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.
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,
“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God,” (Ps. 40:3).
Music is important to us, and perhaps that is why, when it comes to church music, everyone has an opinion about what the correct music is to play in church. These opinions have led to many arguments within the church. It is obvious there is such a thing as Christian music, but the Bible is silent on what music is good or bad church music.
We all come from different parts of the country, and came of age in different eras. Therefore, some of us like Country, Dixie-Land, Blues, Polka, Rock and Roll, Classical, and Bluegrass. Thus only an elitist would say one style is better than the other.
The controversy over music is not new. The music for Martin Luther’s, A Mighty Fortress is our God, was borrowed from a popular 16th century song. Charles Wesley used tunes from taverns for some of his hymns. John Calvin used secular song writers of his day. The Queen of England referred to them as, “Calvin’s jigs.” When Silent Night was first published it was called “Vulgar mischief and void of all religious feelings.” Handel’s Messiah was condemned as “Vulgar Theater.”
Today we are taking a break from our normal service to sing some of the old hymns. These hymns were not composed in a vacuum, but came from a story that was behind the song. Thus we conclude that what really makes a hymn sacred is not the style, but the message it brings.
Our hearts are again broken with the news of another shooting; lives ended and lives changed. Our nation gasps in horror, and sheds a collective tear. Rising from the horror come voices saying, “Do something. Do something. Do something!” The politicians see an opportunity to advance themselves, so they propose laws they have not thought out, or know won’t work, but at least they can say they are doing something. How hollow are their words and actions, for we know, in the not too distant future, we again will bear another such evil.
Why are we surprised when this happens? We have bathed our lives in movies of senseless violence. We allow our children to spend endless hours playing computer games that kill fictional people. We send our children to schools that teach there is no such thing as truth. Then we plant them in front of a TV that is absent of any moral character. Marriage has become a swamp of fathers and mothers abandoning their families, both physically and mentally, in the search of personal fulfillment and happiness. We have raised our children in the muck and mire of life, and are surprised that what arises out of that primordial ooze are adults who are brutal, ruthless, and uncaring.
Two-thousand years ago Jesus did do something; He inaugurated a new kingdom of peace, love, and joy. You want to do something about the mass killings? Then let it start with you proclaiming the real answer to the problem – Jesus!
Jesus is the answer,
Many today are of the opinion that God is a jealous, angry king with entirely human judgments. A God who is impulsive, and unpredictable with a stern human heart. He sits above the earthly realm with a furrowed brow waiting to cast punishment down on anyone he finds having a good time. Yes, He is seen as holy, but wrongly seen as a holiness that is in essence a cold morality of some unknowable principle of righteousness.
What is the correct notion of God? A short sentence in the Bible gives us a good explanation, “God is love,” (1John 4:8). This sentence helps us to correct any wrong notion we may have of God, for God is love is the harmonizing theme of the entire biblical story from Genesis to Revelation.
Take an example from Genesis, “God walking in the garden,” (Gen. 3:8). God calls out to Adam, “Where are you,” (9)? Adam does not answer. He was hiding from God because he had sinned. Here is my point, God’s call to Adam was not the call of a policeman looking to punish a sinner. It was the cry of a father’s broken heart! God’s heart was broken for the fellowship between Him and man had been broken by sin. What follows then through the whole of the Divine Library is the story of a God who will do anything to restore the relationship that was lost. It is the story of God’s love bearing all things, enduring all things, and hoping all things with a love that never fails.
One of the religious groups in Jesus day was the Sadducees. They were an interesting group of men who only believed in the first five books of Scripture – the Pentateuch. Because they were selective in their belief on God’s Word, they were selective in how they lived their lives. Jesus found it necessary to censure the Sadducees, and said to them “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God,” (Matt. 22:29).
Jesus pointed out to the Sadducees they did not know, “The Power of God,” (29). Why is it important to know the power of God? It is the power of God that can change lives, make a difference in this world, break the chains of addictions, and enable marriages to last and flourish, and give hope to the sick.
There is no power known to humans that is like the power of God. We can drive cars, propel rockets to the moon, harness energy to light up entire cities, but we cannot raise anyone from the dead. And that’s the power that Jesus offers to us. The power of God can energize our lives on a daily basis. The source of that power is the Holy Spirit, and we receive that power when we accepted Jesus as our resurrected savior. His church receives this power when it rejects the errors of the Sadducees, and demonstrates it relies on the full teaching of the Scriptures, and the full power of God.
Relying on God,