Die Well to Live Well

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At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”  (Mark 15:33–39, NIV 1984).

My Musings – We do not know much about this Roman soldier.  He was a centurion, which means he had a command.  He was, at least ultimately, accountable to Pilate, who was accountable to the Emperor in Rome.  Publicly proclaiming that “surely this man was the Son of God,” could have possibly put his position, perhaps even his life, at risk as he should have had “no god but Caesar.” Certainly no rivaling allegiance.  Because of his position he was likely well-disciplined and not given to unguarded displays of sentimentality.   So what was it that made such an impression on this soldier?

He obviously had witnessed (actually oversaw) the nailing of Jesus to the cross.  He stood at the feet of a condemned man hanging between two criminals convicted of capital offenses.  He could hear the insults of the Jewish religious leaders being hurled at a man that they should have welcomed as Messiah, but that they refused to worship as their God.  Perhaps he was present at the trial, and saw the crowds turn against Jesus, refusing to follow Him as their King.  Preferring instead to have another capital criminal released instead of Jesus.  Was he also present at the scourging?  This man being flogged bled like a mere mortal.  Cried out in agony like beaten animal.  Displayed no intrinsic power to resist his torturers that one might expect of a powerful god.

But something profound happened on that hill that softened this hardened career warrior.  And not just him.  Remember, initially both of the criminals crucified with Jesus also hurled insults at Him (Mark 15:32).  Before the end, however, one of those hardened criminals saw in Jesus what the Roman centurion saw (Luke 23:40).  Jesus died (“when the centurion…saw how he died”) liked He lived.  Displaying unmistakable divinity through His unblemished humanity.  His living well (sinless and without defect), would have gone for naught if He had not died well (submissive to His Father’s will).  Yes indeed, “surely this man was the Son of God!

My Advice – Hardened criminal and hardened soldiers are able to recognize and respond to Christ.  Perhaps, for whatever reason, your heart has become hardened.  It is possible for it to become so hardened that it is no longer capable of responding to Christ.  Do not let that happen to you.  “For [our Heavenly] Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and [Christ] will raise him up at the last day.”  (John 6:40, NIV 1984). You will need to die to self (die well) and receive new life (live well) in Christ.  My “Born Again Experience” musings will show you how.

Forgiven Little, Forgiven Much

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Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”  (Luke 7:44–47, NIV 1984).

My Musings – How grateful are we really for God’s forgiveness of our sins?  How grateful should we be?  One sin is enough to separate us from a Holy God for all eternity.  No matter how “small” our forgiven sins are, we should be eternally grateful.

My Advice – Pause for a moment to thank God for your salvation (if you are saved).  If you are not saved, show your gratitude that your sins are not too great to be forgiven, by asking Christ into your heart.

Erasing Adjectives

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Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  (John 20:24–28, NIV 1978).

My Musings – Imagine your worst failure or lapse of judgement.  Now imagine that is how you would always be remembered.  Thomas was hand-picked by Jesus to be one of the twelve.  When Jesus indicated His intent to go back to Judea (when Lazarus died), a place where the religious leaders tried to stone Him, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  (John 11:16, NIV 1984).   According to Fox’s Book of Martyrs, Thomas preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.  Yet, despite all this, down through the ages Thomas has been known by the adjective “doubting” (expressing or feeling uncertainty or lack of conviction).  Lack of conviction? “My Lord and my God!

My Advice – The beginning of a new year, is routinely thought of as a time of new beginnings.  A time to wipe the slate clean and start anew.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 1984).  If you are not already “in Christ,” there is no better way to start anew.  If you are already “in Christ,” but feel that past failures are too terrible to be wiped clean, we are promised that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9).  Either way, make 2020 and time of new beginnings in Christ.  We need not be defined or remembered by our failures or lapses. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:11–12, NIV 1984). Happy New Year!

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Want to become a Christian (start anew)? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ (wipe the slate clean)? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

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Today’s musing was inspired by Elder Keith Miller’s sermon on December 29, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

Kneel By The Cradle, Bow To The King

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My Musings – We cannot really understand the ancient prophecies concerning the birth of the Prince of Peace, until we come to understand why the King wore a crown of thorns. “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities…and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” A crown of thorns, worn to His death, so that we might wear a crown of life.

My Advice – The first coming is in the past.  The second coming draws closer each day.  The “birth pains” are more frequent and intense.  Soon, “as surely as I live,” says the Lord, “every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.” (Romans 14:11, NIV 1984).  If we do not confess Him now, confessing Him then will be too late.  Are you ready?

 

What Child Is This? Surely He Is The Son of God!

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My Musings – We cannot truly kneel with the shepherds alongside the cradle in worship of the Christ child, until we have first knelt with the centurion at the foot of the cross and confessed that “surely this man is the Son of God!” A confession in the face of eternal death that leads to new birth and eternal life in Christ.

My Advice – Have you made this great confession?  If not, why not celebrate the “seasons” by doing so now?  It would be the best Christmas present ever.  Not sure how?   See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”

A Cry For Revival

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My Musings – The above verse is a conditional statement.  Conditional statements contain a hypothetical (if) and a consequence (then) when the conditions of the hypothetical are met.

If – Something(s) that must happen:

  • My people, called by My name – In the context of the above verse, this was Israel.  Today, we could apply it to the Church.
  • Will humble themselves – Freed from pride and arrogance. An expression of deference or submission.
  • Pray – To speak to God especially in order to give thanks or to ask for something.
  • Seek My face – To go in search of, to look for, to try to discover.
  • Turn – To face an opposite or different direction.
  • From Wicked Ways – Morally very bad, evil.

Then – Before something else can happen:

  • I will hear – To pay attention to.
  • I will forgive – Pardon, cancel a debt.
  • I will heal – Correct or put right an undesirable situation.

My Advice – We often attribute the declining state of morality on society in general.  Yet the above verse places the responsibility on the people of God.  We know what we (the Church) need to do (if) in order for God to hear our appeal for the “land” to be healed.  A verse from an old song states “that it only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon those all around, can warm up in the glowing.”  Be a spark in your local Body, then “pass it on.”  We have to have a spark before we can have a fire.  We have to get it going, before we can expect the glowing.

If…

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My Musings – No fine print here.  It is a small word, but it begins the sentence – “if.”  It is not a trap for the unwary, it merely establishes the sentence as a conditional clause.  When the conditions are met, the promise that follows is assured (God cannot lie, He is “faithful and just“).  He not only forgives us, but He purifies us, removing the stain of sin altogether.

Until the conditions are met, however, there is no obligation to fulfill the promise.  Confession must precede forgiveness.  Why would be expect our sins to be forgiven if we do not even admit that we have any?

My Advice – Do not let pride get in the way of forgiveness.