To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘The Cross’ Category

The Land

In Matthew 27 45-46 we read Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The poignancy of this moment in the overall salvation plan of our God cannot be overestimated. Here is the Lord laying upon Him the iniquity of us all.

What I am particularly concerned to dwell upon though, is the context of our Lord’s anguished cry. It was when there was darkness over all the land. It is easy to read over that statement and pass on to the immensity of our Lord’s utterance. And yet there is great associated significance in the land being covered over in darkness.

After all this was the land which was to be the place where the nation of Israel obtained blessing. It was the land of promise as stated to Abraham in Genesis 12:6-7: Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. This is the land promised as part of the covenant blessing to Abraham’s offspring. When we come to Deuteronomy we see the promise relentlessly focused upon as the people, on the verge of entering that promised land, are connected back to the promise and so we read And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers (Deut 6:23).

Everything about Deuteronomy is about preparing people to go and live a blessed life in the land. Everything in Joshua is about going in to settle that land. This is God’s special provision for His people. And what a rich provision it is; a milk and honey provision. Notice in this scripture how the land is a grace gift from God and it is rich in blessing:  And you shall write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over to enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you (Deut. 27:3).

God always had a purpose to have His people to be for Him in His place. Alas that place was marred and desecrated by a rebellious and ungrateful people

Yet when we come to Calvary’s cross we see that land in darkness. The outworking of the history of the nation had been that of sin and rebellion. They lived so as disparage God’s gift. In the end that land is cast in darkness at midday as our Saviour gives Himself to propitiate the sin of His people. The place which should have been light and life to a blessed obedient people became darkness as the Saviour bore the curse and darkness of His people.

But praise be to the Lord that through Him taking our sin in that darkness it will be that the Lord’s people will be in His place to be for Him forever. This is to be fully known in a heavenly land with its imposing city where we will dwell forever and be for Him forever.

Adam And Eve And The Goodness of God

Adam was told by the Lord that “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 3:16b-17). When he was given this instruction the primary question Adam had to resolve is: Is God good?”

If God is good then the withholding of something was bound to be for Adam’s good. The withholding of the fruit though, was not the only issue. The fruit by it’s name, being called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, had a certain significance. The clear implication of not taking the fruit, is that certain knowledge was being withheld from Adam and his, soon to be, wife.

If Adam concluded that God was not good then this restriction was mean and the accompanying threat was just scaremongering. However, if God is good then the restriction is a grace from the Lord for Adam’s benefit. And the warning is a kindness which reinforces the need to keep the commandment which was for Adams’s blessing.

So how could Adam know that God was good? Simply he just had to look around himself and see the beautiful, fulsome and convivial environment he was in. All of it provided by and gifted to him by God.

But after the command God even went further to prove His goodness. He gave Adam a wife, Eve. She would have been the most beautiful woman in history and they would have had the best sex in history and they were encouraged to do such (see Gen. 2:24 and 1:28).

We conclude then that God’s goodness as etched all over Genesis 1 and 2. Alas, mankind did not live long in this blessed appreciation.

Satan sought to bring Adam and Eve down by inferring that God was not good, but rather a killjoy. His lie was  God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Eve, with the by-standing Adam complicit, fell for it and the rest is history; very sad and bad history. And we feel like shouting at Adam in particular, why did you allow that to happen; you must be crazy to allow any suspicion that God is not good.

This question about the verity of the goodness of God is continually with us as we seek to understand the Bible and life. When we don’t know and don’t understand how do we handle the issues of life? If we have doubts about the goodness of God then we are inevitably in an uncertain predicament about how to move forward in our lack of understanding.

However, if God is good then faith bridges the gap in everything. This is so because, I reason that He is withholding full knowledge from me for my good. At the heart of that conclusion is the reckoning that it is better to trust God than to know everything. As the Word from Habakkuk 2:4b says the righteous shall live by his faith.

So how can we know that God is good? Through the evidence of God’s creation and sustaining of this universe most definitely we can conclude God is good. And as we enjoy food on our tables can we ever doubt that God is good when we have a God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17b). Food comes to us not only as suitable to benefit our bodies, but also for our enjoyment. God is good.

Moreover, when we look back we can follow the example of Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:12 and raise our Ebenezer stone. In that verse we read: Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”

The apogee of our being convinced of the goodness of God is the cross of our Lord Jesus. Of that event we read 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). Calvary says “God is good” in the most profound way. In Christ, God deals with our most pressing need; our sins. Truly God is good.

The evidence then is overwhelming: there is a God and He is good. The saving value of the benefits of the cross trumpets this above all the other melodies of His goodness.

Calvary says: God is good, So faith says: I believe, even when I don’t understand. When suffering comes, when people mess us around, when we feel disobedience would be more convenient. In all the trying circumstances of life we recall that God is good and we trust and obey.

 

Our Sins Are Gone.

The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel (see Jer. 50:18a) says in Jeremiah 50:20. 

In those days, at that time,’
    declares the Lord,
‘search will be made for Israel’s guilt,
    but there will be none,
and for the sins of Judah,
    but none will be found,
    for I will forgive the remnant I spare.

This is such good news. Guilt resulting from the committal of sins is the fundamental problem of the human race. It is because of sins that we will eternally die. It is not poverty, disease or a miscellany of a myriad of things that will damn us, it is our sin. We stand guilty before the eternal judgement throne of the eternal Judge. We face the sentence of “guilty” and the punishment of death.

Then the good news comes there is no guilt; it is gone. There are no sins; they are gone. We are in Romans 8:1 territory: there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Because of our Lord Jesus taking our sins and our guilt to Calvary’s cross we can rejoice with Israel and Judah about removed guilt and removed sins. Oh precious is the fact of our Lord Jesus giving himself. So let us believe in Him afresh and rejoice in Him afresh.

If these fundamental truths grip our hearts we will be set for a good Lord’s Day tomorrow.

Adam And The Gospel.

We can never fully grasp the immensity of the cataclysmic events that unfolded in Genesis 3. We begin the chapter with a harmonious earth beautifully ordered, with man and woman taking their place obediently in their realm before God. We end the chapter with sin on the march, all creation under judgement, everything bearing the marks of the curse and man barred from the garden of Eden.

In the midst of all this chaos we find there is gospel hope. There is hope of a better day. It first comes with the promise in v15 and is found in these words of the Lord God to the snake (Satan).

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.’

The seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, will have His heel struck and so will be brought to the cross. But in that cross He will crush the head of Satan and render him powerless.

This is the only bright word amidst the devastation, ensuing from the fall, that was all around him. And yet in v20 we read Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. Logic would determine that he must call her the mother of all the dying, because that is what prevailed all around. There was no life in sight. And yet, hanging on to the promise of v15, he, in faith, declared her to be Eve. He asserted that God would bring life through the crushing of Satan. Thereby he named her to be the mother of the living. This is amazing faith.

In v21 we see two further critical ingredients of the message of the gospel. In v7b we read how, consequent to the fall,  Adam and Eve realised that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. However, this was to no avail in being a proper cover. In v21 we read how God made garments for them. Before the fall there was no need of any garments because everything was pure and there was no shame. The fall brought shame and Adam and Eve knew they needed to be covered up. The need for coverings, whether they be fig leaves or skins, testify to the fact of mankind in sin. The wearing of garments by ourselves is a continued reminder that we are sinners. The coverings are an ongoing testimony to the reality of sin and us being sinners.

We also learn in v21 that the giving up of the life of another is necessary for a suitable covering to be made so that we can be acceptable with God. The coverings of v7 prove to be useless because they were man-made. But then the God-made (and provided) coverings of v21 were entirely sufficient. In the providing of these garments we see a foreshadowing of the ultimate giving up of life and shedding of blood to provide a covering for others when our Lord Jesus died on the cross. There he provided a coat of righteousness to all who believe.

So there is the gospel. The promise, faith, sin and the substitutionary offering. All this reminds us of our need of Christ and the provision of salvation in Christ.

 

 

There Is Room at The Cross For You

Is that true? Is it true that there is room at the cross for you? What do you think? Let us then take some time to consider the issues that the statement raises.

YES, THERE IS!! The first thing we have to assert is that it is most wonderfully true that there is room for us at the cross. By this we mean that the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cleanse the sins of all who come to Him. Never will anyone ever be able to say that there was no salvation for them at the cross. The great gospel summary verse rings loud and true, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Everyone who believes in Christ is saved. That is for definite; there are no exceptions. There is room at the cross. None need keep away fearing that they will not be accepted.

Moreover, there is room at the cross to deal with all the sins of those who believe. In 1 John 1:9 we read, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” We must notice the ‘all’ there. Every bit of unrighteousness is cleansed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is never any reason to fear that we will be damned on account of any sin we have committed. When we have true faith in Jesus we can know all our sins are forgiven. His blood cleanses even the biggest sins. What a wonderful salvation this is. How we should rejoice and be thankful!.

NO, THERE IS NOT!! However, there is a sense that there is no room at the cross for us. This is because it is only Jesus who is the Saviour. He Himself, and He alone, has achieved the mighty eternal act of salvation. ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24). It is the default position of the human being that we want to do something to achieve our own salvation. The pride that is resident in our hearts moves us to want to contribute to our own acceptance with God. And the ultimate way of doing this is to give ourselves totally in a sacrificial way; to offer ourselves on the cross. This thinking is of man, it is of the flesh and although we might consider such a sacrifice to be admirable it is hellish, satanic thinking.

It is only Jesus who can achieve salvation. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21). Only Jesus, who is the sinless, eternal, Son of God who died as the Son of Man, could do this.

Let us unpack this a bit further. On the cross the Lord Jesus made a full and sufficient payment for the sins of all His people. The resurrection of our Saviour proves that His salvation work is done. Many would happily say that Jesus, salvation work is great in itself. But they go on to conclude that it is not enough. They therefore determine to do something themselves to “top-up” that salvation and guarantee their acceptance by God. In doing this they are taking their place alongside his cross to achieve salvation. This is totally wrong.

Paul deals with this thinking in Romans 10:6-8. There we read: ‘But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’[ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim.”

If we undertake some big work, even to the extent of going to heaven or going down to hell to boost our standing before God, we are taking away from the work of Christ. We are saying he must come and live again and die again and be raised again. We are saying to our LORD that what you did in coming to die on the cross to take away our sins was not enough.

But the reality is it is enough. So we lay before people that they have nothing to contribute to their salvation. Salvation is fully achieved by our Saviour. They simply must believe. They must call on the Name of the LORD and thereby they will be saved.

Accordingly, we glory in the full sufficiency of the blood shed by our Saviour on the cross to save us from our sins, whilst simultaneously not taking any credit for our salvation ourselves. No other religion has anything of this ilk, because this is the only true religion.

Taken (and adapted) from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of August 2013

Good Friday Poem

Jesus came to live THE life.
Jesus came to die THE death.
Jesus came to really die.
Jesus came to conquer death.

The Son of God, who is LORD of all,
Is the Christ, the SPECIAL ONE given for all,
Is Jesus, the Saviour, who saves all:
Who saves all who believe in HIM.

On the cross His blood was shed.
On the cross He bore our sins.
On the cross He was made sin for us.
On the cross He made salvation for us.

So our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
Must be received and not rejected.
The Saviour of the World
Must be honoured and not despised.

There is no other who brings salvation.
He is the only One who brings life: eternal life.
Trust Him and you will have blessings untold.
Receive Him and you will be a child of God.

Faith in the Cross.

It is a phrase which is very easily used in preaching. It normally takes the form of an exhortation. “You need to have faith in the finished work of Christ”, or “You must place your faith in the cross” are two ways it is expressed. We so very easily accept such statements without “batting an eye-lid”. But are they really accurate? I would suggest not.

The relentless call of Scripture is that we need to have faith in Christ. Paul reviewing his ministry in Ephesus says that I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus (Acts 20:21). Our faith is to be in Jesus Christ the Lord who once died on the cross to take away our sins. Our faith is not to be in an event, but in a person. When we come by faith to the person of Christ we come into union with Him. We come into the blessing of all that He is and all that He has done for us. Therefore everything that He is as the One who once died for our sins and is now alive and risen and is there in heaven for us is made good to us and for us.

Let me be careful to emphasise here that I believe that the message of the cross is central to our faith. Without the proclamation of Christ and Him crucified there is no gospel message. But we must be careful and biblical in our expressions. We are not called to believe in the cross. We are called to believe in the Christ who gave Himself on the cross for us.

The Cross.

Here is another old hymn that does not get into the modern hymn books. No doubt there is a certain quaintness. However, it expresses some splendid truth. And here is some music if you want to sing

  1. On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
    The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
    And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best
    For a world of lost sinners was slain.

    • Refrain:
      So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
      Till my trophies at last I lay down;
      I will cling to the old rugged cross,
      And exchange it someday for a crown.
  2. Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
    Has a wondrous attraction for me;
    For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
    To bear it to dark Calvary.
  3. In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
    A wondrous beauty I see,
    For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
    To pardon and sanctify me.
  4. To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
    Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
    Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away,
    Where His glory forever I’ll share.

Make The Main Thing, The Main Thing.

As Christians we are in a spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:7-13 makes this abundantly clear. We have an enemy who longs to knock us “off-track”. We are on the road to heavenly glory and Satan can do nothing about that; the victory has been won in and through Christ Jesus our LORD. However, Satan now wants us to get to heaven, badly. He wants us to live ineffective lives.

One of the ways in which the devil does this is for him to get our priorities all mixed up. He makes us direct our energies in ways which lead to no glory for God and are not for the furtherance of God’s kingdom. To use the imagery from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, he sends us into a by-path meadow.

One particular area where this is a danger focuses upon how we respond to the world around us. Our Saviour instructed the disciples Peter and Andrew, when He called them to discipleship / service, to “Come, follow Me”, Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). We are likewise called to be fishing for men. People all around us have been taken captive by the devil to do his will (see 2 Tim. 2:28). People around us are dead in trespasses and sins (see Eph. 2:1b). They are walking the road that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13b). God has called us to be fishers of such people. And the only bait which catches people for Christ is the gospel.

People around us need to know the gospel. It is through believing the gospel that salvation comes into someone’s life. It is through this message that they obtain peace with God (see Rom. 5:1). And as a result they are ready to meet their God and be welcomed into glory.

No doubt many problems afflict the world in which we live, but in our interaction with people the gospel should be our priority. This, of course, reflects the ministry of our Saviour who came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10b). And remember, when He was born, the great declaration from heaven was of a Saviour who was given the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21b).

When we think of our Saviour’s mission in coming to earth we see how the transformation of society is not the key issue. The key issue is the transformation of lives. Accordingly, the fact that there was a measure of peace pertaining in society, when He was born, through the so-called Pax Romana was not sufficient. Rather at that time angels spoke of a different peace (see Luke 2:14b). We easily read over that, but it was a statement which in one sense was quite startling. There were no wars at the time and everything seemed peaceful. However, to have no wars does not mean that there is peace with God. His favour rests on those who start to fear God repent of their sin and believe the gospel. These people have peace; real peace. All this we read about in Luke 2:10-15. True peace does not come through peace treaties, but through the gospel.

Nevertheless, the world around us will be made more thoughtful of their need of Christ when they see our interest in them as we live with love and good works. So our Saviour exhorts His disciples (and us) let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt.5:16b). In many ways Christians should be at the forefront of showing mercy in the community, by this we show people that we love them and are interested in them. Through this opportunities can be afforded to introduce people to Christ and the gospel. In a world crying out for love let us bring that love in a practical way.

However, we need to be careful to make sure that we remember that the main thing is the gospel. That gospel which saves us from our sins. Satan would de-rail us by placing all our emphasis on transforming society through good works. The best of works do not transform society. Society is transformed by people coming to Christ, one by one.

A further great danger in losing our focus on the gospel is that as Christians we start to be set against one another. We are drawn together in Christ through the gospel and only through the gospel. When we start to focus on transforming the world through other means then we can start to set ourselves against one another. So in respect of the recent (and ongoing) conflict in the Middle East between Hamas and Israel in Gaza we can very soon be taking sides. Rather we are called to peacemakers. We are called to bring people together in Christ. This world will never have peace until the Prince of Peace comes. He is the One who will establish a righteous kingdom. But now He is rejected. However, when individuals receive Him they are placed in the family of God regardless of race, language, gender or whatever.

So our big concern should be the gospel and thereby to follow the injunction of the LORD to the eleven. He said: “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20). Let us then be gospel people who live the gospel.

(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter from March 2009)

Are Catholics Christians?

Besides asking this provocative question, we could also consider asking similar questions such as are Anglicans Christians; are Baptists Christians or even are Evangelicals Christians. Whichever of these questions we pose we are driven to consider the critical issue of what makes a Christian? Nevertheless, we will run with our original question; are Catholics Christians?. Our response to this question, no doubt, depends on our background and/or experience. The two extreme viewpoints would be:

  • No Catholic could ever be a Christian.
  • All Catholics are Christians.

However, as ever, in seeking to evaluate this question properly we need to consider what the God who knows all says in His perfect word; the Bible.

First of all though, we need to make a distinction between the system, Roman Catholicism, and the individuals within the system, Catholics. Let us look, initially, at the individuals and ask the question can a Catholic be a Christian? However, in asking such a question we need to go back and ask a prior question: What is a Christian? To which we answer that a Christian is someone who has been born again of the Holy Spirit because as our Lord said unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God (see John 3:3 and 7). Associated with this new birth is the universal Christian experience of repenting of our sins and placing faith in our LORD Jesus Christ (see Acts 20:21) who died to take away our sins.

All Christians then, have been born again and have exercised repentance and faith. So if someone who calls themselves a Catholic (or takes any other label for that matter) has been through these experiences then they are Christians. A Catholic can be a Christian. And if we are true Christians then we share the same salvation with them; we are part of the great household of faith and joy together as brother and sisters in Christ.

However we now have to ask a further question is Roman Catholicism Christian? At this point it might be helpful to remind ourselves of a bit of history. We go back to the early sixteenth century and to a Roman Catholic monk by the name of Martin Luther. He began to seek God and came to realize the great truth that a Christian is not made by keeping the regulations of the Roman church, but by having faith in Christ. God used this man to bring about the recovery of the truth that the just shall live by his faith (Hab. 2:4). The great truth of justification by faith was accordingly recovered.

Of course; the Roman Catholic church did not and still does not affirm this doctrine. Rather, they assert the doctrine of justification by works. They say that someone becomes a Christian by keeping to the Roman Catholic code of practice with baptism, mass, confession etc.. The Roman Catholic Church is seriously in error with these things and is deluding millions by these false teachings.

Associated with the recovery of truth through Luther and the Reformation which ensued was the return to a focus on our LORD Jesus Christ as the one and only Saviour. Christianity finds its focus in Jesus Christ the LORD and Him alone. He is the One who brings us to God through His once finished work on Calvary. However, there are two major ways in which Catholicism takes away from the glory of our LORD Jesus.

The Mass Tenuously the origins of this is found in the Lord’s ordaining that we should remember Him in the bread and wine; the Lord’s Supper. However, rather than this being a remembrance feast, as it should be, Catholicism conceived the mass as a re-sacrifice of our LORD Jesus. Every time the mass takes place, Roman Catholic doctrine says that our LORD, in the bread and wine, is re-sacrificed. Such teaching is seriously wrong. Our Lord after he had made one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God (Heb 10:12). Done is the work that saves once and forever done. When we consider the evil of the mass we must remember as well that great Christian men like Latimer and Ridley were burnt of at the stake in Oxford by the Roman Catholic Establishment some 550 years ago, because they refused to go along with the mass. The same doctrine of the mass is still held by the Roman Catholic Church and is utterly contrary to biblical truth.

Mary The problem here is that Mary is put on a level with our LORD Jesus; she is said to be the co-redemptrix (co-redeemer) with the LORD. This again takes away from the glory of our LORD Jesus and is utterly contrary to scripture. Mary rejoiced in God her Saviour. She is last mentioned in the scriptures as being in a prayer meeting (see Acts 1:14); she is never prayed to. Mary was a sinner who needed a Saviour (see Luk. 1:47). Jesus was the Saviour who died on account of the needs of sinners. Interestingly, although perhaps we were not aware of it, Pope John Paul 11 when he kissed the ground upon arrival in a country he visited was doing so as a symbolic gesture of claiming the land for Mary. Christianity gives all the glory to our Lord Jesus; it is not shared by Him with Mary.

In summary then a Catholic can be a Christian, but Catholicism is never Christian; it is a false church. Accordingly, a Christian may we be still within the fold of Roman Catholicism. However, a Christian should not remain there because the call of the LORD is to come out. Finally as you have read this you may have found it hard teaching to stomach. However, it might be interesting, even helpful, to return to the other questions posed above and even to ask; are evangelicals Christians? Now there is something to chew on. And as you do your chewing remember it is what the Scriptures say that matters.

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of March 2006)

Tag Cloud