“If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8 (NASB)
Regardless of how consecrated we may be, regardless of how completely separated from the world, no matter how far advanced in holiness we may become, never in this tabernacle of flesh will we pass beyond the need for cleansing. Paul warned of this in 1 Corinthians 10:12: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”
Through the disobedience of Adam all men are sinners. Even if it were possible for a person to live above sin from the time he reaches the age of accountability until he dies, if his character were absolutely unmarked by sin, he still could not say, “I have no sin.”
Sin has roots; sin also bears fruit. The flesh, the old nature, the root that produces fruit, is always there. As long as we live we will be plagued with our own flesh; but thank God, the Holy Spirit is victor over the flesh, and He is the Divine Agent who gives us victory.
In the first Adam, all die; but in the last Adam (Jesus) all who believe are saved from sin and the curse of the fall. It is Jesus the Righteous One who presents us faultless to the Father; it is not we ourselves. He is the propitiation for our sins, He is our Redeemer, Sanctifier, Leader, Protector, Savior–and He has promised to never leave us not forsake us. He has declared that if we confess Him before men He will confess us before the heavenly Father.
Because we have fixed our hope on the living God. 1 Timothy 4:10b (NASB)
Most of us want to be optimistic. Optimism is that positive outlook that is based on how things are going. Hope is different from optimism. Hope is not based on what is going on at the moment or the direction in which things are headed.
Hope is based on a promise that something is going to change the course of events. It is not based on the latest experience we have had, or on how optimistic or pessimistic we feel at the moment.
Hope keeps on going when optimism fails. Hope is remembering the promises of God, remembering how He has broken into human events in the past, and the promise that He will do it again.
It’s easy to grow downhearted
when nothing goes your way.
It’s easy to be discouraged when
you have a troublesome day.
But trouble is only a challenge
to spur you on to achieve
The best that God has to offer
if you have the faith to believe.
Helen Steiner Rice
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and over turned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves, He said “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” John 2:13-16 (NASB)
Tables flipping over, money flying everywhere, animals in a stampede as man and beast ran from the court of the Gentiles. Then the figure of Jesus emerged, standing with whip in hand. “Get out of here! How hare you turn My Father’s house into a business.”
This is not the Jesus meek and mild that is so often portrayed. This is not the nice, gentle, pastoral shepherd who leads us into green pastures and beside still waters. This is the angry Jesus.
What is going on here? Why is Jesus so angry about what is transpiring in the temple?
The real problem here is not just that Jesus is mad, but that He is at the temple mad, that He is at the Passover mad. Hundreds of worshipers would have been at the temple at any given time during the Passover. This is one of the holiest of feasts for the Jews, because through it they remembered that the death angel had “passed over” their homes that last night in Egypt. This is when they paused to remember their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. This is when they were coalesced as a people of God. Now of all times, Jesus shows up and really lets them have it.
Why? Simply put, worship had become a “market enterprise” rather than a spiritual enterprise. Worship had become a matter of ritual, of doing the proper thing at the proper time, rather than a matter of heart and soul. Religion and worship had become matters of transaction rather than relationship: you pay your money and you get your forgiveness. Or as in our modern church, you just say a few words and accept Jesus as your Savior and all will be forgiven and you will go to heaven when you die. Before you revolt, hear me clearly; there is nothing wrong with the previous sentence, except when that is all there is to one’s faith. There was nothing wrong with the Jews buying doves, goats, lambs, and cattle for sacrifice, except when that was all there was to their faith.
When our faith is determined more by what we want or need than by what God wants for us, then we are destined to become more like Walmart than the Church of Jesus Christ. We have so prostituted the nature of the Church that often people go “church shopping” with the attitude of seeing which church offers the most bang for their buck, rather than spending time in prayer seeking God’s will.
The problem with this type of Christianity is that it can be both superficial and artificial. Jesus is striking out at a loss of sacredness, at a loss of a sense of holy places and holy times, which is revealing of a loss of relationship with the Holy One, God. When worship becomes duty rather than love, obligation rather than opportunity, it is not long before it becomes optional altogether. When we lose worship, when we lose the sense of the Holy God among us, we have lost what makes us special creatures of Holy God.
If you think you are beaten you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t;
If you want to win but think you can’t
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose you’re lost;
For out of the world we find
Success begins with a fellow’s will;
It’s all in the state of mind.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger and faster man,
But sooner or latter the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.
I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart. Psalm 40:8 (KJV)
Devotion is really neither more nor less than a general inclination and readiness to do that which we know to be acceptable to God. It is that “free spirit” of which David spoke when he said, “I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou hast set my heart at liberty.” People of ordinary goodness walk in God’s way, but the devout run in it, and at length they almost fly therein. To be truly devout, we must not only do God’s will, but we must do it cheerfully.
St. Francis De Sales
Give love, and love to your heart will flow,
A strength in your utmost need;
Have faith, and a score of hearts will show
Their faith in your word and deed.
For life is the mirror of king and slave,
‘Tis just what you are and do;
Then give to the world the best you have,
And the best will come back to you.
In all of the difficult experiences of life, God is working to bring something good out of them. When we come to those moments of grief, when we stand at the graveside of those we love, somehow we can hear the voice of Christ saying to us, “Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” In the moments of life when we are disappointed and frustrated, and we can’t understand why, we can hear His voice saying, “I am with you always.” When life looks confusing, His voice comes to us: “Don’t worry, I am going to bring it out all right in the end. I am working to accomplish My purposes.”
F. B. Meyer, an English preacher, traveled many miles by train, preaching everywhere. He never forgot at the end of the trip to go seek out the engineer and thank him for getting him there safely. This is why we can give thanks to God, because we know that, as we continue to hold on to Him, one day He will get us safely through this experience of life. He will not let us be derailed if we continue to put our trust in Him.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. Ephesians 3:20 (NASB)
God gives us a power
we so seldom employ,
For we’re so unaware
it is filled with such joy.
The gift that God gives us
Which we can fulfill
with sincere expectation,
For there’s power in belief
when we think we will find
Joy for the heart and peace
for the mind.
And believing the day
will bring a surprise
Is not only pleasant
but surprisingly wise.
Helen Steiner Rice
When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. [Then Jesus said, "Father forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing."] And they divided His clothes and cast lots.
The people stood watching, and even the leaders kept scoffing: “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked Him. They came offering Him sour wine and said, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”
An inscription was above Him “This Is The King Of The Jews”
Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”
And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Luke 23:33-43 (HCSB)
People watched Jesus’ every move, scrutinized His every breath, and continually canvassed the heavens in expectation of Elijah–another savior. People were filled with self-righteousness, misguided innocence, and the self-appointed title “protectors of the faith.” People sneered expressions of anger and contempt while ridiculing His divine call.
Those standing before the crucified Christ today are no different. They watch Him move in and out of their communities; they challenge His claims and His witness. They misunderstand His offer of salvation, and often look to other ways to accomplish what only He can give. They are filled with pride and false innocence, and remain indifferent to the Church.
There were soldiers–mocking and taunting the Savior, they inflicted painful blows, spoke cruel antagonisms, and displayed hateful sensibilities. They divided His garments and gambled for His belongings. They made an offering–not a self-giving, sacrificial offering–but the offering of sour wine.
On one side of Jesus hung a blasphemer–an example of a man whose only commonality with the Savior was that he too was dying on a cross. In pain the blasphemer was desperate to be freed from such a cruel death. In anger he hurled insults intended to win his release.
On the other side of Jesus there was another criminal–a common thief. A man who, according to Matthew 27:44, was not totally innocent himself. Convicted and sentenced to death like the blasphemer, the man on the other side of Jesus had lived the same sinful life as his counterpart. But at the critical moment, this criminal rose above his life of crime and looked to Jesus in repentance. He received all that he asked for and more–including the promise of paradise–a promise received by all who profess Jesus as Lord.
The sign above Jesus’ head acknowledged His place in the middle. The marks on His back paid the price for Him to be there. The nails in His hands and feet secured Him there. And those around the cross, those like you and me, mandated His being there.