Take Up Your Cross

As I get closer to finishing my series of comments on John Stott’s books The Cross of Christ and Basic Christianity, it is evident that both books are heading to the major reasons the author to write each book.  We have seen in The Cross that the last part [part four] is focused on “Living Under the Cross;” for example the Church is the place where Christians can learn how to live a Christian life.   In Basic, the main reason for writing that book is “Man’s Response” to Jesus’ calling [part four] and one of the main final ideas is on “Counting the Cost.”  In this post we will comment on “counting the cost.”

Counting the cost is not an uncommon phrase for Christians.  It lays out the terms of discipleship. 

Terms?  What terms?

Too often the new Christian attends to the idea of salvation but they don’t realize that there is a “cost” for the gift of eternal life.  It is not a free ride.

Let’s look carefully at Mark 8: 34-38: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?   And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Does this sound like Jesus is offering the believer a free ticket to heaven?

Certainly not…

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” is a wonderful piece of Scripture but it has some terms. 

First of all, God does not want us to follow the world’s ways; we cannot just do what we want without suffering some consequences.  Many don’t “count the cost” of following Jesus or they  put on the thin veneer of Christianity, looking good enough to others to be considered Christian but not really dedicating their lives to Christ to the point of being uncomfortable.  Stott calls these Christians “nominal Christians.” 

What do we have to do?  When Jesus calls out that we need to follow Him, what does He mean?  When He asked His Disciples to follow Him the command was literal.  They dropped their fishing nets. They left their fathers to follow Him.  Matthew was sitting at the tax office and left everything that he knew and followed Jesus.  For us however, Jesus is not implying the physical need to follow Him, He is looking for us to surrender inwardly.  Put Him first in life above family, above ambition, above worldly concerns like material gain.

Explicitly, Stott says that we must renounce our sinning. If we don’t do this, we are not Christian.  Some may think this is merely a public pronouncement of repentance, but Christ is looking more for an inward change of mind and attitude toward sin.  A public pronouncement is not enough.

“There can be no compromise here.  There may be sins in our lives which we do not think we ever could renounce, but we must be willing to let them go as we cry to God for deliverance from wrong” [Stott, 110].  Our guide in this is not other Christians;  it is the teaching from God’s Word.   God’s word will prick your conscience, but Christ will lead you further along the path of righteousness. 

Jesus made the extreme statement that His followers should pluck out their eye if it causes them to sin, or cut off their hand or foot is they cause sin.  Does this mean that we are to practice self-mutilation?  Of course not; it is just a figure of speech, designed to make a point. 

Stott also writes that repentance sometimes means restitution.  We have to make an effort to put things right with people we have harmed.  Zacchaeus, the dishonest tax collector repaid the money he had stolen from his clients.  Actually he overpaid them.  In addition, he promised to give away half of his money to the poor for all the people he wronged that he could not reach.  This is our example.  Being human beings and prone to extremism, Christ is not calling us to be overzealous in this matter, but if we really desire to repent, we should try to do everything we can do to right our wrongs. 

Secondly, we need to deny ourselves: “if any man would come after Me, let him deny himself.”   Self-centeredness is the root of much of man’s problems and is closely related to another problem: self-will.  Granted it is hard to deny ourselves but Christ expects us to say no to sin and yes to Him.  We should give up our efforts to try to manipulate life for our own gain and let Him lead us to do the work that He intends us to do.  That may not mean gain: Jesus said “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24).

Finally Jesus uses the phrase “take up the cross.”  That sounds extreme, that we are to take on the attitude of a man going to execution.  What this means in reality is to find yourself in a life of Christ.  Take on a new identity, an identity that is not “of this world.”  Jesus is not calling us to a half-hearted commitment.  He wants as much of us as we can give Him.  When He calls us to take up the cross, He is not lowering the standards for being a Christian, He is raising them.  “The astonishing idea is current in some circles today that we can enjoy the benefits of Christ’s salvation without accepting the challenge of His sovereign Lordship.  Such an unbalanced notion is not to be found in the New Testament [Stott, 112]. 

As Christians we are called to follow Christ privately but we are to confess Him publicly.  That confession can be mere words if we don’t take our faith seriously.  “So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 10: 32-33].

Open confession cannot be avoided.  It is a condition of salvation.  We are not only supposed to believe, we are to confess with our lips the statement that Jesus is Lord.  Words are cheap however; we must strive to live out our faith.

What does God ask of us?  We need to renounce our sins, renounce our self.  We need to take up our cross.

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Where You Will Find Boldness, Love and Joy

On June 16, 2022, I commented on Chapter 8 of John Stott’s book Basic Christianity.  That part of his book dealt with what Stott calls the main goals accomplished due to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  One goal was to reconcile God to man and liberate man from self-centeredness and then to bring us into harmony with our fellow human beings.  Stott’s primary focus regarding harmony was on how we are supposed to get along together as we worship God [i.e. as we “d”o church].  As I reread the post, I was struck with how negative the comments were; that church was often a place where people did not act as Christians.  My closing comments indicate how critical the post was: “The church is full of hypocrites.  The church is full of sinners…the church is full of beggars trying to tell other beggars where to find bread.”

I find it extremely unusual as I transition to The Cross of Christ that Stott begins the fourth and last part of his book entitled “Living Under the Cross” with a chapter entitled “The Community of Celebration.”  It is almost the opposite of my June 16th post. 

What should church be?

Stott says the church [the community of the cross] is “not just a badge to identify us and the banner under which we march; it is also the compass that gives us our bearings in a disoriented world” [250].  He calls the Christian life “a continuous festival” with sacraments of the Gospel at the center of that life.  He refers especially to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper.  Baptism is the symbolic act of being born again in a life of Christ.  The Lord’s Supper is the drama of “taking, blessing, breaking and giving of bread and the taking, blessing, pouring and giving of wine”.  We don’t administer the elements of the Lord’s Supper ourselves; we receive them.  Spiritually we feed on the crucified Christ in our hearts.  It is all an expression of our faith. 

Unlike the Old Testament idea of God being unapproachable and unreachable [except through the petition of a High Priest and the sacrifice of innocent animals], the Christian God is a reconciled God.  He sent His Son to us to show how much He loves us, to assuage His anger with us and to forgive us of our sins.  We have been made right with God [justified and redeemed].  

Two words describe the new relationship that Christians have with our Father:  access and nearness.  What is the impact of this new relationship within the church?

Stott lists three very positive things that should characterize the church.

The first word is boldness.  God is not some distant entity.  God is within us via our Holy Spirit and we can pray directly to Him.  The apostles loved to use the word parresia which means “outspokenness, frankness and plainness of speech.”  We have parresia because of Jesus.  Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us so we can look forward to life without fear and we can proclaim the good news with strength.  For the saving grace of our faith to get out to the world, we need boldness of speech.  The church is that special location where we not only get instruction in the rudiments of our faith but we can get inspiration to spread the word [to make disciples of all nations].

Secondly, the church is a place of love.  Whereas the Old Testament presented a God that was difficult to approach and difficult to love [Stott writes “previously, we were afraid of Him”] now we have a new relationship with God that is characterized by love.  First John 4: 19 says it best “We love because He first loved us.”  God’s love has driven out fear for we now know that love begets love.  The church is the central location for us to receive God’s love but it also is the location that inspires us to spend our lives loving “our neighbors as we love ourselves” [Mark, 12: 31].  That (after all) is our new mission as a we “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” [Matthew 28: 19].

The third word Stott uses to characterize the church is joy.  This is a word which means a lot to me since I sing in a church choir.  When the Israelites returned to Jerusalem their mouths were “filled with laughter” and their tongues were filled with “songs of joy.”  Stott writes “how much more should we rejoice in the Lord who has redeemed us from a much more repressive slavery” [251].    The time we spend together in church on the Lord’s Day is intended to bring us together with joy.  Stott cites theologian W.M. Clow who writes “the great faiths of the Buddhist and the Mohammedan give no place either to the need of the grace or reconciliation.  The clearest proof of this is the simplest.  It lies in the hymns of Christian worship.”*   Buddhists don’t cry out in praise.  Mohammedan worshippers never sing.  When Christian worshippers come together it is impossible to keep them from singing.  Stott says “The Christian community is a community of celebration.”   The Jewish people celebrate the Passover to rejoice over their redemption from Egypt.  We celebrate the Lord’s Supper to rejoice over Christ’s shedding of His precious blood to set us free.   “Because the worship of God is in essence the acknowledgement of His worth, we unite with the heavenly chorus in singing of His worthiness as both Creator and Redeemer” [Stott, 252].

Maybe my June 16 post was a bit negative.  I can get that way very easily because I have been disappointed with Christian behaviors from time to time.  Mahatma Gandhi rejected the Christian faith, never again to consider the claims of Christ. He was so turned off by Christian behavior that he said the following: “I’d be a Christian if it were not for the Christians.”  I have never been so disappointed that I was ready to totally throw away my faith in favor of something else.  This post [unlike the one on June 16] points out the beautiful reasons to hold on to church and fellow Christians.  The worship of God in the Christian community should be a festival in which the boldness, love and joy shine through as we celebrate what Christ has done for us.  Stott writes “In this celebration we find ourselves caught up in the worship of heaven, so that we join ‘with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven’ in giving God glory”. 

I know that God wants our praise; He deserves it.  It is in church where we unite in singing praises to His worthiness as Creator and Redeemer. 

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” [Revelation, 5: 12].

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Where You Will Find Hypocrites, Sinners, Beggars and…

“The tendency of sin is centrifugal.  It pulls us out of harmony with our neighbors.  It estranges us not only from our Maker but from our fellow-creatures too.  We all know from experience how a community, whether a college, a hospital, a factory or an office, can become a hotbed of jealousy and animosity.  We find it difficult ‘to dwell together in unity’”.*

A college, a hospital, a factory, an office…

A church?

Surely not a church.

Many years ago, I heard some wisdom about church.  If a person gossips out of church, they will gossip in church.  If a person thirsts for power out of church, they will thirst for power in church.  If a person is hateful and spiteful out of church, they will be hateful and spiteful in church.

We could go on and on.  Think of any harmful behavior that can pit people against other people and put it in the sentence “If a person is… out of church, they will…in church.”

Yes, church.

We have high expectations for houses of worship.  We think of church as a refuge from bad behaviors.  We visualize Christians holding hands and singing “Kum Ba Ya” with peaceful faces and warm hearts.  The divisiveness of American society is not welcome in the church but the reality is…it is.

People are people and just because they walk into God’s house, they don’t leave their humanity outside.

John Stott, in his book Basic Christianity expresses a deep knowledge about how church should function.  “God’s plan is to reconcile us to each other as well as to Himself.  So He does not save independent, unconnected individuals in isolation from one another; He is calling out a people for His own possession.” [102]. 

It certainly did not seem that way in the beginning.

God asked Abraham to leave his home in Mesopotamia to possess a new land and have manydescendants.  His grandson Jacob had twelve sons, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  These people thought of themselves as separate from other peoples.  They tried hard to develop a culture apart from the influence of surrounding cultures.  Sometimes they were successful but sometimes other cultures invaded their insulated world.  When that happened God was incensed but after suffering and finally repentance, He accepted His people back.

Then came Jesus, the Messiah, the One who would explain to the world the whole kingdom of God. 

We find out that God never intended His people to be set apart.  His people would be in the north, south, east and west (every “race, kindred and language”).  Jesus clearly states “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  Stott cites the Apostle Paul who says “If you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” [Galatians 3: 29].

Stott recalls Paul’s image of the human body to describe the working of God’s church.  Every member is like an organ of the body.  Christ is the head of the church, controlling the body’s activities.  Every organ does not have the same function but every organ is necessary for the effectiveness of the body and human life.  My pastor preached a sermon on Christian unity and likened the church to a puzzle.  Every member of the church fits into the puzzle as a single piece fits into a real puzzle.  All members contribute.  Together they make the puzzle complete; it takes all of us. None of us is alike however; we all bring unique skills to church and as we use them, we can make the church function as a unified institution.

It is amazing when a church works together as a unit.  The Holy Spirit courses through members and “there is one body and one Spirit” says Paul.  Outward divisions cannot destroy inward spiritual unity.  I have seen this in my life numerous times.  Take for example the worldly concern for politics.  What is important in a church?  Is it politics or should it be “we are all Christians, we love Jesus Christ and we want to move His Kingdom forward in this world.”  I have worked side by side with people who do not see “the world” as I do, but that never mattered.  I love them and they love me and we work together for God and His Son Jesus.  Worldly issues never even come up.

Why do things go sideways in some churches?  People develop anger, misbehave, disrespect others, etc.  Stott correctly states “the church is people—sinful and fallible people.  This is no reason to shun it, for we are sinful and fallible ourselves” [104].  I have had so many conversation with non-believers who say that the church is full of hypocrites, that they preach one thing and do another.  Another reason is the fact that some go to church as a requirement, not going because they want to or feel a need to.  Maybe they see other people and want business contacts.  Attending some churches may increase their status in the community [a certain congregation is “cool”].  Stott says there are multiple reasons that people put their names on church rolls but they “have never had their names, ‘as Jesus put it’ written in heaven” [104].

God knows who are His.  Some people profess faith but others actually exercise faith.  God sees down into a person’s heart.  While the professing people can go to church with the exercising people, they are not identical Christians. 

The Holy Spirit at work in the church creates love in the church.  I don’t even have to know another Christian to feel the love of God in them.  They may not be like me but the bond of Jesus is a real bond.  “The relationship which exists and grows between the children of God is deeper and sweeter even than blood relationships” [105].  This is the kinship of the family of God.   If you have ever felt it, it is not sentimental.  It is not emotional.  It is grounded in the recognition of the need for self-sacrifice.  When your heart is right with God, you want to serve others, to help others, to enrich other’s lives.   

What kills the centrifugal force of sin?   It is this kind of love in a church.  Whereas sin divides people, the uniting love for God counteracts division.  Whereas sin separates people, the uniting love for God reconciles all differences. 

Even though there will always be churches that are dead or dying and there will always be churches that are torn apart by warring factions, there will also always be churches that are getting it right.  Even though there will always be churches that can’t figure out the love of Jesus and there will always be churches that call themselves Christian and can’t provide any evidence that this is so, there will also always be churches that are providing hope and light for a dark world. 

No matter what is happening, Christians need a house of worship however imperfect it may be.  I know some people may correctly call out certain congregations for being hypocrites and that is the excuse they provide for never attending church.

I would say they are right.  The church is full of hypocrites.  The church is full of sinners.  To use an old expression, the church is full of beggars trying to tell other beggars where to find bread. 

The church may be full of hypocrites, sinners and beggars, but it is also that special place…

where you will find God.

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The Holy Spirit as Change Agent

Sunday June 5th, 2022…

This past Sunday was the day of Pentecost, the day the church celebrated the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus had been with His Disciples through three years of ministry and John Stott* states that notable Disciples did not seem to get His message.  Several times He had urged them to humble themselves like little children but Peter could not accept the idea of humility.  He was a proud and confident man all the days that he was with Jesus.  John got the same message but he truly earned the title “son of thunder” to the end of Jesus’ life.  These two did not seem to comprehend what it meant to be loving.

Then Jesus told the disciples that He was leaving them so something better could come in His place, a Comforter, a Helper, a Counsellor. “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” John 16: 7.   Can you imagine the consternation among the disciples?  You know they would rather have Jesus than some strange power they did not understand.

Until…

That power came.

For Peter and John the change was amazing.  Read Peter’s first letter and notice how much he speaks of humility.  Read John’s letters and attend to the fact that they are full of love.  Is this evidence that the Holy Spirit came to these two men and changed them from within?

Is that same Spirit available to you and to me?

It is.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”  John 3: 3.

That is the beginning.

Sadly many Christians think that salvation is enough.

But it is not.  The Holy Spirit is not stagnant.  It is a Change Agent.

God does not give us the Holy Spirit because He wants us to declare our love for Him and stay the same. 

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want” [Galatians 5: 16-18].  What is Paul talking about here?  He is addressing the battle that happens once someone is saved and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the new believer.  The Holy Spirit is sent into our hearts and makes our bodies His temple.  This conflict is the daily experience of the Christian as temptation is all around us: give into our worldly desires [the flesh] or obey the calling of the Spirit to a higher purpose.  Stott writes strong words when he says this is not “arid theological theorizing,” this is everyday life.  We are pulled down by sin while the Holy Spirit is trying to pull us up.  Some days we may feel good about what we have accomplished; maybe we have done more good than bad.  Other days we don’t feel so good.  Maybe we have succumbed to the flesh and have done some of the things on Paul’s partial list: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” [from Galatians 5].

What’s a Christian to do?

Engage in the battle, knowing that sometimes we will fail.  When we fail we need to ask for forgiveness for our weak moments.  We need to repent, have faith that God still loves us and try to use Holy Spirit power to continue on down the road to growth in Christ.  I once had a friend who put it in plain language:  when you fall, pick yourself up, ask God to forgive you and keep walking forward in the light of His grace. The worst thing a new believer can do is wallow in guilt and stay “down on the ground”.  God knows how weak we are and Satan knows how to trip us up.  Holy Spirit power and God’s forgiveness can overpower anything that the devil can throw at us.

Engage in the battle, using what you have learned.  Jesus said in Luke 10: 27   “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  I have always taken this verse as a challenge.  It is a call to action.  Love the Lord your God is the biggest command obviously but loving your neighbors is probably the hardest thing to do in a world that seems to thrive on hate of others.  For many reasons, expressing disdain for our fellow human beings has become a sport.  This subject is too big to expound upon but all of us know it is a real problem.  Maybe it is a very romantic notion, but the heart is seen as the center of love but the soul is essential for all types of love to be effective.  Let’s not forget the “all your mind” part.  In my view, God has given us a mind for a reason.  He wants us to use it.  In another book by John Stott [Your Mind Matters], he writes “If we do not use the mind which God has given us, we condemn ourselves to spiritual superficiality.”  For many Christians being born again is it.  Salvation is the end of the process.  What about the study of the Word of God?  What about the study of faith in so many books that are written to stimulate our Christian growth?  What about attendance in worship services and Sunday school classes?  Growth opportunities abound. There are so many resources available for Christians to deepen their faith, to grow beyond the baby stage of being saved.  In Hebrews the Apostle Paul states that new Christians should be given milk as they begin their lives in Christ, but the intent is that they should move beyond milk to meat leading to maturity. 

I love the way Stott uses such clear language to explain our challenge and our limitations in the lives that we all lead.  We want to live better lives and we strive to do that.  “If the Spirit of Jesus could come and live in me, then I could live a life like that [Jesus].  This is the secret of Christian sanctity.  It is not that we should strive to live like Jesus, but that He by His Spirit should come and live in us.  To have Him as our example is not enough; we need Him as our Savior” [102].

Finally Stott says it best: “It is through His atoning death that the penalty of our sins may be forgiven; it is through His indwelling Spirit that the power of our sins may be broken.”

Amen…

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“From Glory to Glory” The Power of God’s Spirit within Us…*

I went out on my deck this morning knowing that I wanted to write a good blog post this week.  I know my last post of Chapter Nine from The Cross of Christ finished that chapter so now it was time to turn to Stott’s book Basic Christianity.  The topic of chapter 8 in Basic “The Salvation of Christ” with the subtopic “The Spirit of Christ.”

Then I heard, felt and saw the rustling of the wind in the trees…

I know that many Christians are taught that the “Spirit of Christ” (the Holy Spirit) is like the wind.  John 3: 8 says “the wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.”

I recall my reading about the members of the early church gathered in the upper room, fifty days after Jesus was raised from the grave.  “And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them cloven tongues as of fire and they rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance” [Acts 2:1].

When I read Stott’s account of the “Spirit” of Christ for the first time many years ago, I was seeking answers to key questions.  I knew I needed help.  I knew I had spent years climbing the so-called “ladder of success” only to get to the top of that ladder leaving my wife and child behind.  I had a reckoning.  No amount of worldly success was worth the loss of my family.  Losing them meant losing everything for me.  My course correction was Jesus Christ.

Ok, I made my public profession of faith.  I would imagine that anyone who saw me at that time would say that this “guy” needed help.  I was a humbled man.  My life had come apart at the seams and I did not know what to do or where to go.  I had a new strong support group, men who also knew Jesus.  Like many men, I lacked training in how to be a man of God.  I really did not have a clue about how to live a Christian life.

But I did have one very important thing.

I had the Holy Spirit.

“Jesus answered him [Nicodemus], ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’” [John 31: 3].  Well I felt I was born again.  I wanted to live my life for Christ.  That was certainly a new goal for me, but how was I to do this?  My “old man” was a man of this world, bonded to lustful desires for power, money and recognition.  Work came first, family was way down the line and God was something I just did not have any time for at all.  I needed my Sunday mornings for work.  The whole world was centered around me.  Now the rubble of the past was cleared away and I had a new start, a new life.  My “old man” was stuffed in the bag and slung over my shoulder.  A new man stepped forward, a new man forgiven by God, a God whose Son understood what it felt like to be a human.  He had temptations but He did not give into those.  My, what a goal; to lead a sinless life like Christ!

I could not do it.  I had the desire but I could not eradicate the old habits.  Stott writes “The cause of our sins, therefore is our sin, our inherited nature which is perverted and self-centered.  As Jesus put it, our sins come from within, out of our ‘heart’” [98].  The cause of our sin is rooted in the “original” self-centered sin of Adam and Eve.  Try as hard as I could, the “old man” kept coming out of the bag. 

I had mentors tell me don’t despise the day of small beginnings, don’t say I’ll never be any different.  Don’t say I’m always going to be in bondage to sin.  I will never be free.    

They said thank God for the desire you have, the desire to break from old sinful habits.  Thank God for The Holy Spirit that now resides within you.

That was a revelation!

As Stott writes I felt I was a “New Creation—a new heart, a new nature, a new birth.”  I had begun the inward change brought about by a new righteous attitude.  I found out this does not happen instantly.  It is a process that begins with being saved.  It is a process that is never completed.  Christ lived a sinless life but we don’t have what it takes to live that kind of life.  God and His Son Jesus extend grace to us and the best new title we can have is “sinner saved by grace.”  That is what we will be from the moment we are saved until the moment we go to meet God in heaven.  We will never totally conquer sin because of that inherited sin nature but we can try and I believe the Lord appreciates good efforts.  His Son knows what powerful forces push and pull us away from total dedication to God.

God is still changing me to this very day.  He is on my mind all the time.  Life is not easy for me as it is not easy for everyone.  I have my good times and my bad times.   Problems come and go.  Victories have occurred and then they pass.  Second Corinthians 3: 18 says that God changes us “from glory to glory.”  Even though Satan is always there to trip us up, Jesus has come “to give life and all it fullness” [John 10: 10].  God does not want us mired in sinful life patterns; He wants much more for us.  He wants us to worship Him and produce good fruit in our lives. 

I know it may be confusing for new Christians to hear Jesus compare a righteous person to a tree but the metaphor is a good one.  “Every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.  A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” [Matthew 7: 17-18].  Inward change is the process brought about by the Holy Spirit but outward change is the result of this work.  People can evidence a new you by your new behavior.  The Holy Spirit can “make a sour person sweet, a proud person humble or a selfish person unselfish” [98-99]. 

Stott spends four pages on the “Spirit of Christ” and even though he does a good job of introducing the idea, there is much more that could be explained.  More was explained on St. John Studies from June 15, 2018 to April 18, 2019.  I dedicated weekly posts to Billy Graham’s book The Holy Spirit, an extensive discussion of the Third Person of The Trinity. 

Even though over the years I have learned a lot about the Holy Spirit and I have personally experienced the power of The Holy Spirit, I continue to be fascinated by God’s guidance through The Holy Spirit.  I will never totally understand God’s presence in me but I truly appreciate it. 

Even though it is like the wind (“you heard its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going”) it is there.  It provides counsel, comfort, knowledge truth, life, wisdom among many other things. 

All the things we need to go “from glory to glory.”

*I usually try to write a post on Thursday but I have been attending to my mother. Today is the first time I have had to post my comments. She has cancer and now has covid. If anyone reads this and wants to, please pray for Patsy Carter, my Mom.

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Revelation: The Final Victory

As we consider the life of Jesus Christ, most of us tend to emphasize His mission as one of atonement, the reconciliation of God and humankind through His life. For Christians, this is the greatest major accomplishment ever in the history of man, but John Stott writes that Christ (in accomplishing atonement) also conquered evil.  In the post “Crushing the Head of Evil” we confirmed the existence of evil and how some Christians don’t want to deal with that reality even though it is obviously in the world.  In “Freedom from The Law, Flesh, the World and Death” I reported that Stott turns to New Testament writers to explain how Jesus freed us from those four evils that are in the title of the post.  Now as we close chapter 9 of The Cross of Christ, Stott turns to one of the most challenging books of the Bible, the book of Revelation; “No book of the New Testament bears a clearer or stronger testimony to Christ’s victory [over evil] than the Christian apocalypse which we know as the book of Revelation” [241].

Unfortunately for most of us, Revelation is the hardest book to understand in the whole Bible.  It is a record of visions given by God to the Apostle John.  The visions are what the world will be like in the future.  John is a first century man, yet he conveys (through “symbology”) the past, present and future of this world.  His word meanings are obscure and much has been written about his intent.  Yet Stott writes that one thing is very clear: John is declaring that God and Jesus have won the war of good versus evil.

It is also clear that Revelation opens with references to Jesus.  Phrases like “the firstborn of the dead,” “the ruler of the kings of the earth,” “the First and the Last” and “the living One” all mean Jesus Christ, the “risen, ascended, glorified and reigning Lord” [242].  By Revelation 12, Christ is seen as standing in the center of the throne and even though the activity of the first eleven books of Revelation is hard to understand, it is clear that Christ is in control. 

Stott feels the central chapter of Revelation is twelve, when John saw a pregnant woman “who had the sun as her garment, the moon as her footstool and twelve stars as her crown.”  She was about to give birth to a Son whose destiny was to rule all the nations [Jesus].  An enormous red dragon appears in front of the woman [“that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan”].  The dragon is ready to devour her child but God snatches the child and the woman flees to a desert place.  War follows this activity.  As the child goes to heaven, the dragon is hurled from heaven to earth.  The reference in chapter 12 means that victory is accomplished by the “blood of the lamb” and the dragon is “filled with fury, because he knows his time is short” [Revelation 12: 12]. 

At this point the devil has been defeated and dethroned.  He is enraged and even though defeated, his efforts to influence the world are not over.  To wage his war against good, he employs three monsters.

We must remember that John was a first century man, so his references were heavily influenced by the powers in the world at that time.  The first monster arises out of the sea with seven heads and ten horns and the dragon delegates to this creature his power, throne and sovereignty.  The monster is worshipped by all but the Lamb’s followers.  This creature represents the Roman Empire of the First Century but it could also represent all states that oppose Christ, oppress the church and demand allegiance from citizens.  In today’s world one could easily point to Russia and its stance against the church and its cruel war against Ukraine. 

The second monster rises out of the earth.  This monster exercises his authority and promotes his worship.  He is all about deception.  He forces people to worship the image of the first monster and to wear the mark of the beast.  This monster is called “the false prophet.”  In John’s day this monster represented Roman emperor worship but today he could stand for all false religion and ideology, any power that deflects worship to any object other than “the living and true God.” 

The dragon’s third ally is called “the great prostitute.”  Stott says once again, she represents Rome in John’s historical context.  The “great city rules over the kings of the earth” which makes it surely the city of Rome, but Rome represents moral corruption on a much larger scale.   The prostitute sits on a scarlet beast [one of the kings on whom her authority rests] and she wears purple and scarlet, gold jewels and pearls and holds in her hand a golden cup “filled with abominations.”  Those abominations include “intoxicating temptations” like sexual immorality, spiritual idolatry, excessive luxuries etc. 

Even though John uses the Roman Empire as his First Century point of reference for the Book of Revelation, the devil has not changed his strategies today.  Non-Christian cultures today still persecute anyone who worships God in those cultures.  The internet spews forth so much information which is counter to the teaching of Jesus.  False ideologies abound, as more and more people become fascinated by the occult and counterfeit religions.  What we watch today in all forms of media is often less than uplifting and more often than not it is morally corrupt.  The assault on the church itself is evident as denominations struggle with same sex issues and find the church split apart.  Today a powerful denomination is meeting in its annual conference and it is being torn apart by its lack of attention to sexual abuse among it pastors. 

What are we to do in light of these challenges?  In the Book of Revelation, the last three chapters predict the final destruction of Satan and the emergence of a new heaven and a new earth.  We cling to the idea that there will come a time when there will no longer be tears, death, pain or night.  God will establish His perfect rule.

So we wait.

Stott writes that is not so.  We should resist the devil as we wait for the “final victory.”  We are to put on the full armor of God and take our stand against him.  There is no need to flee.  When we want to vanquish the devil, we have to tell him to be gone in the name of Jesus Christ.  He knows who the final victor is and he will flee from us if we invoke the name of Jesus.

Second, we should proclaim Jesus Christ.  In telling others about Jesus we will turn people from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God.  If we advance the kingdom of God, the power of the devil will wane.  He power is all bluff anyway.  He was overthrown at the cross.  Stott writes that being an “uncompromising witness to Christ is essential.  So is the willingness, if necessary to lay down our lives for His sake” [246].

Surely Revelation is a challenging book to read but it was written at a time when First Century Christians needed its message.   Christ had come to earth, given them a new faith, a new hope, a new inspiration for their lives, all in the face of a world that gave them little chance of any kind of fulfillment.  Revelation is full of the word “victory.”  “More than half the occurrences of the word “victory” found in the Bible are to be found in this book.  Stott paraphrases H.B. Swete that “it summons its readers to lift up their drooping hearts, to take courage and endure to the end” [241].

As readers of Revelation, today we know the end of the story.  Satan will be totally destroyed.  God’s perfect rule will be established.

Hard book to read?   Yes…

Hard book to understand?  Yes…

A message that we need to know today in our challenging times?  Yes, Yes, Yes…

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Freedom from The Law, Flesh, the World and Death

“Some Christians do not want to acknowledge evil at all, and then there are those Christians who do believe that Satan is alive and well and working in the world.  Some are so adamant in their denial of evil that they prefer to cling to a stylized version of angels with beautiful white wings and chubby baby faces that are only here to do good [they are our guardians].”*

It seems that many believers struggle with the idea that the devil is real.  In fact, some just don’t want to think that there is a dark force that is creating havoc.  It is too scary.  The whole idea is just too negative.

John Stott also thinks that Christians struggle to understand evil, not quite sure about how to fit it into the Christian worldview.  He writes in his book The Cross of Christ that Christians generally are in opposing camps about this subject.  On one hand they would like to be victorious as Jesus was victorious, but on the other, they know that all of us live in a world full of temptations.  Every day we know we fail in our attempt to beat back the devil.  We just don’t have the power to live the perfect life of Christ; we literally sin and fall short of the glory of God.   The devil snares us in his traps every day.

Some may prefer to put blinders on, refusing to admit that Satan is working on them every.  Stott seems to say that these Christians are naïve as he writes that the Bible provides proof that the devil has been defeated but he has not yet conceded defeat.  He has been overthrown but he has not been eliminated.  The truth is, he continues to wield great power. 

He refers to our life with Jesus and Satan as a continual “tension”.  “On the one hand we are alive, seated and reigning with Christ….on the other we are warned to watch out because the same evil one ‘prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’”  [Stott, 235]. 

To Christians who want to claim Christ’s victory over Satan, Stott refers to them as “triumphalists.”  They see only victory and refuse to acknowledge warnings about the power of evil. 

Others Stott refers to as “defeatists”.  They only see “the fearsome malice of the devil and overlook the victory over him which Christ has already won” [235].

Is there some middle ground?  Do Christians have to be in either the triumphal camp or the defeatist camp? 

Stott avoids the trap of making some type of subjective choice.  He just writes that we should look at the evidence in God’s word.   New Testament writers concentrate on four ways that Christ frees us from.  These writers concentrate on the law, the flesh, the world and death.  Maybe this is the answer.  Like Stott, we need to look at that evidence.

First under Christ we are no longer under the tyranny of the law.  Some might think it unusual that the devil has used God’s law to enslave us, but that is exactly what the Apostle Paul tells us:  “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith could be revealed” [see Galatians 3 and Romans 6].  When Christ came, the judgement (or the curse) of the law was removed (Jesus took the curse).  God wants us to try to live righteous lives through faith in Jesus, not live condemned lives through the law.  God wants obedience, not condemnation.

Secondly, through Christ we are no longer under the tyranny of the flesh.   This refers to our fallen nature.  As Adam and Eve were self-centered, so are we.  All the sins that we can choose to commit can make us slaves to sin; we become wrapped up in the ephemeral pleasure that sin offers.   Paul lists sexual immorality, idolatry, occult practices, hatred, jealousy, anger, drunkenness etc.  Jesus came to defeat this slavery.  Our old sinful self was crucified with Christ and we have a chance to have a new body, free of sin [at least we can have hope of trying to live a less sinless life].  Christ won the battle over the flesh.  We are ordinary humans so we must continue the battle daily, but in Jesus we have an Advocate, one who understands us and extends grace to us [a forgiveness we don’t deserve]. 

Next Jesus lifted the world from our shoulders.  Stott writes “if flesh is the foothold the devil has within us, the world is the means through which he exerts pressure on us from without.”  Most Christians know what the “world” means.  It refers to godless human society.  John writes that one cannot love Christ and love the world because the world ridicules our faith, persecutes Christians and infiltrates the church with “worldly” values.  Jesus stated “I have overcome the world” for “everyone born of God has overcome the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it who overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” [First John 2: 15-16].  What happens to people who become believers?  Slowly but surely their values change as the lure of the world’s values become weaker and the power of the cross transforms their minds.

Finally Christ frees us from the tyranny of death.  Fear of death is universal, but in Hebrews 2: 14 it says “Jesus Christ is able to set men free even those who all their lives have been ‘held in slavery by their fear of death.’”  As we have discussed flesh and the world [the major factors in sin] we now can admit that Jesus took the sting out of death when he gave us hope in our victory over sin.  Stott writes “It is sin which causes death, and which after death will bring the judgement;  hence our fear of it” [239].   Since Christ died for our sins, they can be taken away.  Now that we have been forgiven, death can harm us no more.  Paul writes “Where, O death is your victory?  Where, O death is your sting?  Thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [First Corinthians 15: 55-57].  What should be our attitude toward death?  It is still an enemy, “unnatural, unpleasant and undignified” but it has lost its power to harm and to terrify.    Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” [First Corinthians 15: 26].

Stott does not state if he is a triumphalist or he is a defeatist.  Of course he believes in the almighty powers of God and His son Jesus so I would say he would tend to be more triumphalist than defeatist.  Does he ignore the existence of evil?  I refer the reader to his statement above: [the devil] “has been defeated but he has not yet conceded defeat.  He has been overthrown but he has not been eliminated”.  I did not comment on the discussion Stott has about the six ways that God defeated Satan by putting His Son on the cross.** include the discussion he has right before the section on the four ways that Christ frees us from the power of the devil.  Maybe that tips his hat, for it is an extensive explanation of six ways that God defeated Satan by putting his son in the cross.**  Instead I chose to explain the “four tyrants” Christ has overthrown, an “evidence-based” discussion based on New Testament writing.  over which Christ won the victory.  Stott says Christ ushered in the new “aeon” or age which “is characterized by grace not law, the spirit not the flesh, the will of God not the fashions of the world and abundant life not death” [241].

He ends his exposition with the simple words which mean so much: “This is the victory of Christ into which He allows us to enter”[241].

Your victory…                                 

My victory…                                                                                                                                               

Thanks be to God.

*This is a paraphrase from my post of May 12, describing how Christians attempt to comprehend the existence of good and evil in the world.

**For this discussion of the “six ways” see pages 227-234, based on theologian Mike Green’s book I Believe in Satan’s Downfall.

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A Loss

On May 14th, my wife* lost her mother. Martha Ordway Fletcher was a wonderful mother-in-law, kind, understanding, accepting, a Christian. My wife had an exceptional relationship with her mother; it is no exaggeration that they truly loved each other. Susan has been helping care for her for months now as she has suffered from congestive heart failure. Finally on May 14, she passed away. Since then, I have tried to do what I normally do; one thing I normally try to do is contribute to St. John Studies every Thursday. This week I am going to be late. I thought I would be able to post in advance but my son and his wife are here and there is just too much going on. Today is funeral day and I don’t need to have my head in my computer. I need to be assisting others.

*Susan is my editor. When she works with my posts, they are always better. This week will be late but hopefully when it goes up, the wait will be worth it. I know anyone who reads St. John Studies will understand.

David Carter, St. John Studies…

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Crushing the Head of Evil

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” [Genesis 3: 14-15].

At this point, evil had entered the world. 

Readers of the Bible know that the snake in the Garden of Eden was evil, Satan in snake form.  He convinced Eve and Adam that eating the apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was perfectly ok when God told them they must not do it.  They disregarded God’s command.  Their rebellion told God that their prideful needs were more important than His commands.

When we turn to Genesis 3:14-15, we read that he will crush the head of the serpent but the snake will strike “his” heel.  The big question is who is “he”?

We know the story of Jesus, God in the form of God’s Son who came to Earth to redeem man from sin.  Most of us think Jesus’ primary mission is man’s redemption.  John Stott in Chapter 9 of his book The Cross of Christ devotes a whole chapter to “The Conquest of Evil” and the idea that evil is alive and well in the world today.  Maybe Jesus also came to conquer evil.  He begins with the idea of this “wounded healer,” Christ crushed evil (even though He was wounded by the world as He suffered on the cross).*

It is impossible today to imagine how Christians felt after the death of Jesus.  One would imagine depression and despair.  But Stott writes “there was no defeatism…they spoke rather of victory.”  He cites phrases like “thanks be to God! He gives us the victory.”  “In all things [that is adversities and dangers] we are more than conquerors.”  “God…always leads us in triumphal procession.”  “Victory, conquest, triumph, overcoming—this was the vocabulary of those first followers of the risen Lord.  For if they spoke of victory, they knew they owed it to the victorious Jesus.”  Paul wrote “He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” and “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” and “God leads us in triumphal procession in Christ.”  They knew Jesus suffered a horrible death but in His death, He won. 

What looked like the defeat of goodness was really the defeat of evil.

He was wounded, but He crushed the head of the serpent.

And maybe they knew it.

As we begin discussing Chapter 9, I would like to comment on an experience I have had these past few months.  I always spend a lot of time picking books for my adult Sunday school class to study and several months ago I settled on Dr. David Jeremiah’s book Angels: Who They Are and How They Help—What the Bible Reveals.  I consider my class as I pick books and I thought they would appreciate a good look at angels, a popular subject among many Christians.  Little did I know that so much of the book would be devoted to the evil in this world and I had no idea that so many Christians would struggle with the existence of the darker side of life.  I soon found that Christians can be divided into several groups:  Christians who really do not want to acknowledge evil at all, Christians who do believe that Satan is alive and well and working in the world and Christians who cling to a stylized version of angels with beautiful white wings and chubby baby faces  and they are only here to do good [they are our guardians]. 

Ok, a close study of what many call the “unseen realm” or the supernatural yields a lot of material about “good” angels but the evil in this world is not neglected.  Satan is a fallen angel and he has power to confound the work of the Lord among believers on the earth.  How does he do this?   Some of the things he does are he instills doubt, he encourages pride, he tempts with pleasure in sin, he causes us to fear and feel guilt.  Satan never tells his whole agenda; he wants us to be “in the dark” about what he is trying to do.  Human ignorance helps him do his work. 

To further confound humans and to help him carry out his mission, Satan employs demons.  These are fallen angels who engage in spiritual warfare with humans, corrupting morals, prompting doubt and unbelief.  They possess people in order to do the devil’s work; they don’t exist on their own.  Matthew 8: 28-34 is an excellent example as Jesus encountered two men who were demon-possessed.  He drove the demons out of the men and sent them into a herd of pigs [who rushed down a bank into a lake and died].

Stott writes that the New Testament “affirms, in its own uninhibited way, that the cross of Jesus disarmed and triumphed over the devil and ‘all principalities and powers’ at His command’” [226].  Stott cites H. E. W. Turner who comments on First Century hearers of the Gospel who had no problems accepting evil in their world: “it is perhaps hard for modern man to realize how hag-ridden was the world into which Christ came.”  Of course some people today have what Stott calls an “alarming fascination with the occult” but many “ridicule a belief in the devil” and label such thoughts as “superstitious anachronisms.” 

Many refuse to believe that the devil is behind the evil of this world.  As we begin our discussion of Chapter 9 (“The Conquest of Evil”), we will consider that Jesus was that “offspring” that Moses was referring to in Genesis.  We won’t turn our backs on the evil of this world. 

I told my Sunday school class that believers make a mistake when they become preoccupied with evil, but total denial of Satan’s work is not good either.  We need a balance. 

I reminded them of an old cliché that I found appropriate: “to be forewarned is to be forearmed.”

Too much concern is folly.

We have a Savior with a powerful heel.

*Genesis 3:15 “Know by many as protoevangelium, ‘the first good news.’ God tells the serpent that he is going to be on the losing side of the battle between good and evil.  His head will be crushed by the seed of the woman, in this case the reference may be Jesus?”  from The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, ed. Gary Burge and Andrew Hill.

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Standards of the World: Immoral, Unworthy and Unjust

John Stott tries to explain why Jesus Christ came to earth in Chapter 7 of his book Basic Christianity.  On April 14* I commented on God’s gift to us, that God had taken the initiative to rescue man from sin by sending us Jesus.  For a new Christian this is a very complex idea.  On April 22**, I commented on Stott’s ideas about the cross being the central idea of the faith.  On April 29*** the topic was the “basic” meaning of the cross for the new believer, with a focus on Jesus Christ as the Christians’ example.

To end Chapter 7, Stott focuses on Jesus as sinbearer.  As I read through these pages, I was struck by a quote by Stott describing the unpopularity of this idea: “This simple and wonderful tale of the sinbearing of the Son of God is strangely unpopular today.  That He should have borne our sins and taken our penalty is said to be immoral or unworthy or unjust” [93].****

Let’s look at those three ideas, incorporating basic ideas about Jesus as sinbearer throughout. 

What would be immoral about Jesus bearing our sins?  Anyone with any sense of morality would say that He did not deserve His fate.  Jesus was God and He was not capable of sin, yet He died a horrible death of a common criminal on a Roman cross.  Some may question my use of the word fate above. Fate is defined as “the development of events beyond a person’s control” and people who say that Jesus suffered a fate He did not deserve, don’t understand the purpose of His life.  This was not some development of events beyond His control.  He was totally in control of what happened to Him.  He did not have to suffer on the cross; He chose to suffer on the cross.  Now in our world today, giving one’s life for someone else is not very common (in fact, that kind of act often elevates one to hero status).  Jesus gave His life for all mankind as a way to relieve us from our burden of sin.  Man was never successful in living a righteous life by the sacrifice of animals even though he tried to do just that.  But when John the Baptist saw Jesus for the first time, he cried out “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  He knew exactly why Jesus was on earth.  Jesus’ death was not some immoral act done on a poor individual.  Maybe misunderstanding the intent of Jesus’ life causes people to think things that make it strangely unpopular.

Unworthiness is a second reason that the idea of Jesus as sinbearer is “strangely unpopular.”  Of course anyone who is without sin would be unworthy of the punishment of death, but maybe worthiness goes much deeper than the innocence of the Victim.  People who don’t understand Jesus’ sacrifice may wonder about their own worthiness; in short, why would this Man give His life for me?  The most common comment I hear from new Christians is “I am not worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice.  Of course, we are not.  I remember when I was a new believer; I thought I “owed”  Jesus my best behavior because of what He did for me.  NOTHING I could do would repay what Jesus did for me.  What did I need to do?  I needed to accept His sacrifice; I needed to accept His gift with grace.  It was free, with no strings attached.   In my mind, I owed God something.  How can I owe when I am incapable of repaying?  As time in the faith went by, I eventually began to realize that I was the unworthy one.

“That He should have borne our sins and taken our penalty is said to be …unjust” [93].   When someone has a crime committed against them, they seek justice from the criminal justice system.  If we file charges, we want the crime investigated, evidence collected and the crime prosecuted.  So many reality crime shows on television today***** are predicated on those very ideas.   People are often interviewed who cry out for justice for the victim.  In the case of Jesus Christ, of course there was no justice in His punishment.  He was not tried by a jury of His peers.  He was punished because He made the religious authorities of His day upset; He questioned their qualification for power.  When He was put before the crowd, mob mentality took over and they called out for His death and in His place, they let a horrible criminal go free.  There was nothing correct about what happened to our Lord and Savior.  From a legal perspective it was all wrong.  In the New Testament First Peter 2 states “He committed no sin; no guile was found on His lips.”  Isaiah 53 predicted this in the Old Testament: “He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth.”  For no reason “He was reviled” [1 Peter 2].  It is no surprise that this was predicted in Isaiah 53 “He was despised and rejected by men.”  Jesus was on a mission and death was part of that mission, death on the cross.   We are the ones who benefit from the lack of justice that He experiences.  The people of His day did little to correct their mistake but Jesus knew what they were going to do.  He knew He was going to an unjust end. 

A great many people make fun of Christianity.  They see no great difference between the Christian faith and eastern religions.  When they consider Christianity they claim it is a system of human merit.  “God helps those who help themselves.”  If we are good people, God will reward us; if we are not, we will be punished.  They don’t understand that nothing can equal what Christ did for us and they don’t understand God’s forgiveness as we live sinful lives.   Stott writes “He died to atone for our sins for the simple reason that we cannot atone for them ourselves.  If we could, His atoning death would be redundant.  Indeed, to claim that we can secure God’s favor by our own efforts is an insult to Jesus Christ.”    Maybe what makes the “simple and wonderful tale of the sinbearing” so unpopular is that we owe a debt that we cannot repay so we can’t turn to God and “we can manage without You.” 

I love the way Stott ends Chapter 7 so much that I want to close my comments with his final words “Every Christian can echo these words.  There is healing through His wounds, life through His death, pardon through His pain, salvation through His suffering” [97].

*St. John Studies, “Not Understanding God’s Gift to Us,” April 14, 2022.

**St. John Studies,  “The Big Picture,”  April 22, 2022.

***St. John Studies, “The ‘Basic’ Meaning of the Cross, April 29, 2022.

****Let me assert that unpopularity of Jesus’ sinbearing is based on worldly standards.  We cannot judge Jesus’ act by evaluating it with the world’s standard of morality, worthiness and justice.

*****e.g. “Dateline,”  “Forth-eight Hours” and “20/20.”

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