A Good Friday To Remember

Happy-Good-Friday-2016-CardToday is Good Friday, and it’s a day that I focus my thoughts on the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world.  The essence of Good Friday and the hope of Easter is clearly stated in I Corinthians 15: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (3-4).”

In the death of Jesus, we see the innocent dying for the guilty.  Bill Crowder has said that “…death was not Jesus’ penalty; it was His destiny. It was not His lot in life; it was His mission. It was not His unavoidable fate; it was His purpose statement for coming to earth that first Christmas: ‘Born to die.'”

The crucifixion was an open display of the love of God for sinful man, and John Piper has commented: “The highest act of love is the giving of the best gift, and, if necessary, at the greatest cost, to the least deserving. That’s what God did.  At the loss of His Son’s life to the totally undeserving, God gave the best gift –the display of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”

When Jesus spoke of His impending death, He would also speak of His resurrection.  In regard to His death and resurrection, Watchman Nee said, “Our old history ends with the cross; our new history begins with the resurrection.”

On this most somber day of Christianity, I ask you: What is your history with Jesus, and what is your future without Him?

The TGIF Zone

thank-god-its-p6f715There are some weeks that by the time Friday rolls around, I need to get a little boost to finish the week.  I want to share a little booster  that’s tucked away in the Old Testament.  It’s like drinking a rejuvenating cup of spiritual adrenaline:

“For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth (Deuteronomy 7:6).”

When you listen to its uplifting theme, this TGIF Booster might make you crow like a rooster. Look at this dynamic definition of your righteous relationship with God:

  • You belong to God.
  • You are special because He has chosen you.
  • You are one of His prized possessions.

Isn’t this enough to make you click your heels together; shake off your mental malaise; and praise God?

Let me affirm what’s already been said: “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (100:3).”  This verse clarifies and verifies who you are:  You are His; you are made by Him; and, He cares for you like a shepherd does his sheep.

When God purchased you it’s not because He was looking for a bargain and you had been discontinued and discounted.  No, you’re valuable, and He paid a premium to purchase you:  “You are not your own, for you were bought at a price, so glorify God in your body (I Corinthians 6:20).”

Not only can you TGIF, but you can also TGFF.  You can Thank God For the Friday that He paid the price for your redemption through the death of Jesus.

Don’t moan about the day: own the day.  You’ve entered the TGIF zone.

Friday: A Day of Signifiance

6187141-crown-of-thorns-hung-around-the-easter-crossIf you could travel back in time to history’s most important Friday and relive that day in 33 AD, what would you hear as you walked the streets of Jerusalem? The city had swelled in size because it was Passover, but the conversation was not the annual rites at the Temple.  No, that significant sacrifice was overshadowed by the crucifixion of Jesus.   As people contemplated the events, they exclaimed:  Finished!  Epic life ended!  Last chapter of a miraculous life has closed with a tragedy!

The Messiah you have been following has been nothing more than a grandiose dreamer with Messianic aspirations, and your dream has ended in a nightmare.  In stunned silence and in a state of shock, you wonder:  What now?  How could all of this happen?  How could so many people have believed a lie?

A cloud of despair hangs heavily on your doubting heart as you try to make sense of the disaster that has disrupted your life.  Friday has been an arduous day, but at least there has been a lot of activity.  When you woke up Saturday morning, you hoped that yesterday was just a bad dream; however, when you looked into the sunken eyes of your fellow disciples, reality buckles your knees:  Your Hope has been crucified; Jesus is dead; and, Saturday drags on and seems like it’ll never end.

From that Friday of 33 AD, to the Friday of today, there is a perceptional gap that is every bit as deep as it is wide in years.  All the disciples of 33 AD had was a form of spiritual PTSD and the stench of death, but you have the benefit of history.

You know the story doesn’t end with that dramatic death on the cross. You know there is an encore to what the disciples thought was the final Act, and it was announced to those few devoted women who went to the tomb:  He is not here; He has risen!

The fact of the resurrection turned men of cowardly hearts into courageous soldiers of the cross, and in a few short years the infant church shook Rome.  This is the mobilizing power of the resurrection and the proof of what can happen when a group of people are infused with hope . . . people just like you.

I encourage you to share the hope and live the message as you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Sunday.

Who is Jesus?

easter01This is a momentous week in the life of the church.  Because it has been framed by two monumental events of history, it is the week traditionally referred to as “holy week.”

It’s a week that began with Palm Sunday, and it will end this Sunday with the celebration of Easter.  Palm Sunday is associated with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and Easter is the joyful recognition of His resurrection.

There’s a three word question that was asked by those who observed Jesus on Palm Sunday. As He rode a white donkey through the narrow and dusty streets of Jerusalem, they asked:  “Who is this?”

The Gospel of John presents a group of witnesses that offer a line of testimony that answers this question:

  • John testifies that Jesus turned water into wine at the marriage supper of Cana.
  • The nobleman gives a detailed account of how Jesus simply spoke and his dying son was healed.
  • The man who had been crippled for 38 years jumps in the air and clicks his heels together to show the miraculous manner in which Jesus healed him.
  • The little boy holds up an empty lunch pail and says: “It had just enough food for my dinner, but Jesus blessed it and there was enough to feed 5,000 people.”
  • The seasoned fishermen relive the moment when they thought their boat was going to sink and they were going to drown: “The Master appeared out of nowhere, walked on the waves, commanded the water to be still, and we were saved.”

After listening to all the testimony, a man rises and says:  “May I speak?  I think my evidence is conclusive.  You see, I was dead, but somehow I heard the clear and loud voice of Jesus:  ‘Lazarus come forth,’ and I shook off the chains of death.  I’m living proof of who Jesus is.”

Who is this?  Jesus is:

  • The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
  • The Bread of Life.
  • The Light of the world.
  • The Good Shepherd
  • The Way, the Truth, and the Life.
  • Resurrection and the life

Who is Jesus to you?

TGIF

good_friday_1000004443-120613intToday is Friday, and across the nation people write or shout TGIF—Thank God It’s Friday. An ordinary Friday comes once every 7 days, but this extraordinary Friday comes just once a year. The story of this Friday began in the Garden of Eden and the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

The moment Adam broke the rules established by God, he ran from his Creator. Before Adam was even out of breath, God began pursuing him; and, this was a game of hide and seek that Adam wasn’t going to win.
While Adam and Eve hid in fear, God pursued them in His mercy. Freshly embarrassed by his awakened conscious and bare body, Adam tried to cover himself with fig leaves, but this wouldn’t do. God extended His grace and clothed the first couple with animal skins.

The very first ounce of blood that was spilled on creation in its infancy was by the eternal hand of our holy God. He did not withhold His grace because of their sin; instead, grace was given in spite of their sin. Years later, Paul wrote: “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because Adam and Eve had sinned innocent animals (probably sheep) had to die.

Year after year, the significance of this day was hidden in shadows and symbolism until about 33 A.D.—Good Friday. This day was announced 3 years in advance by John the Baptist when he said: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Today is the Friday that we remember His death, and this Sunday will be the day we celebrate the resurrection and the hope of Easter.

Yes, TGIF is an appropriate expression for today.

He Said What?!

good_friday_1000004582-120613intI was surprised yesterday when I heard what the former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to Heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in Heaven. It’s not even close.”

I’ll have to admit that I’m no fan of Mr. Bloomberg’s and much of his activist political agenda, and I really disagree with several parts of his statement above:

• “if there is a God”—For such a small word, “if” casts a long shadow. If Mr. Bloomberg isn’t sure about the existence of God, how can he be sure there is a heaven or know anything about how to gain entrance?

• “I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I’m heading straight in.” Perhaps the former Mayor should check his narcissism before he tries to enter the Pearly Gates. Jesus may have a different opinion: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me (Mt 7:21-23).”

• “I’ve earned my place in Heaven. It’s not even close.” Well Michael, the angel not the Mayor, you might need to blow your trumpet or send a text message or something, but Mr. Bloomberg needs to hear the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Mr. Bloomberg, do you understand the significance of tomorrow? It is Good Friday, and instead beating your own drum and tooting your own horn, maybe, just maybe, you should consider what Jesus did for you: “ God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).”

The far reaching truth is this: Jesus died for each and every one of us: “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 (John 3:16).”

Why Friday is Good For You

goodfridayCrucifixion was as repulsive as it was hideous. It was a torturous form of death that had been practiced and perfected by Rome to silence the Empire’s detractors.

Death by crucifixion was an effective form of execution in every instance except one. When Jesus said “it is finished,” He did not say “I am finished.” The moment Jesus died, the chains of those who were bound by death began to rattle.

Three days later when Jesus rose from the grave, Paul says captivity was led captive: Jesus took all believers who had died before Him and led them from Paradise into the glories of heaven.

What about the cross? Eyes of disbelief see it as defeat. The spiritually deaf, hear “It is finished” as the last gasp of a dying martyr.

The cross is not the coffin of Calvary. To the millions who have been embraced by His love and set free by His forgiveness, the cross is an emblem of compassion and a symbol of victory. The cross is best understood when seen through the lens of awe and reverence, for this gift from was God was His Son lifted up for us.

John Piper has written about the significance of the cross: “Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain. What was once foolishness to us—a crucified God—must become our wisdom and our power and our only boast in this world.”

If you only think of the cross as something that was done “for” you, you are mistaken. The cross was “because” of you. Jesus did not die for His sins. He died for your sins and the sins of the world, and this is why Friday is good for you.

While you may wear it as a piece of jewelry around your neck, make sure its peace surrounds your heart.