Focus on the Most Important.
Resist the Devil.
On our knees we fight! On our knees we win!
This is not just a pandemic. It’s not just a culture war. This is spiritual warfare. We who love Jesus are embroiled in a spiritual battle. It’s raging and Satan is following his playbook to the “T”.
And he will flee from you.
~ James 4:7
In the gloom of Friday, He Who is blessed forever – was raised in scorn. But in the bloom of Sunday, He Who is Worthy – was raised in triumph!
He Is Alive!
To the human eye Good Friday was final: God died.
There was no purpose, no plan, and no hope. Jesus’ death was the end. Friday was pointless.
But without Friday, Sunday never comes.
And on Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead and reclaimed His immortality. Omnificent God.
He refused death’s hold. Omnipotent God.
Jesus broke sin’s curse. Omniscient God.
Sunday changes everything for all who trust in Jesus, Creator, Sustainer, God Only Wise.
All sinners are separated from God and doomed to die forever – and all are sinners. But everyone who accepts Jesus’ death and resurrection as full payment for their sins will be forgiven in this life and welcomed to eternal life.
Jesus’ resurrection is absolute assurance of God and His character. Easter is the proof of His promises, and His promises are freedom from sin, friendship with God, and life abundant now and forever.
Those are the promises of Easter.
People can be momentarily shocked by the brutality of the cross – shaken by its horror. But then they walk on. On this day: We don’t walk on.
Today is the day we glimpse the face of the crucified Christ and allow ourselves to be wholly undone by sorrow and weighed down in the grief. Was there ever such love as this?
That Friday the heart of the Father rent and the body of the Son broke. The Father turned away and Son drank His wrath for the whole world. Abandoned as a sinner, the Holy One struggled for breath alone. In perfect humility, the Creator submitted to the cruelty of the created. The Commander of Heaven refused rescue as His angelic hosts watched Him die.
Today we remember the sorrow and bask in the answer to the question:
No, there was never such love as this.
Emperor Hadrian ruled the Roman Empire from 117-138 BC. During his reign, he systematically replaced holy sites in Israel with monuments to Roman deities. Though some current historian question Emperor Hadrian’s motives, his actions have traditionally been attributed to his animosity to Christianity.
He figuratively marched through the Holy Land, trying to re-write history without Christ. He built the temple of Venus over the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and had a shrine where the place of the Nativity. The emperor of the known world dedicated time, effort, and resources trying to erase the memory of God’s sojourn on earth.
To no one’s surprise, Emperor Hadrian died, but his temples persisted. . . for a while. Today, the Church of Holy Sepulcher has displaced Venus’ temple, and the Church of the Nativity sits where the emperor’s shrine used to be. But the aforementioned buildings lasted long enough to provide historical attestation to Christ’s life. Today, historians are fairly confident that their identifications of the location of multiple events of Christ’s life are accurate, because Hadrian conveniently marked them for us.
Attempting to destroy the life and legacy of Jesus’ earthly life – Emperor Hadrian preserved it for more than a millennia. God cannot be outlasted, outsmarted, or rubbed out by man’s bias or hatred. Unlike the emperor, God is eternal. His plans are eternal; they always come to fruition regardless of man’s wimpy tactics. God won, and He will win today – Emperor Hadrian would tell you this.
Our culture is short on many things, but entertainment is not one of them. Dramas. Music. Sports on TV or in person. A favorite author or comedian. Movies.
Entertainment is whatever we do just for fun. It doesn’t challenge us to change or pressure us into work or servitude. It is amusement for the moment and enjoyment for the day which allows our minds to rest and retreat from the world.
And thus, the temptation is simply to do whatever I enjoy…regardless of it is content. The problem is that entertainment is a veritable parade of philosophy, theology, and worldview that seers our minds through written and visual pictures. Thus, the morality of entertainment deeply matters as well as the way in which it directs the heart and mind.
You are what you eat. We know that the roasted vegetables fuel our bodies and the French fries, the triple chocolate chunk ice cream, and cheeseburgers…try to fuel them but mostly just hang around…for decades.
Similarly, whatever is consumed in entertainment is going to be part of my memory bank from now on. The beauty of a self-sacrificial love story will be there along with the bloody gore of invading aliens. The wonder of triumph after desperate battle will remain alongside the lewd bedroom scene.
If you are what you eat…is your entertainment building up your spirit or weighing it down like soggy, day old French fries?
I was driving (and even going the speed limit) when my thoughts wandered. I thought about how the wrong things I do separate me from God. I remembered how this breach in our relationship is absolutely un-repairable…at least from my side. And even though this mess I am in (and our world is in) is completely my own fault (and our own fault), God said, “I’ve got a plan to fix that.”
I thought about Jesus as God’s plan and the perfect life He lived. I considered the cruel death He died in my place. I rejoiced in His resurrection from the dead -- which assures all who trust in Him eternal life – because if He could raise Himself, He will raise us too.
And after all that, I thought, “Well, of course, God did that. Of course, I am assured everlasting life. That is all obvious! I’m ready for something deeper.” That is where I stopped in my tracks. The Cross and the Resurrection is the mystery of our faith – there is nothing deeper.
It’s the mystery of why God would love a bunch of rebels, why a King would sacrifice His Son to save slaves, and why the Prince would be willing die to rescue peasants. It’s the puzzle of how people actively opposed to God are awakened to their desperate need of Him today and trust Him forever. It’s the testimony of how those who trust Jesus as Savior and follow Him as Lord of their lives are radically transformed and used by God so others may seek the cross.
There is nothing deeper than that.
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.”
~ 1 Timothy 3:16
This morning I did something I can’t say I’ve ever done before. Before flipping on the lamp, I put my head under the blanket to avoid the classic case of morning fried eyeballs. And as I sat under my quilt slowly pulling it away from my eyes I realized: I will be doing this my entire --because this is the Christian life. A life following Christ is spent in seeking and seeing more of the gloriously light of His truth and majestic splendor of His person and work.
Staying under the blanket all day is not an option. Likewise spiritually, staying under the blanket all life is not an option. God slowly peels back the blanket from our eyes. Each and every day as we seek Him in prayer and study His word, He is able to show more of Himself and the truth. Finally, one day, the blanket will be fully removed and in heaven we shall see Him as He is.
And that case of fried eyeballs I won’t be trying to avoid (1 John 3:2).
You can get very creative if you are bored enough. Observe: When I was a kid, binoculars could be used for all sorts of things – watching the road while driving in the car (guaranteed to make anyone over the age of 12 carsick), spying on the neighbors (an oldie but a goodie), and of course, you could always look through them the wrong way and walk through the house feeling 10 feet tall! That one was always good for a few laughs and a new perspective.
We all understand the importance of perspective (at least when ours is untainted). We understand that things that are truly important today will matter in five years, 10 years, and 50 years. Some of us who are visionaries believe that very important things will matter in 100 and 500 years – just as historical events are important to us today. But the lens of history is not “far-sighted” enough.
Secular historians view King Omri as a “good” ruler? God disagrees. “Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all who were before him.” – 1 Kings 16:25
Authorities on the subject have dubbed King Jeroboam II a successful king. God says otherwise – He declared that that Jeroboam did evil and failed to repent of the sins of his predecessors (2 Kings 12:24).
Current experts look back on Manassah’s rule and approve. God doesn’t. He said that he shed “very much” innocent blood and seduced the people to do evil (2 Kings 21).
It didn’t matter that these three men expanded their country’s impact, improved their economic standing, kept peaceful relations with their powerful neighbors, or made ground breaking treaties and trade agreements. Regardless of the opinions of historians, these kings were weighed and found wanting. Eternal God said their life choices were blind and short sighted (2 Peter 1:9). And His opinion is the only one that matters today and tomorrow, a decade and a millennia from now, and for eternity.
Perhaps I am not as far sighted as I had thought.
Are you sitting down? If not, prepare yourself for a shock. I found myself last night thinking of a career politician (that shall remain unnamed) and the harm “he” had done to our children, our families, and our country. He is doubtless in the later years of his life. He is closer to hell than he has ever been. And still I cringed inside thinking that he could trust in Jesus, repent of his sins, and die and go to heaven.
In my mind and heart – it should be too late for him. The children he has killed will never live again. The women he has scarred will never be made whole again. The marriages he threw away and the futures he squandered are never going to be restored. He will never be able to pay for great evil he has brought to our people and our land. Never.
That attitude is precisely why Jonah ended up at Nineveh against his will and by way of a whale of a taxi. Have you ever heard a sermon that empathized with Jonah? I didn’t think so. And have you read his book and thought, “O, poor Jonah.” No. We are very hard on Jonah.
But the truth is: Get the right sinner in my crosshairs and I cry out with Jonah when he looked on that sinful city and literally yelled at God, “I knew You would do this! You would have mercy on them! And if you are going to spare them, what good is it to live? Just kill me now!”
The Divine answer? God never said they were worthy of grace. Because they weren’t. He never said they would be able to provide reparations for their sins. Because they couldn’t. He merely said, “You pity the plant that I gave you for a day. Why don’t you pity these people who are so ignorant they get lost between their right and left hands?”
And that is where the book of Jonah ends. It doesn’t say how Jonah responded – because that doesn’t matter. What matters is our response. Will I let my Jonah heart be broken and remade before the God Who has been so gracious to me?
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.