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Wednesday
Apr092014

Why Did Jesus Have To Die?

Most people would say Jesus was a good man. The Bible says that he was sinless. More than a good man, Jesus was a perfectly righteous man.

Not the rest of us, however. No matter how good we are even according to our own definition, we have to admit we have a problem. We are neither perfect nor sinless. We can’t help but do wrong, hurt others and ourselves, and disobey God’s rules. The Bible calls that sin.

The Bible tells us, “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). It tells us, “there is no one righteous (perfect and sinless), no not one” (Romans 3:10). The Bible even presents a stiking contrast, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23). 

Sin, what we all do, earns us eternal death and separation from God in Hell. But God offers us all the gift of eternal life in Heaven and abundant life on Earth. How did God that? Why would God do that? These questions bring us back to our first question: Why did Jesus have to die? 

One verse, 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV, clearly answers our question.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,

so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Let’s walk through it together:

  • “God made…” that’s His choice, God’s sovereign work.
  • “him who had no sin…” only be perfectly righteous Jesus, God’s sinless solution.
  • “to be sin for us…” we could never do it on our own, God’s merciful offer.
  • “so that in him we might become righteousness of God.” God’s gracious purpose.

God chose. To do what we couldn’t do for ourselves. To save us from ourselves.

Sinless Jesus became sin for us so that we could be made right with God. Wow! 

Hang on though. It gets better. We haven’t really answered our question: Why did Jesus have to die? The answer follows the “so that” in our verse.

“So that” translates the Greek word hina which speaks of purpose, definition or results. It’s about motivation. It answers the question why. You wanna know the “why,” read the “so that.”

Read our verse again, 2 Corinthians 5:21, this time the ESV translation:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,

so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Why did Jesus have to die? Because God loves you so much that He would sacrifice His one and only son to make you, unable on your own, into the very righteousness of God. 

Why did Jesus have to die? Because God loves you. God's purpose in Jesus' sacrificial death was to save you because He loves you. God's motivation is His love for you!

You matter that much to Him. No matter what you have done or what has been done to you. God loves you. You deserve death, but Jesus took it. He didn't have to die. Jesus loves you so much, that he chose to take the punishment for your sin. Love is sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed himself for you. 

It is God’s sovereign work to present you the merciful offer of Jesus as a sinless solution. It is God’s gracious purpose to save you. 

Which leads us to one more most important question: What are you going to do about God’s offer of forgiveness and eternal salvation for you? 

The Bible provides your instructions in Romans 10:9, “If you declare with our mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Say it and believe it. That’s it. 

Why did Jesus have to die? Because God loves you and wanted to save you from your own sins.

To learn more, talk to a Christ following friend today or contact me through this site.

(This post is verbatim from my Gospel presentation following our Easter drama, This Day of Resurrection.)

Sunday
Mar162014

Green Eggs and Ham Theology

I could not, would not, on a boat.

I will not, will not, with a goat.

I will not eat them in the rain.

I will not eat them on a train.

Not in the dark! Not in a tree!

Not in a car! You let me be!

I do not like them in a box.

I do not like them with a fox.

I will not eat them in a house.

I do not like them with a mouse.

I do not like them here or there.

I do not like them ANYWHERE!

 

Emphatically declares the frumpledy-hatted creature in the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham. Just before he relents. Tries the green eggs and ham. And decides he likes them. 

Life is like that. We don’t like something. Until we do.

While preaching John 9 this morning, I was thinking about the Pharisees. Yes, I can preach and think at the same time. I’d encourage you read the entire engaging chapter now. 

Quick context: Jesus heals a man born blind; nobody believes it; man has to prove he is who he is even to his neighbors; man gets hauled before the Pharisees; even man’s parents get called as witnesses. 

The Pharisees had decided Jesus was a sinner—guilty of breaking their Sabbath—and could not have healed the man before their interrogation had even begun. 

The legalistic Pharisees would not believe it possible for Jesus to perform such a healing. More than would not, it seems that they could not believe it. Such an act was outside their realm of possibility.

The Pharisees had Green Eggs and Ham Theology: Jesus could not, would not… Jesus didn’t fit their theology. 

In verse 27, when the formerly blind man pokes the persistent Pharisees, “Do you want to become his disciples too?,” they get mad and throw him out. Could not, would not fit what you like, get angry and throw them out. Always effective. Get what you want. Ignore the evidence. Go on with life—your could not, would not life. Your God-in-a-box life.

How many of us, how many times, do we put God in a could not, would not box? 

We don’t think He could? We don’t believe He would? We put Sovereign God in a box walled by our own limited experience and incomplete imagination. 

We’re like the Pharisees. We’ve got Green Eggs and Ham Theology. And we wonder why God doesn’t do more in our lives?

Could we, instead, be like the man born blind when he declares of Jesus in verse 25, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” 

Could we?

Would we?

Believe.

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Wednesday
Feb262014

When You Don't Know What To Pray

When you don’t know what to pray… 

When you feel like you can’t pray…

Be Still

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10

Rest

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29

Accept Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

Trust

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26

Monday
Feb172014

But If Not

Jesus is on the offensive. Not mean-spirited, but mercifully. He’s warning: judgment is coming; be ready.

Through Luke 12 and into chapter 13 with one answer or parable after another he is extending mercy to his original hearers and to us today. 

Listen in as Jesus tells a parable, an earthly story with a heavenly message, in Luke 13:6-9.

“A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. He told the vineyard worker, ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil? ’"

“But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. Perhaps it will bear fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

Don’t be too quick to see harsh judgment here. Don’t miss the merciful hope.

God is the owner. He says, they’ve had enough time to grow & do what they should do. 

Jesus is the worker. He asks mercy for one more season. He pledges special attention. He offers hope before final judgment. An opportunity to produce fruit.

We are the tree. We have God’s standard as revealed in the Bible. We welcome Jesus’ mercy and assistance to bear the fruit of righteousness.  

Don’t miss that penultimate phrase, however.  

“But if not…”

If we don’t humble ourselves, don’t obey God’s Word, don’t follow Jesus’ lead, don’t respond to his mercy, then we will be cut down, judged by God.

Those three words—“but if not”—in this context of mercy extended before judgment befalls, lead me to a simple question: What causes your “if not”?

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Monday
Feb102014

Marathon Tough

"I NEVER want to do that again.”

I gasped to my wife upon crossing the finish line of my third marathon days after my 40th birthday. I was in pain. Everywhere. I was nauseous. Terribly. I was so weak I could have crumpled to sleep on the cold concrete beneath me. And worse, I was utterly beaten. My will had been crushed.

A marathon is tough. I've written about that before. To understand a little more of why I say that, you might go back and read this link. 

I did run one more marathon fifteen months after the above mentioned race. I may run another someday. But no time soon.

“Daddy, did you ever win a marathon?” asked my youngest when he was six. “No, Daddy isn’t fast enough to ever win. But I don’t feel like I’ve done my best, Buddy. That’s why I might run one again. The marathon beat me; I didn’t beat the marathon.”

To this point, four marathons completed, somewhere between miles 20-24 and three to three and a half hours of running I knew I was beaten. I stopped pushing. I dropped my pace. I walked when I felt I could no longer run. I settled for survival. I was humbled.

Yet, even in being beaten I knew I was strong. Not as strong as I’d like. But the humility of the beating and everything it took in the year ahead to get that far had made me tough. I was marathon tough.

To run a marathon, 26.2 miles, you need to have run for at least a year and be able to run 20 miles a week before starting a specific training plan. From that base as a first timer or novice, you ramp up your mileage over four months from 20 to 40+ miles per week. One of those “big weeks” toward the end of your build up might look like this: rest Sunday; 5 miles easy Monday; 8 miles easy Tuesday; 5 miles tempo (quicker pace) Wednesday; rest Thursday; 5 miles at race pace Friday; 20 mile long run on Saturday.

That discipline of running with a purpose five days a week develops your marathon toughness. Every day you wake up to train you’ve got the questions, “Am I going to be a wimp today?” You’ve got to put in the work. You’ve got to meet the pace. Daily. For weeks.

Daily disciplines prepare you for bigger tests.

Every day you add to your total mileage. Every week you run more than before. Every weekend you extend your long run. And every time, it hurts to push a little father than before. You test yourself every run. 

Life is like a marathon: Daily disciplines prepare you for bigger tests. Your good eating habits accumulate for health for a lifetime. Your regular exercise regimen builds your stamina for the longest days. Your daily Bible reading caches wisdom for the toughest days. Your daily prayer time develops a relationship for the times you need it most.  Your regular journaling helps you know yourself best when life is at its worst. Your closest friendships support you on the most difficult days. Just like in life: It’s not in the race that you become marathon tough; it’s in the training.

A marathon doesn’t make you tough; a marathon reveals the toughness you have.

Be marathon tough. Daily disciplines make the difference.

(Note: Daily disciplines are the encouragement of this post; likewise, I'll return to weekly posts here.)