Friday, September 19, 2014

"These things are written so that you may believe!"

Day #266:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - September 20th

Scripture Reading:  John 19 - 21 …

Everybody "believes" something.  Belief is based on knowledge and leads to an action or a response.  You live your life in a certain way based on what you believe.  The majority of people live their lives believing that the God who reveals Himself in the Bible doesn't exist, and so they make up their own gods and worship them in one way or another, unwilling or unable (or both) to imagine the horrible consequences of their MISTAKEN belief.  What you don't know CAN hurt you!

From the beginning God has revealed Himself in His creation and through various means.  God chose one man and made of his descendants a great nation, as He promised He would, and spoke through Moses and the prophets to these people … thus, the Old Testament Scriptures (writings).  The writer of Hebrews explains the revelation that came through Jesus Christ and the Apostles:  "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe" (Hebrews 1:1-2).

As you read through the Gospel record of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ you are reading God's special revelation.  John explains the purpose of his writing in Chapter 20, verses 30-31: "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name."  There can be no message that is more important for mankind - for you and me and all people - than this message … the good news that Jesus died on the cross to bear God's wrath against OUR sins and that by believing in Him, trusting in His sacrifice, we HAVE eternal life.

This is what Jesus Himself said back in chapter 3, verse 16:  "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  As Jesus hung on the cross the foolish soldiers who mocked Him and cried out, "Hail, king of the Jews!" could not have known the truth of their words.  Neither could Pilate, the Roman governor who had placed above His head for all to see, "King of the Jews!"  The religious leaders of the Jews insisted that the Romans crucify Jesus because "we have a law, and according to that law He must die, because He claimed to be the Son of God" (19:7).  They used the very law that THEY had broken over and over again to condemn the One who was perfect, and in so doing they heaped even greater condemnation on themselves.

Pilate begged Jesus to defend Himself, saying, "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" (19:10).  But Jesus knew better!  "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above" (19:11).  Jesus did not go to the cross as a helpless victim, but by the will of His Father in heaven and in obedience to the Father's plan.  Isaiah wrote the amazing words, "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" (Isaiah 53:10).

Even in the tearing of His clothing, God's Word was fulfilled, according to Psalm 22:18:  "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing."  How could the Psalmist have written such a thing if it had not been revealed by the Spirit of God?  In His last words Jesus spoke of forgiveness, of compassion for His mother and of His coming kingdom … and as He hung on the cross in those hours of darkness, our debt was paid, the veil in the temple was torn, symbolizing the access that believers now have into the presence of the Father, and Jesus cried out, "It is finished!"  The Greek word is "tetelestai," and it means "the debt is paid,"  or "Paid in full!"  Oh, amazing grace, how sweet the sound!!

Though His body was beaten and weak, Jesus did not die in weakness.  It was time … His work was done, so He committed His Spirit to the Father and entered heaven until the third day … His body was placed in a tomb, again in fulfillment of the words of Isaiah, and the disciples mourned.  Jesus had told them He would rise again on the third day, but their hearts were too heavy to imagine the truth of His words and their minds were weighed down with guilt and fear.  … Then it happened, as He said it would … the tomb was empty!!  We who believe do not picture Jesus on a cross or show a body covered in a tomb because the cross and the tomb are empty.  Jesus rose victorious over death!!

Few seem to understand today that the Gospels record for us the eyewitness testimony of those who saw Jesus after His resurrection.  He appeared not once, not twice, but numerous times over a period of forty days.  Some believed immediately, others wanted "proof" that they weren't seeing a ghost, but John explains that all these things, from His birth and the beginning of His ministry, to His death and resurrection … all these things were written so that YOU and I may believe, and by believing have life in His Name … in the name of Jesus.  It cannot be argued that the disciples believed as you turn to the book of Acts, which we will look at in coming weeks.  Peter, the one who denied Jesus three times, but whom Jesus lovingly and powerfully reinstated in chapter 21, would testify to the rulers and elders of the Jews, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

No other religion offers such a promise … no other religion leads to eternal life.  All of them teach their rules and laws and call people to work to please their god, hoping they have done enough to earn a life beyond the grave, but in Jesus Christ GOD provided the only sacrifice that satisfies His justice and delivers those who believe from the guilt and power of sin.  In Jesus God sets the captives free!!  In the details of chapter 21 John reveals that we will have "spiritual bodies" in the world to come, for we shall be like Him (I John 3:1-2).  Paul writes the same thing in I Corinthians 15:42-49:  "So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised a spiritual body. … Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven."

The sure and certain hope that we have in Jesus Christ is that we who believe will be raised from the dead and made like Jesus Christ and will live in a new heaven and a new earth, a perfect world in perfect bodies, praising and worshiping and serving God forever!!  As we are loved by God, so we will love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength!  Oh, glorious day … for those who believe.  If you have believed these things and know the truth, rejoice that God has revealed these things to you and given you His Spirit to work faith in your new heart and mind.  You are a new creation in Christ Jesus (II Corinthians 5:17).  And if you have not yet believed these things, may God even now open your eyes to see the truth, to believe in Jesus and to be saved!!

"My Father in heaven, it is You who have given me life in Jesus Christ and it is now for You that I live. With Paul I confess that 'I have been crucified with Christ and now I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me' (Galatians 2:20).  Words cannot possibly express my thankfulness.  Let my life, O LORD, my God, display my love for You as I live even now in the light of Your presence.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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