So far we have looked at many reasons why Jesus came to earth, lived, and died for us. We have looked at who He was, what He taught, and ultimately how He saved us. We have discussed how He left heaven, became the perfect sacrifice, took the Father’s wrath, rose from the dead, and secured for us a relationship with God and an eternity in Heaven. But today I want to discuss one of the key motivating factors in Jesus’ life and purpose: His own intimate love for each one of us. Continue reading
So far in this series, we have talked about who Jesus is and what He accomplished during His time on earth. However, it struck me this morning that all of this is in vain if we do not understand our need for Jesus. There is no benefit in understanding who He is and what He did, if we don’t understand WHY we needed Him to do it. In other words: We can’t appreciate Jesus, or even trust Him, without understanding our true need for Him.
So, what do you think? Why do we need Jesus?
Our problem, and our subsequent need, is clearly perceived when we focus on God’s attributes. He is Holy, Just, Perfect, and completely Good. These are all great things, aren’t they? But let me ask you this: what does a Good, Holy, Perfect God do with those who aren’t good, holy, or perfect? Can He have fellowship with them? Can He just forgive their wrongdoings? Unfortunately, He cannot. God cannot maintain perfect holiness and goodness if He pardons evil and sin. Similarly, a state judge would not maintain status as a “good judge” if he pardoned every criminal that walked into the courtroom. Even in society, there are standards to live by, and if one breaks the standards, there are serious consequences.
In the same way, God has set up certain standards for us to live by. These are summed up in the Ten Commandments, which we all have broken many times. Jesus summed up the commandments up when He said, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12). Any single breach of these commandments has a consequence: separation from God. Any act of selfishness, greed, worry, dishonesty, pride, envy, or idolatry all break God’s standards…And He can’t simply forgive us just by us asking; there must be a payment. And as often as we will break these commandments, there must be an everlasting payment that can cover all of them! Are starting to feel your need for someone to intervene on your behalf?
In my quiet time this morning, I read in Romans 3,
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
Paul was writing to Jews and non-Jews, showing them their desperate need for Jesus. He squashes the assumption that some people are pretty good, and he leaves no room for the possibility that some people are good enough to have a relationship with God. Paul says that no one does good, not even one- they have become worthless.
I have seen this countless times in evangelism. Most people that I talk to, even people who claim to be Christians, place their hope in heaven or in their relationship with God based on the fact that they are “pretty good,” or that God is “a forgiving God.” If that is the basis of your hope for salvation, I can promise you that you don’t understand Jesus. Paul also says in Romans 2 that it is foolish to presume upon God’s grace or mercy, assuming that He will just pardon us. Why? Because a Holy God cannot forgive and associate with unholiness beings. He has wrath for every unrighteous act that has ever been committed, and He will pour it out on all mankind, unless a holy, perfect sacrifice can appease His wrath, and pay for the sins of mankind.
Do you see our need for a Savior yet?
Jesus fulfills our need and takes us from our helpless state and reconciles us to God. Here’s how:
2 Corinthians 5:21 (with my italics added):
For our sake he (the Father) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus came to earth to take on our sin, and pay for it completely on the cross. The wrath (punishment) that must be poured out on mankind for every unrighteous act ever committed, would be poured out on Jesus on the cross. All of this happened so that “in Jesus,” through trusting in His sacrifice, we might become “the righteousness of God.” Meaning, we are made perfectly righteous in God’s eyes.
When we trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, an amazing exchange happens: Jesus takes our punishment, we are given His perfect record. From that moment on, when God looks on us, He sees the perfect obedience of Jesus. He no longer sees us as unworthy, unholy, imperfect people. He sees us as perfect, because “in Him we have become the righteousness of God.” That is why the Bible can say that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) because there is no more record of our wrong doings! In fact, our entire record has been shredded! There is no more punishment for our sins, past, present or future, because Jesus paid for all of them when He experienced God’s wrath on the cross.
And this wasn’t just a coincidence: it had been planned before the foundation of the world! Jesus wasn’t just conveniently killed by Roman soldiers and God said, “alright, that’ll work!” No. You see, God has been passionately pursuing us since we committed our first sin. He has been on a mission since day one to show us how much He loves us through a relationship with us. And He knew that He could only do this through giving up His own Son to be crucified and abandoned. Isaiah 53 says, “it was the Lord’s will to crush Him (Jesus).” It was planned by God to send His Son to pay for our sins. Out of His great love for us, He planned to send His Son to die for us. And out of His great love for us, Jesus came down to save us.
THIS is why we need Jesus: Because now, in Him, God can show us His love and care in a relationship with us without violating His attributes, because we are now righteous in His eyes, and because all of His wrath toward us, was poured out on Jesus. The payment for our sin was paid in full.
Do you see your need for Jesus?
Then look to Him! Trust Him as the perfect sacrifice for your sin! Trust Him as the bridge between you and a holy God! Trust that He did all of this- because He loves you and wants a relationship with you! Jesus is the ONLY way to have forgiveness; He is the only way to have a relationship with the very God that created you.
Do you trust Him?
If you have any questions about what I have said above, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus dying on the cross somehow saves people from their sins if they trust in Him? Or why people can be in a relationship with God because Jesus was murdered? Yes, we know that we can be “saved” through believing in Jesus, but why? What did He do that gives us the ability to be “saved?”
To help explain this point, I want to examine Jesus’ perfection. I believe that what most people don’t understand about Jesus is that He is the perfect sacrifice for mankind’s sins. He is the perfect sacrifice for many reasons; let’s look at a few.
Jesus never sinned. In Hebrews chapter 4 the author says about Jesus: He “was tempted in every point like we are, yet without sin.” Did you catch that? Not one inappropriate word ever came out of His mouth, not one unacceptable thought ever crossed His mind. Every thought, word, action, message, and decision was perfectly holy and perfectly in obedience to God’s law. Why is this important? Because God has always required a perfect sacrifice to pay for sin. Before Jesus came, people had to either sacrifice an unblemished lamb, a perfect dove, a spotless bull, or many other types of “perfect” offerings to pay for their sins and receive forgiveness from God. If the offerings weren’t perfect, then they would not be accepted by God, and there would be no forgiveness.
This is essential to understanding Jesus. A normal human being could not be a perfect sacrifice, because we are naturally born with a sin nature. Jesus wasn’t! This is also one of the reasons He had to be born of a virgin, so He wasn’t a child of sinful man (lineages were traced through the men). But as He grew up and lived His life, not only did He resist the temptation to sin, but He perfectly obeyed His Father in every situation. Jesus says in John 8:29, “I always do what pleases him.” He was perfect.
This is where we encounter the necessity for a sacrifice: God is Holy. Because He is Holy, He cannot have relationships with wicked, evil beings (which we all are). God has wrath stored up for people’s rebellion against Him, which was temporarily satisfied by the sacrifice of animals. However, animals could never pay for His entire wrath, but Jesus could. Jesus was His only Son. He was the only one able to bear such a horrific judgment (experiencing billion’s of people’s eternal separation from God). Jesus came and lived an obedient life, which no human has ever done, and experienced God’s wrath when He was sacrificed on the Roman cross. God validated Jesus’ sacrifice by raising Him from the dead. In raising Jesus, God basically says, “His sacrifice is enough. All who believe in Him will be forgiven. There will be no more wrath, no more condemnation for them.”
Jesus’ perfect obedience is what saves us, but is also what keeps us in a right relationship with God. When we believe in Jesus, we are given His righteousness. He took the punishment for our sins (wrath) and He gives us His perfect obedience. Now, when God looks on those who have trusted Jesus, He doesn’t hold them accountable for their sin. When He looks on them, He sees the righteousness of His Son. You and I can have the perfect record of Jesus, simply through believing in Him. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”( Rom. 8:1) Why? Because HE was perfect.
Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for our sins. THIS is the good news of the gospel!
As I was driving to school in my truck this morning, I was thinking about what intrigues me the most about Jesus. What necessarily draws me to Him, what makes His character so different from any other religious leader or teacher? I came to one conclusion, and instead of diving into another biblical story this post, I simply want to share with you why Jesus is so attractive to me:
Jesus gets His hands dirty.
Does that sound odd to you? Jesus was NEVER afraid to get His hands dirty. He not only left heaven to come to earth, but He was born in a dirty feeding trough. He not only taught, He also healed. Not only did He preach, but He raised people from the dead. Not only did He teach His disciples, but He cast out demons in front of them. Not only did He eat with sinners, but He fasted and prayed for 40 days. Not only did He live a perfect life, but He gave Himself to be brutally beaten, humiliated, and nailed to a cross. Jesus got dirty.
One of my favorite examples of this is the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy in Mark 1:40-42. Now to gain an understanding of what Jesus does here, we need a little background information. Leprosy is a disease that causes flesh to rot and flake off, eventually leading to one’s death. Eyes rot, limbs deteriorate, and bones usually begin to show. In the religious laws of Jesus’ time, one would become “unclean” just by being near a leper- and have to go “wash” to be spiritually cleansed- from just being in the leper’s presence! Also, people with leprosy were cast out of society, left to die and rot on their own. Families disowned them, and whenever they were seen, shouts of “unclean!” would often resound. Here is a photo of an Indian man with a case of leprosy:
This is the type of person that comes up and talks to Jesus, the teacher who is growing in popularity and who has enormous demands to teach, preach, and heal. What does Jesus do? He gets dirty. Mark 1:40-42 reads,
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
The thing that amazes me about this story is what Jesus does to the man. Do you notice it? We covered earlier that even to be in the presence of a leper would make one “unclean.” To touch one would be downright abominable. But Jesus, “moved with pity,” reaches out and touches the man. Notice Jesus touches him before He cleanses Him. This man most likely did not have physical contact with a human for years, and the first person that touches him is….Jesus. Can you imagine how this must have made the man feel? Jesus does not only heal him, but he touches him. He goes a great length to show the man love and compassion, almost as to say, “You’re not too dirty for me,” and He does that for you and me, too. No one is too dirty for Him to cleanse. But to clean us, He had to get really dirty.
The Bible describes our hearts as leprous- dying, rotting, and unclean. Yet Jesus gave himself over to a bloody death on a cross and took on God’s wrath that was meant for us, so that we might be cleansed forever, and have our leprous hearts made new. If we ask Him to heal our hearts, His response is a warm, “I will, be clean,” and He will reach and touch us, too, as He makes us a part of His family.
This is one of the many reasons why Jesus is so attractive and amazing to me. What other faith or belief system in the world has a God who comes to save His creation through serving them and getting dirty? There are none. Jesus stands out from all of the rest. He alone is the only one who can save.
And I hope you will place your trust in Him, because He is the ONLY one who can make you new. Will you trust Him?
Jesus got dirty…for You.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12
The virgin birth. In America, most of us hear this story every year during the Christmas season, so much so that I believe we have become calloused to the extraordinary way that Jesus entered into our world. The Bible teaches that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in a virgin named Mary. The angel Gabriel tells Mary, “behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”
Often times, we think of Jesus starting His whole life as an infant, but the Bible also teaches that He existed with the Father for all of eternity past. In the book of John, the author describes Jesus as the “Word,” stating that He was with God the Father in the beginning, and that God created all things through Him (John 1:1-3). God says before He creates man, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1:26). So, lets think briefly about the transition from Jesus’ life in heaven to His “birth” on earth….what do you think it was like?
Hard to think about, isn’t it? Thankfully, in Philippians, the author lays out for us what Jesus did when He chose to come to earth:”Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:5-7). Jesus completely humbled himself in leaving his heavenly throne to come live as one of us….to ultimately die for us and save us. He was born in the likeness of men, so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for men.
Speaking of Jesus’ humbling himself, look at where He was born! In our first text in Luke, we saw that it was said that Jesus would be found lying in a manger. A manger is a feeding trough used to feed farm animals. It was in the center of the holding houses and likely the dirtiest part of the barn. When animals eat…they often relieve themselves in the same spot. This is likely what the scene actually looked like:
Jesus, the Son of God, came into the earth and spent His first few minutes on earth in one of the dirtiest environments. Why? Humility. Jesus humbled Himself, remember? Is this the way for an earthly King to enter the world? Certainly not. But we will learn of Jesus throughout our study, that He does nothing like an earthly king would do. “My kingdom is not of this world” Jesus says in John 18:36. But I also believe that this was God’s way of showing that Jesus was the real deal. Jesus was humble and a servant from the get-go. He was willing to do whatever it takes to complete His purpose, and in this case-that meant being born in a dirty manger.
The last piece of this story that I want to unfold is: why was it necessary for Jesus to be born of a virgin?
All throughout the Bible, God required a perfect sacrifice to be made before Him to pay for sin committed. In the Old Testament, God’s law required His people to sacrifice “unblemished” lambs, bulls, and goats. If the sacrifice wasn’t perfect before God, it was unacceptable. In the same way, for Jesus to be the perfect and final sacrifice, He must be perfect and unblemished before God. Ever since Adam sinned in the garden, every human being has been born into sin, and the Bible depicts sin nature passing down from generation to generation through the father (Romans 5:12,17,19). It was critical Jesus not to be “born in sin” so that He could fulfill His role as the perfect sacrifice. This is why the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb, so that Jesus could circumvented the transmission of the sin nature and become a perfect man.
This little story has more depth than you thought, didn’t it? Its read every year at Christmas, but certainly worth celebrating the entire year. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth, and is absolutely crucial to the fulfillment of the rest of His mission. Jesus wasn’t only born in a dirty manger, but He would die on a bloody cross.
Tune in next week for part 4 of this series.
In Part 1 of this series, we took a look at the historical perception of Jesus among theologians, scholars, and historians alike. We did this in order gain a holistic view of the basic knowledge that most people have about Jesus. We learned that He was a man who lived 2,000 years ago, who claimed to be divine and changed the world through His followers after His death. But who was He, really? What did He teach? What did He do?
We said that in order to answer these questions, we must take a look at the eyewitness accounts of those who knew Him best- His closest friends. Thankfully these documents have been faithfully recorded, handed down, and translated through many generations, producing an English text that is 99.9% accurate when compared to the original documents.
But, we will dive into those accounts in the next post. For now, I want to take a look at what was written about Jesus before the New Testament…what was written about Him even before He was born!
These writings about Jesus before His birth are called “prophecies,” and they are recorded in the Old Testament. In biblical times, if a “prophet” was truly sent of God, then what He said would come true. Many of these prophets (most writing about 600-1200 years before Jesus birth) spoke about a coming Messiah (a savior) that would save their nation, Israel. In fact there are over 353 of them!
Here are 13 of them: (Remember, all of these were written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth!)
- The Messiah would be born of a virgin woman in Bethlehem
- The Messiah would come from the line of Abraham
- The Messiah would have His hands and feet pierced
- The Messiah would be crucified with criminals
- The Messiah would be forsaken by God
- The Messiah would be betrayed and falsely accused
- The Messiah would be mocked a ridiculed
- The Messiah would pray for His enemies
- The Messiah would resurrect from the dead
- The Messiah would ascend into Heaven
- The Messiah’s throne would be anointed and eternal
- The Messiah would be called King
- The Messiah would sit at the right hand of God
- The Messiah would be declared the Son of God
- The Messiah would be a sacrifice for sin
All of the above were written about in the Old Testament, and then fulfilled by Jesus life (and then recorded in the New Testament). This is one of the biggest proofs that Jesus was who He said He was…He fulfilled all 353 of these prophecies. The “chance” of Him doing this could be equated to covering all of Texas in 3 feet deep in silver quarters, with only ONE red quarter, and then going to somewhere in Texas blindfolded and trying to select the red one with only one attempt. It simply cannot be by chance! Jesus was the foretold Messiah!
All of these prophecies pointed to Him as the Messiah, as someone that would save Israel by being a sacrifice for their sins. In order to be “right” with God, Israel had to continually sacrifice lambs, goats, bulls, doves, food, and other things to cleanse themselves of their sins and receive forgiveness from God. But now, Jesus would become the true and final sacrifice, available to all who would accept Him.
Now we are a little farther in our understanding of the true Jesus- the Messiah foretold by the Old Testament prophets. In the next post, we will examine His entrance into the world, the starting point to His life here on earth.
**For all of the scripture references to the prophecies, their place in the OT, and their fulfillment in the NT, please email me at email@example.com
“His Sovereignty rules over all.” – Ps. 103:19
I have often heard the phrase, “God is sovereign” in a way that has been spoken to me to give me encouragement in a tough time or situation. But I never really took the time to meditate on what it meant for Him to be sovereign. The term is defined by having supreme power and authority, a free ability to do as one pleases. In other words, God is in absolute control over every situation, and works out everything according to His will. Think on it for a while, and it will drive your brain into massive confusion. However, we are called to submit ourselves to and believe what scripture tells us, and trust in his sovereignty.
These past few days, I have read through the book of Acts, and I was struck with how much it reveals about God’s sovereignty-with regards to salvation! I simply would like to share them with you in a 3 part series, so that you too can see how God has worked out salvation for his people, and how you, too, if in Christ, were brought into salvation by his amazing grace.
In this first post, Lets look at the major theme of sovereignty in how God ordained the cross:
- “Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” Acts 2:23
I had a very interesting conversation with a Muslim man the other day, who asked me if Christians hated Jews, because they were the ones who “killed Jesus.” This was the first time that I had really come across this misconception. Before I could reply, my friend with me answered, “No,no,no, we don’t hate them at all. We believe it was God’s plan all along, that he used the Jews and the Romans to accomplish his purpose of sacrificing Jesus!” This can be a tough pill to swallow, but Acts 2:23 clearly states for us that Jesus was crucified because it was the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. Let’s look at another verse:
- “What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” Acts 3:18
In this verse we are told that not only did God plan it from the beginning, but you can see his plan through reading the prophets in the Old Testament. Lets look at one of the most well-known passages. Isaiah 53:5 reads, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” Isn’t is incredible that these words were written 600-700 years before Jesus birth? There are over 300 in the Old Testament like it! God surely had a plan, and was voicing it to his people all throughout history.
If you haven’t been convinced yet, lets look at one last verse,
- “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus…Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your hand had predestined to take place.” Acts 4:27-28
In the most heinous crime committed in the history of mankind, God was behind the scenes, sovereignly ruling. His hand predestined for Jesus to go to the cross, and to bear the weight of our filthy sin. He planned it all, so that whosoever would repent and believe in Him, would have eternal life. This was the depth of his love for us, that he would send his own Son, who would be despised and rejected, so that we might have life with Him. “But God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. Recognizing this plan helps us understand the cornerstone of the gospel, seen in Isaiah 53:10,” Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him.” Him- meaning Jesus.
People everywhere are commanded to repent and believe in this incredible gospel (Acts 17:30). How could we not accept so great a Savior? How could we not devote our lives to a God, who in his sovereignty planted the very tree that he would be crucified on-all to give us life and relationship with Him?
Truly, He is sovereign.
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. ” –Isaiah 55:7
The book of Isaiah was written about 2700 years ago, an entire 700 years before Jesus walked the earth. Yet he writes about Jesus several times, identifying several specific aspects about his life and death that are perfectly fulfilled at the end of Jesus’ life. This is clear proof that God had preordained and planned the very events of the crucifixion that would cover the sins of the world!
Verse 7 of Isaiah 53 says that Jesus didn’t open his mouth. What does this mean? Well, when Jesus was brought before Pilate, twice scripture tells us that he was accused by the high priests several times, and in Matt. 27:13 Pilate asks him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” And in verse 14 it says, “But he gave him no answer, so that the governor was greatly amazed.” In very good book I read this past month, Pontius Pilate, it describes how unusual this was that Jesus didn’t offer a defense against the accusations of the Pharisees. Those who weren’t guilty would emphatically declare their innocent, yet even those who were obviously guilty offered some type of argument or defense. Jesus didn’t need to argue back or defend himself, for he knew what was to come, and knew that a defense would only hurt his testimony, his humility, and his obedience to the Father. In that moment, we were on his mind, and he remained quiet to be obedient, fulfill what Isaiah wrote, and to humbly embrace the crucifixion sentence that was coming.
This passage of Isaiah also describes Jesus like a “lamb that is led to the slaughter.” In ancient Judaism, the lamb was the most powerful sacrifices to atone for sin. We can clearly see this in the Passover in Egypt, when the Hebrews were required to sacrifice a lamb and paint its blood over their door so that they would be saved. When the angel of death came through Egypt to fulfill the final plague, those who had the lamb’s blood over their door were “passed over” and were saved from death. We must not think that this referring to Jesus as a lamb is a coincidence! In John 1:29 we read, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John exclaimed this the first time that he saw Jesus, for he knew exactly who he was and exactly what he came to do. Likewise, Isaiah intentionally prophesies about Jesus, calling him a lamb. When we compare the use of the lamb to the passover story mentioned above, we can see an amazing parallel that relates directly to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us. Those for whom Jesus died (believers) are covered by the blood of the cross, just like the Hebrews were covered by the blood of the actual lamb, and by this covering we are saved from spiritual death, just as they were saved from a physical death!
It is through His death on the cross as God’s perfect sacrifice for sin and His resurrection three days later that we can now have eternal life if we believe in Him. The fact that God Himself has provided the offering (a perfect “lamb”) that atones for our sin is part of the glorious good news of the gospel that is so clearly declared in 1 Peter 1:18-21: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”