The Ransom

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6

Ransom – What is given in exchange for another as the price of his redemption.

Salvation is not free. Redemption had a cost. We tend to forget that because we are not the ones who paid the price. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. Much like the jobs most of us do each day, sin earns a wage, a payment. The wage that sin pays is death. And we have all been swallowed in debt.

Eternal life, therefore, is a gift. By definition, salvation cannot be a gift unless it is paid for. When someone gives you a birthday gift, it is not free…it is only free to you. The gift is purchased…paid for by the giver. Someone chooses to pay what he does not owe, not to keep the gift for him, but to give it to you. It is Jesus who paid our ransom.

The first choice to rebel against God earns sin’s wage. At that moment, the sinner is spiritually kidnapped…and death is inevitable. Not just physical death, but spiritual death. Enmity with God is instantaneous. Sin holds us hostage, demanding the ultimate ransom…death.

It is an impossible situation. There is no negotiation, no compromise to be made. The ransom must be paid…and the sinner cannot pay it. The only hope is a mediator…one who can stand between God Almighty and the sinner. There is no one worthy.  For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. There is only one choice…but how can it be?

Then, one starry night the shepherds got the Good News. In the city of David, the Mediator was born – He is Christ the Lord. Angels rejoiced and shepherds worshiped.   Wise men traveled and earthly kings plotted. Hope was born in a stable that night. Hope of reconciliation and freedom. Hope of life.

And 33 years later, the Mediator hung naked on the cross of our shame. He suffered and died in our place. He gave Himself as a ransom for our freedom. And now the gift of eternal life is offered freely for any who will believe, surrender and follow.

Dear Jesus, Thank You for offering Your life to set me free. You were and are my only hope for escape from sin’s penalty and sin’s power. I need You today as much as I ever have. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Truth

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  1 Timothy 2:3-4

It is amazing that God wants all people to know the truth and be saved. After all, mankind has never been easy to love, have we? Adam and Eve disobeyed the only command God gave them, and when questioned, shirked responsibility for their actions.  After the flood in Noah’s time, God gave instructions to multiply and fill the earth. But instead, over time the people built a tower for themselves and made plans to stay together. When God made an incredible promise to Abraham and Sarah, they grew tired of waiting on Him to fulfill it so they took matters into their own hands. And what a mess they made!

When God, after 400 years of slavery in Egypt, delivered the Israelites, they complained and said they’d rather be slaves than trust God…even after God sent the plagues, parted the Red Sea, brought water from a rock, and rained food down from heaven to fill their hungry bellies. When Moses went up the mountain to meet with God, before he could even return, the people had made idols to worship. And when they finally reached the land God promised them, the spies lied about what they saw to avoid entering it. After 40 more years of wandering in the wilderness they finally entered the land. But their obedience and faith was short-lived. It wasn’t long before they begged for an earthly king to follow “like everyone else.” Eventually the nation split into two kingdoms; and God grew so angry at their sin that he allowed both to be taken captive by their enemies and scattered throughout the earth.

And things are no better today. Throughout history people have rebelled, disobeyed and refused to trust God. Romans 1:18 calls it “suppressing the truth of God.” And yet, 1 Timothy 2:4 assures us that God still desires for all men to be saved, coming to a knowledge of the truth.

It is important to understand that the truth is not a concept or a set of beliefs. The truth is a person. In His own words (John 14:6) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The truth we must grab hold of is Jesus.  Knowing Him brings salvation. And this is God’s desire. This is what pleases Him…that His Son be embraced, known and glorified throughout the earth.

Father, I know I have rejected and run from You so many times. And yet You continue to love me. I want to know You more…to know and trust Jesus more. Thank You for never giving up on me. Help me to believe that You are all I need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Repentance

 

“Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are proved right when You speak and justified when You judge.”  Psalm 51:4 

King David wrote psalm 51 after he committed adultery and murder. God confronted David’s sin through the prophet Nathan. This psalm is the King’s response to that confrontation. It is interesting that David says he has only sinned against God (v. 4). What about Bathsheba, the woman he committed adultery with?  What about Uriah, her husband who he had murdered on the battlefield? Didn’t he sin against them, too?

King David teaches us something important through his repentance: At its core, all sin is against God. God is the only one who is perfect and holy, therefore He is the only one who can determine when we sin. God is Creator, so He sets the standard. The word “sin” literally means, “to miss the mark.” Who set the mark? God did as soon as He created mankind (Genesis 2). God has given us His commandments…from Adam and Eve in the Garden, to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to the Israelites through Moses, and then through the prophets, and finally, through His Son Jesus and the Apostles.

We do not have to guess at how to please God and honor Him as Lord. He has revealed His Word clearly…so all sin, at its root, is rebellion against God Himself. This is what King David understood all those years ago. And because it is against God that we sin, only God can cleanse our sin. This is why David says later in this song of repentance, “Cleanse me…and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (v. 7). David knew where to go first for forgiveness and restoration.

We must understand that all of our sin is against God. He defines sin. He reveals sin. And He is the only one who can forgive sin. The restoration process will often involve seeking forgiveness from those whom our sin has affected, yes. But first and foremost, it is God whom sin offends.

Father, You have given me Your word and I am without excuse. My sin is always against You. Please forgive me for rebelling against You, Lord. Set me on the path of righteousness today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The Patience Of God

“The LORD is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

The Lord has promised to return for His bride, the Church. His second coming will bring with it the end of suffering, death, sin, injustice and disease for all those who belong to Him. Therefore, it is easy, especially in times of hurting, to wonder why He tarries. Our hearts long to be free from the effects of sin in our mortal bodies. We long to be with Jesus. And yet, we still wait.

This verse explains why. It is wonderful insight to the heart of God. He waits to return because He is patient with sinners…desiring that every person would repent and believe in Jesus Christ. I have often heard the question, “Why would a loving God send anyone to hell?” 2 Peter 3:9 shows us that God does not want anyone to perish in hell. Instead, He longs for men to repent and turn to Him…so much so that He patiently delays Christ’s return.

This is what God said through the prophet Isaiah concerning Christ’s return:

“Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By Myself I have sworn, My mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked:  Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear. They will say of Me, ‘In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.’” 

Isaiah 45:22-24

A time will come when every knee will bow and every mouth will confess the Lord. This is certain. The only question is, when will my knees bow and my mouth confess? Will it be now, while God patiently waits, or later, after Christ returns? He is Lord either way. I do not make Him Lord of my life. He is Lord already. I do, however, have a choice to surrender to His lordship over my life before it is too late.

These words in Isaiah were first spoken in approximately 700 B.C. That is more than 2,700 years ago. What a patient God! He waits because His heart has not changed in over 2,700 years. He still desires for men to turn to Him in faith. Have you surrendered to Him as Lord over all? If not, please do so right now. He will not wait forever.

Father, Thank You for Your patience with me. I praise You for Your patience with those who do not yet believe in You. Today, I surrender my whole life to You, agreeing with Your word that You are Lord over all. Use me today as You see fit.   

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Unfathomable

 “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD.  Repent and live!”  Ezekiel 18:32

God hates sin, and He will not contend with sinners forever. We know this to be true from Scripture. In His holiness, He destroyed every living creature on the earth (except for Noah and his family) with a fierce flood of water and anger (Genesis 7). Because of the peoples’ wickedness, God rained down burning sulfur to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). God’s instructions to His people when they took possession of the Promised Land was to drive out every living thing so that they wouldn’t be tempted to worship their false gods (Numbers 33). There are many more similar events throughout the history of God’s people.

These passages are sometimes used in an attempt to disprove God’s existence by saying a real God could not be so cruel. Or religious people, to condone hateful attitudes and actions toward certain people, misuse the passages. And well-meaning Christians will even try to explain God’s actions by saying, “That was the Old Testament,” as if God has somehow changed between the Old and New Testaments. All of these responses are grievous misuses of God’s word. The first blames God for man’s actions. The second manipulates God for man’s actions. And the third denies the very nature of God.

God is not cruel or hateful; and He has not changed from the Old to New Testament. He does, however, hate sin. If all of the aforementioned passages are read in context, God’s patience, grace and kindness are evident, along with His wrath. God gives chance after chance for repentance. He warns people of His coming judgment. He takes no delight in destroying that which He has created for His glory. Why would He?

But His love for people does not trump His wrath against sin. Both are equally part of His character. Does He love all people, even His enemies? Yes. Does He hate sin and all who do evil (Psalm 5:5)? Yes. Does He long for all people to repent and be saved? Yes. Will He punish those who do not? Yes. He cannot forego either His wrath or His grace. If He did either He would cease to be God.

These are the mysteries of God that are unfathomable, as Job 11:7 says. We cannot understand all of His ways, nor should we seek to. But, one thing we can know God tells us in Ezekiel 18:32 – He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone, and wants all men to repent and live.

 O LORD You are so mighty! There is so much I cannot understand. But I believe Your Word and cling to it, knowing that You desire for all people to repent and live. Please use me today to show others Your love for them.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.