For Our Transgressions

Tuesday, August 8, 2017, 3:34 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Tell Me the Story of Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 53 (Select vv. ESV).

Who Has Believed? (vv. 1-3; cf. Rom. 10:16)

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel, our God and Lord, came to earth and took on human form, begotten of God the Father, and born as a baby to a human mother. He suffered as we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. There was nothing about his physical appearance that anyone should be attracted to him. He did have some true followers (disciples), though. And, crowds did follow him, for he healed many, he drove out evil spirits, he performed many miracles, and he fed the hungry. But, when he spoke of the cost of following him, many who had been following him deserted him, never to return.

Many of the religious leaders within the Jewish temple did not like Jesus, and they made it their mission to destroy him. They hated him because he dared to be different, because he did not follow their human rules and traditions, because he healed people on the Sabbath, and he claimed to be God; and because he confronted sinful humans with their sinful conditions, warned of divine judgment and called for repentance and faith in himself. They were jealous of him because of his temporary and short-lived popularity among the people, and because they felt their own positions of power were being threatened by him. So, they plotted his death, and he was crucified on a cross for our sins (See: Jn. 1:1-34; Jn. 6:35-66; Phil. 2:1-11; 1 Co. 5:21).

We Are Healed (vv. 4-6)

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.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

When Jesus died on that cross, he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us. In his death, he put sin to death, and when he was resurrected from the grave, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death for our sake. By God’s grace, through faith in him, via death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ, we can be forgiven our sins, released from the ultimate punishment of sin (eternal damnation), delivered out of slavery to sin, and released to walk in the Spirit and in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, and be given eternal life with God.

When we are born into this world, we are born with sin natures, separate from God and unable to attain God’s divine approval through human effort. So, that is why Jesus gave his life up for us, that we might be saved from our sins, walk in the Spirit, and have eternal life with God. Because he died, we are able to die to sin, and because he lives, we can live with him and for him for eternity. Yet, he did not come to earth, take on human flesh, and suffer for our sake just so we can escape hell and have the promise of heaven when we die. He died that we might live for him, and he suffered that he might be our compassionate and merciful high priest in taking our sorrows upon himself that he might also comfort us in our sorrows.

The Will of God (vv. 10-12)

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

It was God the Father’s will that his Son should suffer and die for our sins. This was planned for us even before the creation of the world, and that many of us would believe on him as our Savior and would become children of God, and followers of Christ. Through faith in Jesus Christ we are not only made righteous in God’s sight, but we are able to live righteously for Him and for his will for our lives, for this is why he died. Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:14).

So, we must walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit of God, and no longer according to our sinful flesh. For, if we walk according to the flesh, we will die in our sins, even if we have made a profession of faith in Christ Jesus. If we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity. But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), for His sake, we will gain eternal life with God (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14). If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we still walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6). The true story of Jesus (the gospel) is not just that Jesus died to forgive us our sins, but he died to deliver us out of slavery to sin, and to give us new lives in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6:1-23; Gal. 2:20). Amen!

Tell Me the Story of Jesus
Fanny J. Crosby / John R. Sweney

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus,
Sang as they welcomed His birth,
“Glory to God in the highest!
Peace and good tidings to earth.”

Fasting alone in the desert,
Tell of the days that are past,
How for our sins He was tempted,
Yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of His labor,
Tell of the sorrow He bore;
He was despised and afflicted,
Homeless, rejected and poor.

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain;
Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
Tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see;
Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
“Love paid the ransom for me.”

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

His Loving Kindness

Tuesday, July 18, 2017, 3:44 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read various scriptures (NASB) on the subject of God’s lovingkindness towards us.

Rich in Mercy (Eph. 2:1-10)

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

When God created man and woman, they were sinless, but then they sinned against God by doing what he commanded them not to do. Ever since then, all of us have been born into sin, with sin natures, and we have come up short of attaining God’s divine approval (Ro. 5:12-19; 1 Co. 15:21-22, 42-49; Ro. 3:23). Yet, God had planned, even before he created the world, and us, how he was going to save us from our sins (See: Gen. 3:15; Ro. 8:29; 2 Tim. 1:8-9; Eph. 1:3-4). He sent his Son Jesus Christ, God the Son, to the earth to take on human form, and then to die on cross. Although he knew no sin, he became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.

Because we are born sinners, we can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. We can never be good enough in our own merit. None of us are deserving of God’s grace to us. No amount of good works will ever earn us a place in heaven. Our own righteousness is like filthy rags in God’s sight. Only by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, can any of us be saved from our sins and have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. Yet, we must have a biblical understanding of God’s grace lest we be led astray by those who would tickle itching ears with feel-good messages which give its adherents a false hope of eternity with God based on a lie, which leaves its followers still dead in their sins, yet thinking they are going to heaven.

So, what is God’s grace to us? Notice with me how this passage begins where it states how we formerly walked (in lifestyle) according to the course of this world, in disobedience, when we were dead in our trespasses and sins. We formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging in sinful passions and desires, and thus we were children of wrath. Yet, because of God’s loving kindness towards us, he made us alive in Christ. Not only did he forgive us of our sins, but he delivered us out of bondage (slavery) to sin. So, now we don’t walk according to the course (path, pattern) of this ungodly world, but we walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit of God (See: Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14).

The Kindness of God (Titus 3:1-8)

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.

God’s grace to us in saving us from our sins is not merely to free us from hell and to promise us heaven when we die (or when he comes to take us home). His grace to us is for the purpose to deliver us out of slavery to sin (darkness) and to bring us into his wonderful light (truth, righteousness). It is to turn us from the power Satan had over our lives to God, to follow our Lord in his truth and in his ways, so that we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those sanctified by faith in Jesus (Acts 26:16-18).

Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. His grace to us is not carte blanche (free rein) to continue in willful sin against God. His grace, which brings salvation, instructs (commands) us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return. Jesus didn’t die that horrible death on a cross so we could continue in sin without guilt. He gave himself up for us to release (liberate) us “from every lawless deed, and to purify for himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Tit. 2:11-14).

Notice again with me that it says here that we were ONCE (meaning past) disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts, envious and hating one another. God’s grace to us, again, is not just to forgive us our sins, but it is to free us from our addiction to sin. It is so that we no longer walk (conduct our lives) according to the ways of this sinful world, but so we now walk according to the Spirit and in Christ’s righteousness. We are not merely forgiven of our sins and given a free pass, but we are washed, we are cleansed of our sins, and we are transformed, and given new lives in Christ Jesus, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. And, being holy means to be separate (unlike, different) from the world, because we are being conformed into the likeness of Christ Jesus, our Lord (owner-master).

Long for the Pure Milk (1 Pet. 2:1-5)

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The primary purpose of God’s lovingkindness to us in saving us from our sins is that we might no longer walk (live) in sin, but that we might walk (conduct our lives) according to his righteousness. When we truly believe in Jesus Christ with God-given faith, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin that we might live with Christ to his righteousness (Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24). For, if we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), according to our sinful flesh, we will die in our sins, even if we believe we are saved. But if we, by the Spirit, are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity (Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6).

So, as followers of Jesus Christ, daily we should be putting sin to death in our lives, and we should be walking in the Spirit and no longer according to our sinful flesh (Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14). And, we should be longing for (thirsting after) the pure milk of the Word of God. This is not to say we should remain content with the milk only, though, and that we should not move on to the meat of the Word, for if we do, we will remain spiritual infants, and not move on to maturity in Christ. And, the whole purpose here is that we might grow (mature) in respect to salvation, i.e. that we should be mature in Christ and walking in his righteousness and holiness.

The house of God under the Old Covenant was a physical building. Yet, when Jesus Christ died for our sins, and he rose from the dead, and his Spirit came to live within those who have believed him to be Lord and Savior of their lives, we became his house, his body. We are not a physical building, but a spiritual one, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. He is our foundation, our Rock on which we stand. And, we are being built up (developed; formed; encouraged) as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In other words, we are being conformed to the likeness of Christ, and so we are to give our lives to our Lord as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but transformed of the Spirit of God in heart and mind (Ro. 12:1-2) for the glory of God.

Jesus, I am Resting, Resting
Jean Sophia Pigott

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.

O, how great Thy loving kindness,
Vaster, broader than the sea!
O, how marvelous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Belovèd,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed!

Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ‘neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
Sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.

A Voice Cries

Thursday, June 1, 2017, 8:40 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Only to Be What He Wants Me to Be.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 40:3-8 (ESV).

Prepare the Way (v. 3)

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

Wilderness – “an empty or pathless area; wild, natural or uncultivated state” (M-W). Spiritually speaking, this is talking about our lives outside of faith in Jesus Christ – in our sin nature, void of God in our lives, and going nowhere.

As ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are to prepare or make ready the way of the Lord for the people. The way of the Lord is the way of holiness, not just the way to forgiveness of sin and the promise of heaven when we die. John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord for the people by preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus preached the same message, as did his NT apostles.

So, we tell people the truth. We tell them that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, not just so we can be forgiven our sins. We share with them that coming to Christ means we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are risen with Christ to new lives in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We inform them that if we make a practice of sinning, i.e. if we walk (in lifestyle) according to our sin nature, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, then we have the hope of eternal life with God (Ro. 8:1-14).

We are to also make straight in the desert a highway for our God. This highway is the road we are to travel, the path we are to follow, and it needs to be straight, not crooked. Straight – honest, above-board, upright, pure, and unadulterated (unmixed, undiluted) by the world of sin.

It is the way of holiness, and to be holy means to be separate (unlike, different) from the world, because we are being made into the image of Christ. We are not to immerse ourselves in the culture of our societies or to blend in with the world in order to be accepted by them, for God called us out of the world. If we love the world like we are supposed to love God, then the love of the Father is not in us. God’s grace to us is not carte blanche (free rein) to do what we want. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for his return (Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Jn. 2:15).

Shall Become Level (vv. 4-5)

“Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

My husband and I moved into a high-rise apartment complex a year ago, right after he retired. Right after we moved in, a major renovation of the property, inside and out, was under way, and it is still not completed. For the past year we have watched all kinds of earth moving equipment dig up the old and replace it with the new, as well as we have witnessed multiple trucks hauling stuff in and out as the old has been taken away and has been replaced with what is new – new paint or wallpaper on walls, new ceiling tiles, new lights, new carpeting, new doors, new security system, new landscaping, upgraded parking lots, and remodeled party rooms and lobbies.

When we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, via death to sin and resurrection to new lives in Christ Jesus, born anew of the Spirit of God, our Lord puts to death our old lives of living for sin and self, and he gives us completely new lives in him, which are to be lived to him and to his righteousness. The old is taken away, and the new has come, just like in our building and on the building’s property, only spiritually and perfectly done by God, and not physically removed and replaced by human flesh. Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, in his death on a cross became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (2 Co. 5:21; Tit. 2:14).

Yet, it is not as though God just zaps us and we instantly become perfect, and that we have nothing to do with it at all. We must exercise the faith he provides, and we must cooperate and participate with the Spirit of God in the removal of the old and in the replacing of the old with the new (See: Eph. 4 – the whole chapter, Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14 & Lu. 9:23-25). We must humble ourselves before God, acknowledge and repent of (turn from) our sin, and turn to God/Christ to follow him in his ways and in his truth, so we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Acts 26:16-18).

Flesh is Grass (vv. 6-8)

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

A lot of people these days, though, who are sharing what they believe is the message of the gospel, are not preparing a way of holiness, i.e. the way of the Lord, which is straight (unmixed with the world). They are not making the uneven (potholed, irregular) ground (terrain) level (straight, upright).

Instead, they are preaching a message which is adulterated with the world of sin, and which gives its adherents the impression that they can merely acknowledge Jesus’ existence, accept his forgiveness for their sins, and that they now have salvation from sin, escape from eternal damnation, and the promise of heaven when they die, which can never be taken away from them. Many of these “preachers” of the “Word” tell them that they don’t have to repent of their sins, and they don’t have to obey Jesus, because, they say, God requires nothing of us other than to “believe,” which is made out like a mere intellectual or emotional acknowledgement of what Christ did for us, but absent any teaching on death to sin and living to righteousness.

What this also does is give the impression that one who “believes” in Jesus is now set for life no matter what he or she does from this moment forward. This false (adulterated, diluted) gospel gives its followers the notion, too, that they can continue living in sin, that they can continue sinful practices, and that God’s grace just covers it all, so no worries.

But, that is not what scripture teaches, and we need to know what the Word teaches, because these men or women are flesh, and they will die, but it is the Word of God which stands true to the very end. And, it is the ONLY WORD we can really depend on. It says if we say we have fellowship with God, and we walk in darkness (sin), we are liars. It also teaches us that if we practice, if we walk in sin, we don’t have the promise of eternal life with God (See: 1 Jn. 1:6; Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; & Gal. 5:19-21).

Only to Be What He Wants Me to Be
Norman J. Clayton

Only to be what He wants me to be,
Every moment of every day,
Yielded completely to Jesus alone
Every step of this pilgrim way…