Trust Christ and His Word

2nd Sunday of Easter

Trust Christ and His Word

Text: 2 Peter 1:16-21

“Did God really say?”  Those are the first words spoken by Satan in Scripture.  That once perfect angel who rebelled against God and then was cast into hell was determined from the very beginning to bring down all creation with him.  The most prized prey for his vicious attacks though would be the crowning jewel of creation, the ones made in the very likeness of God—human beings.  Though they bore the righteous image of God, it would take one phrase to beguile humans and set off their race in a tailspin of sin: “Did God really say?”

That was enough.  That was enough to get Eve to question God’s command and then alter God’s command and finally to disobey God’s command.  “Did God really say?” was enough for Adam to stand there idly by, quietly conceding and consenting with his wife’s first sin.

That question is so powerfully evil that the devil figured he would just keep on using it.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  So he whispered, “Did God really say he would make you into a great nation?” into the ears of Abraham and led him to take matters into his own hands and lie about his wife Sarah, calling her his sister to protect her.  And he coaxed into complaining some two million Israelites by causing them to ponder in the desert, “Did God really say he would lead you to the Promised Land?”  That one worked so well he used it for over 40 years on the same people!   Read the rest of this entry

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The Wonder of Easter

Easter Festival

The Wonder of Easter

Text: Luke 24:1-12

I wonder.  I wonder if you have ever seen anything so amazing before.  It would have taken a forklift to pick my jaw back off the ground.  I was so filled with wonder and awe that I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t know where to go.  I just stood there, filled with wonder.

                  Have you had that feeling before?  Maybe you stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon looking at the bottom a mile and a half below and at the other edge 15 miles away.  Wow!  Maybe you stood at the foot of the Rocky Mountains looking at a peak 14,000 feet above you.  Wow!  Maybe you get that feeling every time you stand on the beach and watch the mighty waves come crashing down on your feet.  Wow!  Maybe it was watching the miracle of childbirth.  Wow!  I’m sure that at some point in your life you have been filled with jaw-dropping wonder and amazement.

                  Yet I’m not sure you could comprehend the wonder I saw.  In fact, when I was first told about it I didn’t even believe it.  It sounded too good to be true.  Some friends told me that they had seen it with their own eyes.  That still didn’t convince me it was possible.  After all, it was a group of ladies that told me what they had seen.  And you know how women can be.  Once they start talking, then they start getting excited, then they start exaggerating a little bit.  My ears heard what they were saying, but my mind didn’t understand it and my heart didn’t believe it.  I had to see it with my own eyes. Read the rest of this entry

Victory!

Easter Sunrise

Victory!

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:51-57

One week ago the Panthers of Northern Iowa University were poised to storm the court in joy over their second upset win of the basketball tournament.  This was going to be an even bigger upset as they were about to beat the much higher ranked Aggies of Texas A&M.  But in a historic comeback for the ages, Texas A&M erased a ten point deficit in the last 30 seconds of the game, tied the game, and then went on to a stunning victory in the second overtime.  The Texas A&M team and fans went nuts over the unexpected victory.  The Northern Iowa team and fans had faces that were stunned, shocked, and streaming with tears.

This is why many refer to this college basketball tournament as March Madness.  You never know what might happen.  Even if you don’t like sports, you have to appreciate a team of college kids pouring their hearts out in competition.  Those who taste defeat are crushed and heartbroken.  Those who taste victory are overcome with joy.

Could you ever imagine though, a team that didn’t understand or appreciate their victory?  What if the Texas A&M fans were dead silent and didn’t cheer at all at the end of the game thinking, “What’s the big deal?  Why is our team so excited?”  What if Peyton Manning in his swan song Super Bowl victory had no pep in his step, no pump of his fist, not even a smile on his face?  What if an Olympian at the coming summer games in Rio won andevent or race but just walked away without standing atop the podium and receiving the gold medal?  What if the news media didn’t think the Olympics were a big deal and didn’t report the winners?  What if we Americans completely ignored what those athletes will accomplish on our behalf at the Olympics?  That would all be crazy, wouldn’t it?  That would never happen. Read the rest of this entry

Good Friday Meditations

Good Friday

Luke 23:33-34  When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

                  What if they did know?  What if they did know what they were doing?  Do you think they would have done anything differently?  If they knew that this was the Son of God, would the Jews have rejected and hated him?  If they knew that this was the Son of God, would the Romans have tortured him and mocked him and driven nails through his hands and feet?

                  Sadly the Jews were so hard-hearted and the Romans were so heathen that they didn’t know what they were doing.  Satan had won their hearts, filling them with hatred, evil, and unbelief.

                  Yet even for the unwittingly wicked Jesus has love.  Nailed to a cross and suffering agonizing pain, incredibly, Jesus’ first thoughts and words are for the forgiveness of his enemies.  What comfort for us!  Whether we sin willfully or unwittingly, knowing or unknowing, purposefully or accidentally, we know that Jesus offers us forgiveness.  For that’s why he was on that cross.  To win us forgiveness.

                  The first word from the cross.

Luke 23:42-43  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

                  Outwardly the two were exactly the same.  They were both criminals who earned the death penalty, one crucified on each side of Jesus.  But inwardly, their hearts could not be any more different.

One poked fun at Jesus and selfishly taunted Jesus to save himself and them.  The other was a broken and humble sinner.  He knew what he had done.  He knew what he deserved.  He knew he had only one possible hope left—Jesus.  So he pleaded, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

This was surely saving faith.  He identified Jesus as Lord and King.  He identified Jesus as the one who could save him.  He turned to Jesus for mercy and.

Is our faith any different?  We too are broken and humbled by our sins.  We know what we have done.  We know what we deserve.  We know there is only one possible hope left—Jesus.  So we too plead regularly, “Kyrie, eleison.  Christe eleison.  Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.”

But here is the testament to God’s grace and boundless love.  Every sinner of every kind who turns to Jesus finds forgiveness.  From the smallest slip up to the most serious sin, Jesus forgives every sin of those who repent and offers this incredible promise—paradise.  Whether for a crucified criminal or for you or for me, Jesus died to give forgiveness and eternal paradise in heaven.

                  The second word from the cross.

 

John 19:25-27  Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”  From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

                  On the eighth day Jesus was presented in the temple for his circumcision.  There Mary and Joseph met a godly man named Simeon.  He is the one who gave us the song, “Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace” (the Nunc Dimittis).  But Simeon also prophesied to Mary, “And a sword will pierce your own heart, too.”

                  Thirty-three years later that moment was upon her.  As she had treasured up and pondered in her heart everything about her special son over the years, time had flown by to this moment.  Now she saw what he was destined for.  Surely her precious heart would have felt pierced as she gazed upon her son, battered and bloodied and nailed to a cross.

                  But even in the most important moments of world history, when Jesus was paying for our sin, he still would not forget to show love and care for his mother.  This is true man who loved his friends and family.  This is true God who perfectly loved at all times.

The third word from the cross.

 

Matthew 27:46  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

                  What would your life be like without God?  What would your life be like without his generous provision for all your daily needs?  What would your life be like with out his care and protection?  What would your life be like without his gracious presence—always with you, always loving you, always working all for your good?  What would your life be like without God?

                  Well, it would be hell, because that’s what hell is.  Hell is not some “hot place” down beneath us.  Hell is where God is not.  Hell is when God takes away his loving promises and presence.  And thus, hell is what Jesus experienced at this moment as the full consequence for sin.  Jesus was abandoned by God and suffered hell so that you would not.

The fourth word from the cross.

John 19:28  Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

                  None of us could fathom his thirst.  None of us has ever known such torment or torture as Jesus had experienced.  Understandably his human body inching toward death had a thirst.

                  But it was not just his human nature driving this thirst.  His divine nature as true God and the promised Messiah would not leave any promise unfulfilled.  This was just one of the many.  Psalm 69 and Psalm 22 foretold this moment of Jesus’ thirst, so with one Greek word (three in English) Jesus necessarily fulfilled those prophecies.

                  Let there be no doubt.  Every promise was fulfilled.  This truly is our promised Messiah and Savior.

The fifth word from the cross.

 

John 19:30  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

                  With that one word of thirst fulfilled, there was one more word to speak—in Greek, tetelestai, in English, It is finished.”  This one word is no different than all the many others.  When God speaks, it is always packed with power.

                  In the beginning God said, “Let there be . . . let there be . . . let there be,” and a universe was stitched together in only six days.  When Jesus said, “Be still,” the winds and the waves obeyed.  When he said, “Little girl, get up,” and, “Lazarus, come forth,” the dead rose.  Every time God speaks his words are packed with power that accomplishes exactly what he says.

                  So also here.  Jesus said, It is finished,” and it was.  It was done, over, complete.  The separation of sinners from God was finished.  The suffering was finished.  The payment for sin was finished.  The war against Satan was finished.

                  God’s words are always powerful.  God’s words are always true.  Know then with absolute certainty and complete confidence—your sin is paid for and your salvation is won because, It is finished.”

                  The sixth word from the cross.

Luke 23:46  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  When he had said this, he breathed his last.

                  Jewish people have used Psalm 31:5 as a bedtime prayer for centuries: Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth.”  Jesus here used this psalm verse as a prayer in the same way.  He was entrusting every bit of his life, even his soul in death, to the care of his heavenly Father.

                  It is a fitting and proper conclusion for Jesus. Every breath of his life had been perfect, just as his Father had willed and.  Every painful breath on the cross was endured, just as his Father had willed.  Having finished the plan of salvation his Father had sent him for, Jesus was ready to commit himself back into the hands of his Father who so loved the world that he sent his beloved Son.

                  Thus, there was one last thing to do—stop breathing.  So he did, and he died.  For you and for me.

                  Perfect in life.  Perfect in death.  True man.  True God.  Truly our Savior.

The seventh and final word from the cross.

The New Covenant that Changes Everything

Maundy Thursday

The New Covenant that Changes Everything

Text: Hebrews 10:15-25

613.  Jewish tradition teaches that there are 613 commandments in the laws of Moses.  Could you even imagine keeping straight 613 commandments?  Most people I’ve met don’t even know all 10 Commandments.  How could you keep straight 613?  There were laws about cleanliness, laws about family, laws about civil justice, laws about worship and festivals and sacrifices.  613 laws to obey.

These laws served as a sort of hedge for the people of Israel.  They set them apart as being “different” than all the other people of the world.  They were cleaner.  They were more pure.  They were more sanctified in their living.  They were more dedicated to their God.  Thus, God told them that if they obeyed he would be their God and they would be his people.  If they obeyed, that is.

When they didn’t obey, that’s what the system of sacrifices was for.  If you committed this sin, then this sacrifice was required.  And if you committed that sin, then that sacrifice was required.  The message was loud and clear: God is holy.  If there is sin, there must be death and bloodshed to pay for it. Read the rest of this entry