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

 

2/27/15

Christ suffered and died…

To Abolish Circumcision and All Rituals as the Basis of Salvation

 

But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision . . . the offense of the cross has been removed. Galatians 5:11

 

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Galatians 6:12

 

The place of circumcision was a huge controversy in the early church. It had a long, respected, biblical place ever since God commanded it in Genesis 17:10. Christ was a Jew. All his twelve apostles were Jews. Almost all the first converts to Christianity were Jews. The Jewish Scriptures were (and are) part of the Bible of the Christian church. It is not surprising that Jewish rituals would come over into the Christian church.

 

They came. And with them came controversy. The message of Christ was spreading to non-Jewish cities like Antioch of Syria. Gentiles were believing on Christ. The question became urgent: How did the central truth of the gospel relate to rituals like circumcision? How did rituals relate to the gospel of Christ—the news that, if you believe on him your sins are forgiven, and you are justified before God? God is for you. You have eternal life.

 

Throughout the Gentile world the apostles were preaching forgiveness and justification by faith alone. Peter preached: “To [Christ] all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43). Paul preached: “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that . . . by him everyone who believes is justified from everything from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39, author’s translation).

 

But what about circumcision? Some in Jerusalem thought it was essential. Antioch became the flash point for the controversy. “Men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised . . . you cannot be saved’” (Acts 15:1). A council was called, and the matter was debated.

 

Some . . . rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” . . . Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that . . . God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe . . . why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” And all the assembly fell silent. (Acts 15:5-12)

 

Nobody saw to the bottom of the issue more clearly than the apostle Paul. The very meaning of the suffering and death of Christ was at stake. Was faith in Christ enough to put us right with God? Or was circumcision necessary too? The answer was clear. If Paul preached circumcision, “the offense of the cross has been removed” (Galatians 5:11). The cross means freedom from the enslavement of ritual. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

 

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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

 

2/26/15

Christ suffered and died…

To Take Away Our Condemnation

 

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died— more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Romans 8:34

 

The great conclusion to the suffering and death of Christ is this: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). To be “in Christ” means to be in relationship to him by faith. Faith in Christ unites us to Christ so that his death becomes our death and his perfection becomes our perfection. Christ becomes our punishment (which we don’t have to bear) and our perfection (which we cannot perform).

 

Faith is not the ground of our acceptance with God. Christ alone is. Faith unites us to Christ so that his righteousness is counted as ours. “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). Being “justified by faith” and being “justified . . . in Christ” (Galatians 2:17) are parallel terms. We are in Christ by faith, and therefore justified.

 

When the question is asked, “Who is to condemn?” the answer is assumed. No one! Then the basis is declared: “Christ Jesus is the one who died!” The death of Christ secures our freedom from condemnation. It is as sure that we cannot be condemned as it is sure that Christ died. There is no double jeopardy in God’s court. We will not be condemned twice for the same offenses. Christ has died once for our sins. We will not be condemned for them. Condemnation is gone not because there isn’t any, but because it has already happened.

 

But what about condemnation by the world? Is that not an answer to the question, “Who is to condemn?” Aren’t Christians condemned by the world? There have been many martyrs. The answer is that no one can condemn us successfully. Charges can be brought, but none will stick in the end. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33). It’s the same as when the Bible asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). The answer is not that these things don’t happen to Christians. The answer is: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

 

The world will bring its condemnation. They may even put their sword behind it. But we know that the highest court has already ruled in our favor. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). No one successfully. If they reject us, he accepts us. If they hate us, he loves us. If they imprison us, he sets our spirits free. If they afflict us, he refines us by the fire. If they kill us, he makes it a passage to paradise. They cannot defeat us. Christ has died. Christ is risen. We are alive in him. And in him there is no condemnation. We are forgiven, and we are righteous. “And the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).

 

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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

 

2/25/15

Christ suffered and died…

To Complete the Obedience That Becomes Our Righteousness

 

Being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8

 

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19

 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

 

not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ. Philippians 3:9

 

Justification is not merely the cancellation of my unrighteousness. It is also the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to me. I do not have a righteousness that commends me to God. My claim before God is this: “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:9).

 

This is Christ’s righteousness. It is imputed to me. That means Christ fulfilled all righteousness perfectly; and then that righteousness was reckoned to be mine, when I trusted in him. I was counted righteous. God looked on Christ’s perfect righteousness, and he declared me to be righteous with the righteousness of Christ.

 

So there are two reasons why it is not abominable for God to justify the ungodly (Romans 4:5). First, the death of Christ paid the debt of our unrighteousness (see the previous chapter). Second, the obedience of Christ provided the righteousness we needed to be justified in God’s court. The demands of God for entrance into eternal life are not merely that our unrighteousness be canceled, but that our perfect righteousness be established.

 

The suffering and death of Christ is the basis of both. His suffering is the suffering that our unrighteousness deserved. “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). But his suffering and death were also the climax and completion of the obedience that became the basis of our justification. He was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). His death was the pinnacle of his obedience. This is what the Bible refers to when it says, “By the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

 

Therefore, Christ’s death became the basis of our pardon and our perfection. “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). What does it mean that God made the sinless Christ to be sin? It means our sin was imputed to him, and thus he became our pardon. And what does it mean that we (who are sinners) become the righteousness of God in Christ? It means, similarly, that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, and thus he became our perfection.

 

May Christ be honored for his whole achievement in suffering and dying! Both the work of pardoning our sin, and the work of providing our righteousness. Let us admire him and treasure him and trust him for this great achievement.

 

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Day Two

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

 

2/24/15

Christ suffered and died…

To Provide the Basis for Our Justification

 

We have now been justified by his blood. Romans 5:9

 

[We] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24

 

We hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Romans 3:28

 

Being justified before God and being forgiven by God are not identical. To be justified in a courtroom is not the same as being forgiven. Being forgiven implies that I am guilty and my crime is not counted. Being justified implies that I have been tried and found innocent. My claim is just. I am vindicated. The judge says, “Not guilty.”

 

Justifying is a legal act. It means declaring someone to be just. It is a verdict. The verdict of justification does not make a person just. It declares a person just. It is based on someone actually being just. We can see this most clearly when the Bible tells us that, in response to Jesus’ teaching, the people “justified” God (Luke 7:29). This does not mean they made God just (since he already was). It means they declared God to be just.

 

The moral change we undergo when we trust Christ is not justification. The Bible usually calls that sanctification—the process of becoming good. Justification is not that process. It is not a process at all. It is a declaration that happens in a moment. A verdict: Just! Righteous!

 

The ordinary way to be justified in a human court is to keep the law. In that case the jury and the judge simply declare what is true of you: You kept the law. They justify you. But in the courtroom of God, we have not kept the law. Therefore, justification, on ordinary terms, is hopeless. The Bible even says, “He who justifies the wicked [is] an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15). And yet, amazingly, because of Christ, it also says God “justifies the ungodly” who trust in his grace (Romans 4:5). God does what looks abominable.

 

Why is it not abominable? Or, as the Bible puts it, how can God “be just and the justifier of the one who [simply!] has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26)? It is not abominable for God to justify the ungodly who trust him, for two reasons. One is that Christ shed his blood to cancel the guilt of our crime. So it says, “We have now been justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9). But that is only the removal of guilt. That does not declare us righteous. Canceling our failures to keep the law is not the same as declaring us to be a law-keeper. When a teacher cancels from the record an exam that got an F, it’s not the same as declaring it an A. If the bank were to forgive me the debts on my account, that would not be the same as declaring me rich. So also, canceling our sins is not the same as declaring us righteous. The cancellation must happen. That is essential to justification. But there is more. There is another reason why it is not abominable for God to justify the ungodly by faith. For that we turn to the next chapter.

 

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Day Five – “Farewell”

Day Five
“Farewell”
2/13/15

Scripture

Joshua 23:9-13

9 “The LORD has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. 10 One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised. 11 So be very careful to love the LORD your God. 12 “But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, 13 then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you.


Sunday's Sermon


Today's Devotional

Joshua’s farewell speech continues here in our text today, and he continues with extremely powerful illustrations of what it looks like to follow closely to God. Verses 9-10 show the military might that God has shown with the people of Israel – even at 1,000 to 1 odds, God’s people have overcome their enemies! Joshua then drives home the importance of living holy and faithful lives; to intermarry with people who don’t share a love of God will be disastrous. They will be “snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes” – that sounds like a less-than-ideal marriage situation! As we’ll see in the upcoming book of Judges, God’s people had difficulty following God’s commands, and it gets them into a heap of trouble. If only they had followed Joshua’s words… When I was called into ministry, I was asked this question: “what does successful ministry look like?” After mulling the question over in my mind, I gave this answer: “hearing – on the day that I die – Christ welcome me into Paradise with the words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’” It’s been a privilege to know that other Christians who have passed away recently have heard those words! But those are words that I would repeat if I were in Joshua’s shoes in this passage. Live with this goal in mind, this concept of success in mind (whatever form that takes for you in your life) – to be welcomed in Christ’s presence with those tremendous words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


Today's Challenge

Challenge: What have you done in the last 24 hours that would cause Christ to say those words to you? Pray that God’s Holy Spirit would empower you to be faithful – we know we can’t do that on our own!

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Day Four – “Parting Wisdom”

Day Four
“Parting Wisdom”
2/12/15

Scripture

Joshua 23:1-8

After a long time had passed and the LORD had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then old and well advanced in years, 2 summoned all Israel—their elders, leaders, judges and officials—and said to them: “I am old and well advanced in years. 3 You yourselves have seen everything the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the LORD your God who fought for you. 4 Remember how I have allotted as an inheritance for your tribes all the land of the nations that remain—the nations I conquered—between the Jordan and the Great Sea in the west. 5 The LORD your God himself will drive them out of your way. He will push them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the LORD your God promised you. 6 “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. 7 Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. 8 But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now.


Sunday's Sermon


Today's Devotional

As a kid, I remember a certain set of dramatic commercials that I would often see on TV. In a faux-Western setting, with the stereotypical ten-gallon hat, one cowboy would say to another, “What do you want on your tombstone?” In an act of flippant coolness, the other character raises his eyebrows and says, “Pepperoni and cheese.” I’m not sure how many frozen pizzas were sold by that commercial, but it makes me think about last words. Joshua here is a grizzled war veteran, a respected leader, and a person who God has used for His purposes. And at the end of his accomplished life, he calls the people of God together to give them some parting wisdom. And it turns out that it’s nothing terribly different from what Joshua’s life had been all about; in fact, some of what he says is almost verbatim what God had told Joshua in his calling! Has Joshua forgotten that the people have heard this message before? Is Joshua – in his old age – recycling a sermon that the people have already heard? No, quite the opposite. I believe that Joshua is recognizing the sinful tendency of God’s people to forget. It looks like he’s telling them – once more – that God is faithful, that God has kept His word, that God has been fighting for them, that they are called to be strong, and that they’re to cling to God’s Word for life. It’s nothing that they haven’t heard before; it’s just something that they need to hear again. Rather than forgetting what he’s told them before, Joshua seems to be remembering how quickly we forget who God is and how we’re to respond to Him in faith!


Today's Challenge

Challenge: Bless the Lord today, and forget not all His benefits! How is God reminding you of His goodness today? Pray that you can taste and see that the Lord is good!

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