Category: DEVOTION


There is no middle ground in God’s universe. Too many people-even professing Christians-think that the events we celebrate at Easter are insignificant. In reality they represent the most important events in the history of mankind, and the most important truths we could ever consider…

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WE CAN BE FREE FROM THE PENALTY OF SIN

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

So many efforts have been made by enemies of the true gospel to wipe this fact from history and the minds of men. Despots, communists, atheists, politicians and even large organizations purporting to be spreading the gospel have been attempting to destroy it. Why is the sacrifice of Christ so important, and why is his death so vital?

Our sin has separated us from God, because he, being perfect, cannot tolerate sin. He can’t wink at it or ignore it and live with it. Imagine a heaven in which everyone acts as they do in our world today: it would not be heaven, would it? And contrary to popular belief here in the politically-correct twenty-first century, he doesn’t change his views to suit ours. Neither do his standards evolve-they are not “fluid”.

The end product of sin, according to Old and New Testament scriptures, is death, both physical and spiritual. This fact affects us all, no matter how good we may think we are: none of us can match up to God’s standards. God has to be true to his own nature, and he can’t deny his justice any more than he can deny his love.

However, God loved his creation, fallen though it is, and had a plan to destroy sin and ultimately its outcome, death. God’s plan was to send his son to earth as a man, and to die as a perfect sacrifice for sin. Only Jesus Christ could fulfill that mission, because only he was sinless and perfect. When he died on the cross he satisfied God’s holy justice, and paid the penalty, the “price” of our sin.

This doesn’t mean we don’t sin any more, it means that there’s nothing standing between us and our creator, except our own reluctance, and  determination to continue in sin. If we turn from our sin we’re completely forgiven and in a right relationship with God. Paul said:

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8: 1).

Other religions, denominations and organizations have piled more and more requirements, laws, regulations and commitments onto their followers, claiming that these are necessary to gain God’s acceptance, or that only commitment to the organization and its rules can ensure salvation and eternal life. According to the original gospel, which I wrote about in parts one and two, this is totally false and is really an attack on the gospel, because the death of Jesus Christ has entirely paid for our sin. It’s not possible for us or for any human go-between or organization to pay the price of our sin. It’s arrogant and futile to think that we can, and it is an insult to the sacrifice of Christ.

Jesus said “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11: 26). He did NOT say “whoever believes and goes to “XYZ” church and gives at least ten percent of their income…”! I’m not saying that we can live however we want to live and get away with it-we can’t. But if we turn from sin and to him we are completely forgiven.

“According to the Scriptures…”

The Old Testament scriptures foretold the sacrifice of Christ hundreds of years before it happened. As an example, read Isaiah chapter 53.  An entire copy of the book of Isaiah, known to have been written before Christ’s life on earth, was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. There’s virtually no difference between it and what we have in our Bible today.

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OUR SIN WAS BURIED WITH CHRIST

“…He was buried…”

Jesus “became sin” for us. He was buried in a tomb, contrary to many modern attempts to write another version of his life. You don’t bury someone who isn’t dead. His disciples witnessed his death, and the Roman guard sealed and guarded the tomb, at the request of those who wanted him dead and who gloated over his death. They would have all ensured that he was dead and buried, and had the disciples attempted to claim that he was resurrected when he wasn’t, the authorities would have displayed the body for all to see.

Our sin was buried with him, and baptism is symbolic of our association with him, and with the burial of our sin and our past sinful lifestyle.

WE CAN HAVE NEW LIFE NOW, AND ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST

“…he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”

The doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus has been under constant attack, even from within the church. No wonder, because it’s one of the most essential doctrines, perhaps the most essential. Without it the gospel is empty. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates his power over death, his divine nature, and his ability and willingness to give us eternal life with him as he promised very clearly many times. It’s the resurrection which gives us hope for the future, and which puts our earthly life into its proper context and perspective. Our present physical body is very temporary and weak, but our resurrected body will be full of eternal life force. Again, his resurrection was foretold in Old Testament Scriptures (see Acts 2: 27 – 31 and 13:34 – 37, with Psalm 16:10).

HE DEMONSTRATED HIS POWER OVER DEATH

“…and that he appeared…”

Paul listed those who had seen Jesus alive after his resurrection. Paul was the last to see him. Those who went about spreading the good news had nothing to gain except persecution and death. Yes, people do give their lives to become martyrs to other religions, but no-one will die for something he knows is untrue. Neither did they kill in order to spread their beliefs or agenda. Instead they risked and in many cases lost their own lives.

For example Paul, when converted, voluntarily gave up his position of influence and power to become a hunted and hounded man. His enemies complained that he had “turned the world upside down”. There was no timid cowering in quiet corners for Paul: he wanted to tell the world, not that he had a new set of principles and rules to teach them, but that Christ had risen from the dead, and that he had seen him. He suffered multiple attacks and attempts on his life before finally being executed–such was his conviction that the gospel was true. He was prepared to die, as they all were, because they were convinced of Christ’s resurrection, and that His resurrection ensured theirs, just as Christ had promised. The promise is available to all who accept the gospel.    

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I just had an uncanny experience, relating to a book my son sent me. A few days ago I wrote down a little revelation I had: something of an epiphany…

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I recalled a book ( a very good book) written by Robert McGee, called “Search for Significance”. McGee’s thesis was that we all crave significance and search for it in different ways-money, power, sex, promotion, popularity, etc. We need, he said, to rather find our significance in Jesus Christ and his total acceptance of us. I agree with that.
However, my little revelation took McGee’s argument in a slightly different direction. I summarized my epiphany thus:
“It’s not significance I’m looking for, it’s LIFE. I want LIFE, vibrancy, exuberance, excitement. Perhaps people searching for significance are really seeking life”.
Daily I see many people with stern faces, living in small worlds, and seemingly having no hope in their lives. I’m sure you see them too.
The uncanny experience came this evening while reading a book called “Psycho Cybernetics”, by Maxwell Maltz. His following statement confirmed, as though sent from above, my own observation:
“Today, I am more convinced than ever that what each of us really wants, deep down, is more LIFE. Happiness, success, peace of mind, or whatever your own conception of supreme good may be, is experienced in its essence as-more life”. 
I don’t think it’s wrong to seek a meaningful, significant life in human, physical terms, so long as we have things in the right perspective, with God on top and our desires below. But I cannot fail to share the following, a quote from Jesus Christ. The words of Jesus refer not merely to excitement and such things as we can brighten up our daily mortal existence with: these things are temporary and limited. Instead he referred to the ultimate meaning and expression of life, which is Jesus Christ in us:
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10 KJV).

God doesn’t see things our way, and there’s nothing we can do about it. In fact, it seems sometimes to us that God has a huge, mean, dark side to his nature…

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Yet we read in the Book of books, the Bible, that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”. So how do we reconcile the hard realities of life with what we read?

What we’ve discussed in this little series can be boiled down to the fact that God-and reality-is something other than what we are and what we expect him or even want him to be. God is in no way controllable, tamable, measurable or understandable.

We cannot get a grip on God. And if you think about it, that’s how a God should be. Why should we expect the creator of the universe to be understood or controlled by limited, finite, mortal man? Since this is the case, how do we deal with a God who is apparently unapproachable, who has standards far above what we are able to live out, and who transcends all of time and space? There’s only one answer: God has to provide the way himself, and that’s exactly what he’s done.

God is infinite and perfectly holy, and yet perfectly merciful. The perfect God didn’t create the world and mankind in order to provide himself people to pick on. In fact, when he created the world in its original perfect condition along with mankind, as only a perfect God can do, we’re told that:

“…God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 2:31).

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What could a perfect God do when his created beings began to be imperfect and to rebel against him and to betray each other? He didn’t want to wipe out his own creation, so he provided for himself ways of  reaching out to weak, fallible mankind, and forgiving that imperfection and rebellion. Such provision is seen repeatedly throughout the Bible in many characters.

An early and clear example found in the Old Testament is Moses. Moses was chosen by God to deliver his people from slavery. But it wasn’t just physical deliverance from Egypt that God had in mind for Moses, it was deliverance for the people from his own perfect standards and from his wrath against those who would break them. God’s desire and in fact his natural, perfect compulsion was to punish and destroy those who were rebellious. But there were times when Moses stepped in:

I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you

But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people…?  Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people… And the Lord relented from the disaster… (Exodus 32:9-14).

God provided Moses to protect the Israelites from himself.

Many examples of people who stood between God’s wrath and man can be found in the Bible, but the greatest, and the most important one, is Jesus Christ. The gospel, or the “good news” about Jesus Christ is that he, being the only son of God, was sent by the Father to pay the price of our sin, rebellion and imperfection, which is God’s wrath:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed…and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all…(Isaiah 53:4-6).

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Remember the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, when he knew what was about to happen to him but surrendered to the will of the Father:

My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless , not as I will, but as you will… (Matthew 26:39).

Jesus Christ suffered God’s wrath in our place when he was crucified and left to die. This was the Father’s, and the Son’s, ultimate expression of love and mercy to his creation:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only son into the world, so that we might live through him…he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins… (1 John 4:9-10).

Jesus Christ is our answer to God’s perfection and justice. Our escape from what we may perceive as “the dark side” of God is his own son Jesus Christ. But we have to accept that way of escape. There is no escape from the perfection of God without Jesus Christ:

Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him (John 5:23);

Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die… (John 11: 26).

 

 

 

 

What do you do when you’re down and troubled? Do you cuddle the dog? Do you put the TV on? Do you pop a pill or light a joint?

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We’ve probably all had someone tell us when we’re down that there are people worse off than us. That’s supposed to cheer us up. But as a 20th century British comedian, Peter Cook, observed, that just makes us feel bad about the other people as well.

One thing that’s helped me in recent times of feeling down is facing up to the fact that I’m feeling down. And with it I’ve also found comfort in the fact, after all, that others are suffering. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing to suffer, and I’m not saying that we should wallow in our trouble, or that we should not cuddle the dog or do something to “shake out of it”. But there’s a very real sense in which knowing that humanity is born into trouble and suffering, and that just being alive exposes us all to the consequences of being in a fallen world of nature and people…is half of the cure. It’s normal. It’s not an aberration to be down and troubled: it’s natural. It’s part of who we are. It’s life. It’s reality. It’s what humans do.

The other half of the cure (the subject of the third part of my “dark side” series, still to come) is stated clearly in this New Testament quote from Jesus Christ:

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33 NIV).

By facing up to the reality of our human plight, we can also find the answer to it, in Jesus Christ.

If there is a God, why do so many bad things happen? Is God really everything we want to think he is…or is he something altogether different? More specifically, is there a “dark side” to the God of the Bible?
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The concept of the “dark side” of George Lucas’ “Force” in Star Wars is compelling in many ways, and fits in with the beliefs of certain world religions. Is there a “dark side” in the real universe, responsible for all the suffering we experience in life?

Suffering is cited as the biggest reason people reject the idea of the existence of God, or at least, the idea of a caring, personal God. To my mind the earth and life on it is obviously designed, and not cobbled together by time plus chance plus countless trillions of fortuitous and impossible events and circumstances. But I can understand why people do turn away from faith in the face of suffering, because we humans sometimes suffer unspeakable things, and it’s difficult even for those of us who believe in his infinite power not to sometimes question his motives or his methods.

THE DARK SIDE OF GOD?

Anyone who reads a sizable portion of the Old Testament can’t fail to notice some very heavy-handed dealings by God with his people and those around them. As an example, consider the punishment of Korah, his family and all who rebelled against Moses with him:

“…the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all who belonged to Korah…and the earth closed over them…” (Numbers 17:31-35 ESV).

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In fact, the Old Testament is strewn with plain statements from God about himself which demonstrate a side of him that most of us choose to ignore:

“I form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7 KJV).

By “create evil” I assume not that he’s a “Yin-Yang” type of God who is both good and evil, but that some of those terrible things we hear of in our world, and which we ourselves suffer, are without doubt sent by Him, or allowed within his plan.

Who hasn’t read the account of Job’s testing without a chill running down his back or without asking some very serious questions about God, and who hasn’t wondered why God put that tree…that baaad tree, in the perfect Garden, along with the serpent?

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Here are two more examples:

Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? (Exodus 4:11 ESV);

When ye be come into the land of Canaan, which I give to you for a possession, and I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession… (Leviticus 14:34 KJV).

It really doesn’t help our fear of God’s “darker” side to dismiss the Old Testament and only follow the New, because by dismissing the Old you are also bringing into question the entire New Testament. You can’t read any one of the gospels without finding numerous examples of Jesus Christ quoting the Old as though he believed it were totally true, and the letters are similarly packed with references to it. In fact, putting the Pharisees on the spot as he loved to do, Jesus said:

For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me (John 5:46 NASB).

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were given a Bible study from what we call the Old Testament (Luke 24:13-35). Jesus was showing the validity and importance of Old Testament scripture, and how it gave the background to his own ministry and person. The genealogy and history of Jesus’ human side is recorded there, and then confirmed in Matthew’s gospel. The two testaments are inextricably linked. You can’t have one without the other.

In the New Testament there’s no escaping God’s “other” side, because statements throughout it apparently echo what we saw in the Old Testament:

…let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28 KJV).

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God… (Hebrews 10:31 NIV)

This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 NIV).

And here is one I often refer to in my own daily life:

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it (Romans 8:20 NIV).

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We seem to be stuck with the fact that the God who sent plagues upon the Egyptians, and who ordered the cleansing of Canaanites from the land, and who said “I make peace and create evil”, is the same God who sent his son Jesus into the world for us to find life, forgiveness and hope. The same Bible that tells us about the love of God also tells us that many of the things which go wrong in our lives and in our world are directly from the hand of the one who created it, or they are allowed to occur by him. God does, then, have what appears to be a “dark side” to his nature.

However, as any Bible student will have been itching to inform me up to this point, John the apostle wrote that:

 

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5 NIV).

No darkness at all! How can God be said in his own book to be all “light” and yet at the same time to cause or allow frustration, trouble, testing and suffering? We obviously have in the Scriptures what is either a serious contradiction, or a strange paradox which we need to come to terms with. So in part two of this post-in a few days-I’ll discuss why the fact that God’s “other”, darker side does not have to exclude the reality that God is all “Light”, and I’ll discuss God’s provision for our deliverance.

I’ve published an entire series on the causes of suffering as revealed in the Bible. While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, some of them are there for your consideration. I’m not trying to sell them to you in “my latest insightful book”-they’re free. Start here: https://nickyfisher.com/2017/05/31/why-do-we-suffer-part-1/

 

 

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