Why Does God Let Me Stay So Weak?

Weak

I hate weakness. I don’t like being weak. And I have so many weaknesses as a husband, father, and pastor. I want to have it all together. I want to be a strong leader, a loving husband, a wise father. But I’m so weak. I fail so often. Why?

Why does God let us stay so weak at times? Why is it so hard to put sin to death? Why do we struggle and fail so much? Why are we so often weak in our faith?

The apostle Paul knew about weakness. And he didn’t like weakness in himself – at least not initially. Paul had some kind of “thorn given him in the flesh, a messenger of Satan” that harassed him. Some believe the “thorn” was Jewish persecution; many believe it was a physical ailment or disease that affected his eyesight. They believe this since he dictated his letters, and he said it was because of a “bodily ailment” he had originally preached the gospel to the Galatians (GA 4.13). He also said the Galatians would have plucked out their eyes and given them to him (4:15). Also when he was rebuked for calling the high priest a “white-washed wall” Paul said he didn’t know he was the high priest. Yet Paul was a Pharisee who would certainly have recognized the high priest if he could see him.

Whatever his affliction, Paul struggled with it. He didn’t like being weak. He sought the Lord on three occasions about it and finally God gave him some insight into why he didn’t remove Paul’s weakness.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 CO 12:7-10

As Paul sought the Lord about his “thorn” God showed him some things.

First, it was to keep Paul from conceit and pride, having received great revelations from God. Knowledge puffs up. When we have strong gifts or incredible talent it’s easy to become proud. When we have some serious success it’s easy to forget that all our gifts and success is from God. How many gifted teachers of God’s word have succumbed to pride and fallen into sin. How easy it is for us to judge others out of our strengths. How easy it is for parents whose children are doing well to look down on those whose children are struggling or rebelling. So weakness humbles us. Failure keeps us from becoming conceited. And since pride comes before a fall, weakness can keep us from stumbling.

The second reason God let Paul stay weak was to make Paul rely on Christ’s grace – “My grace is sufficient for you.” Pride leads us to rely on ourselves; weakness drives us to our knees to seek God’s grace. Strength can lead to self-sufficiency. Weakness makes us depend on Christ. Weakness sends us to the throne of grace for mercy and grace in time of need.

The third reason God kept Paul weak was to reveal Christ’s power through him – “my power is made perfect in weakness.” The more we realize our weakness, then when anything good happens through us, we know it is the power of Christ, not us. When we have tried again and again to conquer a sin, become aware of our own weakness in the battle, then finally conquer it, we know it was by Jesus’ grace and power. Then Jesus receives the glory. We won’t think we did it by our own willpower but by Jesus’ grace.

Paul got to the place where he was content with weakness! He could be content with insults, hardships and persecutions. And even with calamities! Because he knew that all these things would reveal how weak he was, and the power of Christ would shine through him.

To be content with weakness doesn’t mean we give up trying to put sin to death. It doesn’t mean we quit trying to bear fruit for God. But it means that when we fail, when we realize how weak we are, we won’t despair but turn to Christ and ask him to give us HIS power. HIS strength. HIS wisdom. HIS grace.

Do you feel weak? Confess your weakness to Jesus. (He won’t be surprised). Confess your sins. Confess your failures as mom or dad. Tell him how much you need his grace not to get angry. Tell him you need his grace to love that brother who it’s so hard to love. Ask him to give you the grace to rejoice in your pain and be content in your trial.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 PE 5:6-7

The Lord Of Hosts Who Conquers Through Pots Of Clay

Years ago, miserable in my slavery to sin, I cried out, “God please change me.” I didn’t ask him to save me, I just knew I needed help. Little did I know magnitude of my request. I asked God to kill me. To crucify me. To nail me to the cross with Jesus, who would then take up residence in me and begin to wield his power through me. The Lord of hosts who conquers through pots of clay.  And I knew nothing of his love for me.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

“I have been crucified with Christ.” If Jesus has saved you, you’re one with him. Organically joined to him. When he died, you died. This is decisive, life-altering, final. We’re no longer under sin’s thumb. We’re dead to it. We may not feel dead to it but we are.  It’s shackles are broken. We can walk away from it, even as it screams, “Get back here!” It’s someone that we used to know.

It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. This doesn’t mean your personality is gone. But Jesus now expresses himself through you and your unique personality. Do you long to glorify God? That’s you. And it’s Christ, who came to do his Father’s will in you. Do you desire to serve others? It’s you, and it’s Christ, the Servant of God in you. Do you love others? That’s Christ who first loved you, loving through you.

We live “by faith in the Son of God” – by trusting Jesus moment by moment. By turning to him throughout the day for strength. By continually asking him for grace to love, forgive, and lay down our lives for others. Minute by minute, hour by hour, trusting.

And how do we know he’ll change us? His vast, deep, mysterious love for each one us. “Who loved ME and gave himself for ME.”  Jesus didn’t die for some vast, faceless crowd. He died for Bill and Courtney Marie and Alvin.

He has bound you to himself with cords of love. The power of his death and life is vibrating and burning in you. He’s living, breathing, and moving through you. Surely he’ll give you strength, wisdom and grace to get through what you’re going through. Surely he’ll crush sin beneath your feet.

As you go about another ordinary day, you’re no ordinary human being. The Lord of hosts is conquering and advancing his kingdom through you. As you make your kids lunch and sweep the hallway, and change that diaper. As you ride the train to work, and swing that hammer, and fill out that spreadsheet, Jesus sings God’s praise and gives thanks through you. Rejoices in you. Shows himself to others through you.

Oh it’s you alright.  But it’s Jesus.  The Lord of hosts, who conquers through pots of clay.

If You Want To Get To Me You’ll Have To Go Through…

When Jesus saved me, I was amazed, grateful and relieved that he would forgive my sins. But I could never have fathomed the depths of the relationship he had brought me into.

Believers aren’t simply forgiven – they are in union with God – one with him. Paul says we are “IN God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 1 Thessalonians 1:1

We are IN God the Father! When God saves us he joins us to himself. Makes us one with himself.  What security! What joy! It’s not like we are here and God is way up there somewhere. The almighty Creator of the universe has joined himself to us who are but specks of dust.

Being IN God means that nothing can get to us unless it first goes through him. Satan can’t touch you unless he goes through God. Satan had to ask God for permission to afflict Job. Each time God would say, “Okay you can go this far but no further. You can do this but you can’t do that.”

No affliction, no wicked person, no sickness – nothing can attack us without God’s permission because we are IN God the Father.

When I was 14, my dad was transferred to Pennsylvania. As a new kid in school, a couple bullies targeted me for some of their harassment. One day, as I stood in line to shoot baskets in gym class, I felt a sudden sharp pain on the back of my neck. One of the Junior High’s finest happened to be in line right behind me. Apparently he got bored, for he began to give me hard karate chops in the back of the neck. Each chop sent electrifying pain to my head – after about three or four chops my head was pounding. Suddenly another kid, named John, who was built like a football player stepped between me and the bully. Suddenly no more karate chops. For the bully to get to me he had to go through John. I’m still grateful to this day that John interposed and rescued me. Remember, if you are “in God” nothing can get to you unless it first goes through him.

We are also “in the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are one with the Lord of the universe. Jesus has ascended to heaven where he is enthroned on high as King of Kings and Lord of lords and we are one with him.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, Ephesians 1: 3

Every spiritual blessing there is is in Christ – and we who believe are in him, so we have every spiritual blessing in heavenly places! Not only that but because we are in Christ nothing will ever be able to remove us from him.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

We are in Jesus – joined to him – one with him. The church is his body – he’s the head and we’re his hands and feet. We’re joined to him organically.

Jesus said to Saul: “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” Saul didn’t think he had been persecuting Jesus. He’d been arresting Christians. Yet Jesus says Saul was doing it to him.

Every Christian will be persecuted at one time or another in some way. But don’t forget you’re in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever anyone does to you they do to Christ. Do you think he’ll take that lightly? Do you think he won’t protect you? How could God not take care of those who are one with him?

If you’ve trusted in Jesus, then you are IN God the Father and IN the Lord Jesus Christ! You can’t be any closer. Don’t forget you are in God. He’ll take care of you. He’ll protect you and provide for you.

IN God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Is there any better place to be?

7 Words From The Cross: The Word Of Reunion

Jesus’ final word from the cross, following his Word of Triumph, was THE WORD OF REUNION

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Luke 23:46

“This was not a request but an announcement. He was going home.” (A.W. Pink)

Jesus had voluntarily gone to the cross. And now he voluntarily commits his spirit into his Father’s hands. No one took his life from him.

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:17-18

“Father…”

God’s wrath has been satisfied and Jesus is now experiencing his Father’s fellowship again. Can you hear the joy in Jesus’ voice as he tenderly says, “Father”?  For three hours the Father had withdrawn his fellowship as he poured out his wrath on his Son. Now their fellowship is restored never to be broken again.

This is what heaven is – unbroken, perfect, eternal fellowship with our heavenly Father through Christ.  How Jesus must have looked forward to going home.  How we should look forward to going home to heaven.  Many of us spend so much time working for the things of this world, trying to improve our lot in this life, and trying to enjoy this world, that we spend little time thinking of our life to come. Yet Paul tells us to set our minds on things above, where Christ is.  Peter reminds us that we are strangers and exiles here, just passing through on the way to our real home, heaven.  Jesus looked forward to heaven.  He longed to be in his Father’s presence again.

I want Jesus’ example to inspire me to long more for heaven and think more about it.  And as I think on heaven, I also want to contemplate hell.  I want Jesus to give me a greater concern for unbelievers, because heaven and hell are real.  

How fearful for unbelievers when they die. Hebrews 10:31 says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. “Instead of falling in the arms of love, they will fall into the hands of justice.” (Pink).  But for us who believe, although we cannot choose the time we go home, in the last hour of our lives, we can entrust ourselves to our heavenly Father.  When we who believe in Christ finally fall asleep, we will fall into the everlasting arms of love.

Let us long for heaven and our eternal fellowship with our God, and commit not only our spirits, but our very lives into his hands.

Happy Easter!

7 Words From The Cross: The Word Of Triumph

As we continue to contemplate Jesus’ words from the cross, today we look at his 6th word, THE WORD OF TRIUMPH.

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

What was finished? The work his Father had given him to do. His mission. His earthly life of perfect obedience, his teaching, miracles, and ultimately his great work of redemption on the cross. His suffering the wrath of God in place of sinners, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring them to God.

The cross was the ultimate goal of Jesus’ life. The whole reason he came was to redeem sinners. Jesus came to die.

“It is finished” is not the cry of a helpless victim who has failed in his task. It is a victory cry. It is the cry of triumph. He has accomplished when he came for. All is complete!

He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Hebrews 7:27

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:12-14

Once for all – a single sacrifice – a single offering.

Jesus paid for sins once and for all – there is no more need for further sacrifices or payments. He satisfied divine justice forever. That’s why there is NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (RO 8:1). Jesus has paid for all our sins – he will never have to pay for them again. And neither will we who come to Jesus in faith. It is finished.

That’s why Paul could say to the Philippians: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Php 1:6). Jesus will surely complete his work in us because he paid for our redemption from beginning to end. He not only purchased our justification, he purchased our sanctification. He purchased the inheritance that awaits us in heaven. It’s paid for – It is finished!

Jesus’ victory is complete. He has defeated sin. Now we must walk out that victory. We put sin to death, not because our sins aren’t paid for, but because we’ve been redeemed from them. We are no longer under obligation to sin. We’re no longer slaves of sin. We don’t have to sin. We can still be tempted, but we don’t have to give in.  By the power of the Spirit, we can walk in Christ’s victory.  And when we fail, if we confess our sins, he forgives them – because they’ve already been paid for!

Someday Jesus will banish sin from the earth. Then we’ll have no more temptations and won’t fall into sin any more. If Jesus hadn’t conquered sin, we’d have no chance to defeat it. But because he did, we can.

Jesus defeated Satan too. And someday Jesus will cast him and his demons into hell forever, never to tempt or afflict us again. And someday Jesus will return and create a new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells. And all who have come to Jesus will live forever in heaven free from disease, suffering and sadness. And all because Jesus finished his great work for us.

“It is finished!” Lord Jesus, what glorious words. Praise you that you endured to the end. Fill us with joy and gladness today. Strengthen us to persevere and finish the work you have given us to do, for your glory.

7 Words From The Cross: The Word Of Distress

This week we have been examining Jesus’ words from the cross.  Today we look at his 5th word, THE WORD OF DISTRESS

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” John 19:28

How long had it been since Jesus had anything to drink?

After the Last Supper he prays for agonizing hour in Gethsemane sweating great drops of blood. Then Judas and the temple guard arrest him and drag him before Caiaphas where he is condemned by a kangaroo court. In the morning they bring him before Pilate who gives orders for him to be scourged. Then they haul him across the city to Herod and again he is delivered into the hands of cruel soldiers who mock and scourge him a second time. Then they shuffle him back across the city to Pilate, who delivers him to be crucified and he is made to carry his cross through Jerusalem under the blistering morning sun until he can carry it no more.

When they reach Golgotha, outside the city, the soldiers drive spikes through his hands and feet. They crucify him at nine in the morning and he hangs there bleeding for three hours in the blazing sun until at noon darkness covers the whole land and he hangs in the darkness for another three hours as God pours out his wrath upon him. At this point Jesus is near the end. He’s lost almost all his blood and bodily fluids.  No liquid has passed his lips for many hours.  Now he whispers, “I thirst.”

What a heartbreaking picture! He is the Creator of the universe – the one who made the oceans, who sends the rain, the one who is himself the fountain of life, who promised living water to fill anyone who asks. He is the one who has no needs and satisfies all needs. But now he whispers through cracked, parched lips, “I thirst.”

Why did Jesus endure all this?  So he could satisfy our thirst.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…” Isaiah 55:1

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. John 7:37

Jesus’ thirst displays his human nature. He had a real body. He suffered real pain. He suffered real thirst.  “The One who refreshed others is now in need Himself.” (EF Harrison).  That the infinite God would take on human flesh is an amazing mystery.  Jesus was fully God and fully man, not part God, part man.  From all eternity he had been fully God. He wasn’t God simply appearing to be a man. He was fully man.

As a baby he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and cared for by his mother. When he grew up he experienced fatigue and hunger. He needed to sleep. He wept. He groaned. Now he is parched and his tongue is probably sticking to the roof of his mouth.

Because Jesus took on our nature he can sympathize with our struggles.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

Jesus can sympathize with our every temptation, need and thirst.  He knows what it’s like.  He’s been there.  And he feels for us.  He doesn’t say, “Buck up!  It’s not that bad!”  He says, “I know how you feel. I know what it’s like to suffer horrifically.  I know what it’s like to be in desperate need.  So come to me.  Let me quench your thirst and satisfy your deepest needs.”

Next time you are tempted to grumble because you don’t get something you want, remember how Jesus thirsted for you. How can we grumble and complain knowing Jesus hung in the burning sun thirsting to rescue us?  Remember, Jesus satisfies! He thirsted so he could satisfy us with his living water and his very own joy.

Lord Jesus, satisfy me today.  You alone are my portion.  Thank you for suffering such intense distress so you could flood me with your thirst-quenching love.

7 Words From The Cross: The Word Of Abandonment

This week as we meditate on Jesus’ seven sayings from the cross, we come today to his fourth word, possibly the deepest and most mysterious, THE WORD OF ABANDONMENT.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46

What was happening here?  God had transferred all the sins of everyone who would ever believe in Jesus on to him and was now pouring out his divine retribution – his furious, holy and perfect wrath – upon his Son.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

God “made him to be sin” – Jesus so completely identified with our sins that the Bible says he was made to be sin.  Of course, Jesus did not actually become sin, but was so took our sins upon himself, that the Father poured out the fullness of his wrath and fury against Jesus as if he had personally committed all of our sins.

Hell is the place of God’s wrath.  No one there has any sense of fellowship with God.  No one in hell has any awareness of God’s mercy or love.  In hell there is only utter hopelessness and darkness.  That’s what Jesus was experiencing when he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

At noon a deep darkness engulfed the land as Jesus hung there alone between heaven and earth.

Darkness is a sign of judgment.  One of God’s judgments on Egypt’s sin was to immerse the land in total darkness.  The day of the Lord, or the day of God’s wrath, is described by Zephaniah as a day of darkness:

A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, Zephaniah 1:15

The darkness that engulfed the land as Jesus hung on the cross was the darkness of God’s judgment on his innocent, sinless Son.

“Why have you forsaken me?” 

“The very word ‘forsaken’ is one of the most tragic in all human speech… What calamities are conjured up by this word – a man forsaken of his friends, a wife forsaken by her husband, a child forsaken by its parents! But a creature forsaken by it’s Creator, a man forsaken of God –– O this is the most frightful of all. This is the evil of all evils.” – A W Pink, The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross

Jesus became our substitute. He was cursed so that we would never be. He was forsaken by God so that when we come to Jesus, we will never be forsaken.

Do you feel abandoned?  Alone?  Jesus was forsaken in your place.  You will never be forsaken.  Jesus promised he would never leave nor forsake his children.  No one can snatch you out of the Father’s hand.  And Jesus will keep you until he takes you home to heaven.  When Jesus hung in darkness, he had no sense of his Father’s nearness.  But when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus our shepherd will be with us.  When we pass through the waters, he will be with us.  When we go through the fire he will be in the furnace with us, like he was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you were forsaken so that we will be with you forever.

7 Words From The Cross: The Word Of Relationship

This week we’re looking at Jesus’ 7 words from the cross.  Today we hear his words to his mother and his friend.

THE WORD OF RELATIONSHIP

But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. John 19:25-27

As she saw her son hanging on the cross, Mary would have been filled with love for him and would have longed to hear him say some last words to her before he died.

Think of all the memories that probably came flooding into Mary’s mind – the angel Gabriel’s announcement to her, the arduous journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus in the manger, Jesus’ boyhood years in their home at Nazareth. She must have had fond memories of seeing young Jesus working with Joseph in his carpenter shop.  She probably thought about the day he left her home to begin his ministry.  How grievous and wrenching it must have been for her to watch him die on a cross like a common criminal.

She would return to an empty home and a difficult life.  I’m sure she wasn’t thinking of herself on this day, but life was hard for widows in that time.  Who would provide for her?  How would she live?

But now in his last moments Jesus provides for his mother. Even as he is dying Jesus is thinking of others.  When Jesus died on the cross he was thinking of others – he was thinking of you and me. He did it for us. He did it to rescue us and provide salvation for us.

Not only did he provide for Mary’s salvation and eternal life, he also provided for her life on this earth.  In the midst of suffering horrific pain and dying he was thinking of his mothers needs.  He lovingly commends his mother to the care of his friend, John, who took Mary into his own home.

Jesus will certainly provide for you!  Do you think he would give his life for you and then not meet your needs? Do you think God the Father would give his Son for you and then not meet your needs?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31-32

Jesus cares for you! He will provide for you!  He provided for your eternal salvation on the cross and he will surely give you all you really need.  “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (Ps 23:1).

O Lord Jesus, you have brought me into relationship with yourself through your blood.  You have made me one with you.  You have given me a closer relationship to you than you had even with your mother while on earth.  If you provided for her in your dying moments, surely you will provide for me.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, my good Shepherd.

*Some of the ideas and inspiration for this post came from The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross by A.W. Pink


7 Words From The Cross: The Word Of Salvation

As Jesus hung suspended between heaven and earth he spoke 7 amazing words from the cross.

Yesterday, we looked at the first word, The Word of Forgiveness.  Today we look at his second saying.

THE WORD OF SALVATION

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise Luke 23:43

Jesus was crucified between 2 criminals, robbers, who were most likely murderers as well.  To hang Jesus between them was a calculated insult.  Matthew 27:44 says that both taunted Jesus at first:

And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

But later one of them repents:

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  Luke 23:39-43

The criminal saw something in Jesus.

He saw Jesus forgive his enemies. He saw him patiently bear the insults and mocking of others without reviling in return. He saw the inscription above Jesus’ head proclaiming he was a king, and was able to believe it was true and that Jesus would rule over a coming kingdom.  He also realized that he deserved condemnation and he began to fear God.  Obviously, God had opened his eyes and his heart, because earlier he had joined the other criminal’s taunts.  He cried out and asked Jesus to save him. Jesus didn’t say, “Too late. You were mocking me just a little while ago. Now you’re just getting desperate.”

Last minute faith

DA Carson calls this “Last minute faith”. lt is never too late to believe in Jesus.  You may feel like you have done too much and that it’s too late for you. But it is never too late to turn to Jesus.

Jesus is not simply a Savior.  He is King of kings.

The repentant criminal said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  The kingdom of God belongs to Jesus – “your kingdom.” He is King of Kings and Lord of lords and we must receive him as our king. We can’t expect him to forgive our sins so we can go on ruling our own lives and living as sinfully as before.

Jesus assures us of salvation.

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

When we call on Jesus as Lord and King, we can know we will be with him forever in Paradise, in heaven.  Jesus didn’t reply to the robber’s request to remember him with, “You’ll have to wait and see.  You might be in Paradise with me.”  He guaranteed he would be with him in heaven that very day.  Isn’t it wonderful that we can know with certainty that Jesus will take us to be with him when we die?  We don’t have to wonder if we’ve somehow made the grade, or done enough good deeds to get in, but Jesus’ death has purchased our salvation from beginning to end.

Praise God!

7 Words From The Cross: The Word Of Forgiveness

Next Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  This Friday is “Good Friday”, commemorating the day Jesus gave his life on the cross to pay for sins. As he hung suspended between heaven and earth he uttered seven famous sayings.

“Those who suffered crucifixion were usually criminals or captives in warfare. Their outcries were mainly either curses or complaints.” – EF Harrison

How different were Jesus cries from the cross. Jesus was neither a criminal nor a captive. He sacrificed himself voluntarily. His cries were neither curses nor complaints.  Instead he forgave his enemies, assured a repentant criminal of salvation, provided for his mother, showed us that he bore God’s wrath in our place, displayed his human nature, proclaimed his victory, and committed his spirit to his Father.

He spoke these words for us. To show us who he is, what he did for us, and what he will do for us.  This week we will listen to them afresh, Lord willing, as if we are standing at the foot of the cross.

THE FIRST WORD FROM THE CROSS: THE WORD OF FORGIVENESS

And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.  Luke 23:33-34

Jesus was crucified at nine in the morning and hung there for six hours, so he would have spoken these words these words in the morning as he hung there, nailed to the cross under the scorching sun.

First we see that Jesus practiced what he preached.

The One who taught “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” asked God to forgive the sadistic soldiers who scourged him, crowned him with cruel thorns, mocked him and now sat beneath the cross gambling for his robe. He prayed for Pilate who knew Jesus was innocent but caved to save his own skin. Jesus also asked for forgiveness for the Jewish leaders and people who yelled, “Crucify him!”

How was Jesus able to forgive those who sinned against him?

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.  1 Peter 2:22-23

Only God can know the heart of someone who sins against us and judge them justly.  Someone may curse us in anger, but may be suffering from cancer.  Pain doesn’t excuse sin, but factors into it. We don’t know how someone has been sinned against themselves.  Those who never knew God’s laws are judged differently than those who teach the Bible.  So we must entrust ourselves to God when someone hurts us.

Jesus asked God to forgive the soldiers, Pilate, and the Jews and leaders who crucified him.  They were responsible, yet didn’t realize the enormity of what they were doing.  That’s why Jesus said, “They know not what they do.”  Later when Peter says to the Jews:

“But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” They were responsible.  Yet, Peter goes on, “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.” Acts 3:14-15,17  

When sinned against, our job isn’t to judge the sinner.  That’s God’s job.  Ours is to ask God to forgive them and trust God to deal with them with perfect justice. 

We learn from Jesus’ cry how willing he is to forgive. There’s no sin we’ve committed too great for Jesus to forgive. He longs and waits to cleanse you.  Come to him and find pardon for every sin you’ve ever done. 

Not only did Jesus forgive, but he set an example for us.  Later, Stephen imitated Christ and prayed for his murderers: And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:59-60

If Jesus could forgive those who tortured him, spit on and mocked him, then we must do the same …forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Suggestion: This week, meditate on Jesus’ words from the cross.  They will amaze, inspire and fill you with gratitude.