Romans 3:23 tells us that we have all sinned and our attempts to live without sin or to be like God have failed. We were born as slaves to sin and the desires of the flesh. We were in bondage to that kind of lifestyle. But the Trinity had laid a plan to free us from that bondage long before they laid the foundations of the earth. That plan was for God Himself to come to earth clothed in a human body. So, we see that the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus was not some johnny come lately plan nor was it a knee-jerk reaction to what satan was doing. It was a secret, well-laid plan that the enemy could not defeat because he knew nothing about it. God never had any thoughts about leaving His creation without a Redeemer. Now the mystery of salvation has been revealed to all of us. We have a simple choice to make. Accept Jesus and be freed from the bondage of sin. Before we accepted Jesus, we had no choice about sin, now that we have accepted Him, we are free to chose to do right and live a holy lifestyle. We now have a new Master, one who gives us freedom to choose what we will do and how we will react to situations. We can choose to work ourselves to death (the wages of sin are death) or we can reach out and accept that free gift of life today.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
In the Old Testament, God gave the children of Israel a choice between life or death based on their obedience to the law and the Commandments. Disobedience would lead to death and disaster while obedience would lead to life and prosperity. He gave them this choice just before they crossed the Jordan into Canaan. They were to leave the old and enter into the new.
He gives us the same choice in the New Testament. Only now it is based on our acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. Once we have accepted Jesus, we are no longer slaves to our carnal, sinful nature. We are free to choose to live a life that is given to us through the power of God’s Spirit abiding in us. Therefore, we need to “put off” our old deceitful desires and live a new lifestyle that is Holy and pleasing to God. Then we will have life, and not just life, but eternal life in Christ Jesus.
In Romans and other Scriptures we are taught to obey the laws of the land. We are also taught to respect the officials and to pray for those who rule over us. In today’s military, we are taught to obey all orders that are legal and moral. There are times when we, as Christians, have to make decisions about how far we can go in obeying others. Peter and the apostles did not need time to think about or pray about their decision. They had already decided that they should obey God rather than man. With this in mind, we should have already made a predetermined decision that when laws conflict with the Holy Scriptures, we will obey God and His word. From a temporary, worldly viewpoint, this can be a costly decision. We have brothers and sisters who are being persecuted, imprisoned, beaten and murdered because they refuse to deny Jesus as their Savior and Lord. There are youths of all ages that are beaten by their own parents and kicked out of their homes because they have converted to Christianity and refuse to turn back. Let us pray for them on a daily basis. The mantra of the persecuted Christians is “It is harder to live for Christ than it is to die for Him”‘ As our society grows more evil and violent, we must come to that same conclusion now before the pressure is really on. From an eternal, spiritual viewpoint, it is an easy decision to decide for the Lord.
7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. — Romans 14:7, 8 NKJV
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you never will I forsake you.” 6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” 7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. — Hebrews 13:4-8 NIV
God warns us over and over not to participate in immoral sex because it is more than just a physical act. It involves the intertwining of the body, mind and spirit. Those illicit desires quickly become much too strong for the flesh to handle. Those who continue to participate in these sins will soon learn they have become captive to their fleshly lusts. It will become an abomination to our bodies, the very Temple of the Living God.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your bodies.– 1 Cor. 6:18-20 NIV
We need to flee from this sin and God always opens a door for us to leave if we choose to do so. The lust for money and power is almost as strong as the lust for sexual immorality, so we must be sure that our choices of how we use our finances and our positions honor God. It is very easy to become addicted to any of these sins. We don’t have to be millionaires or CEOs to misuse the resources God has entrusted to us. We can sin in finances by refusing to help those in need around us. We need to watch for the opportunities that God gives each of us to do good in His name. It isn’t the amount or the “bigness” that impresses God, it is the willingness and the attitude with which we perform the tasks.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” — Mark 12:43, 44 NIV
22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.—Luke 9:22-24 (NIV)
After all the trials and the persecutions that Jesus went through on Thursday night, early Friday morning, He had to take up his Cross and carry it out of the city. Along the way, Simon of Cyrene was ordered to help carry the Cross for Jesus. While we can’t carry the actual wooden cross that Simon bore for Jesus, we each have a path that God has laid out for us. Somewhere along that path, we will meet Jesus. Then we will either accept Him or reject Him. If we accept Him, there will be a cross for us to bear. The cross may be financial, it may be physical, it may include rejection and persecution, but whatever cross we are called to bear, we can be sure that if we have listened to the whispers of the Holy Spirit and we have been obedient, we will be prepared for it. If the cross seems more than we can bear, it may be because we have not yet decided to die to our own desires. The only way to save our lives is to lose them for Jesus.
23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.” So that is what they did. 25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” 27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. 28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said,“I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.-John 19:23-30 (NLT)
Even while hanging on the cross in agony, Jesus was still concerned about others. He instructed John to take care of His mother. A sip of sour wine from a hyssop branch and then came the last words from the cross, “It is finished!”. Three words that are so full of meaning that men have spent the years since trying to understand the extent of what was said. What was finished? His life? No, this was just an interlude between humanity and heavenly. His work on earth? Yes, but exactly what was His work? If it was just to redeem us by dying on a cross, then what was the rest of it about? Jesus was sent to fulfill prophecy, there is no doubt about that. But a majority of His work was to be an example to us and show us how to live for Him. Our persecuted brothers and sisters will tell you that dying for Jesus is the easy part, it is living for Him that is hard. But with his death on the cross, Jesus paid the price for everything that we need to live and die for Him. There are over 200 names for Jesus in the Bible. Each one either gives us an attribute of Jesus, the work He (as the Holy Spirit) does on earth for us or a need that He fulfills for us. There is nothing He left undone. His part as God the man was truly complete. “It is finished”!
1 Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. 2 The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him.3 “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face. 4 Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” 5 Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!” 6 When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” “Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”—John 19:1-6 (NLT)
The mockery and the persecution goes on and on. A whip with jagged pieces of metal that literally tore the flesh from His back, a crown of thorns that was pushed viciously down upon His brow and a another slap across the face. All this plus the verbal mockery of His truthful claims as to who He really was. Then Pilate goes back out to the crowd and says “I find Him not guilty”. Pilate could have stopped the proceedings then and there, but he chose not to do so. He has Jesus brought out wearing the purple robe and the crown of thorns and Pilate speaks to the people.
“Ecce homo!” “Behold the man”!
The crowd wants Jesus crucified and they let Pilate know that loudly. Pilate tells the crowd they can take Jesus and crucify Him. He knows they can’t administer the death penalty. It is just a ploy to assuage his quilt. Today, I say to all of us, “Behold the Man”, what will we do with Jesus? Will our words and actions or the lack thereof scream ‘Crucify Him’ or will they plead for His acceptance?
Behold the Man”!!!
37 Pilate said, “So you are a king!” Jesus answered, “You are the one saying I am a king. This is why I was born and came into the world: to tell people the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth listens to me.” 38 Pilate said, “What is truth?” After he said this, he went out to the crowd again and said to them, “I find nothing against this man. 39 But it is your custom that I free one prisoner to you at Passover time. Do you want me to free the ‘king of the Jews’?” 40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Let Barabbas go free!” (Barabbas was a robber.)—John 18:37-40 (NCV)
Jesus states that the purpose of His being be born and coming into the world was to tell people the truth. Now, Pilate asks the ages-old question–“What is truth?”
(Maybe this is where the old cliche comes from–“You wouldn’t recognize the truth if it was standing right in front of you.) Before Jesus answers this question, Pilate turns to leave and goes out to the crowd again. Does this remind you of anything that we do on a regular basis? We pray and earnestly seek God, then we get up and go about our business without giving Him time to answer our prayers. When we get to heaven, we will find out that Jesus answered all of our prayers, we just didn’t hang around to hear the answer. How rude of us! What if we were having a serious conversation with someone and just when we were getting to our point, they just got up and walked out of the room. We do it to Jesus all the time. Instead of being in such a hurry, take the advice of the Psalmist. 13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. 14 Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.—Psalm 27:13, 14 (NLT)
Don’t talk to God, talk with God. The first few minutes after talking with God, we need to just “be still and know that He is God”.
28 Early in the morning they led Jesus from Caiaphas’s house to the Roman governor’s palace. They would not go inside the palace, because they did not want to make themselves unclean; they wanted to eat the Passover meal. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and asked, “What charges do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered, “If he were not a criminal, we wouldn’t have brought him to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we are not allowed to put anyone to death,” the Jews answered. 32 (This happened so that what Jesus said about how he would die would come true.)—John 18:28-32 (NCV)
We humans are a mess! Look at these religious leaders! Here they are participating in a mockery of justice and falsely accusing Jesus of being a criminal of some sort. Yet, they would not go inside the Roman governor’s palace lest they become defiled and unclean. Then they would not be able to eat the Passover meal. The Jews had the authority to hold court and try their own people, so that is what Pilate tells them to do. But they wanted Jesus to be put to death and they did not have the authority to administer that kind of punishment. We, too, can be as hypocritical as these religious leaders. We judge unfairly and gossip about others, even our own Christian brothers and sisters. We can go to church every day of the week, but if we don’t love our neighbor, we are just as guilty as these people. Remember, every word of gossip grieves the Holy Spirit who is living inside us. As I write this, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is guiding me because I need to be the first to hear this admonition. Thank you, Holy Spirit, my friend and my guide, for loving me enough to take the time to teach me again and again and again. Thank you for forgiving me even though you know I will fail and grieve you again. Amazing love!! Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me!!!
19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” 22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. 23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.–John 18:19-24 (NIV)
With His first answer to the high priest, Jesus receives a slap in the face from one of the temple officials. Thus begins the mockery that is called a trial. This type of questioning and cruel treatment would continue through the night. When the high priest Annas finished questioning Jesus, he bound Him and sent Him to Caiaphas the high priest.
(There were not really two high priests at this time. The Romans had removed Annas in AD 15, yet the Jews still respected him and considered him a high priest. Since his removal from office by the Romans, five of his sons had served as high priest and now, Caiaphas, his son-in-law was the actual high priest.)
Jesus never claimed to be anyone but who He was. He never wavered or changed His story. He understood and accepted the reason He was being mistreated. He is our example of how we should respond when we are mistreated for His name’s sake. No matter how we suffer, if we are called to suffer, Jesus has already been there and worse. He will be there to carry us through. We should remember what Paul wrote to Timothy: 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.–2 Timothy 1:11,12 (NIV)
We too are appointed as heralds and teachers of the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
–2 Timothy 2:11,12 (NIV)
We must be ready to die for Him now, if we expect to reign with Him in heaven.