Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

Forgiven

January 19, 2012

Do you remember these words Jesus spoke from the cross?

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

These are stunning words. The ancient text suggests that Jesus might have uttered these words several times. Imagine him asking the Father to forgive evil men each time they drove another nail into his hands and feet.

If that isn’t amazing enough, these words also fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. Isaiah 53:12 makes the following Messianic prediction, “For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Centuries before cruel malefactors drove nails into the hands and feet of Jesus and hoisted him upon a cross between earth and heaven, their forgiveness was foretold. Amazingly, the scribes and Pharisees were too busy scheming and plotting against Jesus to read the Isaiah scroll and make the connection between him and the Messianic prophecies.

The fact that Jesus forgives us is one thing. The extent of God’s forgiveness is even more amazing. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

The mix of geography and theology is powerful. Unlike when we travel north or south and bump into either pole, there’s no limit to how far we can travel either east or west. Therefore, the distance between east and west is infinite. When God forgives, he separates us from our sins so that we’ll never bump into them again.

He also doesn’t remember our sins.

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isa. 43:25; Heb. 8:12, 10:17).

How can God who knows all things not remember our sins? He chooses not to remember. He won’t bring them up again. This is why, when you read about great people of faith in Hebrews 11 like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and others, there’s no mention of their sins, even though they were great sinners.

It’s impossible to forgive and forget. But, like God, we can do better than that. We, too, can choose not to remember the wrongs people have done to us.

Now here’s how all of this can change your life. Because God forgives us so completely, we don’t have to wallow in the past. No more beating ourselves up about the mistakes we’ve made. We have permission to forget what God has forgotten. Does that mean we shouldn’t take sin seriously? On the contrary, because God has gone to such great lengths to purchase our redemption and forgive us, we should show our gratitude by our obedience to his word.

Glory to God in the Highest

December 25, 2011

This year as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, God is focusing my heart on the glory of Christmas.

There’s only one glory story worth telling. It’s not mine and it’s not yours. It’s God’s. God’s story that gives him glory never grows old. His glory never fades. The glory of God radiates from the manger in Bethlehem. It’s one of his best glory stories, don’t you think?

The word “glory” appears frequently in the Scriptures―194 times in the Old Testament and 161 times in the New Testament to be exact, not including the many variations of the verb to glorify. The Hebrew word for “glory” means “heavy” or “weighted.” If you grew up in the 1960s and used the phrase “that’s heavy, man!” then you have some understanding of the glory of God. Christmas, we might say, is heavy, profound and glorious.

It shouldn’t surprise us that the word “glory” appears in the Christmas story several times, most notably when the angels made the birth announcement to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14).

Christmas came first to ordinary shepherds, not to the scribes and Pharisees. It’s a reminder that God “chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things―and the things that are not―to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:28-29).

The simple shepherds experienced a burst of God’s glory in a way that changed them forever.

On the first Christmas, heaven came down and the glory of God filled a place where an innkeeper kept his animals. A single angel made the trip from heaven to earth to make the announcement of the Savior’s birth. The glory of God arrived with him and enveloped the shepherds. So exciting was the moment that in no time a heavenly choir appeared singing an anthem, “Glory to God in the highest.” A real glory story was in the making.

One author writes, “God’s glory had dwelt in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34) and in the temple (2 Chron. 7:1–3), but had departed because of the nation’s sin (1 Sam. 4:21; Ezek. 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18; 11:22–23). Now God’s glory was returning to earth in the person of His Son (John 1:14). That lowly manger was a holy of holies because Jesus was there!”

 The dictionary defines “glory” as “very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent; renown.” An athlete’s glory days, for example, refers to how he or she performed with distinction on the athletic field, better than others who played the same game. Football players lay claim to gridiron glory if they make it all the way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 The glory of God is best defined as his majestic and manifest presence on display. It’s the sum total of his divine nature, attributes and creative works. Think of it this way. The glory of God is that which makes him the exclusive member of his own hall of fame. He is completely unique, distinct and original. Jesus is his “one and only Son” (John 3:16). There is no other god like him; therefore, we should have no other gods before him (Ex. 20).

No wonder the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest.”


[1]Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Lk 2:1

Words of Forgiveness

February 13, 2011

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

The three most amazing words that Jesus spoke from the cross are “Father, forgive them.” Did you know his words fulfilled Old Testament prophecy? Isaiah 53:12 makes the following Messianic prediction. “For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Centuries before cruel malefactors drove nails into the hands and feet of Jesus and hoisted him upon a cross between earth and heaven, their forgiveness was foretold. Amazingly, the scribes and Pharisees were too busy scheming and plotting against Jesus to read the Isaiah scroll and make the connection between him and the Messianic prophecies.

Jesus also practiced what he preached about forgiveness. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” A couple of verses later he says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:12, 14-15).

This does not mean that God’s forgiveness depends on our ability to forgive others. No, we cannot earn God’s forgiveness. But it does suggest that we are in no position to ask for God’s forgiveness if we harbor an unforgiving spirit in our own hearts.  

Peter once asked Jesus, “‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Matt. 18:21-22). Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus put no limits on forgiveness.

How can we forgive others who have wronged us? Bitter feelings are real and hard to cleanse from our hearts. It’s easier to live by the old motto, “Don’t get mad. Get even!” While it might be easier to live that way, it’s also more toxic. Someone once compared holding a grudge to drinking battery acid and hoping that it hurts the other person.

The only way I know to forgive the way Jesus did, to live the way he taught us to live, is to leave room for God’s wrath. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul writes, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:19-21).

Nemesis, the goddess of revenge and retribution, was among the many deities the Romans worshipped during the reign of Tiberius Caesar (Acts 28:1-6). Jesus’s gracious words of forgiveness from the cross were in direct contrast to the pagan ideologies of the day.

Jesus: The Full Expression of God

June 14, 2010

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. – John 1:1-2

Nobody can really know our thoughts until we express them in words. Likewise, we cannot know the mind of God apart from the Word of God. God expressed himself through the Word or Logos who is Jesus.

By introducing the Word, John also connects with a philosophical concept his readers would immediately understand, and then he builds a bridge from philosophy to theology.

John’s sophisticated audience, made up of Jews and Greeks, understood the Logos as the power that made the universe, giving man the ability to reason and know the truth. In the minds of the first century cultured elite, the Logos was an abstract philosophical concept that explained the workings of the universe through God.

The Stoics, for instance, taught this:

All things are controlled by the Logos of God. The Logos is the power which puts sense into the world, the power which makes the world an order instead of a chaos, the power which sets the world going and keeps it going in its perfect order.

Philo was a key figure among philosophers in the first century. He was a Jew who studied both Jewish and Greek wisdom. According to William Barclay, Philo taught this about the Logos:

The Logos was the oldest thing in the world and the instrument through which God had made the world. He said that the Logos was the thought of God stamped upon the universe; he talked about the Logos by which God made the world and all things; he said that God, the pilot of the universe, held the Logos as a tiller and with it steered all things. He said that man’s mind was stamped also with the Logos, that the Logos was what gave a man reason, the power to think and the power to know. He said that the Logos was the intermediary between the world and God and that the Logos was the priest that set the soul before God.

Philo never said the Logos was Jesus. He talked all around the subject, but never clued in to the fact that the Logos of God became a man and lived among us.

If Philo is not your kind of guy and you get lost in a sea of philosophical musings, the Star Wars movies provide a clue as to how first century people thought of the Logos. Star Wars made popular the phrase, “May the Force be with you?”

According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, “The Force is a binding, metaphysical and ubiquitous power that is the object of the Jedi and Sith monastic orders.” Said another way, The Force is an abstract power in the universe that holds everything in check. If the Force is with you, that is a good thing.

The Force is not unlike how sophisticated Jews and Greeks thought of the Logos in the first century. Sadly, their understanding of the Logos fell short of a living God with whom they could have a personal relationship.

Essentially John was saying this to the philosophers of his day: “When you talk about the Logos, you’re truly on to something. But you missed Him by this much! Yes, I said ‘Him.’ The Logos is a Person named Jesus. Do you remember Jesus of Nazareth who walked among us?” Barclay says it this way:

For centuries you have been thinking and writing and dreaming about the Logos, the power which made the world, the power which keeps the order of the world, the power by which men think and reason and know, the power by which men come into contact with God. Jesus is the Logos come down to earth. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

John’s introductory thoughts about Jesus rocked the philosophical and religious worlds of his day. He turned an abstract philosophical concept into flesh and blood and in turn spoke of a personal relationship with Jesus who is the full expression of God.

Can We Really Know the Future?

April 11, 2010

“What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.” Isaiah 46:11

Since the beginning of time, people in every generation have been fascinated by and sometimes fearful of the future. For this reason many have sought out seers, fortune-tellers and mediums to predict what lies ahead. Predictions about the end of the world abound, too. Often they are tied to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

I’m old enough to remember the hullabaloo about the year 1988, which marked the fortieth anniversary of Israel’s founding as a modern nation. Some people tied the date to a biblical “generation” consisting of forty years and then linked it to Jesus’s prediction in Matthew 24 concerning the end of the age. He said, “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matt. 24:34).

One fanatic named Edgar Whisenant wrote a book titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. He sold 4.5 million copies in the United States alone and many more in foreign markets. When the rapture didn’t happen in 1988, he found his “mistake” and recalculated. He wrote another book saying Jesus was coming in 1989. It too sold many copies but you can guess what happened to Whisenant and his followers when the rapture didn’t happen in 1989, either.

Not all predictions are tied to Jesus. Nostradamus, for example, was a French seer whose “prophecies” from the sixteenth century are well known. Some people credit him with predicting major world events. However, not all of his predictions came true, which makes him a false prophet by biblical standards (Deut. 18:22). Many believe his prophecies are a vague stretch of his imagination.

Lately, ancient Mayan predictions about the end of the world are all the rage. Even Hollywood has jumped on the bandwagon by producing a blockbuster film called 2012. According to the Mayans, the world will end on December 21, 2012. If true, this means we have approximately 984 days, 23,000 hours or 1.4 million minutes until the end of the world. If true, how would this change the way you live?

The rising clamor about 2012 reminds me of the Y2K fears that paralyzed so many people as we approached the year 2000. Back then, everyone thought the world would end in a giant computer meltdown. People worried about a worldwide financial collapse, food and water shortages, and global leaders that seemed ill prepared for the looming chaos. Some people profited by all the fear mongering by writing books and selling Y2K survival kits. In the end, it was much to do about nothing. As the geeks who rule the world fixed our computers, we entered the new millennium with a whimper not a bang.

Isn’t it ironic that we start a new decade intrigued by ancient Mayan predictions about the end of the world in 2012? What will we do now? How should we respond to all this? Like always, the best response is to turn to the trusted pages of God’s holy word and find out what he said about the future.

Can we really know the future? If the God of the Bible has anything to do with it, the answer is yes.

Join me for my new series based on Matthew 24-25 titled 2012: What Jesus Said About the Future.

Ron Jones is a pastor whose greatest passion is to introduce people to Jesus Christ through anointed biblical preaching that transforms lives.

 

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