A Day Like No Other

Image result for Jesus' deathGood Friday is the day we remember that God who became man died by crucifixion. Jesus of Nazareth was not just some prophet or preacher in first century Palestine. He was born of a woman – Mary – but was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He is the Son of God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity. He is “God Incarnate” – True and Fully God while at the same time True and Fully Man.

I cannot prove this “empirically” or “scientifically.”  I can only point to what I believe to be overwhelming evidence: The Bible; the history of first, second and third century followers of Jesus who staked their very lives on the fact that Jesus Christ was both God and Man who died on the cross; and the billions of followers who live lives of faith in Jesus Christ today and have been for nearly 2000 years.

Good Friday was the day that Jesus – the God-Man – died by crucifixion. On the face of it, it would appear to be a mistake added to a political vendetta by religious leaders of the day added to the cowardice or ineffectiveness of the Roman governor.

But it was not. This day that changed the world forever was something else entirely.

As Jesus hung on the cross – at the end of six hours of agony – we are told this, from John’s Gospel:

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

What, exactly, was “finished”? “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19). All that was needed to forgive our sins was finished by Jesus on Good Friday.

St. Paul put it this way, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

On Good Friday, on this day that changed the world, your sins were forgiven.

All of them.

Do you believe it?

Many people have a hard time believing this. They want to believe that their sins are forgiven, but they just can’t get past the seemingly lack of any evidence that their sins actually are forgiven. The seemingly lack of evidence that Jesus Christ actually died for their sins and rose from the dead.

It fact, it seems to make more sense to not believe it.

Certainly there is more evidence that Good Friday and all that Jesus did on that day, didn’t happen, right?

May I remind you that there was more evidence that the world was flat – until Leif Ericson, Christopher Columbus and many others did not sail off the end of the world.

 

There was also more evidence that the sun moved in the sky – from east to west – than there was that the earth actually orbited the sun – that is until Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo proved otherwise.

Yet, in the 2000 years since the first Good Friday, there has never been any credible evidence to suggest that Jesus Christ did not die for the sins of the world. If fact, the evidence still powerfully suggests that Jesus is, indeed, the Son of God who died and rose again to reconcile the world to God.

The most powerful evidence, to me, is the fact that this day that changed the world still changes people – billions of people today.

The death of Jesus changes us. Remember, Jesus’ death was not an accident or an act of vengeance or cowardice. It was an act of love. God’s love for you and for me.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8

This instrument of execution was forever changed on the day that changed the world into a symbol of the greatest love there has ever been or will ever be.

This day that changed the world is the day to remember:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

But why? And what is the big deal with changing the world, anyway? I think you will all agree with me that something in this world needs to change.

The truth is that the world is changing every day. Most of the time, not for the better either. In fact, the only unchanging constant is that there is change!

This world was once perfect. But sin changed all that, as you well know. Death got a death-grip on us and will not let us go unless something changes.

But that change will not come from within ourselves. That change will not come from a world leader. That change will not come from a court-ruling.

No, the only thing that will change death’s grip on us is the death of death itself. When Jesus died on the cross, our very lives were changed. The death of Jesus has freed us from the bondage of sin, death, and the power of the devil.

The death of Jesus on the cross made the most powerful change this world has ever seen. His death bought your heart back from death. His death gives you new life.

Now, what are you going to do with that life? Look to the cross to see how far God went to give you a new heart, a new life!

Jesus Christ died for you. Jesus Christ gave up His life to give you your life.

Don’t waste His death! Live the life Jesus died to give you!

Love others as God loves! Serve others as Jesus serves!

Reach out to the person who is hurting. Lift up the person who is downtrodden. Guide the person who is lost.

Image result for Saving Private Ryan Earn This
“Earn this.”

At the end of the very powerful movie “Saving Private Ryan” Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Miller, tells Private Ryan – after so many men died in order to return him home safely to his family, “Earn this.”

Robert Rodat – the writer of the screenplay – meant, I think, “Ryan, don’t waste these men’s efforts and lives in order to save you. Live a life worthy of being saved. Make it your life’s goal and purpose to make a difference in the lives of everyone you meet.” But, of course, that’s too wordy! “Earn this!” sounds so much better!

Of course you can’t earn what happened on the cross. You can’t earn salvation. Like Captain Miller and all the other men who died to save Private Ryan, Jesus died before you could do anything to earn it.

St. Paul says it best, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

This is the day – Good Friday – to remember to live a life with the goal and purpose of making a difference in the lives of everyone you meet!

Jesus said, in the Gospel reading from last night (Maundy Thursday), “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13: 34).

That’s what Good Friday is for. That’s what we remember of this day that changed the world.

May God’s love for you in Christ Jesus, who died for you on Good Friday, change you forever to love and live for Him. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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On Fire

A brush fire in Southern California is cause for sprinting into action and getting it under control and putting it out as quickly as possible. And that’s a good thing when lives and property are in danger.

Having lived in Southern California, I have a new perspective on brush fires and forest fires. California is a big state. It has a big population. California does just about everything “big”! Including, it seems, fires. Hundreds of thousands of acres can be burned to the ground in a handful of days. Millions of dollars’ worth of homes and property are destroyed in a matter of hours.

Recently, a new company was formed to “up the scale” of fighting these fires. In the past, helicopters have been used to drop water or chemical retardants on the fires. This new company has bought a fleet of jets to do the job. Modified passenger jets that can hold ten times the amount of water or chemicals to drop on a fire.

There are times when forest fires are good things – set off by lightening they can burn out underbrush and revitalize the soil so other plants and trees can thrive. But when a fire is set accidentally at a construction site by an acetylene torch or, worse, set on purpose by an arsonist, fire departments and the forest service work fast and furious to put out the dangerous blaze.

This got me to thinking about being on fire for the Lord. There comes a time in every congregation’s or national church body’s life when a person or a group of people will really be passionate about the Great Commission. They will be “on fire for the Lord” to get the Gospel message to as many people as possible. Most often, they will employ creative and innovated ways of telling the Good News about Jesus.

91 years ago three pastors were ignited by the Holy Spirit to bring the Gospel to the city of St. Louis and beyond through a new medium. It had never been tried before. There were plenty who said, “we’ve never done it that way.” But in 1924, the first broadcast of KFUO AM radio began and the result was hundreds of millions of people who have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ ever since.

Each congregation of the Christian Church has people like these three pastors. Yet there are others who act like the California fire departments! They swiftly and strongly try to put out the fire of innovation and creativity that is used to tell the Good News about Jesus is new ways.

I say, that as long as God’s Word is heeded, let these people burn! Don’t try to put out the fire that obviously comes from the Holy Spirit. Each generation needs to be reached with the ageless Gospel of Jesus Christ in new and fresh ways. When you see someone on fire for the Lord, encourage him or her. Don’t try to put the flames out!

© 2015 True Men Ministries

Changes

I recently led a worship service with a man that I first met twenty-seven years ago. He was the preacher in the service and

Image courtesy of PhotoBucket.com

I was the lector (the guy who reads the Bible readings for the service).

As he was preaching, I was thinking how much time has gone by and that this man hasn’t really changed all that much. Yes, his hair is more silver now than it was when I first met him. But his voice is the same, his preaching style is the same, and the message he gave hasn’t changed at all. And no, that isn’t all I thought – I was actually listening to his message about perspective. He was preaching on how the Ascension of Jesus gives us new perspectives on God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (starting with an illustration about how flying gives us a different perspective of the world).

As I was driving home with my twelve-year-old son sitting next to me, I was thinking how much I have changed in twenty-seven years. In addition to my own hair being more silver now, there are other changes that, well, have changed me.

I’ve been married for 19 years and 10 months. My wife and I are raising three sons, the oldest just turning 15 years-old a few days ago. We’ve lived in five different states in the 20 years we’ve been together. I’ve served three churches as a full-time pastor and  am  now serving my fourth church as a part-time (but hopefully soon-to-be full-time) pastor. I’ve gained thirty-five pounds in the last 20 years and lost 40 pounds (in that order, thankfully). I have less body parts (one less vermiform appendix and gall-bladder) and added a metal plate to my wrist and two metal-and-bone brackets to my upper spine. I’ve owned one house, rented three others along with three apartments and lived in one parsonage. My wife and I have had seven cars in our nearly 20 years of marriage – one of them actually being a new one (11 miles on it when we bought it)!

What does all this mean? Well, to me it means that “the more things change the more they stay the same” (quoted by so many, but I’m hearing Neil Peart’s quote in my head right now).

And that leads to me to remember that Jesus Christ doesn’t change. Jesus is the same “yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

2000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary. Jesus lived a perfect life. He taught amazing things, loved amazingly and did miraculous things. Jesus suffered, bled, and died to take the sins of the world away. Three days later Jesus rose from the dead. He then commissioned His disciples to tell this Good News to others.

They continued to tell the Good News of Jesus, making disciples, and today the same message is told in millions of churches around the world to billions of people.

The changeless Gospel continues to change hearts and lives. Thank you, God for giving me a part in it!

Resurrection Change

4Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5And stooping to

look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples went back to their homes. – John 20:4-10

They saw the empty tomb. Jesus’ body was not there. The burial shroud was, but Jesus was not.

For John, seeing is believing. He sees the empty tomb. He believes that Jesus’ tomb is empty. John believes that Jesus’ body is not there anymore. John may even believe that Jesus has, indeed, been raised from the dead just as Lazarus had been raised from the dead just a few weeks before.

For John, “seeing is believing.”

But it isn’t enough.

Peter and John’s initial reaction to the empty tomb of Jesus is to go back home.

It would not be until later that evening that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’” (Luke 24:45-47).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is pretty amazing. He is on a very short list of people the Bible records as coming back to life after dying:

  • The son of a Zarephath widow (1 Kings 17:17-22)
  • The son of a Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:30-37)
  • Lazarus (John 11:38-44)
  • Another widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17)
  • Jairus’ daughter (Matt. 8:28-43, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39)
  • Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12)
  • Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42)

But Jesus’ resurrection is different. His resurrection from the dead was not – or at least should have not been – a surprise. The Scriptures say that Jesus would rise from the dead.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. – Psalm 16:10

After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. – Hosea 6:2

O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? – Psalm 30:3,9

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,  he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. – Isaiah 53:10

Even Jesus Himself – whom John calls the Word – told the disciples on numerous occasions that He would rise from the dead.

Ultimately, the resurrection of Jesus Christ can only be truly understood and believed because of Holy Scripture.

Personal experience of the resurrection is very important. I have been changed by the resurrection of Jesus. My heart nearly bursts with joy at the final scene of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Because Jesus lives, I live my life (or try to live my life) differently from the way the world says I should.

But this personal experience isn’t enough. If I watch the movie enough, the emotional impact will fade.

But there is something that will not ever fade, something that doesn’t change, something that is ever-living.

The Word of God.

Only when John, Peter, and the rest of the disciples had the Scriptures opened to them could they take the resurrection to the ends of the earth and actually be changed themselves.

They saw the empty tomb. They saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes. But that wasn’t enough. Only when the Scriptures were opened to them did they truly understand the resurrection.

Personal experience of Jesus Christ is a wonderful thing. But only when that personal experience is grounded in the never-changing truth of God’s Word will the resurrection change your life.