Apr 102015
 

Why did Jesus have to dieEaster is a wonderful time to take some time aside and think about what Jesus has done for us. It is amazing that God should become a man and die for us, but have you ever wondered why he needed to die for us and why it had to be in such a horrific way?

When somebody writes a biography, they usually write the vast majority about the person’s life and very little about their death. In a biography of Winston Churchill’s life, the British prime minister, there are only 3 pages out of 300 that are devoted to his death. That’s just 1% of the book. However, when we look at the New Testament we see that approximately 33% of each gospel is devoted to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The reason for this is that His death and resurrection are absolutely vital to the gospel message. Indeed, the main reason why Jesus came to earth was not just to give us a good example of how to live, or provide us with moral teaching, but to die and rise again!

The cross of Christ lies at the heart of Christianity, to not understand it means we have missed the very reason why Jesus had to die. The death of Christ was no accident, it was foretold in many places throughout scripture.

Some would ask “So why couldn’t God just forgive sin without Jesus having to die?” To ask this question demonstrates a lack of understanding of the holiness of God and also the severity of sin which undermines it. The holiness of God means that God cannot just sweep sin under the carpet, it must be punished. The true and just punishment of sin is death. The other side of God’s character is love and mercy and that is what happens at the cross; God’s holiness and judgement meet His love and mercy, in a ‘once for all’ sacrifice. It was once for all because only a perfect person could meet the full criteria. If we had died on the cross it would simply have been a just punishment because we are all sinful, but because it was Jesus, the perfect substitute, God’s judgement is satisfied. Jesus died in our place.

There are 4 main things that happened at the cross and we will look at each of them briefly;

Justification – to be declared ‘just’ (or not guilty)

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we are declared not guilty by God. Christ died for us to pay our debt. How amazing, the God whom we have offended is the one who comes to our rescue!

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)

The Apostle Peter also speaks of Christ’s death in this way:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

An easy way to remember this concept is to break the word justified up into ‘Just as if I’d never sinned’ not great English but a great truth!

Redeemed – to be bought out of slavery

To redeem means to ‘buy back’. The bible shows that we were slaves to sin and death, but now we have been bought back at a very high price, the death of Jesus. Slaves were sometimes redeemed in ancient times, if they had enough money they could redeem themselves by buying their freedom for a price. The bible is clear that we would never have had enough ‘money’ to free ourselves, we were morally bankrupt. The only person who could buy our freedom was Jesus and He paid the ultimate price with His own life.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace  (Ephesians 1:7)

Substitution – to have someone take our place

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a big follower of football. Oftentimes in football, when somebody is having a bad game, or is injured a substitute will come on in their place. One person is replaced for another. Jesus was our substitute. In the Old Testament a lamb was substituted for the sinner and was killed instead of the person. A death had to occur and it was better that it was the lamb’s. In the same way Jesus was our substitute, He took our place on the cross and bore our punishment. He was saying to the father “Father, punish me instead of them”

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Jesus was willing to be our substitute to bear our punishment so that we could be spared.

Reconciliation – the healing of a broken relationship

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18)

The bible makes it clear that even from birth we are alienated from God, we were born in sin because of our first parents – Adam & Eve. Every human being since has started life separated from God because of that sin. We don’t start life with a clean slate, it is already tainted. This prevented us ever having a relationship with him.

But on the cross Jesus restored that broken relationship by removing God’s wrath and anger from the sinner and taking it upon himself. With the barrier of sin removed, it is now possible to have peace with God. A relationship restored and not only that but adoption into God’s own family.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

These 4 things mean the following wonderful truths:

  • We know God’s forgiveness– God chooses to forgive and not remember our sin anymore
  • We have access to God – We can now enter right into God’s presence, free from guilt and fear. When Jesus died, the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom (Mark 15:38) signifying the separation has been completely taken away.
  • We have peace with God– we are no longer enemies of God but have now become friends
  • We are adopted into God’s family– God has adopted us into his family and we are now sons and heirs.
  • We have eternal life – The fear of death is gone because Jesus has defeated it. When we die in this life, we just pass on to a better life forever with Him.

So how do we know that Jesus succeeded in what he set out to do on the cross?

We know He succeeded because He rose again. We can so easily purely focus on the cross, but His death and resurrection go hand in hand. In fact, if Jesus had not raised to life on the third day our faith would be pretty meaningless. But the very fact that he did rise shows that his mission was completed and his death on the cross was a success. He rose because death no longer had a hold on Him and everything He said about himself, including His divinity was true.

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

So in conclusion, there was no other way for our sins to be dealt with. The cross shows us the seriousness of sin before a Holy God and that a death had to occur. It shows how rebellious mankind can be and it also shows us the amazing love that God has for us and the beautiful obedience of the son who would go to any lengths to rescue us.

The fact that Jesus died though, demands a response. It is not enough just to know that it happened. The bible makes it clear that we need to take some action in response. To fully experience God’s forgiveness and have a right relationship with Him you need to;

  • Repenting of your sins, admit that you have done wrong in your life and that you need Jesus’ forgiveness.
  • Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died on the cross bearing the full penalty your sins deserved. That He rose again from the grave and has conquered death as the risen Lord.
  • Commit your life into his hands. He is now Lord of your life and with the power of His Holy Spirit, you can now live a life that pleases Him.

That is the gospel in a ‘nutshell’ and it is no wonder they call it good news!

 April 10, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Resurrection, Salvation, The gospel No Responses »
Dec 052013
 

god-came-downBy now the preparations and planning for Christmas have probably reached fever-pitch: so many things to think about, lists to write and things to do. It can be a time of great pressure but I hope also brings a sense of fun and expectation.

During December I am going to be writing some Christmas reflections, some thoughts to share with you that I hope will bless you. In all the busyness of this season, it is so important to take time out and reflect on what Christmas really is all about. (If I get time myself I may send a few extra blogs out on other days, not just Fridays, but we will see!).

One of the most amazing mysteries in the history of the world is that the God who made us, the creator, the one who spoke and stars were formed in a moment, should come to the earth and live as a man for about 33 years.

He could have come in so many ways; He could have come as a fully formed man (without the fragility of being a baby); He could have come as a king in a palace; He could have come with a perfect body which didn’t get tired and hungry. He could have appeared in any way He wanted to but He chose to come as a baby, born in a smelly cattle shed to an unmarried couple in a desperately poor third world country.

God Himself became a man. I have become very familiar with this fact over the years. Maybe you have too if, like me, you have been a Christian for a long time. I have been told this story since childhood many many times, not just at Christmas. But I never want to get used to the wonder of what this actually means. ‘God Himself became a man’. Perhaps this could be a reason why so many people don’t believe it; because it is simply too amazing to be true.

But why would God do this? The answer is woven throughout the bible and perfectly summed up in one of the most well known verses:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

Jesus came because He loves us, because He knew there was no other way. A perfect man had to die and so God became a man and lived a perfect life.

I don’t know whether you feel loved at Christmas or not. For some it can be a very lonely time, but even if you have nobody around you at Christmas, consider this when you look at a nativity scene: this is God in the manager and He is lying there because He loves you. Now that’s a great thought to start with.

 December 5, 2013  Posted by at 10:35 pm Christmas, The gospel 1 Response »
Jun 132013
 

MephiboshethI am currently following a bible reading plan which takes me through the whole bible in a year, reading a few chapters each day. Just recently I came to one of my favourite stories in the Old Testament and it is a wonderful picture of the grace that we have received.

The main part of the story is in 2 Samuel 9. I will briefly outline the situation:

King Saul has failed as Israel’s king and David has been chosen to take his place. Saul is jealous of David and is determined to kill him. He pursues him for a long time and even though David has two clear opportunities to kill Saul, he refuses to do it as he doesn’t want to touch God’s anointed king. David waits for God’s timing to receive his promised position as king. Saul’s son Jonathan is best friends with David and is fully committed to him, refusing to help his father in his pursuit.

Eventually David becomes king after Saul and his son Jonathan die in battle. Even though Saul was his enemy, David wants to show kindness to a member of Saul’s family, namely Mephibosheth (Jonathan’s son, Saul’s grandson). Mephibosheth is summoned to the king’s palace.

Now Mephibosheth is crippled, being lame in both legs. He has to be carried everywhere and is totally dependant on others helping him. In an extraordinary act of grace, David gives him all of Saul’s property and states that he shall always eat at the king’s table.

Later on in the story we see that Ziba (Mephibosheth’s servant) spreads a false rumour about Mephibosheth to David, resulting in Ziba receiving a substantial part of his master’s estate. In 2 Samuel 19 we see Mephibosheth vindicated, but he never seeks revenge. He doesn’t care that half his estate has been handed over to Ziba. He is just happy that his king, David is back and he can share his meals with him again.

This is an amazing picture of what King Jesus has done for us. We were not able to help ourselves (spiritually crippled), we were in essence enemies of the king. But Jesus sought us out, determined to show kindness to us. King Jesus has now given us full access into His palace where we can enjoy food, shelter and protection for the rest of our lives (and into eternity).

Let us never lose the wonder of how far away from God we were (even further than Mephibosheth) and how now, through no effort of our own, we have been brought right into the king’s presence. Let’s be like Mephibosheth, who even though he lost material possessions, it really didn’t compare to the joy of spending time with his king.

 June 13, 2013  Posted by at 8:48 pm God's family, Grace, Salvation, The gospel 1 Response »
Feb 222013
 

We have looked in recent weeks into the fact that when we become Christians we become new creations, our whole nature has changed. We are declared righteous before God, not through anything that we do but because what Jesus has done for us. We are also called saints or holy ones, with power over sin.

My question this week, given the truth that I have just stated is; “why do we still struggle to overcome in certain areas of our lives, why are we not living victorious lives on a daily basis?”

If it is true that we have been transported from one kingdom to another, things should be a lot different It is certainly true that Jesus won complete victory at the cross. In Colossians 2:13 -15 it says; When you were dead in your sins and in the un-circumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,  having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Jesus won the victory at the cross, winning us complete freedom, but the enemy still likes to lie to us and sometimes he can be very convincing. We are in a constant battle, although against a disarmed foe, he is still very cunning.

We have been set free – our old life the bit tied to sin has died – we can choose to follow God. The legal freedom in our lives however, needs to be applied as a literal freedom We need to be those who move from hearing and understanding the word to those who hold fast to it in daily situations. We need to Know the truth Believe the truth and act on the truth.

In John 8:31-32 Jesus explains; “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It isn’t enough to just hear and understand without knowing the truth. To hold onto it is to know it. We take baggage from our old life into our new life in Christ and we need help taking that baggage off and having a completely new mindset. In Romans 12:1-2 it talks about renewing our minds. That’s the first step in discipleship.

Sometimes we can get stuck in patterns of behaviour that are unhealthy. That can be because things we are doing now or in the past have left an open door for the devil to get in. Here are a few examples of what I mean;

1. Occult influence – e.g. fortune telling, spiritualism, witchcraft, horoscopes, Ouija boards etc

2. False religions – Cults, paganism, legalistic churches, new age etc

3. Drug and alcohol abuse

4. Sexual perversion

5. Habitual gambling

6. Traumatic rejection

If you haven’t already done so, these old habits and destructive tendencies need to be renounced and dealt with. The important thing to note in all of this is we do have a choice. We can either live a life of freedom or of bondage. As I finish this week I would just like to ask you a couple of questions to consider;

• In what ways have you been lied to about your identity?

• How can you counteract these accusations?

• How can you know the truth, believe and act on it?

• How can this knowledge about your identity affect the way you live your life.

Let me encourage you to get together with a good Christian friend or church leader who can help you work some of these things through so that you can live a life of victory that is yours by right. If you have any questions about this subject or anything that has been said, please do not hesitate to contact me as I can make a few suggestions as to where you can go to for help.

 February 22, 2013  Posted by at 4:35 pm Confession, Faith, Resurrection, Salvation, The gospel No Responses »
Jan 172013
 

Les miserablesLiz and I had the opportunity to go to the cinema together last week (quite a rare occurrence) as she was keen to see Les Miserables. As a Christian I thought it had a really interesting story which I would like to share with you, but don’t worry-I’m not going to give away the plot! I was quite intrigued by it; I knew the stage show was a musical but I hadn’t realised that the film was too. It came as quite a shock for me to see Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Maximus Decimus (Russell Crowe) having a sing-off in the opening scene. I half expected the claws to come out!

I’m really not a fan of musicals. To me it seems so unnatural for people to suddenly burst into song in every situation they find themselves in. I was determined however to embrace the film come what may and I’m glad I did. You soon get used to the singing and actually appreciate how cleverly it is all put together, with people singing different parts simultaneously yet all in harmony with each other.

What struck me most about this film was the very obvious investigation into the conflict between legalism and grace and how different people react and respond in different ways. The story briefly is about a criminal who experiences extraordinary grace (probably the part of the film I found most emotional). He experiences this grace on a personal level and he then takes every opportunity to extend that grace to others. Legalism is shown in the person of a policeman who cannot accept that a person can change and is determined that the law be fulfilled to the letter.

The film is also an exploration into injustice; one of the main characters had been condemned to 19 years hard labour for stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving relative, whilst another character is victimised by work colleagues to such an extent that she loses her job and is forced into prostitution. Injustice is a constant theme in many Hollywood films; it psychologically causes a stirring of a sort of righteous indignation which in turn creates an emotional attachment to the characters, (hence the shares in Kleenex rocketing over the last few weeks-I suspect the reason the film was so loud was to the muffle the sound of sobbing!)

This would be an excellent film to take your non Christian friends to see as it creates a fantastic opportunity to discuss with them the grace that God extends to us through Jesus Christ.

I would love to know what you thought of the film; please drop a comment in the box below.

 January 17, 2013  Posted by at 10:26 pm Grace, The gospel 4 Responses »
Aug 302012
 

community fishing 2I don’t think we get evangelism quite right in our churches. We tend to think of evangelism as something that evangelists do. They love telling people about Jesus, they seem to be quite good at it so we tend to let them get on with it. If we do have somebody who shows an interest we often wait until the next outreach Sunday and invite them to come along to listen to our evangelist speaker. Or we wait for the next Alpha course to begin and pack our interested friend off to have a meal and discussion with another evangelist. I am not knocking evangelists – they do a fantastic job! No, if this is your mentality then I’m knocking you! This mentality is basic laziness. (And before you get indignant, I include myself among the lazy ones!).

I think there is a better way. You won’t be surprised to learn (especially if you have been following this series) that the most effective way to reach people is through community. We still need evangelists but if you think of a community as an arrow, evangelists are the sharp arrow point, but the body of the arrow is made up of the rest of the community working together to reach souls for Jesus.

Let’s remind ourselves what the great commission is:

“…Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age…” (Matthew 28 v 18-20).

This command is for every Christian. It is our privilege to be involved in Gods mission and He has equipped us with everything we need. I believe that every one of us should be able to lead somebody to Christ and be able to present the gospel (see my previous post on ‘giving the gospel’). As it says in 1 Peter 3 v 15 “… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…”. I am not saying we should all be evangelists, rather that we should not negate our responsibility. On the other hand however evangelists are very effective at winning souls, so working in partnership as ‘fishing in community’ we will all be even more effective.

Ok, it’s that time in my blog when I produce another list. I find it much easier to gather my thoughts in bullet points and so in no particular order I’ve gathered a few thoughts about how we can reach our friends and families through community:

  • By praying together. We need to start praying for each others’ friends, families or co-workers. In this way as they are introduced into your community you will be more eager to meet and get to know them because you already have an interest in them.
  • There is no pressure. Jesus wins people, we just introduce them to Him and tell them how great He is. Easy!!
  • We need to be adaptable. The apostle Paul said “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9 v 22). Reaching out to people means meeting them where they are at.
  • There is huge power in testimony or telling your story. In a community we already know each others’ stories, so if we meet somebody with a similar story we can introduce them. (For instance somebody you meet may be struggling with an illness and somebody in your community has already been through the same thing – this can give hope and encouragement and create a real connection).
  • It is really important that people see we are ‘normal’. People have all sorts of strange misconceptions about what Christians are like. When they step into our communities they should see great friendship, interaction and a genuine love and respect among us.
  • It makes a huge difference to the world when they see Christians loving each other with genuine care and concern “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133 v 1). Every person needs good community, it is what God has put into each one of us and He wants His church to model what it should be like.
  • People are not trophies. We need to genuinely love them whether they respond or not. They will see through any shallowness.
  • Throw a party! Jesus loved going to parties and loving people, so much so that the religious people called him a drunkard and a glutton! (Matthew 11 v 19).

Let’s get out into our communities and get involved in the great commission. There is a wonderful sense of security and comfort in doing it together, and joining in the great celebration of heaven when even one sinner repents. Let’s go for it!!

 August 30, 2012  Posted by at 9:03 pm Community, The gospel No Responses »
Apr 062012
 

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why is it called ‘Good’ Friday?”

Reading what happened on ‘Good Friday’ it seems far from good. An innocent man has just been declared guilty in front of a baying mob, he is dragged before two further courts who insult him, and beat him up in a really violent manner. He is abandoned by all of his friends who he has lived in community with for the last 3 years and one of his closest friends even denies him vehemently with an expletive ridden denial. He is then tortured further and made to carry the cross he will be nailed to, naked, in full public view.

But despite all the horror of that day, for us, this is really good news. Continue reading »

 April 6, 2012  Posted by at 6:44 am Salvation, The gospel 2 Responses »