A quote was written about 539 B.C., just before King Solomon’s death and after God brought the Jews back from exile. Life was not always fair… it wasn’t then, and it isn’t now:
“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11
As far back as time prevails, religious and political persecution were prevalent. But today, we mark the holiest of days in biblical history. Jesus died for us on a Friday, and He forgave our sins so we may live as pure as possible.
In the present day’s turmoil of political unrest, the Book of Ecclesiastes remains a mirror image. Jesus’ message was to proclaim the kingdom of God, a political offense in biblical days. He spoke of what it will be like when God is the ruler of the world, and this created a conflict with Roman authorities. Does this sound familiar? Much of social media has limited or shutdown religious postings. Our missionaries and religious leaders are murdered around the world for proclaiming the kingdom of God.
But Jesus’ issue with the Roman Empire was the sacrilegious offenses occurring within the temple of Jerusalem. It had become the NY Stock Exchange of its day, and worse yet, the high priests were getting a cut of all the money. These priests became wealthy from international trade. Jesus was appalled because the temple was to be a house of prayer – not corruption. To avoid a massive upheaval, the people arrested Him at night. And yes, it was the Jewish citizen’s decision to murder Jesus, not the government. If they killed Him and His true identity truly was the Messiah, the government would reap serious consequences. It was better to let the people decide our Lord’s fate.
As the crowds in Jerusalem shuffled to and fro, Jesus quietly displayed his condemnation against the ungodly government power and corrupt system. He rode a donkey into their town. Believers who knew of Him waved palms at His entrance. Others gasped in disbelief at “the king of Jew’s” entrance. He was sadly aware of His fate.
Jesus’ crucifixion was not just hanging on a cross, it was torture – a violent death. They whipped Him beyond sight with an iron ring that had six or seven leather straps. It had bone or metal attached to the ends to rip the flesh away, and then He was made to carry His own heavy cross.
Under normal circumstances, hanging upside-down was a quick death, but that was too easy for the punishment of Jesus. The thick nails piercing the palms of His hands and feet were excruciating and led to the dropping of His body pressure. Yet, He stayed alive for six hours on the cross, suffering for you and me. Jesus Christ died for our sins so we could live as pure a life as possible on earth.
Oh, the political Jews and pagans thought they won the war!
On Sunday morning, let us sing His praises and commemorate the reign of this holy man who sacrificed His life for us. With corruption running rampant in biblical days, there was only one way God could prove his identity – allow His Son to mingle with disbelievers three days later. They would surely understand our Father, God, not mankind, rules this world! So, for the next forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, He preached the mighty awesome power of His Father in heaven.
I would like you to test your faith by looking in the mirror on this day. Was it a Good Friday? What have you learned? Would you surrender your life, as Jesus did for you, by hanging on a cross? Are you able to discuss with others what Christianity means to you? Can you evangelize, or do you fear for your life? Do you study the Bible regularly? If you responded “yes” to all of these questions, your deep faith will be honored on earth and in heaven. As for those wavering on a “yes” answer, it is time to analyze your faith and love for Jesus Christ. He will wait for you….
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Friday, April 19, 2019, is the annual remembrance of the LORD Jesus Christ’s death on a cruel Roman cross that paid the price for our sin. The crucifixion of Christ was the turning point of all history where God the Father reached out to humanity with the priceless gift of His only Son, Jesus.
Through that sacrifice, we are given the opportunity to come to God and receive His grace and the gift of everlasting life. Yet, the cross is more than the greatest sacrifice; it is a primary example for those who love Christ.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 [ESV]
There are three facets of this teaching gem which Jesus gave to His disciples that bear some examination. These were spoken not simply as instructions to them, but to everyone who has claimed the mantle of Christ ever since.
The Sacrifice of Self-Denial
There is nothing more antithetical to modern society than self-denial. Yet, in truth, it has been that way from the beginning.
The original sin of Adam and Eve is a testimony to this. They refused to deny themselves the one thing which the Creator prohibited when faced with the pressure of temptation.
Humankind has been prone to that path ever since. It is unimpeachable truth that everyone has refused to deny themselves something great or small on at least one occasion and likely more than that.
The business of advertising for products or services is a fruitful source for examples of saying no to self-denial. One doesn’t even have to examine television commercials to find such examples today [although TV still has the most].
Just scan the titles of your emails or the ads and headlines from prominent websites. There you will find many emotional words begging you to take action NOW! Words such as “hurry,” “urgent,” or a favorite of many ‘journalism’ blogs, “blockbuster news!”
One of the most important techniques a new salesperson is taught is to create a sense of urgency and need for the product right away. The vast majority of sales pitches have this element expressed by phrases like, “for a limited time only,” or “offer expires today.”
Since the days of the Great Depression in America, the principle of delayed gratification has faded from the general teaching and upbringing of successive generations. Nowadays, the latest and greatest are all everyone seems to want, and they want it now.
Many industries espouse immediate satisfaction as their goal for the customer. Perhaps the most common example is seen with ‘smartphone’ usage where user impatience is often vocally expressed upon a delay of more than a few seconds for a text or a download to be sent or received.
In order to follow Jesus as He taught, the natural impulses of impatience must be sacrificed on the altar of the cross of Christ. That means a genuine intent to deny self and to embrace the long and lifetime personal ‘via dolarosa,’ carrying our individual cross for Him each day.
What Do You Have to Lose?
This question is twofold. First, what do you have to lose if you do follow the prescription of the LORD? Second, what do you have to lose if you don’t?
Jesus tells us here that if we follow Him, we will save ourselves by losing our life. He doesn’t mean most of us will lose our physical life, though there are some even today who put their own lives at risk when called to preach the gospel in hostile environments.
Those are the missionaries who take grave risks of imprisonment, torture, and death to bring the hope of Christ around the globe. They are the people whom organizations such as Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors advocate for and support.
These are truly the unsung heroes of the earth who practice the ultimate in self-denial for Jesus. When He returns, those heroes will be unsung no more and will embrace joy everlasting in a universe made right.
However, our LORD knows that only a choice few are called to that kind of work. For the rest of us, we are called to follow Jesus and demonstrate His love and grace to a different personal audience of co-workers, friends, and families.
While this may seem a less difficult task than moving to a different nation and living among a foreign culture, it can actually prove more arduous in the end. Jesus gives us insight as to why this is so.
And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:57-58 [ESV]
Anyone who has unsaved family members or friends can attest to the fact that you will likely face both unbelief and some hostility when you testify to them about Christ. Amicable relationships are another one of the things which may be ‘sacrificed’ when we carry the burden of our own “crosses” to follow Jesus.
One’s worldly ambition must also be nailed to a personal ‘cross.’ It is not wrong to seek to succeed in the world unless that success means living for the world and not for Christ.
Remember that the Bible doesn’t teach that riches and money are inherently sinful. Rather it teaches that the love of money is sinful and leads to ever more sin, as is loving anything or anyone more than God.
So what is lost if one does not embrace Jesus in faith and follow after Him? It is far more than losing friends or comfort or even mortal life; it is the forfeiture of the self and the soul.
Don’t Forfeit Your Soul for the World
One of the biggest points Jesus is making involves comparing the value of the material things of the material world with the value of the spiritual things of the spiritual realm. Our LORD is very clear about the value of both items and the verdict is that the riches of the entire world pale in value next to the human soul.
One of the most obvious reasons this is so is the factor of time. Time is something we measure but cannot master even with all the wealth in the world.
Time reminds us that we are mortal and our material lives will eventually cease. And no matter how much our physical life is extended or enhanced through science and medicine, death will remain on our horizon.
When one believes that the material world is either the most important world or the only world, it becomes easier to attempt to ‘gain the whole world.’ Our folly in this endeavor is the fact that all the riches in the universe could not buy us even a little more time.
Time is the one factor that everyone acknowledges is real, whether or not they believe in God. Yet, time is beyond our reach because it belongs to the triune LORD who created time in the first place.
Time is also the prison of the physical universe, including the physical body. For just as the universe had a beginning, so did our bodies, and just as our bodies will have an ending, so will the universe.
What is known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics or the Law of Entropy, confirms that time is running out for the universe. This scientific ‘law’ teaches the obvious fact that everything decays and runs down.
God’s Word taught that same principle long before science and it is called corruption. There are two types of corruption mentioned in the Bible, moral and physical.
Physical corruption leads to the destruction of the body, while moral corruption leads to the destruction of the soul. In a thrilling passage of the New Testament, Paul describes it this way.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 [KJV]
If you or I make gaining the material riches of the world our goal in life, we will lose both life and riches. Worse, we will willingly have forfeited our souls for that which is only temporary.
When Christ was horribly crucified He was not seeking to gain the world but to give sinners the chance to gain eternal life. Jesus confirmed that eternal life was real when He rose again, as will be discussed next time.
Sources: The Holy Bible, King James Version, Public domain
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001
It’s the Holy Week for Christians, and I reverently remember our Lord, Christ Jesus. In the quiet of my domain, I search the Bible for answers to my questions such as what was Jesus’ real ministry on earth? Did Jesus practice a religion or was He a rebel who rode off into the desert eluding Roman authorities?
spread the principles of entering God’s kingdom to all walks of life in Galilee,
Capernaum, Judea, and Nazareth. He started at about the age of thirty at the
River Jordan near Bethany-across-the-Jordan where He called His first five
disciples. Though our Savior was Jewish, his ministry often taught parables and
verses from the “sacred books” which we know today as the Old Testament. But, sometimes
He referred to the Hebrew Bible, specifically the five books of Moses (Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), the Torah, and the Book of Psalms.
you may detect, Jesus disdained religious discord. He wanted people to love one
another and love God. This was the basic concept of all His messages and the
only way to heaven. Love and kindness is not a religion but an emotion, so He reached
listeners through relationships rather than synagogues. When we integrate the theory
of one religion into our life, God’s lessons often become overshadowed by
hypocrisy, hatred, and division. Today’s religious persecution of humanity is
such an example of this concept. Instead of loving one another and maintaining
the state of our hearts, we fight to the end defending our religious rights.
This was the exact reason Jesus’ ministry remained non-denominational – one church
under Christ Jesus.
parables Jesus taught became His primary method of speaking His Father’s words.
He rarely used texts out of scriptures nor explained or commented on them. He
considered this “preaching,” not teaching; instead, He left Himself open to
interpretation and offered a story for listeners to ponder and ask, how can
this get me into heaven? The Parable of the Mustard Seed was Jesus’ favorite.
THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF JESUS’
the core of Jesus’ ministry were a few critical impressions which He
consistently shared with everyone; foremost was love. Believers asked Him occasionally
which commandment was the greatest, and His response stood with, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength.” His
second favorite was, “Love your neighbor
as yourself.” Love is the nucleus of everything right and perfect in the
world. Jesus taught examples of love and compassion by healing the sick,
restoring eyesight, and feeding the hungry. But, He emphasized loving our
enemies for even though they are wicked, they also need love. “Love your enemies, do good to them, and
lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”
was the second most important concept to Jesus. He spoke we must repent of sins
and ask God for forgiveness so God may forgive our wrongdoings. Jesus claimed
we must forgive every time we are wronged. “If
your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins
against you seven times a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I
repent,’ forgive him.”
also warned His listeners not to judge others since we are all sinners. Though born
sinless, He still had mercy and compassion for mankind. He often told the story
of an adulteress woman about to be stoned to death (found in John 8:1-30).
Jesus told her accusers, “He that is
without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” They all
departed and Jesus told the woman, “Neither
do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.”
WEALTH AND POVERTY
did not speak it is a sin to be wealthy, only that we give our riches back to
the Lord and others in need. He spoke of the affluent becoming too attached to
material possessions for when we die, our “objects of happiness” will mean
nothing. Christ used the example of a rich man who lived by all the other
commandments, and he approached Him to find out how to have eternal life. Jesus
replied, “If you want to be perfect, go,
sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in
heaven. Then come, follow me.” The man became very sad because he could not
part with his riches. Jesus later told His disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom
of heaven.” Doesn’t say much for the Powerball today, does it?
us analyze your strength, as a Christian, in this situation. If Jesus were to
come to you today and ask you to give up your home and all possessions to
follow Him, WOULD YOU DO IT? If the answer is yes, you may find eternal
salvation in heaven. If the answer is no, it is time to question your faith and
love of money and objects. What means more to you – living as one with God, now
and forevermore, or exploiting the riches which cease after you die and you stand
in judgment by the Lord? Will it be God or your self-centeredness?
learned of hypocrisy by observing the Pharisees. They prayed in the streets and
always attended the temple, but the inside, their contemptible hearts were made
of stone. He loathed hypocrisy in any form. Our sovereignty to God is a private
matter and not to be exploited in crowds. You may ask why this is imperative? Because
we are sinners, our actions often fall short of God’s requirements. If we
expose our praise and inner thoughts of God to outsiders, yet our daily activities
show different, we become deemed a hypocrite and severely judged. Many
non-believers will not follow the church because of this very reason.
often taught the nature and power of prayer. He emphasized “The Lord’s Prayer”
and said it was not for show but a private matter. “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door,
pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in
secret will reward you openly.” Prayers are to be directed to God the
Father only, not angels, saints, or Mary. Jesus considered chanting of prayers
to be of pagan roots, now observed in Catholic and Orthodox churches. He asked we
use prayers to develop a close, personal relationship with God.
see the irony in Jesus’ instruction on praying? How many large churches, today,
organize huge crusades and festivals to bring people closer to God? How often
do we receive an invite on Facebook to join a Watch Party where someone is
screaming out the name of the Lord and asking for forgiveness? The idea
churches adopted prayer methods against Jesus’ teaching is quite a dose to
swallow. They walk in total disregard of the foundation of God’s word!
Christ Jesus tested and prevailed in His ministry of love, right down to His last days. He was a sinless mortal man leading the way for humanity to follow in His footsteps. Yes, Jesus paid the ultimate price for His beliefs in love.
On this day, Good Friday, I plead my faith to Him, under the cross which He brutally hung on for me and all sinners. I also pray my Father will bless my ongoing ministry for all who come searching to fill a void in their heart with our Lord, Jesus Christ. And finally I pray, friends, you find God’s peace and love on this holy weekend. www.danabicksauthor.com
If you are a Christian, this week is very special to you, isn’t it? Just how special it is, of course, depends on each individual Christian.
There are Christians and there are Christians. And this is an opportunity to speak out with conviction about what you believe in as a Christian. Do you have the courage of your faith? Tell the world what you believe.
If you are a non Christian you have the opportunity to express love and solidarity with your Christian brothers and sisters. We are waiting.