John’s Gospel records Jesus final cry on the cross was, “It is finished,” (19:30). John used a single Greek word to record this triumph – tetlestai. This was a common word used by the Greeks for a debt that was paid in full. On the cross our debt for sin is tetlestai, paid in full!
The teachings of all religions, except Christianity, is a person must do some good works to counter or cancel out a sin they have committed. Its religion with a balance scale. As long as a person does more good works than bad works then God will accept the person into heaven at the end of their life. The fallacy in this thinking is failing to understand that God is holy, and therefore everything we do must be holy. Therefore, we cannot do any extra merit or good works to make up for a sin, for everything we do must already be holy. The conclusion is, once we have committed a sin there is no way to undo it, or make up for it.
There are only two possible answers to our sin problem. Either we pay the penalty to God – which we cannot do, or someone else must pay the price for us, and we receive a pardon for our sin. On the cross God’s Son paid the price for our sin once and for all. On the Cross the penalty for our sin is tetlestai, paid in full. The Cross means we are forgiven.
Grace and Mercy at the Cross,
We speak all kinds of prayers to Jesus. Sincere prayers for a sick child, dying parent, or errant spouse. Prayers so sincere that we are convinced God will grant our request. After all we have done the right things: rubbed the magic lamp, click our heels three times, and closed our eyes. How could God deny our request?
James and John approached Jesus and asked Him to do them a favor, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory,” (Mark 10:37). To them it was a reasonable request, for they had been with Jesus from the beginning. How could He deny them? But deny them He did.
The Gospels record that it was two crucified thieves who were at Jesus’ right and left when He came into His kingdom. Ironically if Jesus had granted the two brothers their requests it would have been them hanging next to Him.
As Christians we are much like the sons of Zebedee making all kinds of requests to Jesus that seem quite reasonable. When we don’t receive an answer to our prayer we think, “God is holding out on me,” and we become disillusioned or angry with God. In truth Jesus knows what an answer to our prayer will bring to us, and thus, for our own protection, he does not grant everything we request. Therefore, we are to bring our requests before Jesus with the words, “Your will be done,” and then trust that His answers will always be for God’s glory and our benefit.
A question that is often asked is, “Is it fair of God to punish people for the sins that they do?” Fair question, and the answer is yes if you consider this: If Jesus is God, and he is, and he died on a cross as punishment for our sins, which he did, then the God we proclaim is the kind of God who is willing to take his own punishment, so others will not have to suffer His punishment.
This consideration of God’s willingness to take His own punishment helps us to understand the meanings of the words Grace and mercy. Grace is defined as a favor rendered by one who does not need to do so. Mercy is defined as withholding of a judgment that is deserved. God did not have to suffer His own punishment, but He did so as a favor towards us. Also, God does not have to withhold His judgment against us, but He withholds His judgment toward us out of mercy in the hopes we will accept His grace.
There is only one place in all of history where God’s grace and God’s mercy met, and that was when Jesus was crucified on Calvary’s Mt. It has been said, “On Calvary’s Mt. God’s grace and God’s mercy kissed, and God’s salvation was offered.” Salvation means: The cell doors have been opened, the chains have been loosed, and the prisoners and the slaves have been set free because the payment has been paid.
Jesus, What a Savior,
Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Behind every person is a motive that drives them. It’s what makes us rise in the morning and work through the day. Even the lazy person has a motive; it’s to do nothing. We all have passions that masters us, and that is what Jesus is dealing with in his words. He is saying if you have the right passion in life, you will find rest. The Old Testament gives us Jesus’ passion, “It is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God” (Ps 40:7-8). Examine Jesus’ life from beginning to end and you will see it is so.
We each have a choice of what to carry into the New Year; our will or God’s will. You may decide to carry your own will into 2018. If that is your decision the year will just be a repeat of the past. Instead of choosing your own will, why not accept Jesus’ invitation and take up His yoke. What is Jesus yoke? It is to do the will of God. If you accept His invitation you will find rest, and wouldn’t that make for a great year?
We have just concluded Jesus’ final sermon that is found in Matthew’s Gospel: The Olivet Discourse. In the sermon Jesus gave us a central truth about the end of the age that we live in, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, not the Son, but only the Father,” (25:36). We learn that because the time of Jesus’ return is unknown his followers are to watch, be ready, be prepared, and live with the conviction that He can return unexpectedly at any moment.
In the sermon Jesus gave us a somber picture of the age we live in, and it’s one of apostasy. As we wait, watch, and prepare for His return Jesus said, “He who stands firm to the end will be saved,” (13). One concludes that active resistance is needed by the believer in order to resist all that the age will throw at us, we must stand firm till the end.
Jesus knows that we cannot stand firm alone, so He gave us the church. The author of Hebrews wrote to believers to encourage their relationship with the church. He wrote, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near, (Heb. 10: 23-25).
The Church is here to help you stand,
During the Christmas season we reread the old stories of Jesus birth, Mary’s song, Joseph’s yielding, the journey to Bethlehem, His simple birth, amazed shepherds, wise kings following a mysterious star, and the cunning evil of an old king. They are the cherished stories of Christmas.
There never has been another story such as that of Jesus birth. Never was a story so tender, so beautiful, so strong, or so pathetic, but if it is just a story it would have lost its power long ago. Men and women do not remake their lives, morals are not upheld, nations are not born, societies remade, and thoughts changed because of a story.
The world has not been transformed by the telling of the story of Jesus birth, any more than it is transformed by the telling of his death, and ascensions. What has transformed the world is the living presence of Christ in every successive century. What Jesus began to do two thousand years ago He has never ceased doing, and thus the world has been, and is being transformed.
This church is not gathered around the memory of a majestically beautiful story. We are here because the same living Christ is here, doing among us what he first did: Forgiving us, making us holy, and presentable before God.
Christ’s work goes on,
The landscape of the Christmas Season is one of miss-directions, for the Christmas season takes us down many paths. One path we may be pulled down is the remembering of Jesus and His birth, and that is a good thing. There are other paths that are not so good. For instance the season may cause us to dwell on our current troubles, losses, or past experiences that we would just as soon take a breather from rather than reminisce about, but the season causes those memories to keep popping up in all their rawness. The season may also pull us toward certain temptations, or habits that we are weak in, and therefore, Christmas becomes a time of extra diligence on our part to avoid temptations.
In a season that can cause miss-direction let us open our Bibles and see the true reason for the season:
1. 1John 3:5, “He appeared so that he might take away our sins.”
2. 1John 3:8, “The reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
3. John 14:9 [Jesus said] “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” From this verse we might say, “Jesus came to reveal God to us.”
4. Heb 9:28, “He [Jesus] will appear a second time not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” From this verse we can say, “Jesus came so that he can come back again.”
Remember the reason,