Covered

Grace and more grace!

As the prophet Micah wrote regarding God’s intention to restore His unfaithful people Israel, “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).

Today Christ offers the same grace. As Peter told those who had clamored for Jesus’ death, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

And for Christians who sin after conversion: “. . . if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin . . . . If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7, 9).

What forgiveness means

It means we don’t have to keep carrying around an unbearable load of guilt.

It means we can experience God’s grace instead of His wrath.

It means we don’t have to go to hell.

It means we have a future—something to live for and so much to look forward to.

What a relief!

From his own personal experience with God, David wrote, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1).

Somewhere on the ocean floor of God’s fathomless grace, David’s sins lie buried.

Ours can lie there right beside his.

And no sonar will find them—ever.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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“Proclaimed Among the Nations”

No other message like it!

This message is called the gospel, which means “good news.”

Not only is it good news, it is the best news—that the One who took the punishment we deserve because of our sin now offers us forgiveness instead of condemnation, reconciliation to God where there had been alienation, and hope for those without hope.

In this series of posts we’re examining six great truths about Jesus in First Timothy 3:16, “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: / He who was revealed in the flesh, / Was vindicated in the Spirit, / Seen by angels, / Proclaimed among the nations, / Believed on in the world, / Taken up to glory.”

Truth #4: “Proclaimed among the nations.”

The apostles were the first to proclaim the message of grace through Christ. Jesus commissioned Paul to take the good news to the Gentiles: “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18).

The word “Gentiles” means “nations”—how the Jews referred to all those other than themselves.

After centuries of preparing Israel for the arrival of the Messiah through their lineage, God then took it to the next level—all the rest of the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8).

“It must never be forgotten,” said Donald Guthrie, “that a Hebrew Christ had become a Christ for the nations” (The Pastoral Epistles, Eerdmans, p. 90).

“He was being proclaimed without respect to national distinction, without respect to social condition, without respect to culture, with respect simply to the fact that all were sinners and in need of salvation” (James Hastings, The Great Texts of the Bible, Vol. 18, Eerdmans, p. 113).

Good news indeed!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Why Did Jesus Leave Heaven for Earth?

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory . . .” (John 1:1, 14).

“. . . although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).

That the Son of God became Son of Man has to be one of the most astounding historical events of all time.

Even more amazing is that He was willing to do it! Never before or since has anyone undergone such an austere demotion.

But why?

Why would He voluntarily give up the glories of heaven for the hardships of earth, knowing how dearly it would cost Him? The author of the book of Hebrews explains:

First, since those He would come to save “share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

In other words, in heaven Jesus was immortal. Since His death would be the price of our redemption, He had to take on a body capable of dying.

Second, “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18).

Finding our place in His plan

God sent His Son not only to rescue us from our sins, but also that we would “become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

He became like us so we could become like Him.

Will wonders never cease!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Spared from Death

Connections

Two incidents, one from the Old Testament and one from the New, point in the same direction.

The first occurred when God instructed Israel to take the blood of a lamb and put it on their doorposts.

“The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13).

Many centuries later John the apostle described what he witnessed at the cross. “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe” (John 19:34-35).

God witnessed the blood of a lamb on the door. John witnessed the blood of “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Comparisons and contrasts

The blood of the Passover lamb spared the Israelites from physical death. We are spared a doom far worse than the death if we apply the blood of “Christ our Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

The first blood pointed to the second. The lesser was a sign of the greater.

In homes without the blood, there was death. In hearts without the blood of Christ, there is spiritual death.

For Israel, applying the blood was an act of faith and obedience. We too exercise faith and obedience when the blood of Christ cleanses us in baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12-13).

God made a way for Israel to be spared that awful night when death came calling.

God has made a way for us to be spared on the awesome Day when His wrath is poured out on the disobedient.

It’s the blood that makes the difference.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Castoffs

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

In my parents’ backyard was a small white frame building my dad called his tool house. It was equipped with a workbench about 8 feet long, with scrap lumber stored underneath. Plenty of shelving held old cans of paint and miscellaneous hardware collected through the years, along with nails, screws, etc. stored in coffee cans.

I recall my dad saying, “I like to take junk and turn it into something useful.”

What Jesus loved to do

During Jesus’ ministry He was denounced for spending time with people the Pharisees had no use for. He earned a reputation as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). This was meant as a criticism, but aren’t we thankful He is?

Many consider the story of the Prodigal Son His greatest parable. He told it in response to the complaint, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).

On another occasion Jesus explained why He spent so much time with people like this: “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

When He went to the home of Zacchaeus the tax collector, again His critics grumbled, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Jesus replied, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

The Master Carpenter

Jesus delighted in taking castoffs and transforming them into something beautiful, as well as useful.

He did it then.

He’s still doing it.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Freedom!

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Convicted!

“Warning: Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates.” So said the orange sign we passed on an Oklahoma highway.

Hearing about someone who lived next door to the Huntsville prison, a teenager commented, “I wouldn’t want to live next to a prison.” His dad replied, “Better next to than in.”

Some years ago several of us visited the Gurney Unit near Tennessee Colony, Texas. Overlooking the locked gate, the guard kept watch. At the base of the tall enclosure were long coils of razor wire, making escape next to impossible.

Even if an inmate could somehow slip past the guards and over the top, he must always be looking over his shoulder. Out of prison, he can never truly relax as a free man. Really, he isn’t. Legally, he is still a prisoner.

Acquitted!

While we may or may not have done anything that would land us in jail, we have all done things that condemn us to hell (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8). It’s true, so we might as well admit it.

The worst prison on earth can’t compare with the horrors of an eternal hell. Let’s do everything required of us to escape the sentence that will surely be ours if we don’t get right with God. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Though innocent, Jesus was willing to die as a convicted criminal in the most horrible fashion. Because He died in our place, God offers each of us a pardon we surely do not deserve.

It is a pardon that allows us to walk out of our cell on death row, through the gates of sin’s prison, and out into the fresh air and blue skies of freedom! God wipes our record clean.

Nothing we’ve done will ever be held against us. He offers us a fresh start, a new beginning. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Released!

Have you taken the steps to obtain the freedom He so much wants to give you? (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37-38; 22:16).

Why stay locked up when freedom is so available?

Using a similar analogy of the slavery of sin vs. the glorious freedom He offers, Jesus promised, “. . . everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin . . . . So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36).

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Salvation Options?

I heard once about a man who was quite intelligent and highly educated, and yet when he tried to add oil to his car engine, he poured it down the narrow dipstick tube. Well, that’s one way of getting the job done!

Multiple approaches

With some tasks, however, there may be several satisfactory methods. If we need to send a communication to someone, we can use email, fax, telephone, texting, or an old-fashioned letter. The message is the same, regardless of how it’s conveyed.

And then there are wedding options. Whether a big church wedding, a private ceremony at home, or being wed by a justice of the peace, you’re just as married in any case. There are advantages and disadvantages to each arrangement, but still, one can choose.

We are conditioned to multiple options in almost every department of life—from menus to makes of cars to brands of detergent.

Wouldn’t our ancestors be astonished if they could see the almost unlimited choices available to us?

Many avenues?

In regard to salvation, are there many roads to heaven? Does the Bible teach that?

Christ “became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9). But what if we disobey? See 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The Bible says there is only one gospel, only one faith, only one Savior, only one way to be saved, and only one road that leads to life (Galatians 1:6-9; Ephesians 4:4-6; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Matthew 7:13-14).

So what’s our choice? Take it or leave it.

If God offers us one and only one way to be saved, and He does, should any of us have a problem with that?

After all, isn’t that far more than we deserve?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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