Friday, July 25, 2014

"Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in HIS Name to all nations …"

Day #210:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - July 26th

Scripture Reading:  Luke 23 - 24 …

Have you heard the good news?  If someone came to you and asked that questions, wouldn't you want to hear what they had to say?  Yet many today reject the good news of the Gospel that could deliver them from a meaningless life filled with hopelessness and despair and give them joy, peace and hope every day.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news that God Himself sent His Son to deal with OUR sin problem.  "God demonstrated His love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).  The purpose of Jesus' coming was to be the substitute for those whom God had chosen to receive eternal life by His grace through faith in the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

I received an email from someone today that quoted a verse from one of my previous entries, from Psalm 49:  "No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him - the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough - that he should live on forever and not see decay" (Psalm 49:7-9).  The comment went on to say that Christianity was a false religion because since Jesus was a man, He could not have paid the ransom for anyone else.  As I read the email a deep sadness for the person writing it came over me as I was reminded of how many people reject God's offer of forgiveness and life through faith in Jesus, who was not only a true man, but foremost, true God!  Here is a man quoting a verse from the Bible to make a point, then denying what the rest of the Bible says about the very point he was trying to make.  Deception leads to such a conclusion.

Finishing the Gospel of Luke is like finishing a chapter in a book.  It's not the end of the book, but it completes what the author of the book has been saying up to that point … with more to follow.  Jesus' death and resurrection were the fulfillment of all that had occurred since Adam and Eve sinned against God in Genesis 3.  God had cursed Satan, the serpent, and had promised that a Savior would come from the seed of the woman who would crush Satan's head!  That "seed" of the woman was Jesus … God in the flesh.  God had promised that a King would come who would rule over His kingdom and now we find Jesus before Pilate and he asks Jesus the question:  "Are you the King of the Jews?"

What would Jesus say?  His answer was clear and true:  "Yes, it is as you say" (23:3).  The chief priest and the other leaders of the Jews continued to accuse Jesus and to make one accusation after another, but Pilate said, "I find no basis for a charge against this man" (23:4).  Pilate sent Jesus to Herod and he tried to get Jesus to do a miracle, as though He were a circus act.  Herod and his soldiers mocked him and then sent him back to Pilate, who said again, "I have found no basis for your charges against him" (23:14).  But finally, after attempting to release Jesus one more time, Pilate gave in to their demands and "surrendered Jesus to their will" (23:25).

Let's think about that for a moment … was Jesus really surrendered to the will of those who wanted to crucify Him?  It is true that they were seeking to kill Him, and that ultimately they were responsible for their sin … yet, was there more going on here?  Going back to Isaiah 53, as you read about the one who "took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows … who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities" (53:4-5), you also read, "It was the LORD's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the LORD makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand" (53:10).

It was impossible to satisfy the justice of God in any other way than by the suffering and death of the "second Adam," the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ, God's anointed One, the Messiah, the King!  I responded to the man who sent me the email by saying that he was right, that no man can redeem anyone else … but Jesus was MORE than a man … He was the eternal Son of God who took upon Himself flesh so that He might redeem that which was lost.  I explained to him that if he did not accept Jesus' payment and God's offer of forgiveness and life through faith in Jesus, he would have to pay for his own sin, and that since he could not do that, he would face God's judgment himself.  I urged him to reconsider.

The suffering of Jesus on the cross was beyond what believers can ever imagine, for we will be spared from the judgment of hell.  Like the thief on the cross who confessed his own sin, we will be with Jesus in paradise, in the presence of God in heaven.  As darkness covered the land and the curtain in the temple between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant rested, was torn in two, Jesus cried out, "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit" (23:46) … and it was done.  My salvation was accomplished, once and for all.

To say that the resurrection was anticlimactic would be a gross mistake, but the resurrection was confirmation of what had been accomplished on the cross.  DEATH and the power of death to enslave was defeated for all who would believe in Jesus.  Now the next chapter in God's plan was about to begin.  Those who had been chosen to begin the Church must understand the message they were to proclaim … a message that would carry with it the very power of God to save those who believe from His coming judgment.  So Jesus not only rose from the dead, but spent the next forty days appearing to His disciples and others so that the testimony of His death and resurrection would spread throughout the entire earth in the centuries to come.

First the women, then Peter and John, then the two on the road to Emmaus and finally the rest of the disciples saw with their own eyes what seemed only days before to be impossible:  the King ready to take His throne.  But first, Jesus' final teaching, equipping the disciples to be His witnesses.  "This is what I told you while I was still with you:  Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" (24:44).  Christianity is not a new religion, but rather, the fulfillment of biblical Judaism … of all that is written in the Old Testament Scriptures.  (A few years ago I wrote a book entitled "Judaic Christianity:  the One True Religion," to help people understand this truth).  Jesus did not come to begin a new religion, but to bring the one true religion to a time of fulfillment and to begin what the Bible calls, "the last days."

He opened the minds of the disciples to finally understand these things and then said to them, "This is what is written:  'The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.'  You are witnesses of these things" (24:46-48).  But first they would need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1-2), and so it would begin … the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ all over the world, to all nations.  And the conclusion of God's plan lies in the future … what appears to be the near future.

"Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations …"  In the last few decades millions have heard the Gospel for the first time through modern technology.  The time is drawing near for Jesus' return and all who reject the Gospel or who attempt to devise their own way to approach a god they do not know will face God's judgment.  Is it fair?  What about those who have never heard?  It would be fair of God to bring judgment on all, for "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"  but in His grace He has chosen some to hear the message and to believe, through the work of His Spirit in our hearts.

WE are now witnesses of these things and are sent into the world to tell others.  There is still time … how much we do not know … and Jesus has promised that not one of His sheep will be lost.  Pray that God would use you to share the good news with someone who may be moved by God to respond.  "Since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe" (I Corinthians 1:21).  Many will believe the Gospel is foolishness, but it is God's chosen means to call His children to Himself and to save us from His judgment against sin.

Thank God for His amazing grace and live to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love!!

"Our Father in heaven, every time I read of Jesus' death and resurrection I am in awe all over again that Jesus suffered and died for ME.  I am so unworthy to receive Your gift of forgiveness and life, for apart from Your work IN me, I would be utterly foolish, blind and lost … forever.  I repent of my sin and rest in Your promise of forgiveness, desiring now to be Your witness and to tell the world that Jesus saves!!  I thank You, Father, for opening MY mind to understand these things by Your Spirit.  My life is Yours, now and forever!!  In Jesus' name, Amen"


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