Reading 1 John 1:5-2:2
Self-condemnation is a common feature of our human experience. Many Christian believers suffer from condemnation of spirit. The reality of our daily failures in our walk with God and the pressure of our interaction with other people often lead to feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy. Forgiveness is a fact from God’s point of view. In Christ He has covered all our sins and when we come to Him in repentance and confession He never fails to cleanse us and give us that sense of freedom and freshness which is our right through the death of our Saviour. But the devil never likes to leave it there. He loves to play on our feelings of weakness and tries to lead us back into condemnation and bondage within our hearts. This is where we need to receive our forgiveness. It is the difference between what the old saints used to call legal and vital truth. Something can be true without our ever entering into the reality of the fact. Sadly, it is the case for many, that God has accomplished their full salvation in Jesus but they never realise it in their own lives. The live in fear and condemnation within their hearts instead of enjoying the full liberty of sons of God.
Satan tries to convince us that, in some way, we need to pay for our sins. But this is a total contradiction of the teaching of Scripture and the work of Calvary. Jesus has met all our debt and we need to receive our forgiveness in Him.
Payment he will not twice demand,
First at my blessed Saviour’s hand,
And then again at mine!
“Read the Bible daily. Make it part of every day’s business to read and meditate on some portion of God’s Word. Gather your manna fresh every morning. Choose your own seasons and hours. Do not scramble over and hurry your reading. Give your Bible the best, and not the worst, part of your time. But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and the Bible every day.”
~ J.C. Ryle
Reading Isaiah 53: 4 – 10
To the person who has not experienced the love of God in Christ for himself, the fact of all the suffering in the world may be the very thing that prevents him from finding God. Why does a God of love allow all these things to happen? How can there be a God of love with such horror and tragedy going on? Questions such as these are wrung from the hearts of well-meaning people who don’t know God’s love at first hand for themselves. The person who has seen the reality and meaning of the Cross has a very different attitude to the question, although he may also experience the reality of suffering.
The Cross reveals certain facts to us which inform us at a deeper level of reality altogether. For example, it reminds us above everything of the awful fact of man’s own responsibility for much of the mess we find ourselves in. The Bible time and again makes a direct link between the world and man’s responsibility in it. Man was created as a responsible agent by God and given the government of every created thing. Man’s failure to carry out that responsibility is reflected tragically in the distortion and tragedy which we see all around us.
C. S. Lewis once said: `It is man, not God, who has produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity that we have poverty and overwork.’ (The Problem of Pain). It is not hard to apply this thesis to our own day. Although we express shock and horror at the millions who are threatened with death by hunger and disease in the Third World, it is fairly plain that with a different set of values in operation and a change of will and heart on all sides the problem would be reduced to the point of insignificance.
My daughter, Grace aged 9, keeps asking questions – which in itself is great and something that I really love and encourage. However, all too often I find myself feeling out of my depth when confronted by them. Maybe you have some ‘good’ answers for her questions – I try to avoid trite, superficial, answers to her. Anyhow here are two of the more recent questions;
Will we need to go to the toilet in heaven?
Just as Jesus was about to die on the cross did he know the names of everyone for whom he was dying?
Although I know people will love to tell me the simple, obvious answers to these I guess what i love most is a mind that is enquiring and asking all the time. It makes me wonder how often my mind goes to sleep in the things of God so that I stop pressing on to take hold more and more of Him who took hold of me.
So why not be radical, go and ask a question today.
Reading Romans 6: 5 – 11
It is not enough to be amazed at the mystery of the Cross, however. For it to be effective in our lives we need to receive it into our own lives. A few years ago I heard a direct prophetic word which brought this challenge home to me in a new way.
“Yes! Many hold their hands up in adoration of what I have done, that death, glorious death, supreme sacrifice; their mouths show forth praise. But I say to them, `Come join me. You must enter into that death with me; you died with me. Don’t you see that? I know that you try to please me, but of yourselves you cannot, except that you join me in death. Then you will enter into resurrection life. I tell you that no man can crucify himself, purge his sins. I alone have paid the penalty for sins.’
Therefore we can now say, “I can do all things in Christ Jesus. It is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me.”
Those words made a great impact in my own life. They reveal the true heart of the work of Christ. It was in the power of the Holy Spirit that He offered Himself up for us (Heb. 9:14). It is as we allow the Holy Spirit to do the same work of overcoming sin, affliction and the power of death in us that we will enter into the true victory of Calvary.
Reading John 19: 28 – 37
We have lived for so long with a domesticated idea of the Cross. We have refined it of its horror, and in doing that we have robbed it of its power. This came home to me some time ago when I was living in a convent for a weekend. I stayed in a room which had an exquisite crucifix on one wall. It was carved out of beautiful wood and was a magnificent piece of craftsmanship. But there was something about that crucifix which really troubled me. For two days I could not put my finger on the reason. It was not merely the fact that it was a crucifix.
The next morning I woke up early and when I looked at the crucifix again it suddenly dawned on me what was wrong. It was far too nice! The man on the cross looked as though he was a perfect specimen of humanity. There was a small spot of blood somewhere around his ribs but that was all. Apart from this it seemed as though he had stepped right up on to the cross and was hanging there with ease. There was little evidence of what really took place on Calvary. The person who had crafted the crucifix had completely missed the horror and agony which Jesus experienced in his suffering for us . I reached for my Bible and turned again to John chapter 19 . There was the testimony of what really happened to Jesus on the cross that day. It is not that we are saved by the horror but rather it reminds us that Jesus entered into every facet of human suffering and more to bring the saving power of God to mankind.