Good Friday

Why do we celebrate on Good Friday? Should we be mourning instead like Catholics do? Should we be sad and depressed because we remember the death of Jesus? And speaking of the death of Jesus, why did he die? Did he have to die? It’s good to ask the “Why?” questions. We have to be careful not to be too comfortable with our traditions and fall into a mindless routine every year at Easter. Keep reading as we will look at answers to those questions.

One of the reasons Jesus died is because of the wrath of God. If God wasn’t angry at sin, there would be no Good Friday to celebrate. The word wrath means anger. God’s wrath is consistent and pure. It is His Holy, Righteous and Just reaction to sin, the only proper reaction for the One who is Himself Holy, Righteous and Just.

What is the cause of God’s Wrath? Why is God angry at us? It’s because of our sins. It’s because of our rebellion against Him. It’s because we say “No!” to God. Instead of obeying Him, we do what we want to do.

All people, being sinners, are the objects of God’s wrath. Psalm 7:11 says “God is a just judge. And God is angry with the wicked every day”. Ephesians 2:3 reminds us that before we became Christians we were all children of wrath. And in Colossians chapter 3 we read “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” We tend to forget the wrath of God because it is not something tangible, we can’t take a picture of it with our camera.

Many mistakenly think that because God does not immediately act against them in judgment, they have escaped His judgment. They may even think that God is as carefree about sin as they are, and so they sin all the more. But they only guarantee for themselves a more severe judgment when God’s wrath finally falls upon them.

I am glad that at Emmanuel Baptist Church we regularly hear about God’s wrath, and especially on Good Friday. Sadly, many don’t hear about God’s wrath, not even on Good Friday. That has also been my experience. Growing up, I have often heard an emphasis placed on the physical suffering of Jesus. How much He suffered because of the whipping, how much he suffered because of the nails in His hands and in His feet, and I heard about how horrible death by crucifixion was. Don’t get me wrong, there is horrible suffering brought by these things. But most sermons stop there. And if you stop there, you miss the Gospel, you miss the “Good” in Good Friday. We are not saved because Jesus had nails in His hands. We are not saved because Jesus died of asphyxiation on the cross. We are saved because He took the wrath of God for us! His body was broken for us! God crushed Jesus instead of us! Jesus took our place! He took our punishment. He suffered for all those who would ever believe in Him.

Many other people besides Jesus were whipped. Many other people were crucified and had nails in there hands. But none of those people died for me. None of those people could. Only Jesus is the sinless Lamb of God who could appease God’s anger toward us.

You might say “Wait a minute! What’s up with all that talk about God being angry at us? The Bible says that God is Love. After all, 1 John 4:16 says “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”” Yes, one of God’s attribute is Love. Another one of God’s attributes is Justice, and because of His Justice He must punish sin. God’s attribute of Love and Justice are not opposites, but instead they come together perfectly. John 3:16 and 17 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” But those who refuse to trust in Jesus as their substitute must bear God’s wrath themselves. John 3:36 says “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Romans 5 verses 8 and 9 says: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

As you are celebrating Good Friday, my fellow believers, remember the wrath of God. Remember Christ’s body broken under the wrath of God for you. Remember the sinless blood of Jesus that was spilled as a payment for your sins to satisfy God’s Holy wrath against you. Remember the Gospel. God treated Jesus on the cross as if it was you and I hanging there. Jesus Christ willingly took the punishment we deserve. And through His death, we have peace with God. Glory to God!

Why Christians Should Read The Bible?

Imagine that your neighbour’s husband or wife was serving overseas with the military. Now, also imagine that your neighbour did not read emails, or open letters that came from their spouse. Christmas cards and birthday cards were being left unread, too. To top it off, what if phone calls were going unanswered?

You might conclude or suspect that there was something wrong with that marriage. It is the same thing with Christians who do not read the Bible. Something is missing, and there is no way to disguise it.

Why should you read the Bible? Is it an obligation? Is it a pleasure? Or, is reading the Bible a sign of your spiritual maturity? Reading the Bible is all of the above. But, fundamentally, to love God is to love His Word.

Jesus often taught with parables and stories. Many apply in this instance. If your father were incredibly rich, would you attend the reading of the will? Of course you would! You would want to know what your father left you in his will. Wouldn’t you? The Bible says that we are co-heirs, joint inheritors, with Christ.

If it is anything else, the Bible is a legal document that explains what you have inherited from your Father in Heaven. We inherit these things by faith in Jesus Christ, who was made flesh, and who died for our sins. Jesus rose again, and is at the right hand of the Father. That is what the Bible says.

The Bible is not a story about people who came, lived and died a long time ago. The Bible is about YOU. The Bible contains God’s purpose, and His plan for YOU. The Bible openly makes promises to you. If you are born again, then you know that your faith has been counted onto you as righteousness.

The Bible is personal. It pertains to you. If you love God, don’t you want to know what He thinks? If you love God, don’t you want to know how to please Him?

We want to encourage you to start reading the Bible today, and a little bit every day at the very least. To start you off, here are some things to watch for as you read:

1. (Genesis 3:22-24,  1 Corinthians 15:22, Romans 7:18, Galatians 5:19-21) Understand your culpability: You are guilty of having sinned against God, deserving of punishment, unworthy of consideration except by virtue of the sinless life and death of Jesus Christ. The only way to avoid your just punishment is to repent and trust the Lord.

2. (Hebrews 11:5-6) “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” You please God by believing in Him and trusting Him.

3. (John 3:16) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Understand that God wants good things for you.

4. (Romans 8:17) “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Understand your legal standing: You are a child of the King. We are co-heirs with Jesus.

5. (John 10:10) Understand that you have an enemy. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Also read (I Peter 5:8-9)

6. (Jeremiah 31:33) “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Understand that God can put His law in our hearts.

7. (John 14:15-18) “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” Jesus did not leave us alone, and God has has not left us friendless.

8. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Your life is not your own.

9. (Romans 8:28) “ And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” God has a plan to use even your failures and missteps. But, you have to try.

Imagine that you were put on trial for crimes and you were found guilty. The penalty for such crimes, once the charges have been read, once the evidence has been given, and once the law has been clearly stated, is death. If someone explained that you can avoid the sentence, would you want to know more? If someone were willing to take your punishment for you, how would you feel? Would you take a moment to talk to that person? Would you be grateful?

The Bible is a lease signed by God that explains what you have the right to expect, but it also describes what is expected of you. There is not a document in the world more personal and pertinent to you. There is no document that is more peculiar to you – nor will there ever be.

If you are not reading this book, the Bible, then something is missing. You are like your neighbour who claims to love a spouse, but cannot be bothered to read mail and email messages that come from overseas.

But, God is waiting for you. Christ is waiting for you. Christ is the good shepherd who will pursue you. Luke 15:7 says that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. Pick up that book and read about yourself in its pages. That is how to read it. God had this story written for you before you were born, and he means for you to know so many things.

Pick it up today, even if you also go to church. Pick it up especially if that is all you are doing – going to church. Read it to find out who you are in Christ. You are a sinner in desperate need of salvation. Who is Christ to you? He is your savior. Find out first hand what your pastor has been telling you in church.

Did you already knew the answer to the question we have posed: Why Christians Should Read The Bible? If you did, you are blessed, and you have knowledge that can be used to bless others. Share it.

You cannot grow any other way.

Born Again

 

Just a few days ago, I had lunch with a man who during our conversation asked what it meant to be born again. He admitted that he had little idea as to its meaning and we might suspect that he is not alone in his confusion. Pollsters and the general public use the term as a label to describe a certain kind of Christian. There is the larger Christian world and within that world, a certain segment who are “born again” Christians. But I ask you, is there any other kind of Christian? For Jesus said, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

Jesus addressed these words to Nicodemus, a highly respected and influential man in Jewish society, a religious leader who had come to Jesus saying some nice things about Him. But Jesus, knowing this man’s heart and need, told Nicodemus that he needed to go back and start all over again. He needed a new beginning effected by God, a spiritual birth, a supernatural birth. We all do, because in our natural birth, we were born in Adam and in sin, sin that has defiled us and disabled us and deadened us spiritually. In our fallen condition, we can do many things – we can outwardly reform our ways, we can make ourselves more moral and respectable, even more religious but one thing we cannot give ourselves is a new heart that is spiritually alive unto God and that embraces the salvation freely offered in Christ, and thus be converted. The new birth is God making us what we could never make ourselves to be, a new creation. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Being born again or regeneration is a once-for-all irreversible spiritual transformation. God changes what we are on the inside, not just temporarily, but eternally.

Jesus said, “You MUST be born again” (John 3:7). It is a universal necessity. What Jesus said to Nicodemus, he says to everyone, everywhere. It is an indispensable necessity. Without it we can neither see (John 3:3) nor enter (John 3:5) the kingdom of God. Everyone in God’s kingdom has been born again. It is an unchanging necessity. Despite all the advances in technology and mankind’s accumulated knowledge, time has not made us better. Society is just as corrupted and dead in sin as it was in the year 2000, in 1000, or in 100.

Christ likened the act of regeneration to the wind in John 3:8. Just as we cannot create the wind or control the wind or contain the wind – it blows where it wants, from what direction it wants, as strong or as soft as it wants and is completely out of our hands, so is the work of God in regeneration. It is God’s work alone. He effects it to whom He wills, where He wills, when he wills. James 1:18 says that “of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth”. That means that no lost person is beyond God’s renewing power. No heart is inaccessible to His sovereign work. He can enter the innermost being of any person that He wishes. The new birth is designed that way, to be entirely the work of God in order to drive us to God, to despair of any power in ourselves, and to look to God alone to give us a new heart and a new nature, to make us a new person in Christ.

The sure evidence of the new birth is conversion. “Old things are passed away, all things have become new”. Sinful pleasures and habits that we once loved now have no interest to us. What we once avoided like the plague, now that is what we love, God’s will, God’s word, and God’s people. Being born again is not an add-on, it’s not a luxury item for a special group of Christians. It’s what makes you a Christian! “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:7).

Christ’s Great Interest

The Church sits atop Christ’s chief interests. At His return He will find it spotless and pure. Christ has blessed His Church immensely: this divine institution has received the most benefits from His hand and is made up of a people called out from the world who are to live holy and separated lives, in the same manner that Christ had mirrored God`s holiness to us. Clouds_small As His Bride, God`s people still are too blemished and spotted to be thought of as anywhere near the perfection found in the bridegroom, with seemingly little hope of reaching that place anytime soon. However, the comments of R.C. Sproul are worth noting “Holiness is not so much what the church is at any given moment in her history, but what she will be.”1. At some point in history, the fullness of that holiness in the church will be achieved at His glorious return. In the meantime sin threatens to disrupt and usurp the process already begun in saints But as always Christ never leaves believers alone to find their own way but promotes spiritual wellness in the body. Just as health warnings deal with our physical state, so on a spiritual plane Christ keeps a close watch over His flock. With a firm hand the Shepherd pronounces three judgments to prevent sin from gaining a foothold in His Church and corrupting the whole. The three caveats are to be found in a block of teaching from Matthew  18:1-35.

In the first of these three warnings, the unrepentant offender who leads others into sin is promised in graphic terms a fate worse than having a millstone tied to his neck and drowned in the sea (Matt. 18:6). In similar tones, Jesus warned elsewhere in Matt. 25: 34-46 that whether you help or hurt a believer is as though you had done it to Christ Himself. Mistreatment against a believer is the sane as mistreating Christ and be sure that the consequences already described will follow. Believers should be advised that being responsible for causing a Christian to sin is not restrictive to overt acts alone, but can also be caused by failing to lead them into righteousness2. Put simply, it is not enough to refrain from corrupting others with our sins; but if we remain impassive to our brothers’ needs then it is no better as we become stumbling blocks to their development.

A second indictment is found at the end of the reconciliation process, Matt 18:17. If the sinner fails to repent after the first two steps are taken, then in the third step the entire church becomes involved. The individual runs the risk of being excommunicated and to be thought of as a non-believer until he repents. The point to this process is to restore the sinner to God and to the offended party. It is meant to keep the church pure and obedient to Christ., that its members work in harmony with each other in the bond of peace and love; whereas if an individual adamantly refuses to be held accountable for his sin, this final phase of expulsion then becomes needful. This declaration against the non-repentant is a pronouncement of unusual importance: I tell you the truth vv 19. While actions to bring the sinner to repentance are to be executed with love, diplomacy, and proper motive, the administration and final resolution reached in this process is spoken of as already having received approval beforehand in eternity vv. 18.

The third divine caveat is found at the end of the parable of the unmerciful servant vv. 21-35. Here, the unmerciful servant is forgiven a great debt, some estimate a little more than what it cost to build Solomon`s temple. Yet, this selfsame servant afterwards refuses to forgive another his debt which was considerably less. When the master heard of it, he rendered his unmerciful servant his just punishment until all was paid back that was originally owed to him. Since this servant demonstrated no real remorse, forgiveness was withheld. In the book of James this truth receives similar treatment: “Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy.”(James  2:13). Even a casual reading with an eye toward these ominous warnings, should tell us that God is quite serious about repentance and reconciliation.

Christ is incredibly wise to build His Church in the manner that He did and continues to do. Three judicial warnings are given to prevent sin and unrepentance from taking up residence in the church. Scales Even the thought of having to face these hard facts helps us maintain a keen sense of our duty to each other and to God. Though it is inevitable that sin will continue (Mat.18:7), believers must steer clear of it and measure the impact of their behavior and actions on fellow believers. Divine wisdom does not enlighten the believer with a thousand and one ways on how to manage Christians’ relationships, but speaks clearly about brotherly love and the repercussions that loom over us if indeed we throw our support behind sin instead of upholding our responsibility to our brethren. By way of analogy, Ottawa alone has in their planning and municipal act 876 pages of by-laws to regulate living arrangements within society. Try reading through some of these and the words ambivalence and incomprehensible may come to mind. But God issues three warnings for the local church assembly to live by to maintain peace and holiness that even someone like the apostle Peter can understand. In vv 21 he attempts to adjust the Christian standards a bit by suggesting his own version on the number of times a person may forgive. Christ corrects him and adjusts his reasoning to think along heavenly lines; to forgive as many times as is required.

Do ask yourself how holy is your church? Does it take hell fire seriously; does your Pastor speak about a real punishment for those who remain in their lost state? Is judgment some ancient teaching left in the past and only accentuated now and again, to be brought out for viewing and discussion when all else fails to move the audience and spoken of in almost apologetic tones? Does this happen regularly with those who frequent your circle? Worse yet, do Christ’s words and warnings only mean something when it is directed to the very vile and corrupt found in society? Chapter eighteen of Matthew is a single discourse designed on maintaining purity in the Church; so how can any think that God, who has dealt so forthrightly with His Bride, would then spare you if you remain in your sins? Praying Hands Real repentance is marked by sorrow. William Barclay tells the story of an old man on his deathbed who was terribly distraught. When asked what was bothering him he replied, “When we were boys at play, one day at a crossroads we reversed a signpost, and I`ve never ceased to wonder how many people were sent in the wrong direction by what we did.3” What have we been responsible for in our lifetime; how many have we turned away from Christ due to our speech and behavior? Has your life so far misled others of what being a Christian is really all about? What version of Christianity do you teach? Someone once objected that the church has hypocrites. But do not let this distract any of us since there is always room for one more. Let us admit that we have been somewhat shallow and maybe much more so at one point or another in our lives.. Yet, there is grace for the repentant soul who comes to Christ.

To recap then, the three divine judgments are closely connected in thought for they are designed to hedge in the redeemed people of God from unrepentant sinners who seek to lead them into sin, or directed to those who fail to live in harmony with the rest of God`s redeemed people and in essence have become a stumbling block in the church. Consequently, by means of these pronouncements how we manage to get along with each other in the church is not accomplished by weighty bureaucracy with its countless regulations but through a healthy fear of divine judgment. After reading this Scriptural portion from Mathew`s gospel, no one can say that they are impervious of God`s intentions if we do cross the yellow taped line that God has set out for our good. Christ’s love, protection and care for His church can be seen through these restraining measures.

 

[1] What is the Church?: 17 Crucial Questions Series.

[2] The McCarthur New Testament Commentary  — John MaCarthur  Pg -108

[3] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew  16-23 — John MacArthur — pg. 109