It is finished

I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
(Luke 12:50)

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
(John 17:4)

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(John 19:28-30)

One of the last words Jesus spoke on the cross was a Greek word which means “it is finished or accomplished.” He used that word several times in His ministry, one of note is the passage above in Luke 12. Jesus was “distressed” until this work was accomplished. I just feel a sigh of relief coming from the soul of Jesus as He said that word on the cross. It is finished, I accomplished the work God gave Me to do. He could now go on to the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:2).

Even though we cannot come close to understanding the level of “distress” Jesus felt, we can understand that there are sacrifices we make and crosses we bear as Christians today. And what Jesus said there at the cross is what every Christian should be able to say at the end of his or her own life. Take the apostle Paul for example:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished (same word Jesus used) the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Jesus was “distressed,” Paul was “burdened beyond measure” at times, and the same is for the Christian today. But we also have joy in our hearts knowing that God is always with us through those trials, and we know that one day we will lay down that cross and receive a crown. We will then be able to say, “It is finished.”

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
(Revelation 14:12-13)

Wake Up O Sleeper

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
(Ephesians 5:13-14)

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
(1 Corinthians 15:33-34)

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
(Romans 13:11-14)

Sometimes its just hard to wake up. We’re groggy, stiff, not fully aware, and shuffling across the floor to the bathroom. Certainly not ready to have coherent conversations, and certainly not ready to be at peak job performance! After a shower and a “few” cups of coffee, then we begin to feel human again.

Here are three occasions where Paul tells the Christian to “wake up.” They all are connected to living holy lives. As you can see in these Scriptures he talks about waking up from the dead, waking up from a drunken stupor, and waking up by turning on the light.

The first picture is of a Christian zombie, he is alive but dead. Dead in sinful works. Dead to righteousness. He’s walking around, and he makes the claim to be a Christian but the life of God is not in heart.

The second image is of a drunken man stumbling around. The alcohol has taken over his brain, and his motor skills and brain power are completely taken away.

The third image is of waking up and turning on the light. I imagine that most people don’t sleep with the lights glaring in their faces. Usually people sleep at night, and its dark. Paul compares the darkness to living in sensuality and wickedness. We have to turn the lights on through the word of God and expose the darkness. It’s not to be nighttime for the Christian, we are to be living in the light of Christ in the daytime, living holy lives and making pure choices.

For us, Paul says, it’s time to wake up!

  1. Wake up and let Christ shine on us. Come to Him in prayer and ask Him to shine His light upon you. Shine on our darkness, Lord. Bring your light into our hearts (2 Cor. 4:6).
  2. Wake up to the company you are keeping. Paul said, “Bad company ruins good morals.” Part of waking up spiritually is deciding to choose new friends and influences.
  3. Wake up to the environment you are choosing to live in. Wake up to the provisions you are making for the flesh. If you are tempted to drink, stay away from bars, your drinking buddies and the liquor aisle. If you are tempted to lust and commit sexual sin, you will have to create a different environment that helps encourage purity, not sensuality.
  4. Wake up to the fact that time is precious and limited. “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” “You know the time,” Paul said. I love this. It’s just like when you go in to your son or daughter’s room and ask, “Do you know what time it is? You’re late, you need to get up and get going!” When that has happened to us, we might get that adrenaline rush along with panic and rush around to get out the door to work or school (or church). We know what time it is and we are laser focused! That same has to be for the Christian, we have to constantly be reminded “what time it is.” We must seek with God’s help and with the help of our godly friends to keep that sense of urgency. Time is of the essence.

Truth can be found even among a lot of error

Does a person have to be right on everything before we listen to them on anything?

Here is a thought to contemplate, and a thought to share with your sons and daughters. Truth can be found even among a lot of error. Sometimes we might be tempted to disregard somebody’s advice because we see so much wrong in his or her life. But be careful, even someone who is wrong on a whole lot can be right in something he or she tells you. Before you have a knee-jerk reaction thinking, “Who is this guy to tell me this?”, consider the statement itself. It may be true after all.

Here is a Biblical example. Job’s friends were wrong on a WHOLE LOT, even God rebuked them for being so mistaken (Job 42). I want you to notice that Eliphaz is specifically spoken to by God,

After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
(Job 42:7)

Does that mean that everything Eliphaz said in the book of Job was wrong?Apparently not, because the apostle Paul quoted Eliphaz in 1 Corinthians.

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours,
(1 Corinthians 3:18-21. In the above section, Paul quoted Eliphaz (compare Job 5:13 & 1 Corinthians 3:19).

Does God catch the wise in their craftiness? Yes, He sure does. Eliphaz was generally right on in that matter, even if he was wrong in applying that specifically to Job. The point is for today, God condemned and rebuked Eliphaz for saying a lot of wrong things, and yet the Holy Spirit led Paul to quote Eliphaz. Paul also was inspired by God to quote the Greek poets on more than one occasion (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12-13; 1 Cor. 15:33).

God may be sending you advice from an unlikely source that you are tempted to disregard. Someone doesn’t have to be right on everything before you listen to them on anything. By the way, think of the assumption we are making about ourselves if we set that kind of lofty standard.

He Makes the Mute Speak

For our meditation today, let’s consider the following passages. Think about what God can do to your tongue and your mouth. If He made the mute to speak, and considering what God did through Moses, Jeremiah and Paul, what can He do for you and through you?

God can prepare your mouth and teach your tongue to be a mouthpiece for Him. Don’t focus on your ignorance, His word will give you knowledge and wisdom will come from His throne.  God can and will send His people to teach you and equip you. Please don’t regard your lack of eloquence, think of what God did through people like Paul. Don’t take a minute to think about your “youth” or “inexperience” – consider what God did through a number of “inexperienced youths” in Scripture. The point in all of this is that glory goes to the power of God, not to how well we speak or how amazingly persuasive we are! It’s not about how witty we are or how good we are on our feet to stand toe -to-toe in a debate, it’s about God’s wisdom working in us and through us to reach out and teach truth to those seeking for it. It’s about God, not about us.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
(Mark 7:31-37)

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
(Exodus 4:10-12)

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”
(2 Corinthians 10:10)

Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
(2 Corinthians 11:6)

Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
(Jeremiah 1:6-10)

Thank God for Michigan

Oh, before we start…May the 4th be with you.

The following excerpt is from the greatest and most reliable resource ever…Wikipedia. 🙂

At the beginning of the Civil War, regiments from Michigan were raised to answer Lincoln’s call for men. The first volunteers from Michigan were mustered into the Army as the 1st Michigan Infantry on May 1, 1861. On May 16, the regiment arrived in Washington; Lincoln was said to have exclaimed “Thank God for Michigan!” upon the troops’ arrival.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Thank God for Michigan!” Why did he do that? Because the nation was in a dire need and was about to face one of its greatest challenges. And here comes around 80,000 troops from Michigan saying, “We’re here to fight.” They were volunteers…another great observation to make.

It reminds me of the church in Philippi that rose to the occasion “once and again” to help support the apostle Paul. Paul was in need, and they mustered the troops and sent him what he needed.

Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Philippians 4:14-20)

How refreshed Paul was to see the help come from the Philippian brethren. How encouraged Abraham Lincoln must have been to see those troops who had traveled all the way from Michigan to help support the cause.

He can deal gently

He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.
(Hebrews 5:2)

Since he himself is beset with weakness. I looked up the word that is translated “beset” here in Heb. 5:2. The mental picture I get from this word is something that surrounds us, hangs about us and binds us. That is a very accurate picture of sin, isn’t it?

Why could the priest “deal gently” with those who are weak and wayward? Because he understands at a very personal level the weight and power of sin that can overwhelm us. The result of his sinful struggles was not hardness and judgmental-ism, but rather compassion and mercy. He knows the struggle.

It is the same for us today as Christians. We are all priests of God in His royal priesthood (1 Peter 2). We all know the weight of sin and how it can hang about our necks, surround us, and bind us. What is (should be) the resulting attitude in our hearts toward others? Compassion. Dealing gently. Why? Because we understand. We get it.

…to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us..
(Titus 3:2-7)

Though I…But Have Not Love

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

5 times (if I counted right) in this section of Scripture Paul used the phrase, “Though I.” Though I possess and did all of these wonderful, spiritual and godly things, but did not have love, what are they worth?

If you saw someone speak with the all the languages of the world miraculously, what would you think? What if he or she spoke with the language of angels? Would you be impressed? How about if the person was so gifted that he or she understood all mysteries of the Bible and had perfect knowledge of it? Would it get your attention? What if their faith was stronger than anyone you had ever seen? Would you think, wow that person is so close to God? Would you be impressed if that person gave everything he or she owned including the body to be sacrificed for Jesus? How would we see that person?

Paul gives us some insight into this much needed discussion. He tells us that we could be incredibly gifted and our words just come out as noise if we don’t have love. We could be so full of knowledge and understanding that people are constantly coming to us for advice and perspective. But we are absolutely “nothing” Paul wrote if we don’t have love. Our mountain-moving faith is made of no value if it is not joined with the love of God in our hearts. We could list a thousand things that we did for Jesus and for others, but if we are not loving to others, then that list isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

But have not love – 3 times Paul used this phrase and when he used it, he followed it with:

  • I am noise – My gifted words for Jesus are just noise.
  • I am nothing – My gifts, including my mountain-moving faith that I may hold in such high esteem are of no value at all.
  •  All my sacrifice and works are nothing. I can heap up acts of service and godly deeds to the sky, but if I am not loving, then it amounts to a pile of dung. In fact, the pile of dung is of more value because it can at least be spread out for fertilizer.

Doesn’t that impress upon you and me how important and valuable love is?

We are going to look further into 1 Corinthians 13 over the next few days and seek with God’s help to glean as much as we can from this timeless and priceless passage on love.

A Public Spectacle

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
(1 Corinthians 4:10-13)

The apostles, according to Paul, were treated like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. For the sake of Christ, they were treated worse than garbage. They were not winning any popularity contests, for sure! What did they endure for Christ? Can we picture the humiliation, rejection and mistreatment they lived through for the cause of Christ?

That makes me uncomfortable. What makes me even more uncomfortable is that Jesus told us to rejoice and consider ourselves blessed when we are treated that way.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:10-12)

I was reading Isaiah 20 recently. Isaiah was asked to walk around naked and barefoot for 3 years as a sign against Egypt and Ethiopia (Isaiah 20). Whatever that specifically meant for Isaiah, commentators have debated, but I can gather from chapter 20 that it meant shame and public humiliation for Isaiah. It was a sign, prophecy and warning of the shame and public humiliation that those two evil nations would experience. Isaiah was allowed to be shamed and humiliated for God’s glory and righteous cause.

Paul wrote in his next letter to the Corinthians that he had learned to be “content” with such things as insults and persecutions for Christ’s sake (2 Corinthians 12:10). He knew that through such trials Christ’s strength, not Paul’s strength, would work in him.

Are we willing to become a public spectacle for Christ’s sake? Please don’t think that I’m saying we should go around and intentionally try to bring attention to ourselves and make a scene. But when we live and stand for Jesus, the insults and humiliation will naturally come (2 Timothy 3:12). Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hates the light.

When you walk away from sin, your friends and family will notice. Those closest to you may mock you and insult you for your stand. Don’t cave in because you want to fit in. Lovingly stand for Jesus.

The apostle Peter must have struggled with this desire to cave in and make nice with others. It is a natural human instinct to avoid pain. Peter did it when Jesus was on trial (Mark 14:66-72), and he did it later in life when the Jews put pressure on him to shun the Gentiles (Galatians 2). Peter knew the temptation to avoid mistreatment and persecution, but as a mature older man in Christ he said the following things about the treatment you will receive as a Christian and how to behave and think when it happens.

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
(1 Peter 2:12)

…having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
(1 Peter 3:16-17)

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
(1 Peter 4:3-5)

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
(1 Peter 4:14-16)

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
(1 Peter 4:19)

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?

Paul, an apostle–not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead–(Galatians 1:1).

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:10-12).

We just finished a gospel meeting with my great friend, Jason Salyers. He preached from the book of Galatians. He drew our attention to the theme that “the gospel is not from men.” There were men in that Galatian region who were trying to pervert and twist the gospel. At the same time those very men were aggressively oppressing and persecuting those who stood for the gospel. Both Paul and those who stood for the gospel could have made life a lot easier for themselves if they would have just caved in and went along with those false teachers. As Jason pointed out, even the false teachers were teaching these things because they wanted to avoid persecution (6:12).

Here are some things about Paul in the book of Galatians to remember when it comes to being a people-pleaser versus a servant of Christ.

  • Paul understood his relationship and position with Christ did not come from men, but through Christ (1:1).
  • He also knew that seeking the approval of men was the same as turning his back on Christ (1:10-12). It isn’t that he didn’t try to accommodate the consciences of others and become all things to all men (1 Cor. 9), but his focus was first on pleasing Christ. He could do nothing for men that would not please Jesus.
  • You can’t yield when it comes to the truth of the gospel, not even for a moment (2:5).
  • Don’t try like Peter did to play both sides of the fence and make everyone happy (2:11-19). That’s just being a hypocrite, and it will have a strong influence to lead the faithful astray (2:13).
  • Understand that those who are “influential” added nothing to Paul. God shows no partiality and Paul didn’t either (2:6). Just because that person is a big time somebody doesn’t mean you cower and cave. God is not impressed by status, nor should we be.
  • Know that when you stand for truth, friends may become enemies (4:16).
  • Think about whether you are trying to make a “good showing in the flesh” or trying to please Christ (6:12).
  • Paul did not seek to please men, because he understood that being crucified with Christ meant that the world had been crucified to him as well (6:14).

There are several other verses from Galatians that tie in to this point, but this is enough for today to think about.

Thanks again, Jason, for the lessons.

When God says “No”

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10, ESV)

Were Paul’s prayers for his thorn in the flesh prayed in faith? Yes.

Did those prayers come from a heart that was pure before God? Yes.

Were Paul’s prayers for this physical agony fervent, genuine and persistent? Yes.

Were Paul’s prayers specific? Yes.

Was Paul’s motive for this prayer selfish and self-centered? No. Just because it was about himself doesn’t make it selfish. Jesus did the same, right?

But with all of this, God still said “No” to Paul’s request. That is just hard to swallow. When God says “No” to our prayers, it can be a great challenge to our faith. Why pray at all? What does it matter? Is prayer just an exercise in futility?

If you are challenged by me even bringing this up, then that’s good. Read the Psalms. Look at those who are looking up into heaven and asking “Where are you God?”, or “How long will it be before You hear us?”

Remember the Psalm that Jesus quoted on the cross…

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
(Psalm 22:1-2, ESV)

These feelings are real. Sometimes when fellow Christians bring up these feelings and questions they get dismissed or invalidated by others who give their default “churchy” answers without thinking. If Jesus Himself wondered why God had forsaken Him and whether God wasn’t listening at all, is it okay for me to wonder that once in awhile, too?

Yes, yes it is.

Here are some thoughts I see from Scripture that help me when I go through that process of wondering where God is.

God IS listening. The Lord responded to Paul’s prayers. The prayer was heard, and the prayer was answered. “From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached His ears” (Psalm 18:6, ESV).

God answered the prayers of many people in Scripture and gave them their requests. Gideon, Joshua, Moses, Samuel, Abraham, Hannah, Esther, Mordecai, Elijah, Hezekiah are just a few of the faithful to whom God granted their petitions. Prayer is not an exercise in futility. It most certainly works.

God’s grace is sufficient. When God says “No,” or “Wait awhile,” or “Yes, but in a different way,” then you can be assured that He has a very good reason. It may be very difficult at times to accept that, but His grace is sufficient.

God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. God’s “No” answers will work for His glory so that His strength, not ours, is exalted.

I will glory and boast in my infirmities. We may want the “testimony” and “witness” to others that we prayed for something and God gave a definite and mighty “Yes” to our requests. But the testimony we may give is like that of Paul, in that we glorify God in the weaknesses, trials and setbacks of life. Paul’s “testimony” was that he was “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
(Luke 18:1, ESV)