On the Cross…

From Trevin Wax…

On the cross, Christ slays the Dragon and wins our victory:

In the cross and resurrection, Christ the warrior king is the new and better Adam who delivers a head crushing blow to the serpent. He is the new and better Joshua who drives out all his enemies from the Promised Land. He is the new and better David who establishes the eternal kingdom of God.

On the cross, Christ drinks the cup of God’s wrath as a substitute sacrifice:

Because of this, when God looks at us, he no longer sees a sinner destined for wrath; he sees His Son nailed to the cross, shedding His own blood in our place. He died so that we may truly live, free from the shackles of sin and death.

On the cross, Christ redeems us from slavery to sin and death:

Can you see that this is what the redeeming love of God looks like—buying you back from the slave market? He wooed you to himself with gospel promises of mercy instead of punishment, belonging instead of estrangement. He loved you by redeeming you from your enslavement to all lesser lovers, and He is loving you even now as He cuts away from your character every lingering tether to your old way of life.

On the cross, Christ pays the ransom:

The ransom now paid, we have been delivered from the domain of sin and death into perfect union with the Son of God, in whom there is therefore now no condemnation.

On the cross, Christ is the Lamb who takes away our sin and shame:

Expiation is that angle on the atoning work of Christ that means we are clean. Clean. What we need is the good news that Jesus Christ died not only to forgive us, but to cleanse us.

On the cross, Christ is our liberator:

Redemption is not for our restriction, but for our joy. Christ did not die for our duty, but for our delight. I have been set free, but this freedom is not an unfettered pursuit of my desires, for that’s slavery all over again. It’s the joyful mission of bringing God pleasure because He has liberated and set me free.

On the cross, Christ shows how God is with us in our suffering:

There, in the midst of God’s own grief and sorrow, we see God with us and believe that he is able somehow to take up our burdens upon himself and deliver us from our despair. He is not distant from our pain. He understands our suffering because Jesus Christ – God in human flesh – suffered.

On the cross, Christ is the propitiation that makes us right with God:

Everybody needs a plan for getting on the right side of the gods. But if the true God has made his character known as it is found in the Bible, then there’s only one way of propitiation: the one that God himself put forward in the blood of Jesus, to be received by faith, the one who is his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the cross, Christ becomes our ultimate example:

Jesus Christ is the supreme model of Christian discipleship, the ethical exemplar of the Christian life. The compelling force of Christ’s sacrificial example is one answer to indifference and inaction in our broken world. Once we truly grasp what Christ did on our behalf, we will be compelled to live our lives in a way that reflects his self-sacrifice for all others.

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I am Barabbas

He’s barely mentioned in the Bible, and yet his story, maybe more than any other, serves to explain the gospel. He is Barrabas.

Or rather, I am Barabbas.

Here is what we know about this man:

1. He was a rebel. One of his crimes was insurrection; he led a rebellion against the rulers of the land, the Romans.

I, too, am a rebel. Despite the benevolent rule of my King, I have both willingly and by my very nature participated in heinous acts of rebellion against the rightful rule of the God of the Universe.

2. He was a murderer. Apparently during his rebellion against the ruling authorities, someone died, perhaps at his very hand.

I, too, am a murderer. Not just of my fellow man, having wished them harm, but of Jesus Christ whose life I have chanted for through my varied and sundry acts of despicable sin. I have chanted along with the crowd, “Crucify! Crucify!” for I saw Him as a threat to my commitment to my own desires.

3. He, though guilty, was released and an innocent was punished in his stead. Barabbas was shocked to find that somehow, some way, all charges against Him had been dropped. Someone other than him was to die that day, though surely he deserved the punishment.

I, too, have been released. The punishment that was rightfully due to me has been handed down to another. Someone – an innocent man – has been crucified in my place.

I am Barabbas.

You, too, are Barrabas.

And now we stand with this man. Suddenly freed from condemnation. Blinking our prison-darkened eyes in the light of the sun of liberty. Facing the penalty of death, we now surprisingly stand free. Free to work. Free to enjoy. Free to live.

What will I do with this freedom?

And what will you?

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The Stench of Death is Beaten Back With the Fragrance of Life

John 11 records the raising of Lazarus from the dead, one of the best-known miracles of Jesus. And yet when you read the story in its entirety, you see the great detail John recorded in order to put us in Bethany that day. Take, for example, the fact that Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. That’s pretty significant; a detail that John purposely included.

Jewish folklore said that the soul would hover above the body for up to four days after death, looking for signs of life and a chance to return. But after four days of death, there was no hope. Decomposition sets in, and the body begins to decay.
Easter: Jesus Defeats Death

Oh, the smell. Maybe that would have been the worst part. It would have been putrid. Abhorrent. Disgusting. The body would be sealed inside a tomb to keep the smell of the dead away from the living.

The smell of rottenness and lifelessness. It’s a sensory reminder that the situation was beyond repair.

But Jesus wasn’t afraid of that smell. He strode boldly to the tomb and commanded that the stone be rolled away. But there were protests. “Lord, he already stinks. It’s been four days,” said the grieving sister.

“Don’t roll the stone away. It’s going to stink. Let us leave him alone; what good is there in confronting that smell? The smell of death?”

But Jesus isn’t afraid of that smell. He inhales it deeply and then breaths it back out. He’s not afraid of it because He won’t abide it. He reaches into the smell of death and produces the fragrance of life. He did it with Lazarus; He did it with me; and He’s doing it countless times every day.

We recoil at the smell of death. Our stomachs turn. Bile comes up in our throats. But Jesus? Jesus beats back the stench of death with the fragrance of life.

And the dead come forth …

Where is your sting, death? That’s what Paul asked. He asked because the sting is nowhere to be found. Jesus confronted it and won. Because He did, He’s not repulsed by the seeming stench of death. In that smell, Jesus sees the potential for new life.

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Holy Week: Day by Day

Over at The Gospel Coalition blog, Justin Taylor is releasing a video for each day of Holy Week explaining the timeline of exactly what happened as Jesus went about in Jerusalem during His final days. These are fascinating and well done videos that will help you think deeply about the last week of Jesus’ life. Here are the videos for yesterday, Palm Sunday, and today:

 

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What Do You Get When You Cross Winnie the Pooh and Darth Vader?

This. Which is awesome:

Jim Cummings has voiced hundreds of characters, including Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. At last year’s ConnectiCon, Cummings and fellow voice actor Lauren Landa read a few lines from Star Wars using their characters’ voices.

There’s nothing quite like hearing Darth Vader end a dark line with, “Oh bother…”

 

(HT:22Words)

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The Day No One Came to the Father Except Through Jesus

His disciples had seen Him angry before, but not like this. His fiery arguments with the religious leaders and naysayers had always been tenuous, but He always seemed to measure His words. But here, today, He had released Himself.

The day had been an emotional one. It started out on a high note with people singing the praises of Jesus as they laid their robes on the ground for the donkey to trod over. Then, as Jerusalem came into sight, He was overcome with emotion and began to cry. His disciples marveled at this, even more than the show of support, for they had all been to Jerusalem before. This time, though, seemed to be different. It was … heavy. Weighty. But then the mood changed as they went into the city.

It wasn’t that they saw something surprising. There, in the temple complex, in the court of the Gentiles, they saw the same thing they expected to see. Because they expected, they were neither shocked nor angry.

But Jesus was.

There were sacrificial animals being sold at ridiculous prices. Exchange booths necessary for foreigners to pay the tax in temple shekels (with a healthy markup, of course). But Jesus exploded into rage. He physically picked up the money-changers and threw them out. He turned over the tables and swept away the money falling to the ground. And when the dust cleared, He stood there. Resolutely. His arms crossed.

Jesus took up a place in that outer court, the court that served as a barrier to those who had come to worship. It was symbolic of the restrictive nature of the temple, a place that ensured only ethnic Jews could go further in, and only those willing to deal with the unjust financial burdens of doing so.

No doubt tomorrow, when Jesus was gone, the same tables would be set up. There would be the same exchange booths, the same animals being bought and sold. But for a few minutes, anyone who wanted to pass beyond the outer court into the inner recesses of the temple complex where God was said to dwell, had no choice but to pass by Jesus.

No one came to God except through Him.

Perhaps that image burned into the minds of His followers. The man, so powerful and emotional, equal parts compassionate, joyful, and angry, standing there as guard to the presence of God. Serving as the gateway to the inner court. And maybe they remembered that image as they prayed, years and decades later.

Once again, no one coming to the Father except through Him.

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Millennials and the False “Gospel” of Nice

Great article here from Dan Darling:

Perhaps you’ve heard that there is trouble brewing among evangelicals.

Younger Christians are weary of pitched cultural battles and are longing for the “real Jesus” – a Jesus who talks more about washing feet and feeding the poor than flashpoint issues like same-sex marriage and the sanctity of life.

If key evangelical influencers don’t listen, we are told, they are about to lose the entire millennial generation. Or, maybe that generation is already gone.

This story has been told with testimonials, chronicled in best-selling books and posted on popular blogs.

Here’s the short version: If only orthodox evangelical leaders would give up their antiquated beliefs, get more in step with the real Jesus, the church and the world would be better off.

Embedded in this narrative are two presuppositions:

• Young evangelicals are fleeing the church at a rapid pace.
• The real message of Jesus looks nothing like orthodox Christianity.

There’s only one thing wrong with these two ideas: They aren’t true.

Let me explain…

Read the rest here.

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A Great Opportunity to Pray for the Spread of the Gospel

When I was in college, my university pastor was the first person who helped me see that there was life, and life for the gospel, outside my direct sphere of influence. Over those years, we learned about and prayed for countless nations and people groups around the world, visiting several of them first hand. One of the most enduring things he taught me during those days was to see world events not just as history in the making but as opportunities for the gospel.

He encouraged the practice of reading the news as a means of prayer – not just looking at what’s going on around the world, but actually praying specifically in light of the news of the world for the gospel to have an opportunity to take root.

We are on the cusp of one such opportunity, so I’d encourage you this week to turn your gaze and your prayers to India. What’s happening there in the next few days has tremendous ramifications for the openness of the country to the gospel. From CNN:

India, the most populous democracy on the planet, is about to hold elections that will seat a new parliament and prime minister. It will be the largest democratic event in history.

India’s election commission is charged with what has been called the world’s largest event management exercise, making sure that democracy doesn’t falter in the vastness of the numbers.

About 15,000 candidates from 500 political parties are vying for 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, or lower house of Parliament. Those candidates are expected to spend about $5 billion on campaigning. That’s second only to the most expensive U.S. presidential campaign — $7 billion in 2012.

Parliamentary elections in India are held every five years, unless the government is dissolved before that. This year will be India’s 16th election since independence in 1947.

The voting begins Monday and the numbers are mind-blowing.

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God’s Masterpiece is Less Like a Painting and More Like a Mosaic

Dead or alive.

These are the only two categories of human beings Paul laid out for us in one of the most clear and concise presentations of the gospel found in the Bible. In Ephesians 2:1-10, the apostle starts with the devastating news that all of humanity is dead. Not wandering; not in need; not even in danger – but spiritually lifeless. And just as a corpse cannot resuscitate itself, so the spiritually dead are unable to change their condition. But then we come to verse 4:

“But God…”

But God had mercy. But God loved us. But God intervened, and just as He brought order from the chaos in Genesis 1, He breathed life into the deadness of humanity one by one as He awakened us to the truth of the gospel. This message is not how bad people can be good people; it’s how dead people can be living people. According to Paul, the equation of salvation is pretty simple:

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Salvation is by grace, through faith, and unto good works. All three components are necessary and work in tandem with each other. In that equation, there is a wonderful word that reminds us of the great artistry of God. In Christ, we are “His creation.” Other translations say we are His workmanship, or even more descriptively, His masterpiece. Like an artist who crafts his seminal and defining work, so does God re-create us in Christ, bringing us to spiritual life, so that we might walk in the good He has carefully planned out for us before we were even knitted together in our mother’s wombs.

When we think about this, that we are the masterpiece of God, our minds drift to the picture of a painter who one stroke at a time, intentionally paints line after line the perfect beauty that comes out on canvas. It’s a great mental picture, but not, I believe, one that truly captures the creativity and redemption of what God does in His children. That’s because this picture is too clean.

Maybe God’s masterpiece is less like a painting and more like a mosaic.

A mosaic is the process of taking shards of material – glass, stone, or most anything else – and assembling them in a recognizable pattern. It takes seemingly unrelated and in many cases useless things and puts them together to reveal something only in the mind and the heart of the artist. That’s starting to feel a bit more right, isn’t it?

All of us have those shards in our lives. They’re broken pieces of experiences, relationships, and patterns of living. They’re the leftovers of sinful choices, painful circumstances, and seasons of suffering. They’re the remnants of what seems like has fallen apart, and perhaps they would remain that way, “but God…”

But God is in the habit of putting broken pieces back together. And when He does, He makes something completely new and different with the old. He doesn’t put life back the way it was; in fact, no one could guess entirely what He’s making as He puts those pieces together, but when He’s done, you begin to see how it all comes together to form something beautiful. Mysteriously, painfully, beautiful.

Who could have guessed what God was doing when all life broke apart the day Adam and Eve ate the fruit? Who could know what was in His heart when the children of Israel were scattered to the nations? Who would have imagined how things would ever be okay again when there was 400 years of silence after the Old Testament? And then came that one Friday, when all the hopes and dreams of the true believers were nailed to a cross outside of Jerusalem. What could God be doing with this mess? This bloody, terrible, disfigured mess?

But then, over time, the pieces begin to come together. No outliers; no random pieces. Everything intentionally put back together, but done so in a way that you could never see coming.

Maybe that’s encouraging to you if your life doesn’t feel like a masterpiece today. Maybe today you look down and only see bits of broken glass. God is a good artist. But maybe not the kind you’re expecting.

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God’s Not Dead

Nope, I’m not talking about the movie. Instead, this:

(HT:Z)

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