Monday, March 16, 2020

At the Foot of the Cross We Have All We Need

God has given each of us all that we need, in Jesus Christ, in his death, and resurrection, in His Spirit, and His presence with us on the roads of life, that we have all divine power. We have everything we need through the knowledge of Him, who called each of us by His glory and goodness.

That’s where we begin today, at the foot of the cross. Can you see Jesus there? Can you see him, with his hands and feet pierced? Can you see the Son of God offered up for you? Many have tried to imagine it. Some have tried to paint it. One such person was the famed painter Rembrandt.

If you were to look at Rembrandt's painting of The Three Crosses, your attention would be drawn first to the center cross on which Jesus died. Then as you would look at the crowd gathered around the foot of that cross, you'd be impressed by the various facial expressions and actions of the people involved in the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God. Finally, your eyes would drift to the edge of the painting and catch sight of another figure, almost hidden in the shadows. Art critics say this is a representation of Rembrandt himself, for he recognized that by his sins he helped nail Jesus to the cross. -Source Unknown.

It wasn’t just a far off event for Rembrandt, it was personal. He was not just an observer. Indeed, we are not just far off observers, of a historical event, the crucifixion of Jesus. It’s more than that. We serve a living savior, a God though he has died for our sins, he currently lives, and is active in our lives. He speaks to us, in our personal prayer times, he speaks to us in our study of scripture. He speaks to us when we slow down long enough to listen. He speaks during life group, during bible study. He speaks through our friends and family. He speaks when we gather for services on Sundays.

We all once delighted in evil, brothers and sisters. We served ourselves. We lived for the world. We lived for money, for pleasure, and for our own enjoyment above all else. But now we serve something greater. We serve a great cause, the cause of the salvation of the world.

Yes in our day and age many reject God, and don’t want anything to do with Jesus. But still Jesus holds out his hand to this lost world. He is very patient with us. He was very patient with me. Holding out his hand for years. But what matters is now I have taken his hand and walk hand in hand with him, and you’ve done the same. You’ve received Jesus Christ as your savior, and thus God has become your Heavenly Father.

It reminds me of the famous story of John Newton, the man who wrote “Amazing Grace.” Did you know that he used to be captain of a slave ship? Yet Christ took hold of His life, and so he became a completely different person. He wrote this poem… listen carefully to the words as I read it to you:

“In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp'd my wild career:
I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fix'd His languid eyes on me.
As near His Cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look:
It seem'd to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke:
My conscience felt and own'd the guilt,
And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!

A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou may'st live."

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,
My spirit now if fill'd,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill'd!”

John Newton, 1725-1807.

Jesus died for you. Jesus died for me. Jesus was willing to do this for us. He paid our debt of sin by doing this. Each of us, added to the weight on his shoulders, so that the weight on our shoulders could be lifted. I recall how light I felt when I first got saved not so long ago. The weight on me, all that guilt and shame was gone. Gone away. I was free.

It didn’t just disappear into thin air. That isn’t justice. That isn’t how God made things to be. That awful weight of sin, all that I had freely committed went onto Jesus Christ. He took it for me, and deleted it on the cross. And if you truly believe in Jesus and follow Him and serve Him, then the same must be true for you.

Anyone can say "Yes Jesus died for the sins of the world.” Agreeing to that is not Christianity. But has it become personal for you? Have you personally said to Jesus, you have died for my sins. I believe in you. You are my savior. Not just today. Everyday. Tomorrow, and always? That is our foundation. If we don’t have Christ as savior, friend, Lord, and king then we have nothing.

Jump to verse 4 and it says, “He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.”

Have you ever heard of the term grafting? It’s a medical term. Often when, for example, a patient is badly burned, they will take skin from a healthy part of their body and “graft” it onto that area. And it will help heal and bring life to that area of the skin.

One might say that God grafted Jesus Christ onto us, washing away our burnt remains, because we are now dead and buried in Christ. And we have been grafted with “the divine nature.” It says. That very essence of Christ’s perfection, placed upon us.

And so we also see this imagine of escape. It almost would make you picture yourself, like the Israelites fleeing from Egypt, as God’s judgments fell upon Pharoah. Or as if you were fleeing Sodom and Gomorroh as fire and sulfur rained down onto that city.

It’s like Christ is rescuing us from a doomed city and leading us to a new place. We’ve escaped the evil of the world. But the condition of escape is that we do have Christ.

And if we do have Christ, then we have all we need to live a godly life. And that is what our scripture today is referring to. It declares, here is Christ, in you, thus, you have what you need to live a godly life. And here’s how it works. It says: verse 5 “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

Does it say receive Christ, and then do whatever you want? Nope.

Does it say receive Christ then be lazy? No.

IT says “Make every effort, toward these virtues. Pursue God. Get to work for God’s glory and kingdom. Do great things for God. Change the world, in Christ. That’s what the early church did, they changed the world. That’s what Jesus did. He changed the world.

And that starts in us with faith. Then goodness. Then knowledge. And of course, self control. Endurance. Godliness. Brotherly affection. And the ultimate virtue, love. Are you seeing these personality traits developing in you as a Christian? You should be. And you should be working toward them, actively.

I’ll direct you to verses 9 through 11. It says, “The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. 11 For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.”

So it’s saying, if you lack these virtues, these blessings of love, endurance, and faith and so on, you’ve forgotten your cleansing, you’ve lost your way. And we see that with some Christians, they lose their way, and fall away. But instead, we should make every effort it says to confirm our calling, because if we live according to these virtues, we won’t stumble into sin. We’ll walk rightly with Christ. Thus our entry into paradise will be secure.

Isaiah – 41:13-14,17-20 says, “ 13 For I am the Lord your God,
who holds your right hand,
who says to you, ‘Do not fear,
I will help you.
14 Do not fear, you worm Jacob,
you men[d] of Israel.
I will help you’—
this is the Lord’s declaration.
Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

17 The poor and the needy seek water, but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I will answer them.
I am the Lord, the God of Israel. I will not abandon them.
18 I will open rivers on the barren heights,
and springs in the middle of the plains.
I will turn the desert into a pool
and dry land into springs.
19 I will plant cedars,
acacias, myrtles, and olive trees in the wilderness.
I will put juniper trees,
elms, and cypress trees together in the desert,
20 so that all may see and know,
consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.”

That’s what I believe God is doing here. And there can be no mistake that God is bringing about the rebirth and revival of this church in Owosso. God is doing a new thing here. And if you’re here, he is calling you to be part of it. What a great honor we have to be called by God.

-Psalm 107:33-43 says, “33 He turns rivers into desert,
springs into thirsty ground,
34 and fruitful land into salty wasteland,
because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into a pool,
dry land into springs.
36 He causes the hungry to settle there,
and they establish a city where they can live.
37 They sow fields and plant vineyards
that yield a fruitful harvest.
38 He blesses them, and they multiply greatly;
he does not let their livestock decrease.

39 When they are diminished and are humbled
by cruel oppression and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on nobles
and makes them wander in a trackless wasteland.
41 But he lifts the needy out of their suffering
and makes their families multiply like flocks.
42 The upright see it and rejoice,
and all injustice shuts its mouth.

43 Let whoever is wise pay attention to these things
and consider the Lord’s acts of faithful love.”

So we must remember, it is Him, and Him alone ,doing this in us, and in this community.

We cannot do it alone. He is the one who turns a barren desert into a lush river, and a glorious bastion, and fortress of victory over the darkness. So it shall be again, if we will fight hard, and be holy, and live for Jesus. That is our part in all this. To be faithful. A fortress can become abandoned over time. A church can die over time. A church can be reformed over time. A fortress can be rebuilt and strengthened once again. A river can turn to a desert, and a desert can be turned back to a river. Not by us, but by the Lord.

In conclusion today, it says in our scripture, verses 12-15 “12 Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder, 14 since I know that I will soon lay aside my tent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has indeed made clear to me. 15 And I will also make every effort so that you are able to recall these things at any time after my departure.” And I say the same to you today, it’s my duty to remind you of these things. Live them out. Practice them. Focus on Jesus Christ. And live for Him.