The Greatest Act of Love…

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Romans 5:6-11(KJV)

6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

What do you think about when you see a depiction of Christ on the cross?

Most of us are overwhelmed by the physical and emotional suffering that He endured—the scourging, beating, thorns, nails, mocking, and shame. We are horrified at the cruelty of the Romans and the hard hearts of the Jewish rulers.

But during the crucifixion, far more was happening than the eye could see.

God was carrying out His plan to rescue mankind, providing everything we need for salvation:

Redemption

Jesus paid the full price of the debt we owed for transgression: death. His payment set us free from bondage to sin.

Forgiveness

God could now release us from the punishment we deserved.

Propitiation

Christ’s payment satisfied
the Father by fulfilling His demand for justice while letting Him forgive us.

Justification

On the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, the Lord now declares believers not guilty. Although we will still sin in this earthly life, our standing before God is one of righteousness. This is a legal declaration that can never be reversed.

Reconciliation

The sin barrier that separated us from the Father was removed by Christ’s death on our behalf. We’re now God’s children—we have open access to Him and fellowship with Him.

The crucifixion was the only way to rescue lost humanity.

If there had been any other way, the cross would have been a grotesque display of divine cruelty.

But because so much was at stake, it can truly be called the greatest act of love by both the Father and the Son.

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Protected With Divine Power…

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Matthew 9:18-33 (KJV)

18 While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.
19 And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples.
20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
23 And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise,
24 He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.
25 But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose.
26 And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.
27 And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.
28 And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.
29 Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.
30 And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.
31 But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country.
32 As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil.
33 And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel.

The disciples experienced many “mountaintop moments” in their time with Jesus:

The synagogue ruler’s daughter was brought back to life; two men had their sight restored; the mute was enabled to speak; and the demon-possessed man was set free.

But when the storm came that day on the sea, fear invaded their hearts.

Their minds could not recollect the lessons they had learned about the power and purposes of the One they followed.

Even the appearance of Jesus walking on the water did not bring them immediate relief (Matt. 14:26).

When adversity strikes, we sometimes forget our knowledge of God, too. We struggle to recall past answers to prayer, specific guidance provided by the Holy Spirit, and lessons learned in prior crises. Only the present situation seems real.

As our minds spin with future implications, troubled emotions can inhibit clear thinking.

Reading Scripture regularly is a key to remembering biblical truths.

Another important resource is a spiritual journal. As a written record of your pilgrimage with the Lord, it will contain the specifics of how He has previously worked in your life. It serves as a map to trace where you’ve been and how He has helped you along the way.

While your current trial may be a new one, you can look back to see the Lord’s unchangeable nature over the years.

As Christians, we have an enemy who wants our focus diverted from the Lord Jesus.

Let’s thwart the adversary’s strategy by spending time in the Word and by keeping a journal.

Doing so will help us remember how Jesus has provided for us personally and protected us with His divine power.

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A Deep Desire to Be Known…

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Micah 6:6-8 (KJV)

6 Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

There’s a simple message from God that is repeated over and over throughout Scripture—He delights far more in our efforts to know Him than in any gift we might offer Him.

God created us with a deep desire to be known, so it shouldn’t be difficult for us to understand that seeking Him expresses our love better than words ever could.

We begin to take advantage of our great privilege to personally know God when we receive His free gift of new life through Jesus Christ.

From that moment on, we are filled with His Holy Spirit. Jesus, our Mediator, spanned the gap of sin that separated God and man. Through His death on the cross,

He made it possible for us, as unrighteous as we were, to become children of the Lord of Hosts, whose holiness overwhelmed Isaiah (Isa. 6:1-7).

It is impossible to truly know God apart from knowing Jesus.

If our focus is exclusively on our own personal concerns, we will learn very little about the Lord. To further take hold of the privilege Jesus has afforded us—that of knowing the Father—we must be interested in what interests Him.

By looking carefully for His way of doing things, we can come to understand what He deems important.

We know that God has great concern for people who are walking in darkness as well as for those who are sick, suffering, and dying and have no one to help them.

In order to take full advantage of our privilege of knowing Him more deeply, we must share His heart for the world and daily be involved with what He is doing all around us.

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The Costly Redemption Plan…

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Romans 3:23-26 (KJV)

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

In our culture, sin is no longer considered an issue.

Although some people might admit to making mistakes or being wrong, few will actually say, “I have sinned.”

The Lord, however, takes sin very seriously.

Until we learn to see transgression as He does, we will never understand what happened at Christ’s crucifixion.

The cross was God’s perfect answer to a terrible dilemma.

Because the Lord is holy and just, He hates sin and must respond to it with punishment and wrath. Yet He also loves sinners and wants to be reconciled with them.

The cross of Christ was the place where God’s wrath and love collided.

The only way to rescue fallen mankind from eternal punishment was to devise a plan whereby the Lord could forgive sins without compromising His holiness. There was no way to overlook transgressions; His wrath had to be poured out–either on us or a substitute.

But there was only one possible substitute: the perfect Son of God.

So Jesus came to earth as a man and suffered the Lord’s wrath for us as He hung on the cross.

Sin was punished, divine justice was satisfied, and now God could forgive mankind without compromising His character.

His wrath was poured out on His Son so that His love and forgiveness could be lavished upon us.

Because of human limitations, we’ll never grasp all that happened while Jesus hung on the cross.

We can begin to comprehend only the physical suffering He endured, but in the spiritual realm, Christ bore so much more–the very wrath of God.

This costly redemption plan proves God’s great love.

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The Greatest Privilege of All…

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Philippians 3:7-11 (KJV)

7  But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9   And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11  If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

While we meet a tremendous number of people in our lifetime, we sometimes feel particularly privileged to know certain individuals, such as a godly role model, a childhood hero, or someone who was there to help in our time of need.

Still, as wonderful as it is to have these distinctive people in our lives, the greatest privilege of all is to know God.

Even knowing the most exceptional people can never bring us the joy and contentment for which we yearn.

And yet, we frequently chase after worldly acceptance because we forget the treasure of truly knowing the living God.

Oftentimes people get saved and remain satisfied with this first step—knowing a few facts about God is enough for them.

If they are asked, “Do you know God?” most will say that they do. But there’s a vast difference between knowing facts about God and personally relating to Him.

Believers should continually be growing closer to the Father—always learning more about who He is and what He considers important.

When people go through life depending on themselves, they never really know God—He will reveal Himself to a heart that is honest and transparent, not to one that’s full of pride and arrogance.

It is in our brokenness and helplessness that we discover who the Lord is.

Do you have a genuine hunger in your heart to know God? If so, ask Him, “Who are You? What are You like?” Then open yourself to Him, not for His sake—He already knows you perfectly—but for your own sake.

By spending time with Him, you’ll discover you are privileged indeed.

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It’s A Lonely Journey…

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John 12:23-27 (KJV)

23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

We all know that Jesus walked the road to Calvary, but did you know that believers also journey to the cross?

We’ve all been positionally crucified with Christ, but those who hunger for Him participate in a deeper experience of this reality.

Jesus lovingly takes their hand and leads them to the cross. Even though this is the last place anyone wants to go, it’s the only way to partake of God’s best for our lives.

The trip to the cross is not one you take with family and friends.

It’s a lonely journey with just you and Jesus.

He strips away everyone and everything you’ve depended on so that you’ll learn to rely only on Him.

While we’re at the cross, He uncovers layer after layer of self-deception until we begin to see ourselves as He does.

Soon our self-centeredness, inadequacy, and failures are laid bare.

The cross is a place of brokenness, but it’s necessary because there’s no other way we’ll ever bear fruit.

If we hang onto our lives and refuse to take this journey, we’ll be like a grain of wheat that is never planted and never grows.

But those who willingly die to themselves will produce an abundance of spiritual fruit.

The only way Christ can live His life through us is if we’ve allowed ourselves to be crucified.

God doesn’t want you to be content with just your salvation.

There’s so much more He desires to give you and accomplish through you.

Are you willing to take the road to the cross with Him?

Yes, it’s painful, but the rewards in this life and in eternity far outweigh any suffering you will experience.

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Seeking Divine Wisdom…

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Proverbs 2:1-22 (KJV)

1  My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
2  So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
3  Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
4  If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
5  Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.
6  For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
7  He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
8  He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.
9  Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.
10When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;
11Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:
12To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;
13Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness;
14Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked;
15Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths:
16To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;
17Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.
18For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.
19None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.
20That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.
21For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.
22But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.

When someone is interviewing for a new job, it’s common to ask, “What does the benefits package include?”

We’d do well to consider a similar question about the value of living according to God’s wisdom—since the world’s advice about having a good life contrasts sharply with scriptural teachings, we might ask, “What are the benefits?”

In other words, why should we seek to live in obedience to the instructions given in the Bible?

First of all, in seeking God’s wisdom, we will acquire a deeper understanding and knowledge of the Lord. (See Prov. 2:4-6.)

Our perspective on life is greatly enhanced when we have a close relationship with the Father.

He’ll give us the ability to see ourselves, others, and circumstances the way He would view them. As biblical principles permeate our minds, they begin to shape our thinking and responses to all of life’s situations and challenges.

Second, God promises to guide and protect us if we walk wisely (Prov. 2:7-10).

Nothing outside His will can penetrate the shield of protection around those who love and seek to obey Him. When we let His wisdom enter our hearts, discretion watches over our desires and emotions, preventing us from entering into foolish or sinful relationships that would draw us away from Him (Prov. 2:11-20).

Godly understanding and protection don’t become ours simply because we want them.

Such benefits come to people who diligently seek divine wisdom.

If you receive the words of Scripture and let them fill your heart and mind, the Lord will reveal Himself to you and give you His discernment.

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Strength in The Ongoing Battle…

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Luke 4:16-21 (KJV)

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

From some people’s countenance, we judge them to be happy.

Smiles, makeup, and stylish clothing can create an appearance of inner peace. Internally, though, many are in bondage.

In today’s passage, Jesus clarifies His purpose: He has come to set free those in captivity.

Christ was referring to several types of bonds that can imprison our souls.

First, Jesus breaks the chains of sin.

All people have broken God’s law and consequently live apart from Him (Rom. 3:23). But Christ’s death and resurrection free us when we accept His gift of forgiveness and place our trust in Him.

Then we can have a relationship with the Lord.

Secondly, He liberates us from persistent sins like jealousy, bitterness, and gluttony.

His Spirit resides within each believer and provides the power to overcome wrong choices that seemed to “own” us.

He enables us to do what He desires—by bringing immediate healing or by giving guidance and strength in the ongoing battle.

The Creator of mankind made us with a void in our hearts for Jesus to fill.

Everything we put there—whether it seems like a good thing at the time or an obvious bad choice—will ultimately leave us empty.

And we will remain in bondage until God frees us and then provides the only true satisfaction.

Are you one of those people who appear happy and seem to have life figured out, and yet inside feel uneasy and empty?

Jesus Christ is the only One who can redeem you, forgive your sins, and fill the vacant place in your soul.

Allow Him to liberate you today.

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