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Easter Message: Love Requires Sacrifice

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According to John 3:16, God loved/loves the world.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.John 3:16 (NKJV)

From these words, we learn that Christian love requires sacrifice. God gave up His son in order to reestablish a relationship with us. Fellowship with God required atonement, and Jesus was the only acceptable blood sacrifice that could bring forth restoration. Jesus was without sin, a spotless lamb. He obediently accepted His Father’s will and took on the sins of the world and nailed them to a cross.

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.Romans 4:25 (NIV)

Father God knew His only begotten son would have to endure great suffering, but He also wanted to provide us with koinonia. So, because of His incredible love for mankind, He willed Jesus to step out of eternity and down to earth, and a brutal death. Father God knows all about sacrifice, grief, pain, and love.

Jesus Christ is the very definition of love. He always put others first. He freely gave His time, energy, food, friendship, love, and grace. And at the end of the day, He offered His love, obedience, fellowship, praise, and will to His heavenly Father. He lived to serve others. His eyes were never on Himself. He looked for ways to satisfy a need, quench a thirst, teach a lesson, or please His Father. There is JOY in service. There is JOY in giving.

We are called to live a life of love.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (NKJV)

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.Ephesians 5:2 (NKJV)

By looking into the Word of God and contemplating the life of Christ, we see that the power of love is remarkable but costly. Individual acts of sacrificial love have a transforming power. Consider the story of the widow in 1 Kings 17:8-16. In an act of faith, a widow sacrifices the very last of her food (a little oil and flour) and makes the prophet Elijah a cake. She was surely hungry. In fact, scripture states she was collecting wood to make a last meal before death.

And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”  1 Kings 17:12 (NKJV)

Her faith and sacrificial love was rewarded with a jar of flour and a jug of oil that would miraculously refill itself. God provided in her time of need and her life was surely never the same.

There were lepers, cripples, and blind men transformed by the healing hand of Jesus. Christ’s love transformed prostitutes, tax collectors, and fishermen. The sacrifice Christ made on the cross has transformed you and me! We were damned in our sin but His sacrifice has provided hope. We can rest in the promise of eternal life.

This Easter, reflect on the command to love one another. For if we hate our brother we do not have Christ in us. Do not love in word alone but love in deed and action. Be His hands! It will require sacrifice. This is known as Christian love.

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. “ 1 John 3:15-16 (NKJV)

Meditate on the following verses and consider how you might love another with sacrificial deeds of love.

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?1 John 3:17 (NKJV)

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.Hebrews 13:16 (NKJV)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Easter: Victory Over Death

 

*Easter

Easter is a time when Christians around the world remember the incredible love sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Our Savior’s willingness to step down from His heavenly throne, take on flesh, and die in a most gruesome way, is proof of His amazing devotion and affection for us all. He looked past our sins because He desired relationship and fellowship with His creation. He bore the cost of our sins, nailing them to the cross. Thanks to HIS righteousness we too are righteous, now able to stand before God as His adopted children.

And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures”     1 Corinthians 15:4 (NKJV)

Therefore, since we are now united with Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection we resist all evil. We are no longer slaves to the enticements of this world. Jesus, our eternal hope, is the doorway through which all sin is conquered. Our “old man” has been crucified with Christ and we have been reborn. With hearts laid down in humble submission, eternal life is our promised reward.

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.”   Romans 6:4-9 (NKJV)

And since we are now in Christ, we have become a new creation. Old things… such as lustful passions, deceptions, ungodly habits, and evil desires are to be put away. We are called to walk as children of light. The light of Jesus should be so bright within us that all who are lost and spiritually dead are drawn to it, and therefore to Christ Himself.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”   John 3:6 (NKJV)

Jesus came into this world to give and serve. We too should live a life of selflessness and service. Paul passionately beseeched fellow believers in Romans 12:1-2 to present their bodies as living sacrifices, “holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

When we serve others, we serve God. The body He created for you and for me is perfect, designed exactly for His sovereign will and purpose. Every talent and gift, weakness and flaw, strength and disability was given to us for a reason. It helps to remember that when we are weak His power and strength becomes evident to all. God will use what we consider personal flaws for His glory.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”   Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

We praise Jesus for His love and sacrifice. We give Him thanks for reuniting us with the Father and for perpetually interceding on our behalf. We rejoice in the promise of eternal life, recognizing Christ’s victory over sin and death. We exalt God for His mercy and grace and thank Him for the sweet fellowship He offers His adopted children.

Jesus died on the cross because He wanted to free us from sinful wandering and restore our relationship with the heavenly Father. Unity and fellowship is of great importance to our Creator. And although we are each unique in design, we are meant to be bound together as one. As a united whole we make up the entire body of Christ. Just as Jesus and the Father are one, we too are to stand unified with each other AND with God. This can only be done if we forgive trespasses and submit to God’s sovereign authority.

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.  And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”   John 17:20-23 (NKJV)

As Christ died and rose again, let us too die to sin and rise up as beacons of light.

Oh death… where is your sting? Has Christ Jesus not given us victory over you? Has He not promised all who call upon His name the gift of eternal life? Blessed be our Savior! Jesus! JESUS! Precious Jesus! There is awesome power in Your holy name!

“’Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (NIV)

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” Ephesians 2:1 (NKJV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”          Romans 6:4 (NKJV)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” Romans 10:9 (NKJV

And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” 2 Corinthians 5:15 (NKJV)

“The only thing I can give to God is ‘My right to myself.’ If I will give God that, He will make a holy experiment out of me, and God’s experiments always succeed.”   ~ Oswald Chambers.

We Share In The Sufferings Of Christ

Easter-3 Croses

“And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.”  John 19:17-18 (NKJV)

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:5 (NIV)

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, understands our pain. He IS our friend and blessed Redeemer. When He left His heavenly throne and took on human form (for our sakes), He endured all the frailty found in our fleshly bodies. Not one abuse, sorrow, trouble, struggle or upset we experience was absent from His life. He lived them all. He is a Lord full of great compassion and understanding when it comes to mankind.

Jesus had siblings and is well aware of the ins and outs of family life.  There were bound to be jealousies and misunderstandings within His earthly family. Although He was without sin, He experienced the sting of insults from those closest to Him. He understands family dynamics.

He knew the pain of a friend’s betrayal. Disappointment was no stranger to our Savior. Emotional ties are often entangled with some sort of sin and can cause great pain, for love is a tender feeling. Surely Judas broke His heart.

If you have had to suffer through a desperate and painful time without the support of friends and family, Jesus understands your struggle. Did He not face His death with only His mother, His Aunt, Mary Magdalene, and the apostle John? Where were the rest of the apostles? Where were His earthly siblings?

When Christ carried His cross to Golgotha, He did so in a weakened state. His 40 lashes and beatings had weakened Him to the point of utter exhaustion.  Here comes a wondrous concept. Jesus, of the holy Trinity and God in flesh, could not physically carry His cross. It was too much for Him to bear. He experienced human weakness and the Roman soldiers compelled a Simon a Cyrenian to bear His cross. 

“Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.  And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull.”  Mark 15:21-22 (NKJV)

We are all expected to carry our own burdens in life but when a strain comes our way that is beyond our ability to withstand, God will send us help. He will provide ways to endure and carry on with the task He has assigned.

By showing kindness to those suffering, we share in their sufferings. Just as Simon helped to carry the same cross of Jesus, we are to carry the same cross of others when they are too worn to move forward. God permits us the blessing of sharing in His sufferings. This is a gift worth rejoicing over!

Praise the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! He knows our weaknesses and understands our limitations. He calls on and provides others to share in our anguish. In love, they willingly take on burdens we cannot shoulder or sustain. Through prayers, acts of love, and physical acts of assistance we can all share in each others trouble and connect as one church and one body, through the blood of our Savior.….. Jesus Christ.

Certainly it is by His wounds that we are all healed.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV)

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17 (NIV)

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’  Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” John 19:25-17 (NKJV)

“No healthy Christian ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not.”
― Oswald Chambers

What Will You Lay At The Foot Of The Cross?

Jesus on Cross

“Our sins twisted the crown of thorns; our sins drove the nails into His hands and feet; on account of our sins His blood was shed. Surely the thought of Christ crucified should make us loathe all sin.”  ~J.C. Ryle

http://eph5v2.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/our-sins-drove-the-nails/

“He (Moses) chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Hebrews 11:24-26 (NIV)

Martin Luther put it very well when he said, “Sin is, essentially, a departure from God.” When standing in the all-consuming fire of God’s great love, any sins still clinging to our garments will find themselves exposed. Nothing is hidden from our Heavenly Father. He sees all, knows all, and is all. Therefore, it is a spiritually immature child who images iniquity can remain concealed from an all-knowing God.

Our reaction to having personal sins exposed will be one of two possibilities. Either we will shudder and shriek in shame and fall to our knees in humble and contrite repentance, or we will grab onto our sinful vice with unspeakable determination and flee the presence of God….. Choosing temporary pleasure over His grace and forgiveness. Mind you, forgiveness is necessary in order to have fellowship and a true relationship with the Creator.

When Jesus died upon the Calvary cross, He took all of our sins with Him, and then threw the iniquities as far as the east is from the west. Because of His great love for us, He willingly suffered an unthinkable death. It was only through His obedience and sacrifice that a way to the Father was procured. Jesus is THE WAY. He is our mediator! He pleads our case and intercedes on our behalf both day and night. So why, WHY would anyone choose sin over the fellowship offered by God?

Hebrews 11:24 tells us that sin is pleasurable, but fleeting. The human race is obsessed with pleasure, whether it is attained through the food we eat, sex, or objects bought on credit. A juicy steak may delight us for a few moments but the thrill is short lived, and we will soon find ourselves thinking about the next delectable to devour. The flesh is never satisfied.

So sin gives us pleasure but it is only temporary. And because the enjoyment is not long lived, many of us are cursed with the addiction of finding new and better ways to curb our cravings for gratification. With our focus on the “next good thing” we forget that all things in this life will pass away. We ignore the warning to lay up heavenly treasure, where moth and rust have no affect.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” If Christ is our treasure, we will crave fellowship with Him. If the lusts of the world are the treasure we desire, we will exit the presence of God in order to pursue them. Being short sighted in such cases is a gross understatement, for those who toss aside the eternal to live for the temporal can’t see past their next pleasure fix. They lack self-control.

The Devil tries to use our sins to erode the significance of our Savior’s death on the cross. He casts out his nets of deception and daily collects a multitude of sinners, entangling them in a latticework woven by human iniquity. Jesus suffered so that all of us might live eternally with Him. When we CHOOSE a life of sin over a life of gratitude and obedience, it is as if we are helping the Roman soldiers hammer the nails in the flesh of Christ. Jesus was crucified for our salvation. Unrepentant sin is our damnation.

Will you continue to hold onto your sins for the mere temporary pleasure they give you, or will you surrender each one now and lay them at the foot of the cross? It is never too late to start! Begin building your treasury in heaven. You will be glad you did, for eternity is for an eternity and life on earth is but a blink of the eye.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”                         Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)

The Thorn

Thorn

THE THORN

The thorn in my side
 daily reminds me of my weakness.                                                                                        Is not His strength made strong in me for His glory?

The thorn in my side keeps me humble and dependent upon Christ
.                                                                    Who better to lean on?

The thorn in my side causes me pain and sorrow.                                                                                                      He was a man of sorrows, why not I?

The thorn in my side reminds me of Jesus and the spear in His side. 
                                                                   Surely I can bear such a small wound as a thorn.

This thorn in my side allows me to share in the sufferings of Christ.  
                                                                   Is it not by His Stripes that I am healed?

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“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of *satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  2 CORINITHIANS 12:7-9  (NIV)                     

We all have thorns that we must bear and carry in this lifetime.  They are painful but beautiful too.  They bring out our godliness and magnify God’s provision and strength.  Refining will bring all the dross of our lives to the surface. Is your spiritual goal to be purified into the image of Christ?  Developing a Christ-like character takes a lifetime to accomplish but you can begin today.

 How then does one manage the pain of a personal thorn? It can be achieved through a complete and utter submission to the will of God.  Keeping your eyes focused on Him will draw your attention away from your suffering and help ease your pain. When walking in His footsteps you will find rest in His care and provision. 

Contentment will seep into your heart as you willingly laying down your desires, asking Him to make His your own. By casting all of your cares upon Him, burdens will lift and a spiritual balm will find it’s way to your wounds.  Healing will come but suffering will become a new joy for you to bear as you share in the sufferings of Christ.

You have been giving a free will.  You can choose the road that leads upward, keeping a righteous man from stumbling and going down to the grave.  Or you can choose to light your own lantern, attempting to be entirely self-sufficient.  This is not wise, as God wants us to be dependent upon His grace and mercy.  He did create us, so who are we to say that we don’t want or need Him. Do you really think you will be just fine on our own?  This is a pretty big planet and there is a mighty enemy looking to devour easy prey.

The Lord took up His cross and obeyed the will of His Father.  Surely we can bear our personal thorn and learn to obey God’s will as well.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.” ISAIAH 53:5 (NKJV

Resurrection: God’s Victory Through Jesus

Jesus w:Mary & John He Is Risen

Luke 23:43 (NIV)  “Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 Easter is a day of victory, love, hope, and promise.  Jesus suffered the incredible humiliation of the cross and endured great suffering for our sakes.  Let me mention just a few of the horrors He willingly suffered for our sakes, in the name of unconditional love.

Jesus endured the rejection and false testimonies of His chosen people.  His disciples denied and abandoned Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, only to follow Him at a distance.  (John alone stood at the foot of the cross with His mother, Mary.)  The Jewish people convinced Pilate to release Barabbas, a convicted murder, because they wanted Jesus crucified.

Soldiers spit at our Savior and made Him wear a crown of thorns.  They whipped him and mocked him and made him carry a cross to his place of death.  Nails through bone and flesh attached Him to a wooden cross.  After suffering separation from His heavenly Father, because of the sins He carried to the cross, He gave up His spirit.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16). This truly is a wondrous love!

There were two criminals crucified with Christ and both were guilty of their crimes.  One of the two men mocked Jesus and threw insults His way. However, the other criminal acknowledged his own sin and rebuked the other criminal for his scorn towards the Redeemer.

“Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”

He then asked Jesus to remember him upon entering His kingdom.  Jesus lovingly replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:38-43) 

This act of forgiveness and hope has given many believers comfort.  We do not know what happens in the final moments of a person’s life.  This story reminds us that it is never too late to be saved and rescued from the pit of hell.

While on our earthly journey, we are to walk by faith.  It is by grace that we are saved, but we are also told that faith without works is dead.  So did the criminal on the cross just manage to get into heaven by the seat of his pants?  Yes, probably so.  Did he have any rewards or treasure laid up once he got there?  After all, he wasn’t a follower and believer of Christ for very long. 

(Here is where I might surprise you with my thoughts.)  How many people were at the foot of the cross witnessing this dialogue?  I would say there were some, and they may have even decided to accept Christ as their Savior.  But now think about this:  How many people have heard this story long after the criminal entered paradise with Jesus?  I would say more than we could imagine.

I believe many have been comforted by this story of a last minute conversion.  Wouldn’t this alone earn him some treasure in heaven? Could this story be one that has led a multitude into believing that Jesus is the Son of God?  I am sure of it. 

It is never too late to give your heart to God, and start living FOR Him. If there is a lost soul you have given up on, remember there is always hope thanks to the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  He won the battle over sin and death and died for us all, including the prodigal son.  Because of Jesus, our sins were nailed to the cross once and for all.  It is a free gift for all to receive, if only we choose to accept it. With an open heart and open arms, Jesus is offering salvation to everyone.  May His sacrifice and resurrection give you enough hope to carry you through another year. 

Romans 6:8-11 (NIV)
   ”Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

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