The Power of the Cross

5  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 
6  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 
7  For one who has died has been set free from sin. 
8  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 
9  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 
10  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 
11  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:5-11 (ESV)

The cross that took the life of our Savior now distributes that divine life to all who believe and are baptized! Indeed, Christ’s life was not taken but broken willingly and distributed equally to whosoever will come to Him! Because of that gift we become “partakers of the divine nature” and “empowered to bear witness”. We are no longer bound to the old life of our sinful selves, rather we are filled with divinely empowered life. Death itself has no dominion any longer over our spirits, all fear of death has been removed. Our thinking has changed, we are dead to sin but alive to God in Christ.

Because of Christ’s cross we have access into the heavenly places, we have every spiritual blessing in Christ. We have been forgiven, our sins justified, and our redemption secured! We have become his children, his workmanship, his property! We are overcomers in Jesus, because of the Cross!


The Horror of the Cross

26  And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 
27  And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 
28  But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 
29  For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 
30  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 
31  For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” 
32  Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 
33  And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 
34  And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 
35  And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 
36  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 
37  and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 
38  There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 
39  One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 
40  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 
41  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 
42  And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 
43  And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:26-43 (ESV)

William Barclay wrote of the Horror of the cross.

There was no more terrible death than death by crucifixion. Even the Romans themselves regarded it with a shudder of horror. Cicero declared that it was “the most cruel and horrifying death.” Tacitus said that it was a “despicable death.” It was originally a Persian method of execution. It may have been used because, to the Persians, the earth was sacred, and they wished to avoid defiling it with the body of an evil-doer. So they nailed him to a cross and left him to die there, looking to the vultures and the carrion crows to complete the work. The Carthaginians took over crucifixion from the Persians; and the Romans learned it from the Carthaginians.

Crucifixion was never used as a method of execution in the homeland, but only in the provinces, and there only in the case of slaves. It was unthinkable that a Roman citizen should die such a death. Cicero says: “It is a crime for a Roman citizen to be bound; it is a worse crime for him to be beaten; it is well nigh parricide for him to be killed; what am I to say if he be killed on a cross? A nefarious action such as that is incapable of description by any word, for there is none fit to describe it.” It was that death, the most dreaded in the ancient world, the death of slaves and criminals, that Jesus died.

The routine of crucifixion was always the same. When the case had been heard and the criminal condemned, the judge uttered the fateful sentence: Ibis ad crucem, “You will go to the cross.” The verdict was carried out there and then. The condemned man was placed in the centre of a quaternion, a company of four Roman soldiers. His own cross was placed upon his shoulders. Scourging always preceded crucifixion and it is to be remembered how terrible scourging was. Often the criminal had to be lashed and goaded along the road, to keep him on his feet, as he staggered to the place of crucifixion. Before him walked an officer with a placard on which was written the crime for which he was to die and he was led through as many streets as possible on the way to execution. There was a double reason for that. There was the grim reason that as many as possible should see and take warning from his fate. But there was a merciful reason. The placard was carried before the condemned man and the long route was chosen, so that if anyone could still bear witness in his favor, he might come forward and do so. In such a case, the procession was halted and the case retried. (emphasis added)

He died for us.

Disowning Jesus

47  While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 
48  but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” – Luke 22:47-48 (ESV)

It is interesting that two stories are back to back in the gospel of Luke. Both having to do with the topic of disowning Jesus. A closer look today will help us understand better how to own Jesus.

The first of the two stories is recorded above. Judas is easy to despise. He had the advantages of a disciple. He knew Jesus personally, intimately. He knew him well. Yet he was not fully connected to Jesus’ heart. So pretending intimacy he came to betray Jesus. With the irony that the symbol for intimate adoration was the signal to arrest Jesus, he disowned him. Later he would regret this act of disowning him. He actually takes his own life because he cannot get over the fact that his betrayal begins the process of the crucifixion.

The next story is the story of Peter’s disowning Jesus. He continues to follow Jesus after others have fled. From a distance, he must know the outcome of these events. But a young girl calls him out. She tells it like it is and he is forced by his determined self preservation to lie and disown Christ. He too, is weeping in agony after the fact. But he returns to the risen Christ and is forgiven and empowered to be a witness for Jesus.

There are many ways that we can disown Christ. Some by the things we do and say. Some by the things that are left undone. Some because of their disappointment with God. Some because they are safeguarding their reputation. Jesus was very direct, “if you deny be before men, I will deny you before my Father in Heaven”. (Mt 10.32-33)

The Coming Suffering

39  And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 
40  And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 
41  And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 
42  saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 
43  And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 
44  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 
45  And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 
46  and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Luke 22:39-46 (ESV)

Jesus can feel the coming of the end. He knows that there is suffering and his soul is anxious. Wouldn’t yours be? Recently I had surgery and the doctor told me that there would be some soreness, agony and stiffness of my muscles as he cut me on my neck. Knowing what was coming helped me not panic when I awoke from the anesthesia to discover the discomfort. But the foreknowledge also increased the anxiety level!

Jesus knows full well that the cross is his future. He “endured the cross for the joy set before him” we are told in Hebrews. But it is clear as our Savior approaches the stressful moments of wrestling with the will of God that he needed something from his brothers. He needed to know that they were praying. Just a few chapters before this he rebuked and condemned Israel’s religion because it had become prayerless. Now he asks that his brothers pray with and for him.

They are in the distance. Their prayers, like all of our prayers for others, are without the labor and pain. Their prayers are easy to be lulled to sleep by because they are not provoked by a passion like our Lord’s. But Jesus in contrast is in intense agony, sweating blood, and being overwhelmed by the sorrow of an innocent sent to slaughter. And after he has wrestled with God’s design, his will, his plan- he returns for his church.

And the church was asleep.

Irresponsible Giving

1  Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 
2  and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 
3  And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 
4  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

               -Luke 21:1-4 (ESV)

I give to God regularly. I have adjusted my lifestyle to honor the Lord. There is much to be gained by doing so if you believe the Bible’s promises. Those regarding giving are as real as those regarding salvation! Prov 3.9-10 tells me that honoring God by bringing him the first fruits will “overflow my barns and fill my vats”. God has been so faithful to me that it is inconceivable that I would ever not honor Him. I have structured my finances to make it so.

Yet, here Jesus is telling us some powerful things. 1) That God watches what we give; 2) that faith is demonstrated not by how much goes in the basket but by how much is left; 3) that God would not tell this poor woman that she should share no part of the Kingdom work; 4) that God recognizes (and rewards) irresponsible financial giving.

The fact that God sees what we give is not always something that we live in. When we give are we aware that the same Jesus who watched the poor widow also watches us? She demonstrated great faith by giving sacrificially. Some would accuse her of being irresponsible in her giving. Some would tell her that she needn’t bother herself with the offering as her two pennies wouldn’t help much anyway. But in doing so they would cut her off from her reward! God promises to reward the diligent givers. Why would we think he wouldn’t.

As we look at Jesus’ sacrifice this week let us also recognize that the Kingdom demands that little people, people who are not independently wealthy, must have a part in giving to the Kingdoms advance. If we truly understood that we would likely be giving a little irresponsibly as an act of worship.

To Whom do you Belong?

19  The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. 
20  So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 
21  So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. 
22  Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 
23  But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 
24  “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 
25  He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 
26  And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. – Luke 20:19-26 (ESV)

Whenever I hear someone quote this verse it usually has to do with paying taxes to the government here on earth. That is, of course, a good and fine thing to do. Certainly these words of Jesus can be interpreted to be a reminder to be good citizens in handing over to the government what belongs, by law, to them. But in reading this verse in that fashion we miss Jesus main point

Political discussions are replete with offensive and divisive comments regarding the scandals of the day. Yet, we need to see that the scripture here clearly tells us that these were not sincere concerns of dedicated citizens. These were trick questions to trip up the Savior. Jesus answers directly but turns the whole discussion to something even more scandalous. The scandal that Jesus mentions is a scandal of the soul.

The issue at hand is that the people of God are not giving to God what truly belongs to Him! We attend service each Sunday and think that we are doing well. We give in the basket each time the offering comes around assuaging our consciences that we acting rightly. But Jesus reminds us that God wants more than our time, more than our money, God want to be the Lord of your life. He wants to be the Lord now; not at an altar years ago; not back when you were emotionally upset, lost and broken; not on Sundays and Wednesday nights. He is your fulltime Savior and deserves a fulltime surrender.
Please give Him what is rightfully His.

Begin today.

Praising Stones

28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 
29  When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 
30  saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 
31  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 
32  So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 
33  And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 
34  And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 
35  And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 
36  And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 
37  As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 
38  saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 
39  And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 
40  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” – Luke 19:28-40 (ESV)

Jesus heads for Jerusalem. He knows full well what is waiting for him there. God has revealed it to him and he has shared it with his closest followers. As he turns the corner on the mountain descending into Jerusalem he hears the accolades from the crowd. He hears the praise he is so deserving of. He is the “Blessed King” who comes in the name of the Lord. He is on mission, though many in his day and time could not see or understand the mission. So great is the sacrifice, so great is the love of God for mankind, that Jesus says the “stones would cry out” if the disciples fail to praise him.

At the foot of Sinai stones marked the tribes reception of the covenant. On the bank of the river stones bear testimony to Israel’s great founding deliverance from Egypt. So, too, would the stones cry out the testimony of the Greatest Gift. Yet singing stones was not God’s desire, he would have rather had us be unified as “living Stones” (1 Peter 2.4).

We are called to praise him 1 Peter continues (verse 9) “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”. Yes, today is the Lord’s day and we will lift our voices to sing praises to him. But what about the other days this week? Will you be a “Living Stone” that will praise Him who gave such a wonderful love at such a high cost?

Holy Week 2017

Easter Slide-3Hey CLC!

This Holy Week (2017) we are looking in the Gospel of Luke. As we direct our thoughts toward the great sacrifice of our Savior we are made aware of many things. We come face to face with the price of our salvation, we are humbled as we see the depravity of our own sinfulness, we are overwhelmed with joy as we discover afresh the amazing love of God. Would you start each day in prayer and the Word this week that we may become unified in the image of the Son?

Lord, help us to grow into the fullness of Christ.

Pastor Dave.