Nine Just Men (& One Woman) – II Matthew 1:18-21

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The featured Scripture for this Gem is Matthew 1:18 through 21. It features the next just person in this series, Joseph, when he was visited in a dream by an angel.

     Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His 
     mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came to-
     gether, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then 
     Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to 
     make her a public example, was minded to put her away se-
     cretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, 
     an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 
     “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you 
     Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of 
     the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and shall 
     call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their 
     sins.”

We too often read the Scriptures with a perspective from our twenty-first century western world mind-set. So let’s clear up a couple of problems that this passage might seem to put forth:

  • In verse 18, we are told, “…Mary was betrothed to Joseph….” But the angel said, “Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife….” And in verse 19, it says, “…Joseph her husband!
       ✡   “...betrothed...” – that means they were engaged, 
            right? Yes, but engagement among the Jews in the 
            first century was different from our understanding 
            of it today. It was a much more binding agreement 
            between a man and a woman. They were bound together 
            in a legal agreement that could only be broken by 
            divorce! The official marriage did not take place for six 
            months to a year after the betrothal! 
  • Also in verse 18, it says when Mary…was found with child of the Holy Spirit….Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.” Being pregnant, “…found with child…, was considered adultery! There were two legal options open to Joseph:
He could divorce her, putting her away publicly! 
            Mary would then live in shame her whole life....
            if she lived!

       ✡   The other option was, according to Leviticus 20:10, 
            “...the adulterer and the adulteress...shall sure-
            ly be put to death.This law was still in effect 
            in Jesus’ day, as shown In John 8:3 through 5:

               ...the scribes and Pharisees brought to 
               [Jesus]...a woman caught in adultery. And 
               when they had set her in the midst, they 
               said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught 
               in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in 
               the law commanded us that such should be 
               stoned [to death].

But “…Joseph…being a just man…didn’t want to shame Mary or have her stoned to death! So he was just going to have her disappear – maybe back “…into the hill country…to a city of Judah… [to ] the house of Zacharias and [Mary’s cousin] Elizabeth…” (Luke 2:39, 40), where she could have her baby and raise Him out of Nazareth’s public eye!

Then the Angel came to Joseph…

     ...in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid 
     to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in 
     her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and 
     shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from 
     their sins.” (Matthew 1:39, 40).

Joseph was called just because he was right with God and with man! He was familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures, and believed the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. And God chose him to be the human father to His Son, Jesus Christ!

As a just person, what will God have you to do?

Mark 6:20 – John the Baptist

Perhaps this just man should have been featured before Joseph because he was six months older than Jesus, and the events highlighted above were at least nine months after his mother Elizabeth’s conception.

Here is what Herod Antipas said in Mark 6:16 through 20, when he heard about Jesus’ growing ministry:

     ...when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; 
     he has been raised from the dead!” For Herod had sent and laid 
     hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, 
     his brother Philip’s wife, for [Herod]...had married her. For 
     John had said, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s 
     wife.” Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill 
     him, but she could not; for Herod feared John, knowing that he 
     was a just and holy man, and he protected him.

…a just and holy man…! That was John! He was so just and holy that many of the Jews thought he might be the Messiah!

  • But John was the forerunner of the Messiah, as prophesied in…
       ✡   ...Isaiah 40:3 – “The voice of one crying in the 
            wilderness; Prepare the way of the LORD; make 
            straight in the desert a highway for our God.” 
            (see the New Testament fulfilment in Matthew 3:3).

       ✡   ...in Malachi 4:5 and 6 – “Behold, I will send you 
            Elijah the prophet before the coming of the LORD. 
            And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the 
            children, and the hearts of the children to their 
            fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a 
            curse.” (see the New Testament fulfilment in Mat-
            thew 17:11-13).
  • However, Jesus said something puzzling concerning John in Matthew 11:11: “…among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.How is it that the one…who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than…John the Baptist?
John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament 
            prophets!But he is featured in the New Testament!” 
            you might exclaim. Yes, he is! But until Pentecost, 
            the Bible narrative is still under the Old Testament 
            economy!

           ➔   The focus was still on the Jewish people in 
                the holy land.

           ➔   The temple and the age-old system of sacrifices 
                were still standing.

           ➔   The revelation of Jesus as the Messiah, the 
                Savior of the world, had not yet been revealed, 
                except as prophesy to a few individuals! (see 
                Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31-33; 1:76, 77; 2:29-32; 
                John 1:29). 

       ✡   Although John had the privilege of meeting Jesus 
            (see John 1:29, 30) and even baptizing Him (see 
            Matthew 3:13-17), and succinctly proclaiming His 
            ministry (see John 1:29, 34); his own ministry of 
            preparation was suddenly cut off (along with his 
            head) by Herod!

            ➔   John did not witness Jesus’ death, resur-
                 rection, and ascension into heaven!

            ➔   He was not there to receive the permanent 
                 internal dwelling of the Holy Spirit at 
                 Pentecost!

           ➔   He did not have the privilege of proclaiming 
                the gospel of Jesus as Savior and Lord of 
                all mankind! 

           ➔   He did not participate in the introduction 
                and growth of the Church!

       But the lowliest believer in the risen Christ as Sav-
           ior and Lord has all those privileges!

So you see, when Jesus spoke that “…he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than [John]…,” it is not a matter of our position in heaven, but we are greater than John in the blessed privileges given to believers on earth!

John the Baptist did the best he could with what was revealed to him!

Are we…
who have the fulness of the gospel,
and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit,
living up to our potential?
If not, why not?

Nine Just Men (& One Woman) – I Genesis 6:5-9

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

What would a just person look like according to the Bible?

  • Word study:
       ✡   The Hebrew word for just is צַדִּיק (English spelling, 
            tsaddiyql; and pronounced tsad-deek’) meaning, 
            “...just, lawful, righteous (man).” (Strong’s 
            Hebrew Dictionary).

       The Greek word for just is δίκαιος (English spell-
           ing, dikaios; and pronounced di-kah’-yos) meaning, 
           “equitable (in character or act); innocent, holy 
           (absolutely or relatively)...” (Strong’s Greek Dic-
           tionary).
  • The just person would be law-abiding (religious and civil law), innocent of confessed sin, and holy in his or her living before God and fellow human beings!
  • Those are tough qualities to fulfill! And it is impossible for a human being to perfectly and consistently manifest these qualities! But, as Jesus said in Mark 10:27, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.

There are ten people in the Bible who are called just, nine men and one woman.

Genesis 6:9 – Noah: As the first mentioned in Scripture as being just, and one of only three in the Old Testament, I have selected Genesis 6:5 through 9 as our featured Scripture:

    ...the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the 
    earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart 
    was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He 
    had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 
    So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created 
    from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping 
    thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I made them. 
    But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. This is the 
    genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his gen-
    erations. Noah walked with God.
  • Noah passed his just way of living to his three sons, “…Shem, Ham, and Japeth.” (Genesis 5:32).
  • Apparently…
...Noah’s just way of living led him to a just wife!

    ✡   ...further, through Noah’s influence, his three sons 
         also found three just women whom they married.
  • Eight people were saved from death in that universal flood! For God had said to Noah in Genesis 6:18, “…I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark — you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
  • It is through this family of Noah that God reestablished the inhabitants of the earth! …Shem, Ham, and Japeth…from these the whole earth was populated.” (Genesis 9:18 and 19).

I found references concerning the next two Old Testament people called just in the New Testament book of James! Both are spoken, not of being just, but justified (the verb form of the adjective just).

James 2:21 – Abraham: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

  • First, let’s clear up something that has caused controversy in some Christian circles:
          Paul wrote in Galatians 2:16:

              ...knowing that a man is not justified by the 
              works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, 
              even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we 
              might be justified by faith in Christ and not 
              by the works of the law; for by the works of 
              the law no flesh shall be justified.

Paul is here illustrating works by tying it to the Jews trying to fulfill the Old Testament law, through which the Pharisaical leaders especially tried to achieve righteousness before God by keeping all 613 laws found in the Pentateuch! In Titus 3:5 Paul leaves out any direct reference to the law but emphasizes, “…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us….

         James’s position is put forth in James 2:24, “You 
           see then that a man is justified by works, and not 
           by faith only.

Are Paul and James proffering two different gospels – the one: salvation by grace; the other: salvation by works? No! Paul is speaking from God’s viewpoint, looking on the internal heart of the matter, which only He can see! James is emphasizing what evidently others will see in a truly saved person’s life!

  • The most dramatic outward act of obedience in Abraham’s life was when he offered his son Isaac as a burnt offering to God! (see Genesis 22:1-19).
       ✡   The account, in Genesis 22:2, hints at the reason 
            why God told Abraham, “Take now your son, your on-
            ly son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of 
            Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering...” 
            Apparently, “...Isaac, whom...[Abraham] loved.... 
            was loved so much by his father that he was taking 
            the place of the LORD God as Abraham’s first love! 
            As it is written in Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love 
            the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your 
            soul, and with all your might.”

       ✡   So when the father was willing to offer his son 
            “...as a burnt offering...,it showed that Abraham 
            was indeed God’s righteous man, willing to put God, 
            not Isaac, first in his life! And so, as Paul wrote 
            in Romans 4:22, “...it was accounted to him for 
            righteousness.

James 2:25 – Rahab, the harlot:Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and then sent them out another way?” (see Joshua 2:1-24).

  • It is amazing that Rahab the harlot is here identified as justified before God!
It is not amazing when one considers her faith in 
            siding with the invading Israelites who would con-
            quer the idolatrous people of Canaan. As Rahab 
            told the two spies Joshua had sent out to recon-
            noiter the city of Jericho, “I know that the LORD 
            has given you the land, that the terror of you has 
            fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the 
            land are fainthearted because of you.” (Joshua 2:9). 
            Rahab sided with the Israelites, believing God was 
            leading Israel to that victory over her own people! 
            As she said in verse 11, “...the LORD your God, He 
            is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.”

       ✡   But it is amazing when considering that all her 
            life she had been steeped in Amorite idolatrous 
            worship! God had plainly warned the Israelites to 
            avoid being attracted to such idolatry:

              When the Lord your God brings you into the 
              land which you go to possess...and when the 
              Lord your God delivers...over to you...the 
              Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites 
              and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the 
              Hivites and the Jebusites...you shall conquer 
              them and utterly destroy them. (Deuteronomy 
              7:1 and 2).

       ✡      And Rahab was an Amorite! But she rejected the 
               idolatry of her former nation, and she trusted 
               the God of the Hebrews! She showed forth her 
               trust, and, as James says, she was...also jus-
               tified by works when she received the messengers 
               and then sent them out another way....”

       ✡      By the way, she was counted so faithful and just 
               by the LORD, Rahab is listed as a direct ancestor 
               of Jesus Christ! (see Matthew 1:5).

We will stop at these three Old Testament just persons, and continue with Joseph, the husband of Mary, in the next Gem.

“Who Is This Man?”

Mark 4:35-41 (International Standard Version)

A powerful scene is depicted in Mark 4:35 through 41 (International Standard Version):

     That day, when evening had come, ...[Jesus] told [His disci-
     ples]..., “Let's cross to the other side.” So they...took 
     Him away in a boat without making any special preparations. 
     Other boats were with Him. A violent windstorm came up, and 
     the waves began breaking into the boat, so that the boat was 
     rapidly becoming swamped. But Jesus was in the back of the 
     boat, asleep on a cushion. So they woke Him up and asked Him, 
     “Teacher, don't you care that we're going to die?” Then He 
     got up, rebuked the wind, and told the sea, “Calm down! Be 
     still!” Then the wind stopped blowing, and there was a great 
     calm. He asked them, “Why are you such cowards? Don't you 
     have any faith yet?” Overcome with fear, they kept saying to 
     one another,“Who is this man? Even the wind and the sea obey 
     Him!”

Why were the disciples so afraid?

  • Yes, it was a powerful storm! The waves were washing over the gunnels of the boat, and, as we are told in verse 37, “…the boat was rapidly becoming swamped…!
  • At least four of the disciples were fishermen (see Mark 1:16-20), and possibly seven (see John 21:1-4). They plied their trade on the Sea of Galilee, so they knew that body of water well, including its violent storms!

From the website of The Deseret News, “Storms Are Common on the Sea of Galilee ”:

       Being about 680 feet below sea level, the body of water 
       becomes quite warm during certain times. Cold air rush-
       ing down from the sharply rising hills meets the warm 
       air rising from the water. The result is a sudden and 
       violent storm. 

• The disciples were fearful, thinking they would all drown!

Somewhere in my reading, I gleaned an argument that should have bolstered the disciples faith! Hadn’t Jesus told them, as they started out, “Let’s cross to the other side.?

  • He did not say, “Well, climb in the boat, fellas. We will try to make it to the other side – no guarantees though!No, He plainly told them,Let’s cross to the other side.
  • Jesus is the Son of God, God the Son! We are told in John 2:24, “…Jesus…knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” When He called Nathanael as His disciple in John 1:47 through 51, The Lord’s knowing was demonstrated in their interaction:
       Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, 
       “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” 
       Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus an-
       swered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when 
       you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael an-
       swered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! 
       You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to 
       him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig 
       tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than 
       these....Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you 
       shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending 
       and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Jesus even knew what Nathanael was contemplating as he sat under the fig tree! Nathanael was deeply thinking about Jacob’s dream as recorded in Genesis 28:12: “Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” How do I know that was what Nathaniel was thinking? Jesus told him in verse 51, “…you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.Same subject, same unusual order – angels first ascending, then descending!

All that to say, Jesus knew exactly what would happen on the Sea of Galilee!

  • He knew the storm was coming, and He knew its intensity!
  • He knew how the disciples would react!
  • And He knew they would…cross to the other side…,making it in spite of the storm!

And so the disciples were rebuked!Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith yet?

  • …faith that they would reach their destination, because Jesus had said so!
  • faith that the One they followed had the power and ability to handle any obstacle that arose!

I must say that I think I would have responded to the situation much as did the disciples! As they were, so am I – a work in progress!

But let’s see if we can understand His promises with a more positive and obedient mindset:

  • Jesus said, “I will never leave you or forsake you….I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20). Do you, do I, really know He is always here with us – with me?
  • He quieted His anxious followers eleven times in the gospels with words that included peace (see for instance Luke 24:36; John 16:33; 20:26). His presence should bring His followers peace!

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6 and 7 that if we give our hard situations over to God, …by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving….the peace of God…will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Do we believe that? Do we experience that?

  • The Lord tells us in Luke 6:38 (Easy-to-Read Version):
       “Give to others, and you will receive. You will be given 
       much. It will be poured into your hands--more than you 
       can hold. You will be given so much that it will spill 
       into your lap. The way you give to others is the way God 
       will give to you.”

Do we give abundantly and cheerfully (see I I Corinthians 9:6, 7) knowing that God will give back all that we need? (see Matthew 6:33; Philippians 4:19).

  • In Hebrews 4:14 through 16, we are assured that Jesus has, in one way or another, experienced every trial, every hard thing that can touch our lives! And He says, “…come boldly to the throne of grace, that [you]…may obtain favor and find grace to help in time of need.” But do we come to Him in those needy times? And do we come just in those needy times? For He wants us to talk with Him continually! (see Luke 18:1; I Thessalonians 5:17).
  • In Mark 12:30, Jesus plainly quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 as the great commandment:…you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And in John 14:15 the Lord equated such love to obedience! If you love Me, keep My commandments.We say that we love Him, but do we obey Him…with all…our heart, with all…our soul, with all…our mind, and with all…our strength…?

There are so many ways we are challenged to trust the Lord Jesus Christ! Don’t be like the disciples, scared out of their wits when a storm hit!

The Savior is with you!
And He controls
even the wind and the waves of life!

Be As “Dumb As A Rock!”

Luke 19:37-40

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

From the website of The Free Dictionary, I looked up the idiom, “…as dumb as a rock!” It means “Exceptionally foolish, dimwitted, or unintelligent.” But I take exception to this! According to the account of the triumphal entry in Luke 19:37 through 40, the rocks were smarter than Jerusalem’s religious leaders! Here are the first two verses of our featured Scripture:

     Then, as [Jesus]...was now drawing near the descent of the 
     Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began 
     to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the 
     mighty works they had seen, saying: “Blessed is the King 
     who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory 
     in the highest!” 

The religious leaders of Jerusalem were the Pharisees. They were legalists who insisted that, to be counted as righteous before God, one needed to keep the 613 laws the Pharisees found in the Old Testament! They increasingly opposed Jesus and His teachings, fearing they would lose their positions of influence in Jewish society.

On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus rode on a young donkey down the Mount of Olives, heading for Jerusalem’s Eastern Gate (also called The Golden Gate). The people jubilantly received Him as the Messiah, that is, their version of the Messiah, the One who would deliver them from Roman control and establish again the mighty kingdom of Israel!

  • Their excitement was based on their knowledge of the Messianic prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 and 10:
       Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of 
       Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just 
       and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, 
       the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Eph-
       raim And the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be 
       cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion 
       shall be 'from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends 
       of the earth. (Note: this is to be fulfilled in the future 
       Kingdom).
  • The Pharisees were upset! And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.’ ” (Luke 19:39 and 40).
  • Jesus would not shut the people up! And if He did, “…the stones would immediately cry out.It seems like the rocks (the stones) were smarter than the Pharisees!

Consider the donkey the Lord was riding: Zechariah prophesied that is would be “…a colt, the foal of a donkey.” That is confirmed in Luke 19:30 where Jesus instructed His disciples, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one had ever sat. Loose him and bring him here.” I grew up on a Connecticut dairy farm. I worked on a South Dakota ranch. I have been around horses and a few donkeys. An unbroken donkey’s colt, like an unbroken horse, will not welcome a rider for the first time! It first must be trained to accept someone on its back!

  • This is from a blog called, helpfulhorsehints.com:
       It is also vital that the donkey you intend to ride has 
       been properly taught how to be ridden. You cannot ride 
       a donkey that has not had any training; it may end badly 
       for both you and the donkey.

       While donkeys often excel at being ridden once they are 
       trained, they are not born with the ability or the desire 
       to have a person just hop on their backs. An untrained 
       donkey usually does not respond well to having a person 
       try to climb onto them.
  • But this young donkey, that had never been ridden docilely, accepted Jesus! It seems thisdumb asswas also smarter than the Pharisees!

Who else had the sense to bow before Jesus Christ?

  • Demons did! In Mark 5:1 through 13 is the record of Jesus healing the Gadarene demonic, a man so full of demons that they identified themselves as …Legion; for we are many.” (verse 9). The Lord simply commanded, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit.” (verse 8), and the demons had to obey! They, with Jesus’ permission, entered into 2,000 pigs, which promptly committed suicide by drowning in the sea!
  • The Sea of Galilee did! Jesus and His twelve disciples were dangerously rocked by a storm that was about to sink their boat. But Jesus stood and commanded, “‘Peace, be still.’ and the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39).
  • Fish did!
       Twice, at the beginning of the Lord’s public minis- 
           try, and during His forty-day resurrection ministry, 
           Jesus commanded a multitude of fish to hit the nets 
           of His disciples...and, much to their amazement, 
           they did! (see Luke 5:10; John 21:3-11). 

       ✞   What about the fish that Peter caught with a silver 
           coin in its mouth? (see Matthew 17:27). I can imagine 
           that fish swimming around thinking to itself (if fish 
           think), “What in the world is this thing in my mouth? 
           And why is it there?
  • A tree did! Even though it meant its death, the fig tree of Matthew 21:19 obeyed the curse of the Lord and withered away!
  • Bread and cooked fish did! On two occasions, Jesus fed thousands on just a couple of fish and a few small loaves of bread! (see Matthew 14:19-21; 15:35-38).
  • Sickness and disease bowed to Him 23 times, as recorded in the gospels. Whether it was One on one, or hundreds at the same occasion, no infirmity could stand against His command!
  • Even death had to obey the Lord! Three times in the gospels Jesus raised the dead:
       Luke 7:11 through 17 – He raised the widow of Nain’s 
           son!

       Mark 5:35 through 43 – By Jesus’ touch and command, 
           Jairus’ daughter awoke from death!

       John 11:41 through 44 – Lazarus, dead for four days, 
           was called alive from the grave!

       ...at the resurrection of the just...” (Luke 14:14), 
           at the trumpet call and Christ’s command, Come up 
           here...,” (Revelation 4:1)...

             ...the dead in Christ will arise first. Then we 
             who are alive and remain shall be caught up to-
             gether with them in the clouds to meet the Lord 
             in the air. And thus we will always be with the 
             Lord. (I Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
  • All creation, as well as re-creation came into being by Jesus, who is the powerful Word of God! (see Genesis chapters 1 and 2; Revelation 21:1).
       ✡   For we are told seven times in Genesis 1, “Then God 
            said...” (verses 3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26). 

       In John 1:1 and 14, Jesus is shown to be...the Wordof God. That is why it is written in...

             ➔   ...Colossians 1:16 – “For by Him all things 
                  were created that are in heaven and in earth, 
                  visible and invisible, whether thrones or 
                  dominions or principalities or powers. All 
                  things were created through Him and for Him.”

             ➔   ...Hebrews 1:1 and 2 – “God...through [Jesus] 
                  also...made the worlds.✞   And by that same Word, all creation is sustained! 
           (see Colossians 3:17; Hebrews 1:3).

Now, considering the power of the Lord Jesus Christ’s command, why is it that only people are not smart enoughto respond to Him?

  • It is because of sin! As Jesus said in John 3:19 and 20:
       “And this is the condemnation, that light has come into 
       the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, 
       because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing 
       evil hates the light and does not come to the light, 
       lest their deeds should be exposed.”
  • It is because of Satan! The Apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 4:4:
       ...the god of this age [referencing the devil] has blinded
       ...[the] minds [of those] who do not believe, lest the light 
       of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of 
       God, should shine on them [and they should be saved].

And so…

  • Take the counsel of the stones on Mount Olivet!
  • Take the counsel of all the rest of creation!
  • Do not take the counsel of the stubborn hearts and minds of human beings!

Be as smart as a rock, and all the rest of creation!
Proclaim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of Your life!

Holiness This Side of Heaven! – III Leviticus 11:44; Hebrews 12:14; I John 3:9; 5:18

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

In the last Gem we explored the two natures that every Christian has:

  • The sinful nature with which every mother’s child is born! It is inherited from our first parents, specifically from Adam, who knowingly disobeyed God and ate…of the tree of knowledge of good and evil…” (Genesis 2:17). That rebellious act caused spiritual death (separation from God – see Genesis 3:6-8). And that death was passed from Adam to all his progeny! (see Romans 5:12).
  • Only God could give the solution to this worldwide dilemma! As it says in perhaps the most popular verse of the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
     ✞   Jesus paid for our sins, dying on the cross!

     ✞   He ...was raised [from the dead] for our justification.” 
         (Romans 4:25). 

     By His Holy Spirit within us, He gives us a new Godly 
         nature! (see II Corinthians 5:17).
  • But we still have the corrupted sinful nature! And, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:16 and 17 (God’s Word to the nations):
       Live your life as your spiritual nature directs you. Then 
       you will never follow through on what your corrupt nature 
       wants. What your corrupt nature wants is contrary to what 
       your corrupt nature wants. They are opposed to each other. 
       As a result, you don't always do what you intend to do.

Let’s examine more closely these two natures that reside in every true Christian:

  • The old nature, often called the flesh in the New Testament. Out of the flesh flows nothing but sin! Paul gives a partial list of such output in Galatians 5:19 through 21 (International Standard Version):
       Now the actions of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, 
       impurity, promiscuity,  idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, rivalry, 
       jealousy, outbursts of anger, quarrels, conflicts, factions, 
       envy, murder, drunkenness, wild partying, and things like 
       that.   
  • The new Godly nature manifests these characteristics (Galatians 5:22 and 23 – English Standard Version): “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….

Which would you want to be manifested in your life?

With two opposing natures, Christians still struggle with sin! Paul describes this struggle in Romans 7:18 through 24:

     For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good 
     dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform 
     what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, 
     I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 
     Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do 
     it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil 
     is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I de-
     light in the law of God according to the inward man. But I 
     see another law in my members, warring against the law of my 
     mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which 
     is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver 
     me from this body of death?

I do not see willful rebellious sin here! But even such willful rebellion against God is forgiven if we sincerely repent before the Lord (see I John 1:9). What I see as Paul confesses it, and as I also experience it, is sinning against God unintentionally, and realizing how much I have messed up! In other words, Jesus’ payment for my sins does not give me the license to blatantly sin!

There are two more verses in our featured Scripture, both from John’s first epistle, that we have not yet explored.

  • I John 3:9 – “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
  • I John 5:18 – “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.

Born of God is a reference to the new nature the Lord gives us when we accept His Son Jesus as our Savior!

  • The nature He births within us is from His very essence. God is totally holy and that which He implants in us is also totally holy!
     ✞   No sin ever comes out of that new nature!

     As a matter of fact, that new nature does not have the 
         capacity to sin!

     ✞   Satan, who is called the wicked one (above) can’t even 
         leave his filthy fingerprint on that new nature!
  • All sin proceeds out of the flesh, that old sinful nature with which we are endowed at conception!

That is why, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 through 8, “You must be born again.It is by being born again that God implants His holy nature within us!

Now, does it make sense that Jesus told His followers in Luke 9:23, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me...”?

  • What we are crucifying, nailing to the cross, putting to death, is our old sinful nature!
  • And we are to do this daily, even moment by moment!
  • If we do this, the only nature left alive to manifest itself in us and through us is the new Godly nature that will not, cannot sin!

Now you decide…
Can holiness be manifested this side of heaven?

Holiness This Side of Heaven! – II Leviticus 11:44; Hebrews 12:14; I John 3:9; 5:18

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Is it possible to be totally holy (without sin) in our earthly life? That’s the question we are dealing with. In our last Gem we didn’t get to the main point, but focused especially on what Jesus said in Luke 9:23: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.Remember, and it is very important: the cross was a device invented for one purpose: execution – to deliver the crucified one to a torturous and humiliating death!

Focus on the second featured Scripture, Hebrews 12:14 (International Standard Version): “Pursue peace with everyone, as well as holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

  • To be holy means to have not only accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, but also to be set apart unto God as His son or daughter, answering in obedience to Him in all things!
  • But how do we accomplish being holy? This is where the cross comes in!

First, let’s explore why Jesus tells us to “…deny [ourselves]…, and take up his [or her] cross daily, and follow [Him]!

  • We are born with a sinful human nature! We inherited that from our ancestor, our first father, Adam!
     ✡   God told him not to eat “...of the tree of knowledge of 
          good and evil...for in the day that you eat of it you 
          shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17). 

     ✡   Adam ate (see Genesis 3:6), and Adam died! He didn’t die 
          physically right away (see Genesis 5:3-5). But he died 
          spiritually! He became dead to God, his Creator, and to 
          the things of God! For when the LORD came as usual to 
          the Garden of Eden to fellowship with His highest crea-
          tion, “...Adam and his wife hid themselves from the 
          presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” 
          (Genesis 3:8).

     ✡   And Adam passed that spiritual deadness unto all who 
          came after him! For it says in Romans 5:12, “Sin came 
          into the world through one person [Adam], and death 
          came through sin. So death spread to everyone, because 
          everyone sinned.” (God’s Word to the nations).
  • As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1 and 12, we are naturally …dead in trespasses and sins…having no hope and without God in the world.We are all sinners, estranged from God! That is our natural condition!
  • But Jesus revealed His ultimate purpose for His incarnation in Luke 19:10 (1965 Bible in Basic English): “…the Son of Man came to make search for those who are wandering from…[God’s] way, and to be their Savior.” How did He accomplish this?
     ✞   He voluntarily went to the cross (see John 10:17, 18). 
         And ...He...who knew no sin [was]...made sin for us
         ....” (II Corinthians 5:21), taking upon Himself “...
         the sins of the whole world...” (I John 2:2).

     Those who accept Him as Savior, are also called to 
         follow Him in obedience as Lord! And the most diffi-
         cult directive Jesus gives to those who follow is 
         “...take up [your] cross daily, and follow Me.”  
         (Luke 9:23).

God gives us a new nature when we come to His Son as our Savior. This is beautifully prophesied in several places in the Old Testament. Here is Ezekiel 36:25 through 27:

     ...I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be 
     clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from 
     all your idols. I will also give you a new heart and put a 
     new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out 
     of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My 
     Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and 
     you will keep My judgments and do them.

Yes, we have a new nature implanted within us by the Holy Spirit! But there is a problem – we still have the old Adamic sinful nature! And Paul writes about this in Galatians 5:16 and 17 (God’s Word to the nations):

     Live your life as your spiritual nature directs you. Then 
     you will never follow through on what your corrupt nature 
     wants. What your corrupt nature wants is contrary to what 
     your spiritual nature wants, and what your spiritual nature 
     wants is contrary to what your corrupt nature wants. They 
     are opposed to each other. As a result, you don't always do 
     what you intend to do.

The two natures are at war! And one of them must die! Obviously, the one God wants to die, the one any true Christian wants to die, is the old nature that always leads us into sin!

The only way to win the battle, the only way for Jesus Christ to be consistently manifested in your life and mine, is to…deny…[one’s] self, and take up his [or her] cross daily, and follow [the Lord Jesus].

  • We are going out to die – to nail that old sinful nature upon the cross, and keep it there until it breathes its last, and is dead!
  • The problem is, that old nature far too often comes down off the cross to tempt and to battle for the dominance of your life and mine!
     This is why we are told to “...take up...[our] cross 
         daily, and follow...Jesus out to die!

     Perhaps an even better understanding of the command 
         Jesus gave would be, “take up...[our] cross [moment by 
         moment]..., and follow...Jesus out to die! For it is 
         the usual case that we must make that decision as it 
         applies to any number of daily temptations!

And I believe that Jesus showed us the way to do this! Before He was arrested, He knew exactly what was going to happen to Him!

  • Jesus did not want to be loaded down with the world’s sin! It says in II Corinthians 5:21 that “…He knew no sin…before He went to the cross!
        He had never sinned! He was never separated from the 
         Father because of sin! But when the sins of all mankind 
         were thrown upon His shoulders, sin separated Him from 
         His heavenly Father! And He cried out,My God, My God, 
         why have you forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). 

     I believe that in the six hours the Lord was upon the 
         cross, time was compacted, and Jesus somehow experienced 
         eternal suffering in hell,...where their worm does not 
         die and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:44).

     In His humanity, Jesus didn’t want to suffer being man-
         handled and humiliated, being beaten, having His beard 
         pulled out by the roots (see Isaiah 50:6), being whipped 
         by the Romans to within an inch of His life, being nailed 
         to the cross to suffer and die!
  • And so He prayed: “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42).

This is how we crucify our sinful nature daily, even moment by moment:

…in every situation, in every temptation,
we cry out to God…

…nevertheless not my will, but Yours, be done…!

Holiness This Side of Heaven! – I Leviticus 11:44; Hebrews 12:14; I John 3:9; 5:18

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Being a Baptist for 54 years, I have been taught that complete holiness – perfection before God this side of heaven – is not obtainable! But in the last few years, a deepening friendship with a Free Methodist missionary couple, Jerry and Jan, has led me to examine again the doctrine of holiness. Hebrews 12:14 is one of the Scriptures I have reconsidered: “Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

But what does it mean to be holy?

  • In Leviticus 19:2, The LORD God told the Israelites, newly escaped from slavery in Egypt, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.Hundreds of times in the Old Testament He declared His holiness to the Israelites – and their holiness to Him in response! Here are just three examples:
     ✡   Leviticus 11:44 – “...I am the LORD your God. You shall 
          therefore sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy; for 
          I am holy.”

     ✡   Psalm 22:2 and 3 – “O my God...You are holy, who inhabit 
          the praises of Israel.”

     ✡   Isaiah 57:15 – “...thus says the High and Lofty One who 
          inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the 
          high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and hum-
          ble spirit...to revive...the humble, and...the heart of 
          the contrite ones.
  • To be holy means to be set apart to God! That is what God intended for the nation of Israel. But the Israelites failed miserably! As Paul wrote in Romans 2:24 (Good News Bible), “You boast about having God’s law — but do you bring shame on God by breaking His law? The scripture says, ‘Because of you Jews, the Gentiles speak evil of God.’
  • Ever since Pentecost (see Acts 2) God is building His holy Church through faith in Jesus Christ!
     The Church is made up of people, both Jews and Gentiles, 
         who have trusted the Son of God as the only Savior. Those 
         who “...received Him, to them He gave the right to become 
         children of God, to those who believe in His name...” 
         (John 1:12).

     ✞   Here is the Lord’s plan for His Church as described in 
         Ephesians 5:25 through 27: 

             Christ...loved the Church and gave Himself for her, 
             that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the wash-
             ing of water by the Word, that He might present her 
             to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or 
             wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be 
             holy and without blemish.

Being holy means to be sanctified, set apart for God, whether as a church or as an individual Christian! But, can we be completely holy in this earthly life? Some say “Yes!” and some say “No!

Paul, in I Corinthians 15:31, brings up an important and interesting point relating to this discussion, “…I die daily.” According to the context of his letter to the Corinthian church, he wrote this as he remembered his difficult ministry over the years bringing Christ to the Gentiles, especially concerning his labor for the Lord in the Asia Minor city of Ephesus. Often in his ministry, Paul was under the threat of death!

But I think Paul wrote, “I die daily…” as he called to mind what Jesus taught in Luke 9:23: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

  • What was the purpose of the cross? It was designed as a means of death – a very painful death! Jesus took up His cross because He was going out to die! He, being totally holy, was offering Himself as the sinner before God, paying the price for my sins and yours! As it is written in II Corinthians 5:21, “For He [the Father] made Him [the Son] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
  • So when we desire to follow Him, Jesus tells us that we must also “…take up…[our] cross…and follow Me…,and to do it daily!
  • We are going out to die! But…
     ✞   ...He already died for our sins!

     ✞   ...Why do we have to die? And why must we die daily?

Jesus was referring to a spiritual death! Being originally created “…in image of God…” (Genesis 1:27), humankind was endowed with a spirit that was vitally connected with the Creator. But God told Adam in Genesis 2:16 and 17, “Of every tree of the garden [of Eden] you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

  • Adam and Eve ate (see Genesis 3:6), and they died!
It was not a physical death right away, for we are 
          told in Genesis 5:3 through 5, that Adam lived hun-
          dreds of years after he sinned! But...

     ✡   They died spiritually! Their human spirit immediately 
          became dead to the LORD's spiritual things, especially 
          to God Himself! For when their Creator came as usual 
          to fellowship with His highest creation, “...Adam and 
          his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD 
          God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8).
  • That deadened human spirit was then passed down to their progeny – you and me included! For in Romans 5:12 Paul wrote, “Sin came into the world through one person, and death came through sin. So death spread to everyone, because everyone sinned.” (God’s Word to the nations). We are all spiritually dead because of sin!

To counteract this spiritual death that our first parents put in motion, the LORD carried out His bold plan of redemption!

  • Jesus (the Son of God, God the Son) gave us His statement of purpose in Luke 19:10 (1965 Bible in Basic English): “…the Son of Man came to make search for those who are wandering from…[God’s] way, and to be their Savior.
     To fulfill that purpose, the Savior voluntarily laid 
         down His life before the Father, becoming sin and sin-
         ner for all people through the ages!

     ✞   He paid the price for sin – separation from God (also 
         known as eternal death)! As it is written in II Corin-
         thians 5:21, “For He [the Father] made Him [the Son] 
         who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become 
         the righteousness of God through Him.
  • All sinners are called to put their trust in Him!…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9).

This is just the introduction to Holiness This Side of Heaven! In the next Gem we will continue this study.

The Walking Dead

Colossians 2:13-15

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The Walking Dead is an eleven-year TV series (2010 through 2022) filmed near Atlanta, Georgia. This horror series focuses on the events surrounding a worldwide Zombie Apocalypse. I have not seen one episode of The Walking Dead, nor do I plan to. I don’t care for horror entertainment. However, I am somewhat familiar with this series because my daughter and her husband were extras and/or stand-ins through several seasons.

Why, then, am I featuring this horror series to open this Gem? It is because the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:13 through 15 about the walking dead! No, Paul was not experiencing a Zombie apocalypse! He was addressing the condition afflicting every mother’s child born into this world!

     And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision 
     of your flesh, He [God the Father] has made alive together 
     with Him [Jesus the Son], having forgiven you all trespasses, 
     having wiped out the handwriting of the requirements that was 
     against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out 
     of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed 
     principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, 
     triumphing over them in [that public spectacle]....

But,” you might argue, “we aren’t dead! We have been alive since we were conceived in our mother’s womb! How can you say we are dead?Paul’s argument is from a spiritual perspective!…and you being [spiritually] dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh….”

  • When God created human beings, Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, for it says in Genesis 1:27, “…in the image of God He created…male and female….” One very important part of that image was that human beings were naturally connected to their Creator!
  • But that connection was broken when Adam sinned. We are told in Genesis 3:8 that when God came as usual to commune with His highest creation, Adam and Eve ran and hid!
  • It is written in Romans 5:12 (Lexham English Bible), “…just as sin entered the world through one man, and [spiritual] death [separation from God] through sin, so death spread to all people, because all sinned.
  • That universal human condition of spiritual death has afflicted everyone ever since Adam! We are…dead in trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1) before God, even though we have physical life! So spiritually speaking, “We are the walking dead!

But God didn’t leave us there! According to our featured Scripture, God “…has made [us] alive together with [Jesus], having forgiven…[us] all trespasses….” (Colossians 2:13). How did He do that? Back in April 3rd though the 15th, 2013, I wrote a series of six Gems called Forgiven and Free! Here is what I said in the fourth Gem:

Years ago I read a book by Hal Lindsey called Satan Is Alive And Well On Planet Earth. In it he explains how Colossians 2:13-15 works out in the lives of Christians, and I am indebted to Mr. Lindsey for his research. If you can find a copy of his book, read pages 201 through 204 to get his full explanation.

What is referred to above as “…the handwriting of requirements that was against us…” is called in the New American Standard Bible, “…the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us….” You see, when a prisoner was convicted under Roman law, the court scribe would prepare a certificate of debt listing every crime for which the convict was guilty. If incarcerated, this certificate of debt was hung on the cell door. It remained there until the person had served his full sentence. Upon release, the certificate was written over with the word meaning “It is finished”, then handed to the one set free. Under Roman law, the debt was fully paid, and that person could never be charged with those same crimes again!

When a man was condemned to death by the Roman court, the most cruel method of execution was crucifixion, reserved for slaves, pirates and enemies of the state, and later for lower, non-Roman citizens. When a man was so condemned, a certificate of debt was written out to be carried around his neck on the way to the crucifixion site. Once there, that certificate would be nailed to the cross above the condemned person’s head. All who passed by, could then read the crimes for which this one was being crucified.

Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, wrote out the certificate of debt for Jesus. Eerdmans, The New Bible Dictionary, article on ‘Superscription’, says, “…the superscription [certificate of debt] is the placard, consisting of a board smeared with white gypsum and bearing in black letters the name of the condemned criminal and the offense for which he was being executed.” Jesus’ certificate was written in three languages, Greek, Latin and Hebrew (see Luke 23:38; John 19:20) proclaiming the heinous crime of the condemned Lord. What was the crime? From the four gospels, the complete inscription was, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Jesus was (under official Roman law) crucified for treason against Caesar, the Lord having claimed to be King!

But there was another certificate of debt nailed to the cross, according to Colossians 2:14, and it was invisible to the human eye! On it were written all the crimes of every human being against God – sins against His holy standard of perfection – and the Father was acutely aware of every one! Being sins against God, they stood against us, separating us from the Father both now and forever! But it is written that Jesus, …having forgiven you all trespasses; having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us….He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Now here is the summation: Jesus died on the cross in our place! He paid for the crime of our sins against God! Those sins were and are paid in full! What words did Jesus cry out?  They are recorded in John 19:30. “It is finishedIt is finished is over-written on the certificate of debt that listed your sins and mine! Now, under Roman law (which, by the way, is the basis of western legal systems), no one – not us, not Jesus Christ, nor any other person – can be charged with those crimes again! Legally, before God, our sins are gone!

Colossians 2:15 states, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Anytime Satan tries to accuse us before the Father, Jesus simply has to wave that fully paid certificate of debt before his evil face! The devil has to slink away in defeat, a public spectacle to all the saints and angels in heaven!  He is a disarmed foe! Jesus has triumphed! The only way he can hinder you is if you don’t understand the victory Jesus won on your behalf!

It is finished! Why, on earth, should you or I be burdened down with sins that have been nailed to the cross and paid for? Think about it…

We are Forgiven and Free!
Quit acting like the Walking Dead!

A Divine Suicide!

John 10:15-18

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

If I had preached a sermon entitles “A Divine Suicide” in any one of the churches I pastored, I would probably have gotten into trouble over that title! But what is the definition of “suicide”? According to Webster’s New Dictionary, it is “One who kills himself intentionally, Does this apply to how Jesus died? Read on, and you decide!

The featured Scripture is John 10:15 through 18:

     As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay 
     down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are 
     not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they will hear 
     My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. There-
     fore, My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I 
     may take it again. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down 
     of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to 
     take it again. This command I have received from My Father.

Who killed Jesus? I have heard many answers to this question.

  • Some say the Jews sealed His fate, especially the priests, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees, when they stirred up the people to shout out “‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ …Pilate said to them ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ ” (John 19:15). According to Matthew 27:24 and 25, Pilate tried to absolve himself when “…he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Person.’ …And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’
  • Some say it was the Romans who condemned the Lord! For the governor Pontius Pilate was a Roman ruler. And under Roman law, when Jesus claimed to be King before Pilate (see John 18:37), and even before that, when He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (see Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1-5), He was seen under Roman law as attempting to displace Caesar’s kingship – a charge that demanded the death penalty! Officially, that was why the Christ was nailed to a cross – the charges against Him were spelled out on the plaque above His head, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” (see Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:25; Luke 23:38; John 19:19).
  • Some say it was all mankind! For it is written in I John 2:2, “…He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. Yes, we had a hand in His death, for in dying and rising again, He paid the price in full for all the sins of humankind!

But neither the Jews, nor the Romans, nor all people through history did not kill Jesus! Go back again and read our featured Scripture, especially verses 17 and 18: “…My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.

Who put Jesus on the cross? He, Himself, did! No one but Him was powerful enough to take His life! Think of the power that He possessed:

  • He created all that exists!
       Romans 11:36 – “For of Him and through Him and 
           to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. 
           Amen.Colossians 1:16 – “For by Him all things were 
           created that are in heaven and that are on earth, 
           visible and invisible, whether thrones or domin-
           ions or principalities or powers. All things were 
           created through Him and for Him.Hebrews 1:2 – God ...appointed [Jesus] heir of all
           things, through whom He also made the worlds....Hebrews 2:10 – Jesus,...for whom are all things 
           and by whom are all things....

Think about it…in Genesis 1, the story of creation, it says eight times “And God said….” (see Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, and 26). God spoke the word and what He spoke came into being! Four times in John chapter 1 (verses 1 and 14) Jesus is called the Word.In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us….” Do you see the relationship between God said and the Word? Everything that the Father did to bring creation into existance was of, by, and for Jesus Christ!

  • He sustains all that exists!
       Colossians 1:17 – “...and He is before all things, 
           and in Him all things consist.Hebrews 1:3 – Jesus is ...the brightness of His 
           [Father’s] glory and the express image of His per-
           son and [He is] upholding all things by the word 
           of His power....
  • John 18:3 through 6:
       ...Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and 
       officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came with 
       lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus...went forward and 
       said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, 
       “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jesus said to them, “I AM....” Then
       ...they drew back, and fell to the ground.

These hardened soldiers and proud Jews had no intention of being bowled over and knocked flat! But when Jesus uttered those powerful words – the name of God with which the LORD identied Himself to Moses at the burning bush (see Exodus 3:13-15), the arresting mob was knocked flat! Jesus could have just spoken the word, and that mob would have been permanently disabled!

  • Even if He didn’t use His great creative and sustaining power, Jesus said in Matthew 26:53, that He could …pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels….
       A Roman legion at full strength was made up of 
           6,000 men. “...more than twelve legions of angels
           ...would be more than 72,000 angels!One angel, in II Kings 19:35, killed 185,000 Assyr-
            ian soldiers in one night! What could...more than 
            twelve legions of angels...do? They would have no 
            trouble wiping out the entire Roman Empire!

Who carried out the death of Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ Himself did! I lay down My life that I may take it again. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17, 18). So while the death of the Lord could be called A Divine Suicide, it is vastly different from a human suicide in this old world! For three days later Jesus overcame death when He walked out of the tomb in a perfect, resurrected, glorious body! He not only overcame His own death, but Jesus won victory for all who claim Him as Savior and Lord of their lives – victory over…

  • …death! (see Isaiah 25:8; John 5:24; Romans 5:21, 6:23, 8:1, 2; I Corinthians 15:51-57; II Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 1:18, 21:4).
  • …the devil! (see Luke 10:18; Colossians 2:15; I John 3:8; Revelation 20:10).
  • …hell! (see Revelation 20:13, 14).
  • …the fear of death! (see Hebrews 2:14, 15).
  • …bondage to sin! (see John 1:29, 8:32, 34-36; Romans 6:16; II Corinthians 5:21; I John 1:7).
  • …the frailties of human life! (see I Corinthians 15:41-57; Philippians 3:21; I John 3:2).

This divine suicide is vastly different from what a worldly suicide presents! Rather than a tragedy…

…Jesus giving His life for humanity
has opened the prospect of a godly life now,
and the promise of the glories of heaven to come!

Pain Is God’s Megaphone! Hebrews 4:14-16

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

C. S. Lewis, English author and lay theologian, is best known for having authored The Chronicles of Narnia. But he wrote more than thirty other books, including The Problem of Pain, one of his Christian apologetic works. In chapter 6 of this book, Lewis writes,

     We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities; 
     and anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most 
     exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eat-
     ing, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain 
     insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our 
     pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: 
     it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

God has been shouting to me lately through the megaphone of pain!

  • A left knee replacement went well, and I have recovered ahead of schedule. Yes, there was post operative pain, but it was to be expected.
  • A month later I had back surgery to implant a spinal cord stimulation unit. Impulses from the stimulation unit travel through insulated wires (called leads) inserted into my spinal column from about my belt line half-way up my back. A rechargeble neurostimulator is placed in my back under the skin. The unit is designed to send impulses to nerves that would normally carry pain messages to the brain, blocking the sensation of pain.

After this implantation surgery, I have been experiencing pain – a lot of pain! It seems to originate in a spot just behind my left hip and below the belt line. The pain then seems to settle across my low back. I have been working with the stimulation unit technician who is trying different programs and settings in the unit to alleviate the pain. On a scale of 1 to 10, the level of pain I am experiencing is most often around 7 to 9!

God has been using the megaphone of pain to speak to me! His voice is not all that loud, just enough to be heard above the pain! But He has my attention! Here are some of the things He has been addressing:

  • Remember what God has done in the past! This is what the author of Hebrews told the believers in Hebrews 10:32 (Easy-to-Read Version), “Remember the days when you first learned the truth. You had a hard struggle with much suffering, but you continued strong.” I know He has been faithful in His presence and in the healing of past afflictions. So I am sure He will heal me of the painful struggles I am now experiencing!
  • In James 1:2 through 5, we are told…
       My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various 
       trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces 
       patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that 
       you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any 
       of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to 
       all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given 
       to him.

We are told that trials, if we go through them with the proper attitude, will produce patience! And through patience, God is making us…perfect and complete, lacking nothing.There is only One who is …perfect and complete, lacking nothing.That One is Jesus Christ! The Father’s design for every Christian (yes, for me also), is that I become more and more like my Savior and Lord! This is accomplished through the suffering of trials! (see II Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:15; I John 3:2).

  • Jesus has the power and authority to heal and restore the damage caused by any affliction!
       For He said in Matthew 28:18, “All authority 
           has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.In Luke 1 the angel Gabriel announced to Mary 
           that she would be the mother of the Messiah. 
           It seemed impossible, but Gabriel told Mary, 
           “...with God nothing will be impossible.” 
           (Luke 1:37). 

       ✞   No matter how serious the situation seems, 
           God is...able to do exceedingly abundantly 
           above all that we ask or think, according to 
           the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20 – 
           see Matthew 12:15, Luke 6:19).
  • Don’t give up asking the Lord for healing! In Luke 11:9 and 10, Jesus said this:
       “And I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; 
       seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened 
       to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who 
       seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

We are to keep on asking! We are to keep on seeking! We are to keep on knocking! That is the meaning of the three Greek words here translated, ask, seek, and knock.

In Luke 18, Jesus began the Parable of the Unjust Judge this way in verse 1, “…men always ought to pray and not to lose heart.” Then, in verses 2 through 5, the Lord told the story of “…a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.” (Luke 18:2). But because a widow kept pestering him, he finally gave in and judged in her favor, “…lest by her continual coming she weary me.” (Luke 18:5). Jesus then applied this lesson of the parable in verses 7 and 8: “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.

…He will avenge them speedily.” What is speedily in God’s eyes? Remember what is written in II Peter 3:8, “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. Will God wait a thousand years or more to answer the petitions of His people – to answer my plea for healing? Not necessarily. But he waited with Job for quite awhile, perhaps a few weeks, while this man in great affliction learned what the Lord wanted to teach him.

  • A hard lesson to be learned in pain and suffering is found in three verses:
       Ephesians 5:20 – “...giving thanks always for 
           all things to God the Father in the name of 
           our Lord Jesus Christ.Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but 
           in everything by prayer and supplication, with 
           thanksgiving, let your requests be made known 
           to God....I Thessalonians 5:17 and 18 – “Pray without 
           ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this 
           is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It is not easy to give thanks and praise to the Lord when I am suffering in pain and unable to do daily activities! But this is what He wants me to learn! …for all things…,” and “…in everything…”! What happens when I do this? “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I found this to be true years ago when our daughter was born (see Finding God’s Perfect Peace, the Gem from May 22, 2021). “So God, please help me to remember what I learned back then. I need it now as I suffer from severe back pain!

  • Jesus understands any pain and suffering with which I am afflicted! We are told this in Hebrews 4:14 through 16:
       Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has 
       passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let 
       us hold fast our confession [of our faith in Him]. For 
       we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize 
       with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted 
       [tested] as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore 
       come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may ob-
       tain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  

Anything with which we might be tested, He has gone through it first! Consider…

       ✞   ...the physical agony of the cross! The Romans 
           practiced crucifixion for the most egregious 
           offenders because that form of capital punish-
           ment inflicted the most pain and suffering of 
           any other way to die! When people saw the pain 
           and suffering afflicted on the crucified one, 
           they would adhere to Roman law, lest they too 
           would die on a cross!

       ✞   ...the mental suffering! Beside the personal 
           suffering of being crucified, that one would 
           be exposed to the harassment, amusement, taunts, 
           and curses of those watching! 

       ✞   ...the spiritual torment! The sinless Savior was loaded down with 
                all the transgressions of all mankind 
                through the ages! (see II Corinthians 
                5:21; I Peter 2:24).

           ➔   Jesus felt the heavy hand of the Father’s 
                judgment fall upon Him as the Son became 
                the sinner before the Father. So God 
                turned away from His Son! And Jesus, feel-
                ing abandoned, cried out, “My God, My God, 
                why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

There is much more to learn concerning going through the pain and suffering of trials and tribulations. I have not yet shown a featured Scripture! But I believe that Hebrews 4:14 through 16 lends itself nicely to this theme:

       Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has 
       passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let 
       us hold fast our confession [of our faith in Him]. For 
       we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with 
       our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted [tested] 
       as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come bold-
       ly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and 
       find grace to help in time of need.

Right now I claim this promise!

And as I come before the Savior’s heavenly throne of grace,
I will obtain mercy and grace to help in MY time of need!