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Weekly Word

Entries in Reconciliation (3)

Wednesday
May272015

Faith, Duty and Being Offended

May 24, 2015-Luke 17:1-10

Today’s passage follows the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.  The parable was given to the Pharisees, but at this point Jesus turns back to his disciples to instruct them on obedience in these matters.  It is easy to treat the instructions of Jesus as optional, and only for those who want to move to higher levels of discipleship.  But in this passage Jesus drives home the importance of listening to him.  When people live for themselves and without thought for others, we end up sinning against each other.  Eventually those sins heap up on top of each other and create large separations between us.  In the last chapter Jesus spoke of how wealth could be used to bless people around us in His name.  But in this chapter Jesus deals with the other side of the equation: when you are the one being overlooked or sinned against.

Make Sure You Are Not A Cause Of Stumbling

It is very easy in this area to only focus on the sin of other people.  But Jesus warns against causing each other to stumble.  In 1 John 2:10 it says, “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.”  When we truly love one another we will rid ourselves of those things that get in each other’s way.  Yet, when something does happen, we can let it bother us so much that it impacts our ability to trust God and obey Him.  Thus Jesus puts this in very strong terms; as a command and as a warning.

So what is meant by “offense” in this passage?  In verse 4 it is to sin against your brother.  The word that is translated “offense” here is more than just being offended by someone.  It is used to refer to anything that causes a person to be trapped or to fall.  It was used to refer to the stick that triggers a trap.  The Bible also refers to a “stone of offense (or stumbling)” in which the same word is used in regards to causing someone to fall and be injured.  Here it is being used of spiritual matters.  When we sin against each other we are causing a situation where the other person is tempted to fall into a trap of sin with us.  Jesus says that it is impossible for these offenses not to happen.  In fact it is impossible for us to live in this world without being an offense to others.  Some are an offense because they could care less about pleasing God and living for Him.  However, we can be an offense even when we want to please God, simply because we have a heart of flesh.  Christ is calling those who want to follow him to learn to deal with sins that inevitably crop up between them and others.

Jesus then pronounces a woe upon those who offend others.  This is a warning that when we walk this way (offending each other) we are headed for grief.  Like the Rich Man we will wake up one day to find ourselves weeping and crying for mercy.  Jesus gives very stern warning to those who do not take these matters seriously and learn to restrain themselves.  Even though Jesus does not flesh out what the woe would detail, it is clear that it can involve a number of things.  How we treat one another can affect our eternal destinies.  But, it can also affect our lives in the here and now.  It can bring grief to every one of our relationships and spoil the good it is intended for.  In fact, many times people who reject being a part of Christ’s Church do so out of hurt and bitterness.  They see Christians sinning against each other without dealing with it and it causes them to reject Jesus.  What a woeful condition we can find ourselves in when we reject God’s way and follow our own.

Ultimately Jesus is challenging us to pay attention to ourselves.  It is our tendency to be so focused on the sin of others that we pay little attention to our own.  We are told to “pay attention” to ourselves.  Inspect, and analyze how you treat others and how you respond to them.  Make sure there is no cause for stumbling within you.  It would be good to recognize that even if someone sins against us, there is a secondary temptation for us to sin against them.  Thus, especially in this situation we need to watch ourselves carefully.

Now the way Jesus lays this out, it doesn’t seem that there is much mercy.  I believe he puts it so sternly because our pride does not need coddled.  Yet, we know that God does not just warn us of woes, but also calls us to take advantage of the grace He has provided in order for us to deal with our sin correctly.  The heart of this instruction is that we work on not sinning against each other and that we exercise mercy with each other regardless of what side of the problem we find ourselves.  When we think of the rich man and Lazarus we clearly see the warning for the rich man.  But, Lazarus was being tempted to fall and to be trapped in the sin of bitterness and unbelief.  He could have refused to serve a God who would allow such a horrible life to happen to him, and yet, he clearly kept his faith in God.  What a sad turn to this story it would be if Lazarus would have been filled with such bitterness and hatred that he found himself right beside the rich man in the fires of Hell.

Reconcile With Those Who Sin Against You

Though Jesus doesn’t use the word reconcile here, the two instructions he does give to those who are sinned against are what help believers overcome the separating influence of sin and keep themselves tied together in relationship.  Sins separate, but forgiveness overcomes that separation.  Thus God does not give us any excuses to pull away from working things out with each other.

So, verse 3 gives the first instruction to you when someone sins against you.  Rebuke them.  Now that word sounds pretty harsh, but it simply means to correct them.  It is easy when we are hurt to lash out angrily or to retreat silently.  Neither one is a godly response to sin.  The believer is under a command from the Lord to face it when others sin against us and to deal with it.  Yet, correcting someone is a skill that needs to be honed.  Just as you were not born able to walk, so you are not born able to correct.  Sure you can do it, but are you causing more damage than good?  In this case we can be so right, in that we were sinned against, and yet so wrong, in that we rebuke harshly and angrily.

Now let me remind us that not all things are big enough to merit a rebuke.  We cannot expect people to speak and act perfectly all the time.  Little things that are merely aggravations can be and should be overlooked.  1 Peter 4:8 reminds us, “Above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’”  Now that doesn’t mean we are covering up sins.  But rather we cover it much like we would cover a bill for which someone else is short the money.  Also in Proverbs 19:11 it is said this way, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.”  Thus discretion is found in thinking about ourselves and how we need to give mercy to others that we expect from them.

So how do we properly correct each other?  Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love with one another.  Love is that guiding principle that should surround our decision to correct someone.  This takes some serious time spent in prayer asking for wisdom as to what to say and for control over our own spirit.  I can sin against my brother in how I rebuke him.

Thus we are to correct and then forgive our brother.  Now forgiveness is a skill that needs to be honed as well.  We all have emotional barriers to overcome in order to truly forgive someone.  When we truly forgive someone we release them from the desire for justice we could hold over them.  When I see them their sin is no longer a part of the picture because I have released them from it.  Now this passage assumes a brother repents.  What do you do if he won’t repent?  You have to go to Matthew 18 for that information.  But let me just say that it follows the same spirit of this passage.  You must reconcile with your brother as far as is possible from your side.  There is no choice, if you are going to follow Jesus, and you are never free to flee from reconciliation.  Thus in Matthew 18 we first correct our brother in private and without telling others what happened.  If the brother rejects us then we widen the circle and bring in one or two others to try and help us reconcile.  If he still refuses to repent then we take it before the Church and its elders.  If a person still refuses to repent even when faced with a whole church that is calling him to repentance he would be treated as if he wasn’t a believer.  Of course at any time he could repent and rejoin the assembly.  But, until then, he would not be received as a brother.  Why?  If he was truly following Jesus he would have no problem repenting.  Today we can get offended and go down the street to another church.  This is a weakness in the church today.  Instead of being reconciled and becoming more like Christ, we are fractured and become more like the spirit of this world.  God forgive us for running from reconciliation, repentance, and forgiveness.

In fact Jesus goes on to instruct us not to limit our forgiveness.  Even if your brother sins 7 times in one day and continues to ask forgiveness, we must forgive him.  There is no wiggle room to deny the repentant forgiveness.  We are under a command.  Now seven times is amazing to us.  We would question such a person’s sincerity.  However, the truth is that our flesh questions their sincerity on time number one.  If he is not sincere then his master (Jesus) will take care of that.  The rich man did all manner of religious things in his life, but eventually his lack of sincerity caught up with him.  Quit worrying about a person’s sincerity and start worrying about your own soul.  Yes, we can even rebuke a person regarding their sincerity or lack thereof.  But we still must do so in order to reconcile and out of love.  Now, seven is not some lucky number that allows us to quit forgiving.  Elsewhere, Jesus gives the number 70X7, i.e. 490.  The numbers are really meant to be so incredulous so as to cure us from counting.  Love keeps no record of wrongs, i.e. it doesn’t keep count.  Instead it speaks the truth in love and forgives.  If you limit your forgiveness to others, do you not limit it to yourself?  If you are merciless to others are you not asking God to be merciless to you?  Think on this.

We Have A Duty To God

Now Jesus ends on a note of duty.  He does so particularly because his disciples are amazed at what he expects of them.  “Increase our faith.”  Now surely this is a prayer we all should pray.  However, that is not what they are doing.  It is the equivalent of saying, how in the world do you expect us to do that!  Lord, I don’t have enough faith to do that!  Now before we talk about duty let us all understand that God wants us to do the right thing for more than duty.  He would rather we obey Him out of love for Him and also a love for His character, and the way that He does things.  Our obedience is best when it is the cry of faith, “I want to be like you, Lord!”  Yet, underlying this higher motivation must be a foundation understanding that I am also duty bound.  Like a foundation is to a building, so duty is to our desire to be like God.  When a hurricane strikes and wipes out a house, it leaves behind a foundation.  So, there are times when our desire to be like God and our love for him is wiped away in the storm and trial of temptation.  Yet, there must always be a foundational response of duty before God.  If you are a follower of Jesus then you have become a servant of God, duty-bound to Him.  Duty can save us when our own love fails us.  But, we must never settle for duty as the sole motivation.  We must build upon this foundation a whole structure of love and desire to be like Jesus.

Now the instructions of Jesus make it clear that the disciples do not need their faith increased.  You do not need great faith to follow these commands.  You need only a small amount of faith.  The amount of faith is not the problem.  It is my own stubborn pride.  The problem isn’t that I can’t believe and do it, it is that I don’t want to do it.  It is simple to do and yet hard because my flesh fights it so.

Yet, even our pride and wounds can be overcome.  The mulberry bush in this passage represents the root and bush of the sin of unforgiveness and bitterness that can grow in our hearts.  If we even have a mustard seed of faith in Jesus we can send our own bitterness into the sea of God’s forgiveness.  If we even trust Jesus one speck we could free our brother from his sins against us.  It is only our pride that stands in the way of forgiving another person.  So why am I so prideful?  And, if it causes me to reject the command of Jesus, am I truly trusting and believing upon Him?

Thus, the call to duty is given by Christ.  There is a reward for those who will serve him in this matter.  Yes, a reward in the life to come, for sure.  However, there is a reward in this life.  We will be enabled to become one with a spouse, and to raise a family.  We will be enabled to build a church body that brings honor to God.  We will be able to be a peaceful influence everywhere we go and enjoy the fruits of brotherly love rather than the bitterness of selfish endeavors.  We will be rewarded according to what masters us.  So who is your master, your own fleshly pride or Jesus?

Being Offended mp3

Tuesday
May052015

A Heart For That Which Is Lost-Part II

Luke 15:11-32

Last week we saw two quick parables about God’s heart for those who are lost from Him.  The images then were a lost sheep and a lost coin.  Today our image is going to be a son who is often called the prodigal son, which refers to the fact that he “wastes” his inheritance.  But in reality this parable should be called the parable of the lost son because the emphasis of all three of these parables is that something is lost and needs to be found. 

If you are skeptical of Christianity and the message of the Bible, I would ask you to at least hear out this one message.  In this story Jesus gives us a glimpse into God’s heart for all of mankind.

A Son Is Lost

In verses 11-16 we see the story of a young man who is tired of being in his father’s house.  It is a common story for a young man to chafe under the roof of his parents, and even m ore common is man’s chafing under the administration of God, our Father in heaven.  Throughout this story the actions are illustrating spiritual realities between God and man.

In the story the young man commits a series of very insulting actions toward his father.  First, he asks for his inheritance early.  This action would come across as wishing that your father were dead.  I would rather have the stuff my father is going to give me than to have him.  Now it is not uncommon for an inheritance to be divvied out early, but it would always be at the direction of the father.  Thus the second insult is regarding the father’s wisdom as to when the inheritance should be handed out.  So how is it that we take hold of our inheritance from God before the proper time in order to do with it as we wish?  When we ignore God’s instructions regarding what we have (our body, wealth, time, health, etc…) and then do with it whatever we wish, we are doing the same thing to God that this young man did to his father.

So the young man liquidates his inheritance and goes off to a far country.  This is the third insult.  The son separates himself as far as he can from his father and family.  All by itself it would not be an insult.  But in the context of the actions of the young man it becomes another expression of rejection.  There had already been a separation between the father and son emotionally, but now a large distance is put between them as a barrier to ever fixing this relational problem.  This is true of us with God as well.  We not only neglect relationship with God, but we often put up large barriers that keep God at a distance.  The places and people we hang out and the places we never go, often become shackles that keep us from ever connecting with God.

Although the son doesn’t realize it, the maturity of the Father’s life and decisions is part of what bothers him.  The son wants to live life more.  He doesn’t want to be restricted in his activities and unhampered by the boring things that his father has given him to do.  However, the very inheritance that he takes is the product of his father’s wisdom and maturity.  It is the blood, sweat, and tears of his father put in monetary form.  In the spiritual sense, the temptations of this life call us to cast off the boundaries that God has placed on us and to “enjoy life.”  We want to eat, drink, and be merry at the expense of the work that God has given us to do.  This is an immature mentality that does not produce good things.  Rather it squanders good things.  This lost son is known as the prodigal son because his immature decision making wastes every good thing that he ever had in his life starting with his father and family.  Those who take this path walk away from God and yet take all that he ever supplied for them.  Instead of walking in wisdom they squander all the good that God has given until it is both wasted and ruined.  You will eventually squander all that you have: money, body, mind; and you will be left with nothing to show for it in the end, nothing but spiritual emptiness that is. So the young man became penniless through living the fast and furious, high-life.

Of course this would be the exact wrong time for a severe famine to strike the area, but that is exactly what happens.  Although we often pray for God to help us escape difficult times and difficult things, they have often been the very grace of God to bring people to the point where they can see their need of Him.  As long as he had money and was spending it, the young man never lacked for people to party with him.  But now that he is broke and difficult, economic times have struck, he is alone and in great need.  The young man is so desperate that he takes a job that every Jew hearing this story would have cringed at: feeding pigs.  Spiritually, we can often let desperate times push us into worse and worse decisions, until we end up in a mess that is near impossible for us to fix.  It appears to me that Satan uses these things to herd lost people into prisons of their own making.  Even if they get to a point where they would want to return to their father, they have burnt so many bridges behind them that they won’t be able to make it back.

Perhaps the saddest line of this whole parable is this, “and no one gave him anything.”  Of course they didn’t owe him anything and times were difficult for everyone.  But when a person is in dire need and has nothing to eat, it is easy for those who have no connections to them to ignore it.  And, those who may have partied for you in the past tend to separate from you.   You might wonder why they do it, in that moment.  But it is the kind of decision that immaturity makes.  The destitute person has nothing to offer.  Only a mature and wise person will help such a one, and this young man had separated himself from such people.  It is here that the real truth hammers into the head of this lost son.  He had embraced the cold decision to separate from his father for the fires of passion in a far country.  But now that he has burned out in rapid form he is on the receiving end of others doing the same to him.  They too embrace the cold decision to leave him destitute for the sake of warming and feeding themselves.  Without God this world quickly becomes a cold hard place where people tend to connect with you only as long as they are getting something out of you.  Yet, in the end their care for you does not go beneath the surface.  Many have taken the path of the immediate decision for their own passions, only to find that no one cares for them in this place they have ended up.

A Son Repents

In verses 17-19 the story takes another turn.  The son repents of what he has done.  Now the word repent in this passage literally means to change your mind.  It is also associated with another word that means to regret something after the fact.  Thus repentance is not just an intellectual change of mind, but an emotional one as well.  Another concept that comes out is that of turning.  The young man has been going in a direction that is taking him farther, and farther away from his father.  But here we see him sorrowfully changing his mind.  Filled with remorse and regret he begins to turn away from those previous decisions and actions and begins to turn back towards his father.  He no longer sees hope further down the road of his way, but rather looks back to his father as the only hope for him now.  Have you reached that point regarding your Father in heaven?  This is true repentance on display for us to see.  When we truly repent we turn away from our decisions and actions in disgust and turn towards God in hope.

It is at this point that the young man comes to his senses, or as the passage says, “he came to himself.”  Until now he couldn’t see himself for what he really was.  He was blinded by his desire and his ignorance.  But now he sees his true condition.  But, the truth can set us free, if we will recognize it and embrace it.  It is not easy to embrace truth.  Much like embracing a cactus, it pierces our skin and causes pain.  Yet, unlike embracing a cactus, the truth can lead us in the direction of hope, wisdom, freedom and especially love.  The rebukes of life are those effects of our poor choices and the added problem of adverse circumstances that we didn’t cause.  This perfect storm mixes together and binds us to a miserable state.  But the question is, do we really see ourselves in that moment, or do we ignore it and press on the same old way?  Like a person banging their head against the wall, we can persist in the same direction in the face of evidence that it is destroying us.  Only the Spirit of God can truly help a lost person to come to their senses and mercifully He works on each person.  However, even then, when those glimpses come, we can choose to ignore it.  The Bible calls this hardening your heart.  When does a heart become so hard that nothing, not even Truth, can break through?  This is something that cannot be answered, but must be recognized.

In this moment of seeing the truth, the young man recognizes that the only path out is to humble himself and return to his father.  This is a plan born out of desperation and yet also the understanding that his father is different than those who surround him now.  Perhaps I can go back and be a slave in my father’s house.  He knows he doesn’t deserve even that, yet, it is worth a shot.  The worst that can happen is that he will be rejected and in the same condition he is in now.  These two key points are necessary to true repentance: humbling and returning.  When we can strip ourselves of all the ways of thinking, reasons, philosophies, and lusts that led us away from God in the first place, then we are able to come back to Him for help.

The young man also comes back without demand and with an attitude of unworthiness.  If we approach God with demands then we are not truly repentant.  The person who repents takes full responsibility for their choices and the effects of them.  They are asking for help rather than demanding it.  At times they are hoping against hope for help, that’s how desperate they are.  Do not be so quick to pump up the self-esteem of a person who is coming to Christ.  Yes, God loves them and yes, He will definitely restore them to the status of a son.  But it will have been over the top of my sin.  When we diminish our sin we are at the same time diminishing the greatness of God’s love and mercy towards us.  If my sin was no big deal then God’s grace is not a big deal.  If I only owe a penny to my friend, it is no big deal when he says to forget about paying it back.  But if I owed him $100,000 and he forgave the loan, I would be indebted to him immensely.

A Father And Son Are Reunited

In verses 20-32 we have the fun part of the story.  The son goes back and is received by his father.  It is interesting that the father runs out to meet his son.  It is as if to say that if we will take steps back towards God, He will come out to meet us and bring us all the way back home.  God is looking for any movement in our life back towards Him.  He isn’t waiting for us to prove ourselves.  Rather, He runs to us quickly in order to help us come all the way.

It is also important to notice the compassion of the father.  God has a great deal of compassion for sinners who repent and turn back towards Him.  Of course, He had compassion before, but it was internal.  The lost person’s heart is separated from God and wants nothing from Him.  But, when the lost heart turns back towards God, His compassion can now flow towards them.  Now that the son’s heart has changed, God can act in a way that would not have been received before.  If the father had showed up while the son was partying he would not have been received.  If he had shown up too soon, when the son was working as a feeder of pigs, the son might have willfully stayed there eating pig slop.  But at just the right time, the father runs out to his son.  This is God’s way with us.

Next the Father throws a celebration for his son.  God doesn’t just bring us back into the home.  He celebrates.  We cannot fathom the heights to which the heart of God ascends when a sinner repents, or I should say when we repent.  We should ponder long the reality of what is being shown here.  God does not just require repentance; He throws a party when we do it.

The father also blesses his son as if he was a favorite son.  He gives him the best robe, a ring, and sandals (and most likely a bath).  This is a picture of the lavish love that God pours out upon those who turn to Him.  He will not hear of us serving only as a slave.  He will not leave us in our filthy stained condition.  But, rather, He will lavish upon us those things that we do not deserve.  Believers have the privilege to delight in the robe of the righteousness of Christ, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  We can walk in the authority of His favored Son, Jesus.  We also have a future with the Father that we had thrown away.

It is at this moment that the beautiful story hits a snag.  The older brother is offended.  He hears what is going on and refuses to go into the celebration.  He begins to separate himself from the path of his father’s choice.  Up to now he has followed his father’s wisdom, but this is too much.  At that moment, he too becomes a son who is in jeopardy of becoming a lost son.  Whether he goes off to a far country or not, he does not want to join with his father.  His complaint that he never got to celebrate with his friends is flimsy.  First of all the lost brother most likely doesn’t have any “friends” at the celebration, only the father and his servants.  Second of all, the celebration is offset by the grieving that went on before.  Imagine that the celebration is like 100 happy points all in one day.  The older son can only see that he never got 100 happy points all in one day.  This isn’t fair is it?  The reality is that the day the younger son left the father experienced something like a 1,000,000 sad points.  Every day since his leaving the father had grieved with sadness over the loss of his son.  Now the 100 happy points seem small.  Now let’s continue with these happy points.  Imagine that one normal day with his elder son was like 10 happy points.  How many days had they dwelt together with no real sad points to think of and 10 happy points racking up: 10 per day, 70 per week, 300 per month, 3,652 per year.  It is so easy to discount the happiness of “normal.”   It may not be a festival celebration, but the simple meals that we have together, day after day, are not a drudgery when we love each other.

Ultimately being lost is a matter of the heart.  We have all been lost children of God.  His heart yearned for the return of each of us.  He has planned a great celebration and feast for those who return to Him.  In all of this we see God’s heart for each person who has been found and for those who are still out there squandering their inheritance.  When you first get saved you are the younger brother.  But over time our hearts can become entitled and we can become derisive towards those who turn back to God after us.  Beware of such a heart because it is a lost heart as well.

The Lost Son audio

Tuesday
Apr222014

The True Jesus:  Forsaken

This Sunday is Easter or better, Resurrection Sunday.  We are going to return to our study of the Gospel of Luke next week.  But today I want to look at a question that Jesus asks while He is on the cross in Matthew 27.

Have you ever been forsaken by someone?  Or have you ever found yourself alone with no one who seemed to care?  Whether you were forsaken by parents, friends, loved ones, or someone else, it is a grievous thing to go through.  Take heart in this, you are in good company.  The Bible tells us that Jesus knows exactly how you feel because He went through the very same thing.  Let’s go to verses 45-46 and pick up the story.

Jesus Experiences A Dark Time

It is not by coincidence that darkness comes over the land for the last 3 hours of the death of Jesus.  It cannot be a solar eclipse because Passover occurs during the Full Moon and the sun is on the other side of the earth (besides the fact that they last less than 10 minutes).  Several ancient historians from the first century refer to earthquakes that were followed by a strange darkness lasting for 3 hours in what we would call AD 33.  I don’t believe we have enough information to understand what was physically happening to cause the darkness.  However, it is a powerful sign that this is a dark time.  The Savior of the world is dying on a cross and the heavens go black.  In fact the Creator of all things is suffering a symbolic dark night.

It is made dark by the unjust trial He had been given and the unjust punishment He was receiving.  Jesus had done nothing wrong, especially that would be worthy of death.  Still, He is run through a midnight trial with witnesses brought against Him that were so bad that the religious leaders balked at giving a sentence.  It was only when He was asked point blank, “Are you the Messiah,” and answered in the affirmative that they agreed to execute Him under a charge of blasphemy.  Was it really blasphemy to claim to be the Messiah?  Think about it.  If it is blasphemy to claim to be the Messiah then the Messiah could never come and save Israel.  Nowhere in the Law does it state it is blasphemy to claim to be the Messiah.  However, if you did claim to be the Messiah you had better save the people.  Instead of waiting to see if He does anything to save Israel, they quickly decide to kill Him.

Next, it is a dark night for Jesus because of the way in which they execute Him.  They go out of their way to publically shame Jesus before the whole nation.  He had been beaten to a bloody pulp and then paraded in front of the people.  He was chosen for execution over the top of a notorious criminal who deserved death.  On top of this is the Old Testament statement that He who hangs on a tree is cursed of God.  Lastly, as He hung on the cross people were taunting Him to prove He is the Messiah by coming off of the tree.  This public shame is a dark and heavy thing to put up with in light of the fact that you are doing it for them.

Yet, what made the time darkest for Christ had nothing to do with the religious leaders or the people.  It had to do with His Father in heaven.  Jesus had an eternal relationship of love between Himself and the Father.  Yet in this moment it is halted.  Instead of miracles of divine help, the supernatural becomes strangely silent during the crucifixion.  When God refuses to overturn this crucifixion it is taken for God’s agreement by the people.  Surely God wouldn’t let the true Messiah be killed, would He?

The Cry Of Jesus

It is at this darkest moment in the existence of Jesus that He cries out, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”  This is an amazing statement; that the Father would forsake His Perfect Son.  Clearly anyone in this situation would feel forsaken by God.  In fact, it is quite universal to feel that the God of the heavens does not care about you and will not help you in times of great injustice and in times of being forsaken.

Yet, Jesus is not just asking God a question.  He is actually quoting a verse of Scripture from Psalm 22:1.  Thus He is doing more than telling us how He feels.  He is calling the attention of those who saw this or hear the story to that Old Testament passage.

When you analyze this Psalm it is amazing.  It actually reads as if it was written by Jesus while He is on the cross.  It starts with the question of Why.  It then moves to point out that God has helped people in the past, but this One is a worm and will receive no help.  It talks about how persecuted and physically broken He is.  However, at the end of the Psalm a strange transition occurs.  The simple line, “You have answered me,” ends the grim side of this Psalm with the tortured author praising God and declaring that this is all God’s doing.

Thus the question of Jesus is not just a question.  It is telling us that He believes He is living out Psalm 22 and that no matter how much of a worm He has become and no matter how forsaken of God He will be, in the end God will hear Him.  It is a statement of explanation and of faith in a dark moment.  These dying words are clearly not words of doubt, but simply a way to let us know that in the midst of despising this forsaken situation, Christ knew He would be heard.  It may not look like it, but I will declare it among the Great Assembly.

Was Jesus Forsaken?

Well He was in the sense that God did not help Him and abandoned Him to the will of wicked men.  God did not protect Jesus.  Of course, if we look at the resurrection and the ascension, and the prophesied Second Coming, it is clear that He was not completely forsaken.  Yet this abandoning to an unjust death and public humility is only part of the His being forsaken.  Some have pointed out that God is more than abandoning Jesus.  He is actively pouring out His wrath upon Jesus.  This unthinkable break in the eternal love that has existed between Father and Son is the greatest agony.  God is not just neutral, but even worse; He is the very one pouring out His wrath and our punishment upon Jesus.  Why such a strange thing?  Is God truly a cosmic child abuser, who abandons those who serve Him, in the end?  This really is not fair.  Jesus is not a child being forced to endure something.  He is a grown, adult Son who is actually working in harmony with His Father in a Rescue operation.  God is not a cosmic child abuser.  He is the epitome of self sacrifice in grim circumstances; taking upon Himself the punishment of us all.  This is the plan that He and the Son had agreed to in eternity past as they counted the cost to creating.  Before God says, “Let there be light,” He and the Son have already agreed to the plan that required the Son to allow Himself to be nailed to a cross and the Father to pour out the punishment due all of mankind upon the Son.  Jesus Himself said, “No one takes my life from me.  I lay it down.”  This leads us to 2 Corinthians 5:17 and following.

Jesus was reconciling us back to God.  He is not just suffering, but He is removing a barrier between us and God so that we can have fellowship with Him.  We are sinners and He must judge us.  This is the white elephant in the room that can’t be avoided.  God does not avoid it.  Rather, He takes the pain upon Himself, that we might have a broken relationship restored.

Furthermore,  2 Corinthians 5 says that our sins are put on His account.  Yes, apparently God keeps records of all our deeds, words, thoughts, and actions.  Those who reject Jesus will have to give account for all the things that are written on their account.  But, those who turn to Jesus in faith, will have all of their sins placed on Christ’s account, which by the way is already covered.

It says that “God made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us.”  This is a reference to an Old Testament ritual that happened on the Day of Atonement.  Israel was required to make sacrifices on a specific day every year to make atonement or covering for their sin.  On this day two goats would be chosen.  One would be sacrificed as a sin offering and the other would be sent into the wilderness to die.  However, before sending this goat into the wilderness, the High Priest would lay his hands on the goat and symbolically transfer the sins of the nation onto the goat.  This goat would then symbolically carry their sins into the wilderness and the sins would die with the goat and never return.  This is the concept of the scapegoat.  Now in the world a scapegoat is often a part of the sin in the first place.  They are made to take the rap while everyone else gets off.  But in this case the scapegoat had nothing to do with the sins.  It is not just unfair.  It is unthinkable.  Now picture in your mind as sin upon sin is laid upon this goat.  Yet, Jesus is dying for the sins of the whole world, for all time.  There is seemingly no end to the sin as it is heaped up until no goat is visible only sin.  When the Father pours out His wrath, it is not really upon His son, but upon the sin that He carries.  Never forget that this is exactly how God feels about our sin.  It is something He hates and yet because He loves us He is willing to take our punishment upon Himself.  The Sinless One takes our sin upon Himself and carries it away; never to be heard from again.

How Can I Experience this?

The question remains.  How can I know that I am at peace with God and that Jesus has carried my sins away?  In 2nd Corinthians 5 it simply says that those who are “in Christ” become a new creation.  Yet, this process of becoming “in Christ” is described elsewhere in several actions.

First, I must ADMIT that I am a sinner and in need of a savior.  As a healer, Jesus did not come to heal people who were already well.  Similarly He did not come to save people who don’t want a savior.  No one will be forced to accept this reconciliation to God.  All of us are spiritually sick and in need of God’s healing.  Until we admit this we cannot belong to Him.  This humbling of ourselves is the only thing that God will accept because it is the very nature of Jesus.  He humbled Himself and did for us what we could not do for ourselves.  It is only right that we should humble ourselves and admit that we can’t pay for our own sins.  We need a savior and God has given us Jesus.  Take it or leave it, but this is the only choice.

Second, I must BELIEVE that Jesus is God’s answer to cover my sin.  Some persist in thinking that they are good enough.  “Surely, I haven’t done anything worthy of great punishment!”  Yet, they have never stood before a Judge who knows everything they have ever thought and done in secret as well as that done in the open.  Now, when you ask most people if they are good, they will answer yes.  But if you ask them are they perfect, they will balk and then say, “nobody’s perfect.”  Yet, somebody is.  God is the perfect Judge and His Son is the Perfect One who was sacrificed for our sins.  You can accept God’s plan or you can fight against it.  But you won’t win by rejecting His offer of peace because you are not perfect.  Put your faith in Jesus by recognizing that He is God’s answer for your sins.  He is the only One worthy of our praise.

Third, I must CONFESS with my mouth that Jesus is my Lord.  Jesus is not just our sin-bearer.  By right of Deliverer, He becomes our Lord.  We owe Him our life and thus all we do should be for His purposes.  Although it might sound horrible to be obligated to another, remember that He is pure, righteous, trustworthy, gentle, humble, and loving.  To confess before others that Jesus is your Lord and Savior is to publically identify with Him.  Don’t think that you can accept Him in your heart while publically rejecting Him.  Jesus said, that if you deny me in front of men, then I will deny you before my Father.  It is not easy to confess Jesus before a world that crucified Him.  The world is no different today.  Whether it does so by redefining Jesus or cursing Jesus, this world rejects the True Jesus, what He stands for, and what He did.  Will you follow the world or hear the Holy Spirit calling you to be reconciled to God?

Lastly, we must Follow Jesus.  He said, “Pick up your cross and follow me.”  We can’t do what Jesus did in that we can die for the sins of others.  Neither do we need to because Jesus did it once and for all.  However, we do need to die to the purposes that our flesh wants to live for.  We have to come alive to the leadership of Jesus.  Die to this world and live to God.  Die to yourself and live to God.  This is the way of Jesus.  If we will do this, then God will work through us to be the Deliverer of others.  Not because we can pay for their sins, but because we can bring the truth of who Jesus is to them and the Truth can set them free.  Be free today!  Choose Life!

 

Forsaken audio