“The Greater Sin”

11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” – John 19:11 NLT 

Powerless – NLT

Which of the laws had Jesus broken that He should be sentenced to death? Yes, it was against the law to blaspheme the name of God or to lie, but Jesus was, in fact, God and the Son of God just as He claimed, He had done neither. The crowd says that Jesus claimed to be the “King of the Jews” and, in fact, He was all that and more. This claim seemed to bother Pilate quite a bit. He had already said that he finds Jesus not guilty under the Roman law and Pilate has no concern about the Jewish laws. He is still looking for a way to release Jesus without upsetting the crowd. How many of us are guilty of wanting to serve Jesus as long as it is popular and doesn’t upset the crowds? We go to church and we feel safe in discussing our belief in Jesus Christ. But what happens when we are back out in the world again? If our other people’s opinions of us are more important than what Jesus knows about us, then we are guilty of idol worship. We have placed others above God in our lives. This is a sin and we need to repent. It is time that we believed that what Jesus said about Himself to Pilate is also true for us. “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above”. If we truly believe that nothing and no one has any power over us unless God allows them to have it then we should be mighty warriors for our Lord and Savior. If we truly believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God, then why don’t we love Him back with everything we are and have? God the Holy Spirit is God and God is Perfect Love and He dwells inside us. His desire is that we be fearless.

18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.—1 John 4:18 (NLT)

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous

“No One Can Take My Life From Me”

18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” – John 10:18 NLT

John 10:17-21 NLT

The decision for Jesus to be the perfect Lamb sacrificed for our redemption was made long before the world was spoken into existence.

18 You know that in the past you were living in a worthless way, a way passed down from the people who lived before you. But you were saved from that useless life. You were bought, not with something that ruins like gold or silver, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, who was like a pure and perfect lamb. 20 Christ was chosen before the world was made, but he was shown to the world in these last times for your sake. —1 Peter 1:18-20 (NCV)

Jesus the human did not want to die on the cross any more than you or I would want to die such a cruel death. But Jesus as the second Person of the Trinity knew from time immemorial that He was going to do just that. Since Jesus was the Word and the Word was with God, Jesus was there when the decision was made and was in full agreement with the plan. So, He could truthfully say that He had the right to give His life and to take it back. Taking His life back was a reference to His resurrection that the Jews did not understand at that time. Being spiritually blind, they thought Jesus must be crazy or demon possessed. Before we accepted Jesus, we had no understanding of what Jesus was doing and why He was doing it. But, now that we know, it is our responsibility to carry the Good News to others. Let us freely give our time in spreading the Gospel so that others may have eternal life.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous

“He Is Your Example…”

​21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. – 1 Peter 2:21 NLT

1 Peter 2:21-25 NLT

As Christians, the only person we can use as our example is Jesus Christ. He is the standard that we should strive to live up to. We, of course, will never reach that standard but, as Paul said, we should continue to “press toward the mark”.

13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.–Phil. 3:13-14 (NLT)

Any cases of injustice and offenses should be left in the hands of God. He will deal with those that are unjust in His own way and in His own time. We were once as helpless as sheep and needed a Shepherd and a Guardian. Jesus came to fulfill every need we have and He has done so abundantly. We are to walk in His steps. We will fall and when we do, He will carry us just like a shepherd carries a helpless lamb. We can lean on His everlasting arms and rejoice evermore.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;​ let them sing joyful praises forever.  ​Spread your protection over them,​ that all who love your name may be filled with joy.​ 12 For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.–Psalm 5:11-12 (NLT).

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous

“They Wondered What Time…”

11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. ​ — 1 Peter 1:11 NLT

1 Peter 1:9-12 NLT

Can you imagine the amazement and awe that the Old Testament prophets must have felt when the Spirit inspired them to prophesy about the Messiah. A future hope that their eyes would not see. Can you imagine that they wondered, “why would this Messiah have to suffer so”? Yet they were faithful in telling about a Savior that was coming to redeem a fallen world, even though the message was not for them, but for us. They looked forward and wondered. We look back and know the truth about the Good News. The first century preachers were anointed with the Holy Spirit and were faithful to spread the Good News. Now, it is our turn to be faithful and spread the Gospel as we look forward to our soon-coming King. Like the prophets of old, we may not be alive to see Him return, but it is still the Hope of those who love Him. The Hope and the knowledge that one day, we will all rise to meet Him in the air. Altogether, He will take us home to be with Him in glory! Can you say Hallelujah!! Amen!!?

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous

“He Is Able”

12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.   — 2 Timothy 1:12 NLT

2 Timothy 1:9-12 NLT

God gave the law first knowing that we would not be able to keep every aspect of it. It was given to show us that we need a Savior and the appearance of Jesus Christ made God’s plan plain to us. Jesus and Jesus alone had the power to break satan’s hold on us and conquer death. By His death and resurrection, Jesus shows us the way to life and immortality. God has chosen some to be preachers, apostles and teachers. We will all suffer to some extent, some even to death. We are not to be afraid or ashamed of our suffering. God has promised us that He will keep us and no one can take us out of His hand. No thing or no one can ever separate us from the love of God.

39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.–Romans 8:39 (NLT)

He will keep us, guide us, and give us the words to speak as we need them. Fear not!

The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous

“God Will Use This Persecution”

5 And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering.— 2 Thess. 1:5 NLT

2 Thess. 1:3-10 NLT

Most Christians in the Western World have not experienced the kind of persecution to which Paul is referring. Probably the worst persecution that we receive is losing (temporarily, hopefully) the friendship of someone close to us because of our belief in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here, Paul is talking about those early Christians who gave their lives for the Gospel. I would guess that most of us have wondered, at some time or other, how far we would go for the Gospel. Would I really lay down my life for Jesus?  Paul tells us that we should consider our physical bodies as dead already. 

3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.– Col. 3:3 NKJV

Since this is true, we should consider our physical bodies already dead. But our Spirit will always be alive because of what Jesus did for us at Calvary. So, if we are attempting to live the lifestyle that Jesus wants us to, isn’t the decision already made? We agreed to die with Christ and mortify (put to death) our fleshly desires so that we will be raised with Christ in our new immortal bodies. It is all about faith and trust. Will God do what He said or not? The answer is “Yes, of course, He will.” In His mercy, He will protect and perfect us and in His justice, He will repay the persecutors.

Romans 12:19-21 NLT

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous

A Prayer for Guidance and Strength

 1 On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame; and I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain. So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.  2  O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me; for the dear Lamb of God left his glory above to bear it to dark Calvary. “The Old Rugged Cross” – George Bernard – 1913

Holy Spirit, when I am being tempted, always remind me of that old rugged cross that I might stay faithful and obedient to my Savior, Lord, and Master because of all that He suffered for me and my sins. I want every thought, word, and action to bring glory to God and lift up the name of Jesus. I cannot do it alone, I need Your guidance and Your power to help me. I ask this of my Father in the powerful, precious, beautiful, and miracle-working name of Jesus. Amen.

“If You Are Willing”

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42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. — Luke 22:42-43 NLT

As we read about all the miracles that Jesus performed while He was here on earth we sometimes forget and need to be reminded that He, like us, was fully human.  He did all of His works as a man, not as God.  He even told us that He could do nothing in and of Himself but that He could only do the works of the Father.(John 5:19).  We are told by the writer of Hebrews that even though Jesus was the Son of God, He still offered prayers and pleadings to the One who could rescue Him from death (Hebrews 5:8).  Jesus knew and understood His mission because He had been in on the planning session that occurred before the foundations of the earth were laid. But in the flesh, He was not looking forward to the experience of being separated from His Father for the first and only time in His life.  Separated because when He took our sins upon Himself, the Father could not look at Him or comfort Him in any way.  While Jesus was in the flesh as a man, God sent Moses and Elijah to talk with Him about His death on the Cross (Mount of Transfiguration, Luke 9:31).  As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, God sent an angel to strengthen Him.  What we need to realize is that God does the same thing for us.  If we listen carefully and heed His words, we will find that there is nothing that happens to us that He has not carefully prepared us to bear. Jesus lived every day knowing the cruel death that awaited Him on the cross.  Yet, He set His face toward Jerusalem and never turned back. Do we live every day prepared to die for what we know is true?  If we do, then we can die prepared to live forever and that knowledge should remove any fear of death that we have.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“The Pain of Unjust Suffering”

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19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called,because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. — 1 Peter 2:19-21 NIV

As we look back and honestly assess the hard times in our lives, we can attribute most of them to bad decisions that we have made.  Those decisions may have involved unkind words that we spoke causing ill feelings and anger between us and others.  The decisions may have been based on our fleshly desires and caused us to commit acts that we should not have committed.  The decisions could have been bad financial decisions we made because we did not want to wait until we were able to afford certain things.  We get no credit or praise for enduring those times that were brought on by our own wrongdoing.  I cannot recall one time in my life when I had to suffer because of a good deed that I had done.  I read the horror stories of our brothers and sisters being abused and persecuted for the good deeds they have done and are doing and I pray for them.  Those events seem so far away and foreign to me.  And I wonder what my reaction to that kind of treatment would be.  Would I stay faithful to God and endure the pain?  We are called to and warned to be ready for such acts.  We have the examples of those in the Bible and in our daily news of those who do endure.  They are the ones who make up the “cloud of witnesses” that surround us.  I shed tears of grief as I listen to their stories and I feel so small and unworthy knowing that the tears they are shedding as they tell their stories are tears of joy, the joy of sharing in suffering with our Savior.

 “The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“A Great Deal of Suffering”

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6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord. In spite of a great deal of suffering, you welcomed the word with the joy that the Holy Spirit produces. ​- 1 Thess. 1:6 ISV​

1 Thess. 1:3-6 ISV

God has chosen each of us and has a plan for each of us.  We are sanctified, set apart, for a particular purpose.  Our faith produces works that are a part of that process. We show our love for Christ by laboring and helping others. We are able to endure because of the hope we have in us, the hope that we have because God has poured His love into us. When the Gospel is preached, it goes forth with power to accomplish whatever purpose God has intended for it.  The power is the Holy Spirit which can cut us to the bone and convict us of our need for redemption.  This is the message Paul and his companions preached among the Thessalonians and in all the other places they traveled.  They were successful, not because of their powers of persuasion, but because they were completely obedient to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It is the same message that each of us should be preaching every day with our lifestyle and as St Francis of Assisi encouraged us to do: “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.”  We should follow the example of Paul and live lifestyles that are worthy of imitation, just as we have become imitators of Christ.  Then those who are suffering will receive the message with great joy.  Their joy will be observed by others who will want to know the source of such great joy.  The kind of joy that endures in the midst of suffering and persecution, the kind of joy that is caught, not taught.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous