Day Three

Throughout this season of Lent (which leads up to Easter), we will be studying the Penitential Psalms; as we see our sinfulness, we’ll also see how blessed we are to have Jesus Christ as a Savior. Our devotions during this season take a different angle – we will hear everyday from John Piper’s tremendous booklet 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. As the title states, we’ll focus on Scriptural reasons for Christ’s death, increasing our thankfulness along the way!

John Piper is a very gifted and accomplished author – please go to www.desiringgod.org for a treasure trove of resources for Christian living!

Today's Devotional

Christ suffered and died… To Free Us from Bondage to the Fear of Death

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2:14-15

Jesus called Satan a murderer. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth . . . he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). But his main interest is not killing. It is damning. In fact, he much prefers that his followers have long and happy lives—to mock suffering saints and hide the horrors of hell.

His power to damn human beings lies not in himself, but in the sins that he inspires and the lies that he tells. The only thing that damns anybody is unforgiven sin. Hexes, enchantments, voodoo, séances, curses, black magic, apparitions, voices—none of these casts a person into hell. They are the bells and whistles of the devil. The one lethal weapon he has is the power to deceive us. His chief lie is that self-exaltation is more to be desired than Christexaltation, and sin preferable to righteousness. If that weapon could be taken out of his hand, he would no longer have the power of eternal death.

That is what Christ came to do—take that weapon out of Satan’s hand. To do this, Christ took our sins on himself and suffered for them. When that happened, they could be used no more by the devil to destroy us. Taunt us? Yes. Mock us? Yes. But damn us? No. Christ bore the curse in our place. Try as he will, Satan cannot destroy us. The wrath of God is removed. His mercy is our shield. And Satan cannot succeed against us.

To accomplish this deliverance, Christ had to take on a human nature, because without it, he could not experience death. Only the death of the Son of God could destroy the one who had the power of death. Hence the Bible says, “Since . . . the children share in flesh and blood [=had a human nature], he himself likewise partook of the same things [=took on a human nature], that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). When Christ died for sins, he took from the devil his one lethal weapon: unforgiven sin.

Freedom from fear was the aim of Christ in doing this. By dying he delivered “all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14). The fear of death enslaves. It makes us timid and dull. Jesus died to set us free. When the fear of death is destroyed by an act of self-sacrificing love, the bondage to boring, bigheaded self-preservation is broken. We are freed to love like Christ, even at the cost of our lives.

The devil may kill our body, but he can no longer kill our soul. It is safe in Christ. And even our mortal body will be raised someday: “He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11). We are the freest of all people. And the Bible is unmistakable in what this freedom is for: “You were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

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Day One

Throughout this season of Lent (which leads up to Easter), we will be studying the Penitential Psalms; as we see our sinfulness, we’ll also see how blessed we are to have Jesus Christ as a Savior. Our devotions during this season take a different angle – we will hear everyday from John Piper’s tremendous booklet 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. As the title states, we’ll focus on Scriptural reasons for Christ’s death, increasing our thankfulness along the way!

John Piper is a very gifted and accomplished author – please go to www.desiringgod.org for a treasure trove of resources for Christian living!

Today's Devotional

Christ suffered and died… To Call Us to Follow His Example of Lowliness and Costly Love

This is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. . . . For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:19-21

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:3-4

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

Imitation is not salvation. But salvation brings imitation. Christ is not given to us first as model, but as Savior. In the experience of the believer, first comes the pardon of Christ, then the pattern of Christ. In the experience of Christ himself, they happen together: The same suffering that pardons our sins provides our pattern of love.

In fact, only when we experience the pardon of Christ can he become a pattern for us. This sounds wrong because his sufferings are unique. They cannot be imitated. No one but the Son of God can suffer “for us” the way Christ did. He bore our sins in a way that no one else could. He was a substitute sufferer. We can never duplicate this. It was once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous. Divine, vicarious suffering for sinners is inimitable.

However, this unique suffering, after pardoning and justifying sinners, transforms them into people who act like Jesus—not like him in pardoning, but like him in loving. Like him in suffering to do good to others. Like him in not returning evil for evil. Like him in lowliness and meekness. Like him in patient endurance. Like him in servanthood. Jesus suffered for us uniquely, that we might suffer with him in the cause of love.

Christ’s apostle, Paul, said that his ambition was first to share in Christ’s righteousness by faith, and then to share in his sufferings in ministry. “[May I] be found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ . . . that I may . . . share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:9-10). Justification precedes and makes possible imitation. Christ’s suffering for justification makes possible our suffering for proclamation. Our suffering for others does not remove the wrath of God. It shows the value of having the wrath of God removed by the suffering of Christ. It points people to him.

When the Bible calls us to “endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:10), it means that our imitation of Christ points people to him who alone can save. Our suffering is crucial, but Christ’s alone saves. Therefore, let us imitate his love, but not take his place.

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Day Seven

Throughout this season of Lent (which leads up to Easter), we will be studying the Penitential Psalms; as we see our sinfulness, we’ll also see how blessed we are to have Jesus Christ as a Savior. Our devotions during this season take a different angle – we will hear everyday from John Piper’s tremendous booklet 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. As the title states, we’ll focus on Scriptural reasons for Christ’s death, increasing our thankfulness along the way!

John Piper is a very gifted and accomplished author – please go to www.desiringgod.org for a treasure trove of resources for Christian living!

Today's Devotional

Christ suffered and died… To Create a People Passionate for Good Works

[He] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:14

At the heart of Christianity is the truth that we are forgiven and accepted by God, not because we have done good works, but to make us able and zealous to do them. The Bible says, “[God] saved us . . . not because of our works” (2 Timothy 1:9). Good deeds are not the foundation of our acceptance, but the fruit of it. Christ suffered and died not because we presented to him good works, but he died “to purify for himself a people . . . zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

This is the meaning of grace. We cannot obtain a right standing with God because of our works. It must be a free gift. We can only receive it by faith, cherishing it as our great treasure. This is why the Bible says, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christ suffered and died so that good works would be the effect, not the cause, of our acceptance.

Not surprisingly, then, the next sentence says, “For we are . . . created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). That is, we are saved for good works, not by good works. And the aim of Christ is not the mere ability to do them, but passion to do them. That’s why the Bible uses the word “zealous.” Christ died to make us “zealous for good works.” Zeal means passion. Christ did not die to make good works merely possible or to produce a halfhearted pursuit. He died to produce in us a passion for good deeds. Christian purity is not the mere avoidance of evil, but the pursuit of good.

There are reasons why Jesus paid the infinite price to produce our passion for good deeds. He gave the main reason in these words: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). God is shown to be glorious by the good deeds of Christians. For that glory Christ suffered and died.

When God’s forgiveness and acceptance have freed us from fear and pride and greed, we are filled with a zeal to love others the way we have been loved. We risk our possessions and our lives since we are secure in Christ. When we love others like this, our behavior is contrary to human self-enhancement and self-preservation. Attention is thus drawn to our life-transforming Treasure and Security, namely, God.

And what are these “good works”? Without limiting their scope, the Bible means mainly helping people in urgent need, especially those who possess least and suffer most. For example, the Bible says, “Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need” (Titus 3:14). Christ died to make us this kind of people—passionate to help the poor and the perishing. It is the best life, no matter what it costs us in this world: They get help, we get joy, God gets glory.

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Day Six

Throughout this season of Lent (which leads up to Easter), we will be studying the Penitential Psalms; as we see our sinfulness, we’ll also see how blessed we are to have Jesus Christ as a Savior. Our devotions during this season take a different angle – we will hear everyday from John Piper’s tremendous booklet 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. As the title states, we’ll focus on Scriptural reasons for Christ’s death, increasing our thankfulness along the way!

John Piper is a very gifted and accomplished author – please go to www.desiringgod.org for a treasure trove of resources for Christian living!

Today's Devotional

Christ suffered and died… To Give Marriage Its Deepest Meaning

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25

God’s design for marriage in the Bible pictures the husband loving his wife the way Christ loves his people, and the wife responding to her husband the way Christ’s people should respond to him. This picture was in God’s mind when he sent Christ into the world. Christ came for his bride and died for her to display the way marriage was meant to be.

No, the point of the analogy is not that husbands should suffer at the hands of their wives. It’s true, that did happen to Jesus in a sense. He suffered in order to bring a people—a bride—into being, and these very people were among those who caused his suffering. And much of his sorrow was because his disciples abandoned him (Matthew 26:56). But the point of the analogy is how Jesus loved them to the point of death and did not cast them away.

God’s idea for marriage preceded the union of Adam and Eve and the coming of Christ. We know this because when Christ’s apostle explained the mystery of marriage, he reached back to the beginning of the Bible and quoted Genesis 2:24, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Then in the next sentence he interpreted what he had just quoted: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

That means that in God’s mind marriage was designed in the beginning to display Christ’s relationship to his people. The reason marriage is called a “mystery” is that this aim for marriage was not clearly revealed until the coming of Christ. Now we see that marriage is meant to make Christ’s love for his people more visible in the world.

Since this was in God’s mind from the beginning, it was also in Christ’s mind when he faced death. He knew that among the many effects of his suffering was this: making the deepest meaning of marriage plain. All his sufferings were meant to be a message especially to husbands: This is how every husband should love his wife.

Even though God did not aim, in the beginning, for marriages to be miserable, many are. That’s what sin does. It makes us treat each other badly. Christ suffered and died to change that. Wives have their responsibility in this change. But Christ gives a special responsibility to husbands. That’s why the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

Husbands are not Christ. But they are called to be like him. And the specific point of likeness is the husband’s readiness to suffer for his wife’s good without threatening or abusing her. This includes suffering to protect her from any outside forces that would harm her, as well as suffering disappointments or abuses even from her. This kind of love is possible because Christ died for both husband and wife. Their sins are forgiven. Neither needs to make the other suffer for sins. Christ has borne that suffering. Now as two sinful and forgiven people we can return good for evil.

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Day Five

Throughout this season of Lent (which leads up to Easter), we will be studying the Penitential Psalms; as we see our sinfulness, we’ll also see how blessed we are to have Jesus Christ as a Savior. Our devotions during this season take a different angle – we will hear everyday from John Piper’s tremendous booklet 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. As the title states, we’ll focus on Scriptural reasons for Christ’s death, increasing our thankfulness along the way!

John Piper is a very gifted and accomplished author – please go to www.desiringgod.org for a treasure trove of resources for Christian living!

Today's Devotional

Christ suffered and died… To Enable Us to Live by Faith in Him

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

There is an explicit paradox in this verse. “I have been crucified,” but “I now live.” But you might say, “That’s not paradoxical, it’s just sequential. First I died with Christ; then I was raised with him and now live.” True. But what about these even more paradoxical words: “It is no longer I who live,” yet “I now live”? Do I live or don’t I?

Paradoxes are not contradictions. They just sound that way. What Paul means is that there was an “I” who died, and there is a different “I” who lives. That’s what it means to become a Christian. An old self dies. A new self is “created” or “raised.” “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “When we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with him” (Ephesians 2:5-6).

The aim of the death of Christ was to take our “old self” with him into the grave and put an end to it. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing” (Romans 6:6). If we trust Christ, we are united to him, and God counts our old self as dying with Christ. The purpose was the raising of a new self.

So who is the new self? What’s different about these two selves? Am I still me? The verse at the beginning of this chapter describes the new self in two ways: One way is almost unimaginable; the other is plain. First, it says that the new self is Christ living in me: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” I take this to mean that the new self is defined by Christ’s presence and help at all times. He is always imparting life to me. He is always strengthening me for what he calls me to do. That’s why the Bible says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). “I toil . . . with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). So when all is said and done the new self says, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me” (Romans 15:18).

That’s the first way Galatians 2:20 speaks of the new self: a Christ-inhabited, Christ-sustained, Christ-strengthened me. That’s what Christ died to bring about. That’s what a Christian is. The other way it speaks of the new self is this: It lives by trusting Christ moment by moment. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Without this second description of the new self, we might wonder what our part is in experiencing Christ’s daily help. Now we have the answer: faith. From the divine side, Christ is living in us and enabling us to live the way he teaches us to live. It’s his work. But from our side, it’s experienced by trusting him moment by moment to be with us and to help us. The proof that he will be with us and will help us do this is the fact that he suffered and died to make it happen.

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Day Four

Throughout this season of Lent (which leads up to Easter), we will be studying the Penitential Psalms; as we see our sinfulness, we’ll also see how blessed we are to have Jesus Christ as a Savior. Our devotions during this season take a different angle – we will hear everyday from John Piper’s tremendous booklet 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. As the title states, we’ll focus on Scriptural reasons for Christ’s death, increasing our thankfulness along the way!

John Piper is a very gifted and accomplished author – please go to www.desiringgod.org for a treasure trove of resources for Christian living!

Today's Devotional

Christ suffered and died… To Make His Cross the Ground of All Our Boasting

Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

This seems over the top. Boast only in the cross! Really? Literally only in the cross? Even the Bible talks about other things to boast in. Boast in the glory of God (Romans 5:2). Boast in our tribulations (Romans 5:3). Boast in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). Boast in the people of Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:19). What does “only” mean here?

It means that all other boasting should still be a boasting in the cross. If we boast in the hope of glory, that very boast should be a boast in the cross of Christ. If we boast in the people of Christ, that very boasting should be a boasting in the cross. Boasting only in the cross means only the cross enables every other legitimate boast, and every legitimate boast should therefore honor the cross.

Why? Because every good thing—indeed, even every bad thing that God turns for good—was obtained for us by the cross of Christ. Apart from faith in Christ, sinners get only judgment. Yes, there are many pleasant things that come to unbelievers. But the Bible teaches that even these natural blessings of life will only increase the severity of God’s judgment in the end, if they are not received with thanks on the basis of Christ’s sufferings (Romans 2:4-5).

Therefore, everything that we enjoy, as people who trust Christ, is owing to his death. His suffering absorbed all the judgment that guilty sinners deserved and purchased all the good that forgiven sinners enjoy. Therefore all our boasting in these things should be a boasting in the cross of Christ. We are not as Christcentered and cross-cherishing as we should be, because we do not ponder the truth that everything good, and everything bad that God turns for the good, was purchased by the sufferings of Christ.

And how do we become that radically cross-focused? We must awaken to the truth that when Christ died on the cross, we died (see chapter 31). When this happened to the apostle Paul, he said, “The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). This is the key to Christ-centered boasting in the cross.

When you put your trust in Christ, the overpowering attraction of the world is broken. You are a corpse to the world, and the world is a corpse to you. Or to put it positively, you are a “new creation” (Galatians 6:15). The old you is dead. A new you is alive—the you of faith in Christ. And what marks this faith is that it treasures Christ above everything in the world. The power of the world to woo your love away has died.

Being dead to the world means that every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes a blood-bought evidence of Christ’s love and an occasion of boasting in the cross. When our hearts run back along the beam of blessing to the source in the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything.

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