The question reminded me of the story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead that I recently read about in John 11:1-44. Let’s take a look at some of the points in this story that may help us answer this question.
When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 NKJV
The good news for all of us is that even though Lazarus dies that is not how the story ends! Lazarus is resurrected. Dear friend if you have recently laid a loved one to rest be assured that is not how the story ends. Death is not the final chapter. The resurrection is. still, Jesus allowed one of his best friends to get sick and die. Why? Verse 4 tells us so that God would be glorified. Are you willing to get sick and even face death if it will give God glory? This reminds me of a sermon I heard a long time ago on Hebrews 11:35-38 which mentions people who were killed for their faith. The preacher said many say they have enough faith to be healed but do we have enough faith not to be healed? What if more people became converted through our death than our life? What if our sickness glorified God more than our health? This new year I realized God does not need me to make goals and plans. He needs me to make a total surrender. This new year I rededicated my life to Jesus and told Him I was totally surrendered to Him. He can take me and do with me as He pleases in 2021. He can promote me if that will glorify His name. He can also let me get sick and die if that will glorify his name. After all, by giving my life to Jesus I am only giving what I was not going to be able to keep anyways.
So Jesus allows Lazarus to get sick and die so it would glorify God. How so? Well this is why it was so important for Jesus to let him actually die and then not show up to the home till four days afterwards. Had Jesus forsaken Lazarus and his sisters by seeming so distant? Not at all! It was all part of a magnificent plan that would bring glory to God with a happy ending for all. Remember when Jesus healed the little girl in Mark 5:21-43? He said the girl was not dead but only asleep. Everyone laughed at Him. Of course Jesus calls death sleep since the dead person is going to be resurrected. However the Sadducees and Pharisees both loved to twist the words of Jesus. The Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection especially had something at stake in the miracle Jesus performed for this little girl. Jesus’ statement that the girl was not dead but asleep could have given the Sadducees opportunity to say that even Jesus admitted Himself that the girl was only asleep and had never actually died. Thus Jesus did not actually resurrect her. I believe this is very possible because even today people love twisting the words of prophecy and Scripture to their own destruction. I believe the Sadducees very well could have used that as an opportunity to twist Jesus’ words when He said she was not dead but only asleep.
If the Pharisees and Sadducees were able to twist Jesus’ own words (Incidentally I think this is why a colleague years ago told me to use as few words as possible when talking thus reducing the opportunity for my enemies to twist my words.) to discredit His miracle of raising the girl to life, thus making many people lose faith in God this could explain why Jesus allowed Lazarus to get sick and die. Not only die but by waiting four days there is no way anyone could say he was not actually dead but just literally sleeping as they insinuated with the girl. Obviously Jesus’ plan worked because the story says,
Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. John 11:45 NKJV
By allowing Lazarus to suffer and die millions who have faced death have been comforted with the hope of the resurrection. By allowing Lazarus to suffer and die millions have believed in Jesus as their Savior from sin and death. God wants us to prosper in heath and strength as we love and serve God with all of our health and strength. But if God could win more people to His kingdom by letting you suffer and die would you be okay with that?
The one who stands nearest to Christ will be he who has drunk most deeply of His spirit of self-sacrificing love,–love that “vaunteth not itself, . . . seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil,”–love that moves the disciple, as it moved our Lord, to give all, to live and labor and sacrifice even unto death, for the saving of humanity. –Ellen White, Conflict and Courage, Page 314.
You may listen to the podcast version of this article here.
While I was in Cradle Roll Sabbath School, before I could even read there was a picture in my Bible of Jesus dying on the cross. I was mesmerized by this picture and would study it in church as the preacher preached. As I took in the entire scene one thought kept reverberating in my heart, Jesus died for me. One night when I was seven I put my Bible away to fall asleep. As I laid there contemplating that picture the Holy Spirit was painting that very scene on my heart. That night I decided to give my heart to Jesus and be baptized because Jesus died for me.
This is the Bible and picture I would always love to look at as a child.
Over time the world and even people in the church have pressured and even threatened me to compromise my faith and convictions. When they demand my loyalty to them I remember that night when I gave my heart to Jesus. I remember the people pressuring me to compromise did not die for me. Jesus died for me. I must be loyal to Him. I gave my heart to Jesus. I did not give it to people in the world or in the church.
Way too many times over the years I have compromised my faith without any pressure from anyone else at all. Again my mind goes back to the picture of the cross that the Holy Spirit painted on my heart on that night so long ago. I don’t give up. Jesus died for me. I ask His forgiveness which He so freely offers me. I know I am forgiven because Jesus died for me.
I have completed many more trips around the sun since my cradle roll days and baptism when I was seven. Still one theme still grips my heart and mesmerizes my soul. Jesus died for me. As time passes the Holy Spirit continues painting even more details into that picture of the cross. As I continue studying Scripture and not just a picture the details become increasingly more vivid on my heart making the scene more real, more wonderful and more awe-ful. While many want to give specific theological labels to the cross I find the picture of the cross the Holy Spirit is painting on my heart is much to grand and vivid to fall under any one label. As I have written before, many camps of thought are not so much wrong in what they teach as much as in what they fail to teach. One camp of thought does not necessarily have to replace the other. I believe we get the big picture of the cross when we put all the camps of thought together, and just throw away the labels. After all I did not fall in love with a theological label. I fell in love with Jesus because Jesus died for me.
The first time I heard the Gospel presentation I was taught that when I chose to knowingly break God’s law that was counted as sin according to 1 John 3:4. Sin is punishable by death according to Romans 6:23. John 3:16 tells me God gave His Son to die the death I deserve so I can have eternal life. As I continue studying I find another definition for sin besides 1 John 3:4. In John 16:9 Jesus also defines unbelief as sin. I have studied that Jesus died not so much because humankind took a piece of fruit they were told not to, but because in taking that fruit they showed they did not trust God or really believe in His love. Therefore God became a man and went to the cross to die and prove that He loves us so we can believe in His love. Therefore Jesus heals us from the sin of unbelief. The atonement appeases an angry race instead of an angry God. So which is it? Did Jesus die because humankind sinned by breaking the law which is punishable by death, or did Jesus die because humankind stopped believing in God’s love and by dying on the cross Jesus reconciled us by convincing us He loves us? Both! Interestingly John records both definitions of sin-in 1 John 3:4 the sin of breaking the law, and in John 16:9 the sin of unbelief. John understood Jesus died for every definition of sin.
I have heard that Jesus took on human nature so He could give us an example of human obedience. I have heard that Jesus took human nature because He had to die as a man. So which is it? Both!
The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 NLT
There is not a law in this universe that will allow someone to die for someone else. I can’t go to a murder trial and offer to die for the defendant so that he can go free. They won’t allow that. God can’t allow it either. So what was God’s solution? Jesus took my human body to the cross and died not just for me but as me. Not only is my sanctification dependent on the humanity of Jesus, my justification is dependent on it as well.
Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:14-17 NLT
Jesus had to become us and die as us. This is why Paul never actually refers to Jesus dying for us as much as he writes about Jesus dying as us. Where we all sinned when we were in Adam we have now all lived a righteous life in Christ.
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Romans 5:18 NLT
Also as I sinned in Adam I have now been crucified with Christ. Take a look at how these verses describe us dying with Jesus and not just Jesus dying for me.
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NLT
Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. Romans 6:3-7 NLT
Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.2 Corinthians 5:14 NLT
Where I sinned in Adam I have now been crucified with Christ. He took my flesh to the cross and crucified it. That is my justification. The good news is it does not stop there. Jesus also took on humanity and died so we can be sanctified and have victorious lives. Consider how these passages describe the victory Christ gives us by taking on humanity. Lets go back to where we began at Hebrews 2.
Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. Hebrews 2:18 NLT
He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:24
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT
The atonement was not only possible because of Jesus’ complete humanity but also because of his complete divinity.
The broken law of God demanded the life of the sinner. In all the universe there was but one who could, in behalf of man, satisfy its claims. Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with Heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin—sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son. Christ would reach to the depths of misery to rescue the ruined race. –Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 63.
Did Jesus make an atonement as fully man or fully God? Both. Did Jesus die to free us from the power of sin or the penalty of sin? Both. Did Jesus die because of the sin of breaking God’s law or the sin of unbelief? Both. I have learned so much more about the cross since my early childhood days. But I am still not in any one theological camp or label. When I am tempted I look at the picture of the cross the Holy Spirit has painted on my heart. His love empowers me to overcome as I remember Jesus died for me. When I make stupid decisions and fall into sin I look to the cross and know I can find forgiveness because Jesus died for me. I am reconciled to God and can believe in His love because Jesus died for me. God made an atonement for my sin and transgression of the law when Jesus died for me.
Many years later I have experienced hundreds of victories since my Cradle Roll days. Victories I never imagined possible. But before you pat me on the back I have also suffered a multitude of defeats that I never would have imagined possible, when I first gave my heart to Jesus at the tender age of seven. Sin has brought me lower than I ever comprehended possible and Jesus has raised me higher than I ever comprehended possible. I have found theological theories and labels get me nowhere. When I need forgiveness or power to overcome I do what I have been doing since Cradle Roll. I look at the cross and remember, Jesus died for me.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
I am podcasting today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
Many Christians do not understand the exact reasoning for circumcision in the Bible, while many atheists make fun of the Bible and Christianity over this apparent “strange ritual.” So let’s take a look at Scripture to make sense of this seemingly “awkward” topic.
Were you ever told that we only use 10% of our brain? I remember being told growing up that we only use 10% of our brain, but Einstein used 33% of his brain. I am not sure if this information was passed on to us as a way to encourage us to think harder in school, or as an insinuation that our minds had mysterious capabilities such as ESP, if only we could tap into the 90% of our brain we are not using. I have no doubt that the people who told me that really believed it. After all I am sure they heard it from a trusted friend who heard it from a trusted friend who heard it from a trusted friend. I know I shared that information with some of my students because I was sure my sources were reliable. Well they may have been mostly reliable, but not 100% reliable. You see, we do use our entire brain. Brain scans and other tests reveal that we use our entire brain. The idea that we don’t use our entire brain came from a study where mice could still do certain functions after having small amounts of brain matter removed. You can read about it here. It turns out that the idea that we only use 10% of our brains is a total myth.Now that I think about it, I would I have figured out as a kid that we use our entire brain if I had been using my brain. Pun intended. They myth that we only use 10% of our brains has endured for ages because we are prone to believe what we are told by trusted people instead of using our own minds to figure things out.
I am reminded of a time many years ago when I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had a friend, Anne, who was a flight instructor at the Spartan Flight School in Tulsa. One Saturday night, she and I decided to rent a small Cessna 152 and take an aerial tour of the city. While they were fueling the plane, Anne was checking all the gauges to make sure all systems were good to go. When she got to the fuel gauge she said, “Fuel gauge reads full.”
I joked that since we just watched them fueling the plane, there was no need to check the fuel gauge. Her reply has always stuck with me. “Trust no one,” she said. She was right. As the pilot of our little aircraft, it was her personal responsibility to check all the gauges, including the fuel gauge. It was not disrespectful for her to check to make sure the “pit crew” had done their job. It was her responsibility to check things out for herself.
We all have that responsibility as Christians. Paul was not offended at all that the Bereans checked out his preaching to see if it went along with the Scriptures. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11 NIV Everyone knew Paul was sincere, but we are all human, right? We can make sincere mistakes.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we tell our Protestant and Catholic friends that they need to read the Bible for themselves, and not take their preacher’s word for it. But how many of us turn around and think, My pastor is an Adventist so I know he is preaching truth?
Friends, if the people searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was so, how much more should we be searching the Scriptures to see if what our pastor says is so. We are all human. We make mistakes. Making a sincere mistake does not make you a heretic. It does not mean you are a part of a global sinister conspiracy plot. It just means we are all human. We can’t rely on man alone. Like my friend Anne, who checked out things for herself, we must, along with the Bereans, search the Scriptures for ourselves, so that we can each know individually what is true.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
Worry is blind, and cannot discern the future; but Jesus sees the end from the beginning. In every difficulty He has His way prepared to bring relief. Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service and honor of God supreme will find perplexities vanish, and a plain path before their feet. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 330