Holy Week

Yesterday was the first day of what the Christian calendar calls “Holy Week”.  Beginning with Palm Sunday which remembers Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.  In the space of a week Jesus will experience exaltation at the gates of the city to despite and humiliation at the governor’s mansion.  It all begins with Jesus humbly riding in on a donkey with people laying down palm branches on His path while saying “Hosanna!  Baruch haba b’shem Adonai” which means “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  The people of Jerusalem were excited to receive their king who was going to free them from the oppression of the Roman occupation.  They had messed up beliefs about the Messiah and what He would accomplish.  However, when it became clear that Jesus was not going to lead a rebellion against the Roman rule He quickly falls out of favor with the public and attracts a lot of negative attention from the Pharisees and Sadducees with His teachings about the Kingdom of God.  The people assumed that Jesus would declare Himself king and restore Israel to its former greatness and usher in the Kingdom on earth.  The Jews had always had a nationalistic view of the Messianic mission and it led them to assume that they were the only people the Messiah would come for.  Assuming their righteous standing with God because of their chosen status with God.  They were God’s chosen people from among the nations of the world so the Messiah would be on their team and save them from the other nations, not themselves as Jesus taught.  Their national pride was one of the causes for their blindness to the real mission of Jesus.  Jesus taught from the beginning that He would die in the place of sinners and referenced many Old Testament scriptures as proof of His lordship and mission.

We are all in the same position as the people of Jerusalem who were blind to their own personal need of a Messiah.  The real problem was that we have sinned against a holy God and our sins deserve to be punished.  The punishment for our sins is an eternity in hell.  One sin against an eternal God requires an eternal punishment.  Each one of us is steeped in sin from the moment we’re born and are completely incapable of doing anything righteous in the sight of God.  But Jesus, being God, was sent from heaven to live a sinless life and die in the place of sinners so that He would be punished by God instead of us.  God punished Jesus on the cross to the full extent deserved for every human who would be saved.  Only an eternal soul like the one in Jesus could bear the eternal aspect of the wrath for sins.  So for three hours God relentlessly poured out wrath upon wrath on Jesus in our place.  Because of this substitution those who place their faith in Jesus are forgiven because there is no judgment left for them.  On top of that, Jesus was raised from the dead and gave us the righteousness He achieved during His life so that we can have a righteous standing before God until the day we meet Him in the eternal afterlife.

It takes a miracle work of God to reveal this in our hearts and before that miracle we were among the crowds crying “Crucify him!” before Pilate.  As C.J. Mahaney says, “Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us leading us to faith and worship, we must see it as something done by us, leading us to repentance.  Only the man or the woman who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross may claim his share in its grace.”

I pray that all of us this Holy Week would seek to go deeper into the mystery and wonder of the cross and that we would find that our Savior’s love goes deeper than we had ever imagined before!  Seek out the Lord, acknowledge your sins, and find forgiveness and life at the foot of the cross and the empty grave.

2 Cor. 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”

We will serve the LORD

Joshua 24:15, “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

“The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation”, says Exodus 34:6 about the God whom Joshua declare his service of.    In Joshua 24:15, Joshua declares that he will serve the LORD over the gods of the people whom Israel just conquered.  What a mighty display of the LORD’s power and might that He would give His chosen people a land of their own won by force by a people as small as Israel!  The glory and power of the LORD was displayed throughout the land of Canaan in those days as nations were conquered and subjected to Israel.  But yet some of Israel did not choose to serve the LORD like Joshua did.  They were content to continue in rebellion and serve the gods of their neighbors, the heathen gods of the Amorites.

Every day we are faced with a choice of whom we are going to serve, whether it be false gods and sin, or the true living God of the universe.  We not only have the mighty works of the LORD to show us the truth but we have the cross to show us who is worthy of our servitude.  God is so deserving of our service and trust because He sent His own Son to the cross to atone for our sins.  Jesus paid for the sins of serving other gods before we repented and believed so God says, “Repent and believe”, and “love the LORD you God with your whole heart”.  God is justly deserving of our lives in service and trust because of what He’s done for us on the cross in redeeming us from lives of sin and rebellion and making us a part of His kingdom and granting us eternal life.  To Him be all the glory and honor and praise for the mighty work He has done in our lives!  May you choose today to serve the LORD your God and Savior over sin and false gods!  The grace of Jesus Christ be with you today and always!

Hope for sinners

The connection between the sinner and the Savior is trust, not improvement of behavior. That comes later. It’s this order that gives hope. “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). The basis of this wild and wonderful hope (the ungodly justified) is “Christ for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, literal translation). Through faith alone God counts the ungodly as righteous because of Christ. “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Let all who are paralyzed by the weight of sin and the powerlessness to change turn in here.        – John Piper

It’s totally crazy how just by believing in and trusting in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, all a man’s sins are nullified.  Not just nullified, but taken away to make room for righteousness.  It may not be physical righteousness that is apparently evident and manifested immediately, but righteousness in God’s eyes.  The fact that God looks past the sins of people and counts them as righteous is mind-blowing!  In His divine forbearance, God left the sins of people unpunished so that He would show His holiness, righteousness, and anger towards sin in one place, in a definitive way; the cross of Christ.  For those who trust in the great act of self-glorification and love by God, there is a promise that they are forgiven by God and will at the end of their life be saved from the wrath to come.  Bless the Lord for His holiness, righteousness, and love!

Oh sing to the LORD a new song!

For He has done marvelous things;

His right hand and His loly arm have gained Him the victory.

The LORD has made known His salvation…

…Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth;

Break forth in song, rejoice before the LORD, the King.   – Psalm 98:1-2, 4