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Posts Tagged ‘Salvation’

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Whether I heard it or read it, I don’t remember. But the words caught me by surprise, and I jotted them down:

“What was uppermost in Jesus’ mind as Good Friday approached?

“Joy.”

Do you find that surprising, too?

Yet at least three times on the eve of his crucifixion Jesus spoke about joy (John 15:11; 16:22, 24; 17:13)–a most unusual topic and completely unnatural.  Who thinks about joy when they know that catastrophe is about to strike?

Jesus, that’s who.

Within the next twenty-four hours he would face excruciating pain, total abandonment by his Father, and the most horrific death ever devised.

But his concern was for his disciples, not himself.  Jesus wanted them to remember the important principles of love, obedience, and joy–an empowering joy that no one could take away from them.

Perhaps you remember the scene. Jesus and his disciples had just finished their last Passover supper together. After the meal, he taught his final lesson.

The first mention of joy came near the end of his teaching about the vine and the branches:

“I have told you this

so that my joy may be in you

and that your joy may be complete”

(John 15:11).

The word, “this,” refers to the ways Jesus had just mentioned that will contribute to joy:

1.  Live close to him and produce much good in and through your life (vs.4-8).

2.  Live in obedience to Jesus and experience the warmth, peace, and care of His love (vs. 9-10).

 Note that Jesus wanted his joy to be in the hearts of his disciples. What characterized his joy, compared to that of others?

  1. Strong awareness of the Father’s love for him, and his own love for the Father (vs. 9-10).
  1. Absolute surrender and self-sacrifice of himself to his Father, and the joy of doing what his father had sent him to do. Even during his great travail in the Garden of Gethsemane, his one desire was to do his Father’s will (Luke 22:42).

Jesus’ joy coexisted with the profound sorrow of his impending suffering, because he was already well-acquainted with the satisfaction and fulfillment of obedience.

  1. The understanding that joy deferred to the future is anticipatory joy in the present. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

And finally, Jesus told his disciples that he desired complete joy for them. What does complete joy look like? It is:

  • Not so much an emotion as it is a conviction (Keith Krell, “Moment by Moment,” http://www.bible.org).
  • Inner contentment, resulting from continually cultivating an intimate relationship with Jesus.
  • Constant, not dependent on circumstances.
  • Enduring, day after day. Indestructible.
  • Perfect—the perfect, joy-filled fulfillment of the destiny for which God created you, even when a portion of that destiny is suffering.

I’m thinking of the martyrs–Stephen, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, William Tyndale, John Wycliffe and countless others who demonstrated complete joy even as they died in anguish.

Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John and Bishop of Smyrna for many years, refused to revile Jesus. For that he was burned at the stake.

But before the flames rose up, Polycarp prayed:

“O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy blessed and beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have been given knowledge of thyself…I bless thee for granting me this day and hour, that I may be numbered amongst the martyrs, to share the cup of thine Anointed and to rise again unto life everlasting…”

Such devotion, courage, and supernatural strength are impossible to fathom apart from the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

Can you hear the grace in Polycarp’s voice as he blessed God for the privilege of dying a martyr?

That is complete joy, only experienced by those who trust in Jesus implicitly.

Complete joy that Jesus purchased for us at Calvary.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We marvel, Heavenly Father, in the extreme paradox that is the cross. Out of the evil unleashed upon your Son comes your holy, righteous goodness–upon us. Out of the horror of the crucifixion that Jesus endured comes inexpressible and glorious joy, to those who put their faith in him–not a temporary feeling of elation, but deep, abiding, abundant joy. 

All praise to you, our loving, gracious God!       

(Acts 3:13-16, 1 Peter 1:8, John 6:47, John 10:10)

 

(Photo credit:  www.rejesus.co.uk.)

 

 

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Christmas. The first syllable surely needs no explanation of origin. It speaks of the One we celebrate.

But what about the second syllable, -mas?

Christmas is a term that has been around for nearly a thousand years, coming to us from Old English. Cristes Maesse meant “Mass of Christ.” It was established by church leaders to disconnect the church celebration of Jesus’ birth from pagan holidays and customs—holidays such as Winter Solstice. (Even before the birth of Christ, Romans were celebrating the shortest day of the year, in anticipation of the sun’s gradual return.)

As a matter of fact, as early as the fourth century, Christians were creating their own wintertime celebration. One theologian pointed out in 320 A.D.: “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”

Yet there are those who wish to keep the customs of Christmas without including the One being celebrated. Seems they’d like to take away the first syllable, Christ. But then all that’s left is –mas.

Sounds like mess.

Indeed. I am confident that without Christ, my life would be a mess. 

A mess of fears.

A mess of brokenness.

A mess of worry.

A mess of guilt.

A mess of dissatisfaction.

It’s possible that for a long while I’d be able to hide the mess under glittery packages of stuff, noise and distraction, busy-ness.

But eventually, a body must stop and rest. That’s when my mind would kick into high gear and the mess would wreak havoc in my soul. Chances are I’d develop sleep problems, depression, or perhaps even physical manifestations like ulcers. Stress can do that to a person.

Shouldn’t I at least consider the alternative? What if I do allow Christ in my life?

Oh, my. The list of precious gifts He bestows is astounding and practically endless. To begin, he provides:

  • Calm in place of fear.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1), Jesus said.

  • Restoration in place of brokenness.

 “Anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons” (2 Corinthians 5:17, The Message)!

  • Peace of mind in place of worry.

 “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met…God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matthew 6:33-34, The Message).

  • Forgiveness in place of guilt.

 “Everyone who believes in [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).

  • Contentment in place of dissatisfaction.

 “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

 And among his many other gifts to us, Jesus grants us the incredible privilege of eternal life (John 3:16)—with him in heaven.

But how will I be able to enjoy all these gifts if I don’t give Christ a chance?

I really have nothing of value to lose. Just the mess.

 

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)–the Christ of Christmas!

 

(Art credit:  www.emblibrary.com .)

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Tonight, the Thursday before Easter, we remember the Last Supper and the heart-wrenching scene in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It was there Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

In a matter of hours from that moment, Jesus would face unimaginable pain and suffering. Yet his prayers were not only for himself that night. He prayed for his disciples, and he even prayed for us—those who would believe in him in the future. (I marvel at such selflessness in a time of supreme crisis.) His desire was that God’s love and his presence would be in us (John 17:26).

As a result of his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, Jesus made possible the fulfillment of that prayer. Our crucified, resurrected, and ascended Christ indwells every believer (Colossians 1:27).

Think of it! The all-powerful, all-wise Lord of the universe lives within us! Such an overwhelming, puzzling concept. What could that mean in practical terms?

I like Sarah Young’s explanation: We are intertwined with him in an intimacy involving every fiber of our beings (Jesus Calling, p. 332).

It means that God makes available to us everything we need:

  • Power to handle life’s challenges (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • Wisdom to determine right actions from wrong (James 1:5).
  • Access to talk to him at any time (Hebrews 4:16).
  • Personalized purpose, to fulfill a God-ordained plan (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • Hope that can never be disappointed (Isaiah 40:31).
  • Resources that can never be exhausted (Philippians 4:19).

It means that in Christ we have:

  • Complete forgiveness (Hebrews 8:12).
  • Everlasting life (John 3:16).
  • Overflowing joy (Psalm 16:11).
  • Deep peace (John 14:27).
  • Attentive care (1 Peter 5:7).

Sometimes I act like the Israelites on their trek to the Promised Land. Remember the manna God provided so they wouldn’t go hungry? It tasted like wafers made with honey (Exodus 16:31). That sounds like baklava!! Yet they became so accustomed to the provision, they began to complain. Manna wasn’t good enough after a while.  “Yes, Lord,” they may have said.  “You have been very gracious to provide manna.  But we need meat!”

These blessings of “Christ-in-us” listed above are more precious even than miraculous manna. How could I take such astounding blessings for granted? Add to that the incredible price Jesus paid so I could enjoy those blessings. How dare I think, Yes, Lord, you have been very gracious, but I need more.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *   *     *     *

Dearest Jesus, as I contemplate your deep distress in the Garden, your suffering at the hands of Roman soldiers, and the unfathomable pain you endured on the cross, my petty wants become inconsequential.

Oh, God, forgive me for allowing familiarity to dull the senses—the senses of awe and gratitude for the sacrifice you made.  Willingly.  Lovingly.  

“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all” (from “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”).  

So be it.

 

(Art credit:  www.ldschurchnews.com.)

 

 

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The holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day fills our senses with:

  • Sights of Christmas trees, candles, Santas, and angels.
  • Sounds of carols, from the light-hearted “Frosty the Snowman” to the heart-stirring “O Holy Night.”
  • Textures from prickly pine to plush velvet.
  • Aromas of cinnamon, spice, and gingerbread.
  • Tastes of iced sugar cookies and egg nog.

But the seasonal pleasures are over for another year.  And the uncertainties of our times—political, economical, as well as personal—that we set aside for a few weeks, are coming to the forefront again.  If we’re not careful, troublesome thoughts can raise our blood pressure and take away restful sleep!

What to do?  Take comfort in God’s Word.  “Great peace have they who love your law,” said the psalmist,” and nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165).  I suppose that would include uncertainties, don’t you?

Two verses have ministered to me lately, Romans 8:30-31:

“Those he [God] predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified, those he justified, he also glorified.  What then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Of course, those key words in the first sentence beg to be examined more closely.

Predestination has been the subject of entire books and sometimes causes controversy.  I like the way the Living Application Bible explains the concept, in a footnote to Ephesians 1:5.  “Predestined” means marked out beforehand.

God knew each of us and loved us before we were even born.  He provided the way of salvation so we could be in relationship with him.  That does not negate our responsibility to believe in Jesus, in order to bring to pass God’s predetermined plan.

Called means we have been divinely summoned or invited.   Some Christians are divinely summoned for specific tasks.  Peter (John 21:15-17) and Paul (Acts 9:15) are perfect examples.

Most of us are called to love, obey, and serve God right where he’s placed us—in our homes, churches, business, schools, and neighborhoods.

Whatever our task, he cheers us on to work heartily because we’re doing it for him—to please him and bring him honor (Colossians 3:23-24).

And with his call comes hope, peace, joy, and blessing!

Justification is God’s way of making us right with him.  Out of his gracious love for us, he declares us “not guilty” for our sins. We deserve harsh punishment, but he treats us as righteous if we put our trust in Jesus.  Then the perfect sinlessness of God’s Son is credited to us  (Romans 3:22-25).

Imagine standing before a mighty king who’s dressed in elegant robes.  And there you are, wearing ragged, smelly clothes, staring at the floor, and wishing to be anywhere else but in this imposing throne room.

Suddenly the king’s words break through your embarrassment.  He’s calling for one of his son’s perfect robes to be brought for you.  He doesn’t just want to trade your rags for a  beautiful, pristine robe—he’s eager to do it!  And then, even more amazing, he welcomes you to his banquet table.

That’s justification—being treated as if we weren’t soiled by sin.  Being treated like  a royal son or daughter of the king, though it’s the last thing we deserve.

Full glorification  will occur when we arrive in heaven.  It refers to that moment when you and I will become like Christ (1 John 3:2.)  It is so certain, Paul uses past tense.  Our glorification is taken care of; it’s just a matter of when.

But the process has already begun.  Our glory—that is, anything that brings honor and praise to God—is developing day by day as we allow the Holy Spirit to have influence of our thoughts and choices.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Now consider the magnitude of these four processes which God lovingly, even anxiously, works within us.  I like the way Ken Taylor expresses verse twenty-nine in The Living Bible:

 “Having chosen us, he called us to come to him; and when we came he declared us ‘not guilty,’ filled us with Christ’s goodness, gave us right standing with himself, and promised us his glory.”

 And last, in light of whatever you may be facing in 2014, please take comfort in these joyous words:

“What can we ever say to such wonderful things as these?  If God is on our side, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:30, The Living Bible).

 

 

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Like most expectant parents, Steve and I considered dozens of names before each of our three children were born.

First of all, the name had to have a pleasing ring with our unusual last name, Ruegg (pronounced “rug”).  We passed by Douglas.  Doug Ruegg rings too loudly.

We wanted a name that would not attract teasing or silly nicknames.  We passed by Dustin.  Dusty Ruegg would be too tempting.

And we wanted a name that meant something worthwhile, so we passed by Darnell.  “A-Type-of-Grass” Ruegg would not be very inspiring.

No doubt many of you who are parents experienced the same struggle to find appropriate names for your children.

Mary and Joseph, however, had no such struggle with their firstborn.  The angel who visited Joseph in a dream to tell him about Mary’s child, also informed him of the name.  “You are to give him the name Jesus,” he said (Matthew 1:21a).

And when an angel brought good news of great joy to the shepherds, he said, “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).

These two scriptures give us the three names we probably use most often when referring to God’s Son:  Jesus, Christ, and Lord.

And each name carries significant meaning.

Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew, means “Yahweh (the Lord) is Salvation.”  Could a more perfect name be chosen for the One who would “save his people from their sins?” (Matthew 1:21b).  Yeshua becomes “Joshua” when translated into English.  And in Greek (the language in which the New Testament was written), Yeshua becomes Iesous, or Jesus in English.

Jesus, our Savior.  The only perfect God-Man able to save us from the consequences of our sins.  He is our supreme Christmas gift, given by God, because he loves us.  Deeply.

Christ is English for Christos (Greek), which means “anointed.”  In Hebrew the word would be moshiach, or “Messiah.”

Anointing was a God-ordained custom, to dedicate someone for a special task.  You might remember the prophet, Samuel, anointed David to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 16).  That is, Samuel took oil (probably olive oil) and poured it over David’s head, signifying divine equipping for his royal position.

Again, what could more appropriate than our Savior to be symbolically anointed by God? Jesus was divinely equipped for the special task of saving his people from their sins.

Lord is also a name bestowed on God’s Son.  It is the name that is above every name.  And the glorious day is coming when every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).  Imagine that.  Millions of voices proclaiming his majesty!

Lord is a familiar term, come down to us from feudal times in England, when kings and nobles were addressed as “lord.”  It denoted power and influence.

The history of the word, though, reveals a fascinating connection to Jesus.

Lord is derived from a compound of two very early Old English words:  hlaf (pronounced with a long “a”)  and weardHlaf means “bread,” and weard means “ward” or “guardian.”  Lord literally means “guardian of the bread.”  In feudal times, such a position would be highly important to the household.  And so lord came to mean “a man of authority and rank” (Webster’s New College Dictionary).

 Such background gives new meaning to Jesus’ words, “The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life” (John 6:33, 35a).  In other words, he is the Sustainer of life.  Whoever comes to him can experience deep satisfaction of spirit (v. 35).

Jesus stands as the guardian of our abundant life now and eternal life in heaven yet to come.  He is also the guardian over of our minds and hearts, supplying peace, joy, comfort, and more.

Paul celebrated the magnificence of the Lord Jesus Christ at the close of Romans 8:

“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (vs. 38-39).

And now, what do these names signify to me?  Am I deeply grateful to my Lord Jesus Christ?  Are my thoughts, attitudes, and actions pure and holy gifts I can give back him– my Savior, anointed Deliverer, and Guardian of my life?

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord Jesus, your very names proclaim astounding truths:  you are the Savior of the world!  In fact, you are the only Deliverer who can proclaim us “not guilty” before Almighty God.  And you are our Guardian, caring for our every need, when we depend upon you.  I praise and thank you for your love and grace, demonstrated supremely when you died in our stead.  Oh how I want my life to be a delightful Christmas present for you!

(photo & art credits:  www.babble.com, http://www.thefamily.com, http://www.ortzion.org, http://www.everydaywithmy savior.blogspot.com.)

 

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Crucifixion IV

Crucifixion IV (Photo credit: Remara Photography)

Seems like a cruel oxymoron, doesn’t it—to put the words glory and cross together. Glory carries positive connotations of splendor, radiance, and goodness. The cross is a symbol of horrific pain and suffering.

But the cross is also “an exhibition of the nature of God” (Oswald Chambers). You see, God’s glory is the fullness of who God is, his nature, and includes all his attributes and characters traits. Many of those attributes were at work when God provided the way of salvation for us. The glory of the cross includes:

1. Love

God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Such love is incomprehensible. How could he possibly desire to be in relationship with us? How could he delight in us, frail and self-centered as we are? It makes no sense.

Yet, he sent his Son, Jesus, to take the punishment we deserved and to offer us eternal life. When we invite Jesus into our lives, God takes us from the gutter of depravity and elevates us to the status of beloved children. We are adopted into the family of God (Ephesians 1:5). Incredible!

2. Grace

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

What is grace? All the facets of God’s love—his forgiveness, benevolence, presence, peace, provision, and more—made available to us, who don’t deserve it. Grace prompted God to provide a way for us to experience his love—through the sacrifice of his only Son.

Did you notice? God is the one who provided the way to him; we do not have to figure it out for ourselves, and then hope for the best. By God’s grace, he has made salvation (rescue from death) a sure thing. We can know our place in heaven is secure!

God’s grace, put on display at Calvary, sets Christianity apart from any other belief system in the world.

3. Power

I pray that…you may know…his incomparably great power for us who believe…, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:18-21).

No one can raise someone from the dead except God. When Jesus was resurrected, he demonstrated his power over death, and proved the validity of eternal life, not only for himself, but for all those who believe in him.

But Jesus’ resurrection was not the end of his mission. Read the next couple of verses (22-23) to discover that, after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended back to heaven, God seated His Son at his right hand (the seat of honor). Now Jesus’ power and authority is above all other rule and authority in the universe.

And someday, Jesus will share that power with us. Those of us who have accepted Jesus into our lives will reign with him in heaven (2 Timothy 2:12). My heart is filled with wonder and awe at such a privilege.

4. Faithfulness

God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:7).

Faithful to forgive. Faithful to see us through the journey of this life. Faithful to win the battle over evil in the end. Faithful to keep his promise of eternal life, because of the sacrifice of his Son on the cross.

Our faithful God made salvation so simple for us, but it cost him so much.

5. Justice

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus…He did this to demonstrate his justice” (Romans 3:23-26).

We all deserve punishment, and our guilty consciences confirm that truth. But God made it possible for us to be forgiven and ushered into relationship with him. He declared us “not guilty” because Jesus paid the penalty..

I love the way Eugene Peterson explains it in his paraphrase, The Message: “Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:23-24).

A pure, precious gift; paid for at Calvary. The glory of the cross.

For you. For me.

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 “My heart rejoices in your salvation,” David proclaimed (Psalm 13:5).

When I hear that word, “salvation,” my first thought is salvation from the consequences of my sins. Jesus paid the debt I owed, considers me “not guilty,” and has graciously given me eternal life. That in itself is an overwhelming gift–more wonderful, more generous than any gift I could hope for.

Yet there is more.

God offers me salvation from a number of ills, such as:

Guilt. He not only forgives my sins, he doesn’t even remember them anymore (Isaiah 43:25).

Fear, because he is my stronghold in the time of trouble (Psalm 37:39).

Worry, having promised to supply my every need (Philippians 4:19).

Foolish decisions, by providing his wisdom when I ask for it (James 1:5).

Discouragement, as I put my hope and trust in him, because all things are possible with him (Matthew 19:26).

Loneliness, because he is always with me (Matthew 28:20).

Sadness because in his presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

Feeling useless, when I live each moment for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-12).

Feeling helpless, because in his hands are strength and power (1 Chronicles 29:12). He helps and delivers (Psalm 37:40a).

No doubt a thorough study of scripture would uncover even more ways that God’s saving work is accomplished in my life and yours.

And why is he spending so much time and effort on our behalf, to save us from these malignancies of our souls? You know the answer: He loves us and has our best interests at heart.

That love is not just for the whole lot of us, as one big group. It’s for each one of us individually. We know this, but don’t always live in the confidence of this truth.

So look into his eyes and see the tenderness he feels for you–personally.

Listen to his saving, encouraging word for you and hear the passion in his voice.

Draw near and feel his loving arms pull you close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11).

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

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