washing self away, and dying to self, we rise up taking the new breath we now live, not trusting in self, but trusting in Jesus.

Satan works hard to make us miss the whole point of this lesson by coming up with his own rituals, and then making male circumcision appear to be another cultural ritual. For example, female circumcision,  which has no Scriptural significance is still widely practiced. It is seriously harmful to women and its practice often has ulterior motives.

It is worth noting that there is some evidence that circumcision does have health benefits. There is evidence to suggest that certain health issues are less prevalent in communities where circumcision is widely practised (http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/circumcision/basics/why-its-done/prc-20013585)

Finally, some men who were circumcised as babies, and learning that circumcision is no longer Biblical or morally necessary, have become quite bitter towards their parents for “mutilating” them. To those I would say, first of all, you have not endured anything that Jesus Himself has not endured. Jesus was circumcised too. See Luke 2:21. No matter how awkward or “embarrassing” an area of your life may be, Jesus has been there and experienced it for you. He understands everything! Second,  most parents were simply doing the best they could with the information they had at the time. All parents have to make decisions about the treatment of their babies on a range of issues and most make those decisions with the best information available. And with the health benefits, your parents may have made no mistake at all.

Satan likes to make the Gospel look foolish and even crazy in human eyes, and because circumcision is a sensitive issue it is an easy target. I pray my brief attempt has helped you to see the gospel where before all you could see was a Jewish ritual.

Glimpses of the Cross Day 7; Crucified, Not Stoned

  I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And [Pilate] saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify [him], crucify [him]. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify [him]: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”   John 19:5-7      

The law the Jews were talking about is found in the verse below, but notice the law states that one who blasphemes (which Jesus did not do but was accused of doing), should be stoned, not crucified.

  “And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, [and] all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name [of the LORD], shall be put to death.”  Leviticus 24:16

Notice in the verse below, the Jews were not ignorant of this law.

 “I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.”  John 10:30-31    

So why are the the Jews asking for Jesus to be crucified instead of stoned? I believe they have Deuteronomy 21:22-23 in mind.

 “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:  His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;)” Deuteronomy 21:22-23    

If a man committed a crime worthy of death he could still ask forgiveness and have the hope of the resurrection, but if he was hung on a tree that meant he was accursed of God and it was good-bye to life forever. Remember Jesus was not dying the death of the righteous. The righteous still die that death themselves. He did not save us from that death. He was saving us from, and tasting the death of the wicked. So on the cross Jesus was not just tasting a six hour pain endurance marathon, where everything would be okay come Sunday morning. Thank God he was indeed resurrected, but on the  the cross He had to face the death of the wicked, which meant He was facing going into total oblivion, as though His existence would be blotted from the universe.

“…so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.” Obadiah 1:16

This is what Jesus faced for you, so you could experience the acceptance of the Father.

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:6-7