Wednesday, March 26, 2008

We Have An Advocate

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

In the previous chapter John has made it clear that we all sin, and in verses 9-10 (which we looked at last time) he told us that if we confess our sins God will forgive our sins and He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. John's motive here is not to encourage us to sin, but to show us that we do not have to sin; John is not giving us a license to sin and that is what chapter 2 is about.

John begins chapter 2 with the words "My little children." With these words, and the switch to the first person singular (I as opposed to we in chapter 1) John is drawing his readers attention to the exhortation that he is about to give them. John does this with the affection and compassion of a father as he addresses his readers as his children in the faith. And what is his message to his children? He tells them that he has not written this letter to them to give them either permission or an excuse to sin; he has actually written to them so that they will not sin, which may seem odd considering that in that last few verses of chapter 1 John made a point to make sure we all knew that we all sin and that God will forgive us if we confess our sins. He even when so far as to say that if we say that we have no sin we are a liar and the truth is not in us. Now he says he has written this to us so that we may not sin, so how do we explain this seeming contradiction here? I think Warren Wiersbe sums this up well when he writes:
There are three motives for obedience. We can obey because we have to, because we need to, or because we want to.

A slave obeys because he has to. If he doesn’t obey he will be punished. An employee obeys because he needs to. He may not enjoy his work, but he does enjoy getting his paycheck! He needs to obey because he has a family to feed and clothe. But a Christian is to obey his Heavenly Father because he wants to—for the relationship between him and God is one of love. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

This is the way we learned obedience when we were children. First, we obeyed because we had to. If we didn’t obey, we were spanked! But as we grew up, we discovered that obedience meant enjoyment and reward; so we started obeying because it met certain needs in our lives. And it was a mark of real maturity when we started obeying because of love.

“Baby Christians” must constantly be warned or rewarded. Mature Christians listen to God’s Word and obey it simply because they love Him.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (1 Jn 2:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

This is the point that John is making here; when we look at the compassion and mercy of God, and the fact that he says that he will forgive all of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, our love for Him should motivate us toward holiness and not toward further sin; we show our love for our Heavenly Father by our obedience to his word, not because we have to but because we want to.

John goes on then to again remind us that even though we are to live a holy life there will be times when we realize that we have fallen short of what God has called us to be and he tells us that when that happens we are not to give up and stop trying. Why? Because we have an advocate with the Father. Webster's Dictionary defines the word advocate as:

1 : one that pleads the cause of another specifically : one that pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court
2 : one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal
3 : one that supports or promotes the interests of another

Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

The Greek word used here is paráklētos, which means, "a legal advisor, pleader, proxy, or advocate, one who comes forward in behalf of and as the representative of another." So the picture that we are getting here is that when we sin as a Christian we have someone who will come forward on our behalf and plead our case before the Father; we have someone who will defend us and who will represent us. John then gives us the identity of this advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous. We will see in the next verse that not only is He our advocate, but that He is also our propitiation; not only does He defend us, but He also is the one who paid our fine (more on that next time).

Notice that John refers to Jesus here as Jesus Christ the righteous. John here is pointing to the holiness and perfection of Jesus, he is reminding us that Jesus is the perfect Son of God and that as our sinless advocate, when Satan brings an accusation against us (Revelation 12:10), He is able to point to His finished work on Calvary and say, “Charge that to My account.”

So as you spend some time alone with God today take a few minutes to thank Him for all He has given you; thank Him for the promise that if you confess them He will forgive all of your sins. And take some time to praise and thank Jesus for being your advocate, for coming to your defense, and for standing up in your place as your representative since you are not able to do so yourself.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Most Important Event In World History

This weekend we celebrate the most important event in world history: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this one event we can see two things that we all need to remember:
  1. Sin is horrific
  2. God loves us
Let's look at these one at a time and see what we can learn.

1.How does the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus teach us the horrific nature of sin?

When God created man and placed him in the Garden of Eden He gave him only one rule to follow: Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then He added, "In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17). We all know the story, Eve was deceived by the serpent, she ate from the tree and then gave some to her husband Adam, who with full knowledge of what he was doing, also ate of the tree. And sin entered the world.

Adam, Eve, and all of creation was instantly hurled into a cycle of death. Just as God had warned, on the day that Adam ate of the forbidden tree he died. No, he didn't die physically on that day (but his physical death was a direct result of that action) he died spiritually - he became separated from God. This shows us how horrific sin is to a holy God - Adam committed one sin, and it brought death and decay to the world, and it separated him from God. And this one action by Adam also caused sin to spread to all mankind, because we all came from Adam. The apostle Paul wrote in the letter to the Romans:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.
Romans 5:12
Because of Adam's sin we are all born in sin, and because of Adam's sin we also sin, and we are separated from God as a result.

Sin is so horrific that it requires death as its payment. In the Old Testament God established a sacrificial system to show us just how bad and how offensive our sin is to Him. God told us that life is in the blood and that sin requires that blood be spilled for its atonement. He showed us through the system of sacrifice that the animal used had to be without spot or blemish which taught us that the sacrifice had to be pure. Then in the book of Hebrews we read that all of this was just a shadow that was to point us to Jesus - the Perfect Lamb of God.

In Jesus' death we also see how horrific sin is, because He became our Passover Lamb and sacrificed Himself to break the curse of sin that we are under. There was not a single man or animal that could pay the penalty for our sin so Jesus became a man, lived a sinless life, and died on our behalf and in our place. He took our sin upon Himself and He took the wrath of God on our behalf. Our sin is so horrific that it caused the death of the Son of God.

2. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus shows us that God loves us.

As I outlined above, our sin has caused us to be separated from our Creator. We are born in sin and as a result we are under a curse of death. God could have just let us die, He could have condemned all of us to an eternity in Hell as payment for our sin. But He didn't! God sent His Son to die in our place and pay the penalty for our sin so that we could have a relationship with Him. All that He requires from us is that we repent (turn) from our sins and put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. When we do this He promises that He will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Do you want to know what love is?

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

Now that is love!!!

I encourage you to take some time over the next few days, as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, and get alone with Him and thank Him for what He did for you. Make this a weekend about more than family and dressing up to go to church. Make this weekend about Him.

Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

If We Confess Our Sins

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

In the last post we saw the importance of recognizing our own sinfulness, and that without that recognition we will not be able to come to the Savior.This time we are going to look at the last 2 verses in chapter 1 and see what we are to do once we have acknowledged our sinfulness, repented of our sins and come to God, and we then find that we are still living in a body of flesh that struggles with sin.

Let me say here right up front that I in no way am indicating that someone can say they are a Christian and then continue in a pattern of unrepentant sin. That is contradictory to the teaching of the Bible in general and to the message of 1 John in particular. (There will be a much more in depth discussion of this topic when we get to chapter 3.)

Before we get into these verses from First John we have to ask a question, do Christians sin? There are many who would say no, but that is not what we see in the Scriptures. What I want to do here is show that as a follower of Jesus Christ who still lives in a fallen world we still have to deal on a daily (hourly?) basis with the presence of sin. After that I want to look at what John said that we are to do about it.

1. Do Christians Sin?

To answer this question we need to look at what the Bible teaches about the believer and sin. I want to start today with a clear passage from Paul's letter to the Galatians. In Galatians chapter 6 the apostle Paul wrote:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
There are 2 important things to point out in this verse: first, in the context of this verse Paul is writing to those who are walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:24-25). It is to this audience that Paul then writes, "if anyone is caught in any transgression" indicating that it is possible for a Christian to fall into sin. The second thing we see here is Paul warning the Christians that he is writing to that they are to proceed with caution when it comes to restoring a brother or sister who has fallen. Why? Because they too can be tempted to fall into the same sin. If it were not possible for a Christian to sin Paul, writing through the power of the Holy Spirit, would not have given us this warning.

This verse in Galatians is not the only place where we find the Christians' struggle with sin (it is always dangerous to try and build a theology on only one passage or verse) we can also see this all throughout the Bible. Here are just a few more passages that teach this:

In Romans 7, in the context of wanting to do good and not doing it, the apostle Paul writes:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
And one last passage. This one is Jesus, on His last night with His disciples before He was betrayed. In John chapter 13, as Jesus and the disciples are preparing to celebrate the Passover, Jesus laid aside his garments, put a towel around His waist, and took a basin of water and began to wash the disciples feet. When He came to Peter, Peter protested, and Jesus replied: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:8). Then Peter said, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (verse 9). Jesus then answered Peter with these words:
The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean..."
Why did Jesus say this? In addition to showing us that we are to all serve one another with humility He was also making the point that once a person comes to faith in Him and repents of their sin their salvation is secure, but we get dirty feet from walking around in this world so we need to wash our feet. There is no need to be re-saved every time you commit a sin, you simply need to confess it to your Heavenly Father, repent of it, and move on.

We could spend a lot more time on this topic, but for the sake of time let's move on to the second question and 1 John 1:9-10.

2. How does John say the believer is to respond to sin?

We now arrive a 1 John 1:9, which says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and then cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This verse brings up at least 3 more questions that we must deal with:
  1. What does it mean to confess our sins?
  2. Why does John say that God is "faithful and just" when He forgives us?
  3. What does it mean that He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness?

Let's take these one at a time:

First, what does John mean when he says we are to confess our sins? Is confession just saying, "I sinned, I'm sorry." or is there something more involved? The Greek word used here is the word homologéō, which means to say the same thing as another. So what John is telling us here is that confession is not merely saying that you are sorry, it is acknowledging openly to God what we have done and agreeing with Him (saying the same thing) that what we have done was sinful. For example, according to the definition of the word homologéō if you have just realized that you have been gossiping about someone and that you need to confess it to God you would say something like, "I have sinned Father. I have been gossiping about ... and Your word makes it clear that gossiping is a sin and that it is wrong. I agree with what you say and I confess that what I have done is a sin. I repent of this and will not do it again." Confession is not simply saying that you are sorry; that is obviously involved, but confession is much more than that.

The verse then goes on to say that if we do confess our sins that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins, which brings us to our next question: Why does John say that God is "faithful and just" when he forgives us? To answer this question we only have to go to the book of Isaiah and read what was prophetically written about the death of the Messiah; Isaiah wrote:
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.
According to this verse when Jesus died on the cross He paid the penalty for our sin, so it is just for God to forgive us not because we deserve to be forgiven, but because the penalty for our sin has already been paid. Our faithful God is justified in forgiving us simply because the debt of our sin has already been paid, and to require another payment for our sin beyond what His Son has already paid would be unjust because it would be like a judge requiring a criminal to pay a fine that has already been paid in full.

Finally then we read in verse 9 that "He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness." John has already told us (verse 8) that we are not to deceive ourselves by thinking that we are sinless, and he has just told us that we are to confess our sins to God. Now he is giving us a wonderful truth that as we confess to God every sin that we are aware of that because God is faithful and just, and because Jesus has paid the penalty for our sin with His blood, that God will forgive not only the sins that we know of and confess to Him, but He will forgive ALL of our sins - even the ones we are unaware of!

John then wraps up this chapter in verse 10 where he once again reminds us that we are all sinners and when we deny that fact we show that we do not believe God's word about us; we make Him a liar and we prove that His word is not in us.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Puritans (Part 6)

While I finish up my next 1 John post here is another excerpt from Puritan author Thomas Watson. This time he is warning us about the dangers of Hell and exhorting us to resist the devil and his schemes. James tells us to:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

So read what Thomas Watson had to say, and then spend some time today alone with God, this is the only way that we can successfully resist the devil and draw near to our Heavenly Father.

"Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done!" Isaiah 3:10-11

When things seem to be well with the wicked—though they have more than their heart can wish—yet it shall be woe with them at last! "Because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them." Ecclesiastes 8:13

The ungodly man lives under the curse of God! Floods of God's fury and wrath hang over the head of a wicked man! He is heir to all the plagues written in the Book of God! All of God's curses are the sinner's portion, and, if he dies in his sin—he is sure to have his portion paid to him!

Woe unto the wicked! Every bit of food he has—he has it with a curse! It is like poisoned food given to a dog! Every drop of wine he drinks—he swallows a curse with it! Woe unto the wicked! There is a curse in his cup, and upon his table!

Death puts an end to all his COMFORTS—no more indulging and pampering the flesh; no more cups of wine; no more music. "All the fancy things you loved so much are gone! The luxuries and splendor that you prized so much will never be yours again. They are gone forever!" Revelation 18:14. No more joy and gladness, no more mirth and music. All a sinner's choice foods, his fancy garments, his sparkling jewels—all depart from him at death!

Death is the beginning of all his MISERIES! Every sin at the hour of death, stands with its drawn sword in its hand. Those sins which delighted him in life—now frighten and terrify him! All his joy and mirth—is turn into sadness! All the sugared joys of a wicked man at the hour of death—turn into the water of tears and sorrow.

After death, follows the sentence: "Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!" Go from the presence of Christ—in whose presence is fullness of joy! Go from Christ—with a curse! Remember this, you who go on in your sins—once this sentence is passed—it can never be reversed!

Hell is the very epitome of misery, "I am in agony in this fire!" Luke 16:24. The Scripture tells us that in hell, there are these three things: darkness, fire, and chains!

Hell is called a place of DARKNESS. "For whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever!" Jude 13. Hell is a black region, nothing but the blackness of darkness forever. It must be a dark place—where they shall be separated from the light of God's presence. Indeed, Augustine thinks there shall be some little sulphurous light there; but even if it is so, that light will only serve that the damned may see the tragedy of their own misery, and see themselves tormented!

In hell, there is FIRE. It is called a burning lake "Anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life, was thrown into the lake of fire!" Revelation 20:15. You know that fire is the most torturing element, and makes the most dreadful impression on the flesh. Hell is a place of fire.

It is disputed among the learned, what kind of fire it is—I wish we may never know! It is material fire—but far hotter than any earthly fires—which are but painted fires in comparison with hell-fire! Who knows the power of God's anger! Who can dwell with these everlasting burnings! It is intolerable to endure them—and impossible to escape them!

In hell, there are CHAINS. 2 Peter 2:4. Sinners who now will not be bound by any law of God—shall then have chains of darkness to bind them! These chains suggest unto us, that the wicked in hell shall not have power to walk up and down, which perhaps might be a little easier for them, though very little. But they shall be firmly chained down—so as not to be able to stir! Oh, this will be terrible indeed!

Suppose a man should lie always firmly chained on a down bed—and might not stir out of his place—it would be very painful unto him. But the damned will lie eternally chained upon the rack, always under the torturing scorching of God's wrath!

How dreadful are the thoughts of the condition of the wicked! They are under darkness, fire, and chains!

To add to the torment of hell, there are two more things which show that it shall be woe to the wicked—the worm and the serpent.

First, there is the WORM to torture the damned spirits—the worm of a tormenting conscience! "Where the worm never dies!" Mark 9:44. Oh, how dreadful it will be, to have this tormenting worm! The tormenting conscience a hellish fury! Conscience will be just as if a worm full of poison were feeding on the heart of a man! Those sinners who would never hear the voice of conscience—shall feel the worm of conscience!

Second, as there is the worm to torment, so there is the DEVIL, who is called "the old serpent." In hell, as there is the biting of this worm—so there is the stinging of this old serpent! The damned shall be forced to behold the devil. Anselm said, "I would rather endure all the torments of this life, than to see the devil with bodily eyes." But the wicked shall see the devil—whether they want to or not; and not only see—but feel the stinging of this old serpent, the devil. Satan is full of rage against mankind, and will show no mercy. As he puts forth all his subtlety in tempting man—so he puts out all his cruelty in tormenting man.

This is not all! There are two more things in the torments of hell.

These agonies and hell-convulsions shall be forever. "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever and they have not relief day nor night!" Revelation 14:11. Thus it is in hell. They desire to die—but they cannot. The wicked shall be always dying—but never dead. The smoke of the furnace ascends forever and ever. Oh, who can endure thus to be forever upon this rack! This word "forever" breaks the heart! Wicked men now think a sermon and a prayer long—but oh, how long will it be, to lie in hell forever and ever! After millions of years, their torments are as far from ending—as at the first hour they began!

Another aggravation of hell torment, is that the damned in hell have none to pity them. It is some comfort, some ease—to now have our friends to pity us in our sickness and need—but those in hell have no friends. God's mercy will not pity them. His mercy is turned into fury! The holy angels will not pity them—but will rejoice when they see God's vengeance. They exult and glory when they see the justice of God executed upon His enemies! "And again they shouted—Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever!" Revelation 19:3. Oh, how sad is this—to lie in the scalding furnace of God's wrath—and none to pity them! When they cry out—God will laugh at them!

What a frightening word is this—to all wicked men who go on desperately in sin. There has never been such an inundation of wickedness, as now. Men sin as if they would spite God, and dare Him to damn them! Men sin so greedily—as if they were afraid that hell's gates would be shut up before they got there! Oh, how brazenly do many sin! They go to hell shamelessly in their wickedness!

"There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth!" One says, "That is sad fare—where weeping is the first course—and gnashing of teeth is the second course!" This gnashing of teeth arises from the extremity of the torment which the wicked suffer. They are not able to bear it—and know not how to avoid it! Also, the wicked in hell gnash their teeth at the godly—to see them in heaven, those whom they persecuted, scoffed, and jeered at—and themselves in hell forever! How may this astonish a wicked man! If all the curses in the Bible will make a man miserable—he shall be made so!

Take heed that none of you are found among the number of the wicked. Take heed of being of this black regiment, which wears the devil's colors and fights under his banner! The sinner and the fiery furnace—shall never be parted! Take heed of those sins which will bring you to hell-fire! When you are tempted to any wickedness, think to yourself, "How can I bear the fierceness of God's wrath forever! How can I lie in the winepress of God's wrath forever!" Take heed of those sins which will bring you into this place of torment!

I have read a story of a young woman who, being tempted by a young man to commit sin, said unto him, "Grant me but one request—and I will do what you ask."

"What is that?" he said.

"Only hold your finger for one hour, in the flame of this burning candle."

"No, I will not do that!"

She replied, "Will you not for my sake, hold your finger for one hour in the flame—and will you have my soul lie burning in hell forever!" Thus, she rebuked the temptation.

Does Satan tempt you to wickedness? Say this, "Oh, Satan, if I embrace your temptations, I must lie under your tormenting cruelty for all eternity!" This will be a shield, to quench the fiery darts of the devil.

Wicked men live cursed—and die damned! They are the very mark which God will shoot at—and He never misses His mark!

Thomas Watson

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Are You Deceived?

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

In my last post I wrote that we would cover verses 8-10 next time, but as I began to study these and pray about these 3 verses I decided to break this down into 2 posts. So today we are going look only at verse 8 of 1 John chapter 1, and we will pick up verses 9 & 10 next time.

In my previous 2 posts on First John we have seen that God is holy (God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all) and that he requires holiness from us as well. Then we saw that it is only through the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, that we can be made holy (the blood of Jesus, his Son cleanses us from all sin). In this verse we are going to see that without the acknowledgment of our sin we are not in fellowship with God. In fact, John goes so far as to say that the truth is not in us.

As I read this, the question that came to my mind was: What does it mean to say that we have no sin, or conversely, how do we acknowledge that we have sin? If getting this wrong results in self deception, and this is somehow tied into our very salvation, we had better get this one right.

What does it mean to say that we have no sin, and why is this important ?

John begins by saying, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Why would John tell us that if we say we have no sin then truth is not in us? I think the reason is that far too often we tend to see ourselves as better than we really are. The world teaches us that man is inherently good, but the Bible is clear that we are just the opposite - we are evil. The Bible actually teaches that apart from Christ we are dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:5).

In our minds we may have made some mistakes, but overall we're pretty good people. But this is not how God sees us and not how we should see ourselves. There are many passages in the Bible that teach the total depravity of man, but without doing a whole study on that subject let's look at a one; Paul wrote in the letter to the Romans:
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.
This is how God sees us, and before we can have fellowship with Him we must first see ourselves and our sinfulness as He sees it. James tells us to:
Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Why would James say this? Because this is the reaction a person has when they see themselves as God sees them, and they see God as He really is. This is really nothing new, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus begins with these words:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
What Jesus is telling us here is that true salvation begins with us recognizing that we are totally sinful - we are wretched through and through, and there is no good in us at all. Before we can repent of our sin (which is a requirement for salvation) we must first acknowledge that we are sinful and that we have willfully and defiantly disobeyed and rejected God and His commandments. It is not just that we have made little mistakes, but that we are evil to the very core of our being. When we come to this place we will see ourselves as poor in spirit, and we will realize that we have nothing to offer to God. At that point we are then ready to place our faith and trust completely in Him and His provision for our salvation; now we see our sinfulness, and we see that there is nothing within us that can change who we are. Now we can see our need for Christ. Now we see the wickedness of our sin in the eyes of a holy God. This is when mourning comes in, and Jesus tells us that those who mourn will be comforted.

So let's take this now and apply it to what we are seeing here in 1 John 1:8. John is telling us here that anyone who says he has fellowship with God, and does not recognize his own sin, is deceiving himself and the truth is not in him. Does this mean that you cannot be a Christian if you don't recognize your sin? I believe that it does; if we don't see that we are sinful we will never see our need for a Savior. Remember, Jesus said that it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick and that He didn't come to call the righteous but sinners (Mark 2:17).

John goes even further in this verse and actually says that those who say they have no sin are self-deceived. Jeremiah tells us that our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and that is being reiterated here. We must be honest with ourselves and honest with God when it comes to the condition of our heart, because according to what we are seeing here, if we are not we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. In order to experience salvation we must come to grips with our own sinfulness, and as we do and as we confess it to God, He promises to forgive us (more on this next time).

Spend some time today alone with God and ask Him to show you any area of sin in your life that you may have overlooked. Then take what He shows you and confess it to Him, repent of it, and thank Him for the forgiveness of sin that He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Gospel Illustrated

What if there were a picture that gave us a graphic illustration of the gospel? What if nature itself would declare the grace and mercy of God? What if a simple thunderstorm could show us all exactly what took place on the cross and demonstrate once and for all the love that Jesus has for mankind?

On February 12, 2008 that is exactly what happened when during a thunderstorm in Rio de Janeiro someone snapped this picture of the statue of Jesus as it was struck by lightning. When I saw this picture my initial reaction was that this was a cool picture, but as I thought about it more I realized that this picture was a good illustration of the gospel. Let me explain:

We read in the book of Romans that we are all sinners and that the result of, or penalty for, our sin is death (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23). But God, being rich in mercy and because of His great love for us, made us alive through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-5). He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we could become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). God made Him (Jesus) to be the propitiation* for our sins (Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10). The apostle Peter wrote,

He himself [Jesus] bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

I think we are getting a visual depiction of that here with this photograph. What we are seeing is an illustration of Jesus taking the punishment that we deserve - the lightning bolt of God's wrath, if you will - upon Himself.

Is this a perfect picture of the gospel? No. But it does serve to make us pause and reflect on what Jesus did accomplish for us on the cross, so take a few minutes today as you reflect on this picture and thank Jesus for taking the punishment that we deserved upon himself and becoming the propitiation for our sins. And if you have never repented of your sins and placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ today would be a good day to do that as well.

*Propitiation is the Greek word hilasmos, which means to make reconciliation, or to pay the necessary price for the expiation and removal of the sins of the people.

How To Kill Sin

I am currently working on 2 new posts, but since neither of them are ready to go up yet I thought I would share a couple sermons that I just recently listened to. These are 3 of the best sermons I have heard in a long time, and they are dealing with a subject that we don't hear much about these days - how we are Christians are called to make war against the sin in our lives. So while I finish up writing the next 2 posts take some time to listen to these messages by John Piper and learn how to kill sin.

How to Kill Sin - Part 1
How to Kill Sin - Part 2
How to Kill Sin - Part 3

Have a great weekend!