Charles Stanley – The Turning Point of Time

 Mark 15:16-39

We often hear the phrase “the crux of the matter” or “the crux of a situation.” The word crux comes from Medieval Latin, and simply means “cross.” Why has the word crux come to be associated with a critical juncture or point in time? Because the cross of Christ is truly the crux of history. Without the cross, history itself cannot be defined or corrected.

There is another word we often hear when we are in the throes of indescribable pain: the word excruciating. That, too, derives from the Latin and means “out of the cross.” Through time and human experience, the historical event of the cross intersects time and space and speaks to the deepest hurts of the human heart.

But we live with more than pain and suffering. We also live with deep hungers within the human heart, such as the hunger for truth, for justice, forgiveness, and peace. As I see it, there is only one place in the world where these hungers converge: It is in the cross of Christ, where perfect peace and perfect justice became united in one death on a Friday afternoon.

The cross defines what love’s entailments are. You see, in Christian terms, love does not stand merely as an emotion or even as an expression to just be reconciled to God. In a relationship with God, love ultimately flowers into worship. All earthly relationships as we know them will someday end. It is in worship alone that wonder and truth coalesce, prefiguring the consummation of eternal communion. That enrichment from worship feeds all other relationships and helps us to hold sacred all of life’s needed commitments.

Never has it been more obvious that this world needs redemption—and that redemption is costly. The cross more than ever, in our language and in our longings, is necessary to bridge the divide between God and us and between ourselves. Without the cross, the chasm that separates us all from truth, love, justice, and forgiveness can never be bridged. The depths of mystery and love found in the cross can never be fully plumbed, but it must be the lifelong pursuit of the Christian to marvel at its costliness and to celebrate its meaning.

That is why we celebrate Easter. The cross stands as the defining counter-perspective to everything this world has to offer. As you observe this Holy Week, may you be moved to wonder and worship.

—Ravi Zacharias

Our Daily Bread — And Then You Laugh

 

 

 

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:1-8
Bible in a Year: Judges 19-21; Luke 7:31-50

 

[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. —2 Corinthians 5:21

Noise. Vibration. Pressure. Fireball. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield used these words to describe being launched into space. As the rocket raced toward the International Space Station, the weight of gravity increased and breathing became difficult. Just when he thought he would pass out, the rocket made a fiery breakthrough into weightlessness. Instead of lapsing into unconsciousness, he broke into laughter.

His description made me think of the days leading to my mother’s death. The heaviness of life kept increasing until she no longer had the strength to breathe. She was then released from her pain and broke free into the “weightlessness” of heaven. I like to think of her laughing when she took her first breath in Jesus’ presence.

On the Friday we call “good,” something similar happened to Jesus. God placed on Him the weight of the entire world’s sin—past, present, and future—until He could no longer breathe. Then He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’ ” (Luke 23:46). After being suffocated by our sin, Jesus received back from God the life entrusted to Him and now lives where sin and death have no power. All who trust Christ will one day join Him, and I wonder if we’ll look back at this life and laugh. —Julie Ackerman Link

Father in heaven, words cannot describe our gratitude for Your Son Jesus, who bore the weight of our sins. Thank You that to be absent from this body with its heavy burdens is to be present with You forever.

The sacrifice of Jesus points us to the joy of heaven.

INSIGHT: Paul uses metaphors such as “earthen vessels,” “earthly house,” and “tent” (2 Cor. 4:7; 5:1) to contrast the frailty and mortality of our earthly existence with the indestructibility, immortality, and glory of our resurrection bodies. When a believer dies, the body goes to the grave, becoming dust (Gen. 3:19; Job 34:15; Eccl. 3:20), but the spirit goes to be with Christ (Eccl. 12:7; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:21–25). When Jesus Christ returns for His own (John 14:3), our body and spirit shall be raised together for a glorious eternity with God (5:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:50-53; Phil. 3:21; 1 Thess. 4:16–18).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – We Call This Friday Good

 

Simon of Cyrene had every reason to be shocked. He was on his way in from the country, likely headed to Jerusalem for the Passover, when he was seized from the crowd and forced to join a procession heading toward Golgotha, the place of the Skull. They put a crossbeam on him, one to be used in the execution of a criminal, and made him carry it. The offense of this object and unchosen assignment would have been blatant to Simon and everyone around him. He had been recruited to play a role in a crucifixion; there was no more dishonorable form of judicial execution in the Roman Empire. Among Jews, anyone condemned to hang on a tree was thought accursed. Staggering in front of Simon, beaten and bloodied, was the shamed man to whom this cross belonged.

In many ways, it was a day of shocking and paradoxical darkness, akin to the sort of half-understood encounter T.S. Eliot so aptly describes:

You say I am repeating

Something I have said before. I shall say it again.

Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,

To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,

You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstacy.

In order to arrive at what you do not know

You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.

In order to possess what you do not possess

You must go by the way of dispossession.

In order to arrive at what you are not

You must go through the way in which you are not.

And what you do not know is the only thing you know

And what you own is what you do not own

And where you are is where you are not.(1)

For Simon, thrust in the middle of angry men and wailing women, the day held a burden he did not deserve, a shame he did not seek to bear for himself. He was on his way inside the holy city to celebrate the Passover, the release of his ancestors from the bondage of slavery—the central act of God in Israel’s history—and he found himself forced to carry the cross of a condemned man outside the city walls. It was the furthest he could be taken from the sense of place he wanted to possess.

The crowd pressed in behind them as they walked forward. Simon would hear Jesus turn to the women who were mourning and wailing and offer a curious response: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed! They will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”‘ For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”(2) Simon would have recognized these lines as words of the prophet Hosea, the prophet through whom God would show his heart, to demonstrate a love that would not quit.

When they made it to Golgotha, Simon’s task was finished. The beam was taken from him and the man he followed to the place of the Skull was stripped of his garment and nailed to the cross. Nothing further is mentioned about Simon the Cyrene in any of the gospel accounts of the crucifixion. But surely much is left to wonder. Did he stay after the burden had been lifted from his own shoulders? Did he hear Jesus cry out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” or watch him extend the invitation of paradise to the broken criminal on the cross beside him? What went through Simon’s mind as he walked behind the weak and beaten Jesus, the events of Passover brutally interrupted by the events of the cross? Did he look on as they mocked the “King of the Jews” who remained silent through the insults? Was he filled with thoughts of the Passover he was missing, the life he needed to resume, as they challenged Jesus to come down from the cross? Or perhaps Simon was more deeply disturbed by the end of the journey than he was of its beginning. What we call the beginning is often the end, says Eliot.

We die with the dying:

See, they depart, and we go with them.

We are born with the dead:

See, they return, and bring us with them.(3)

Matthew reports the conclusion of the first Good Friday and the cross that would become a stumbling block for all of history: “When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split… When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’”(4)

It is impossible to tell what became of Simon after he carried the burden of the one sentenced to die. But it is a vision terribly full, if half-understood: The memorial Simon had celebrated his entire life—the redemption of Israel from the yoke of slavery, the blood of the unblemished lamb, the Passover hope for the liberating Messiah—had emerged before him, the slaughter of the paschal lamb.

The dripping blood our only drink,

The bloody flesh our only food:

In spite of which we like to think

That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood-

Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.(5)

One thing is yet clear: Simon of Cyrene was on his way somewhere else and the cross was a shocking interruption. And so it remains.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets (Harcourt: New York, 1971), 28-29.

(2) Luke 23:28-31.

(3) Eliot, 58.

(4) Matthew 27:50-53.

(5) Eliot, 30.

Alistair Begg – Does it Represent Your Sin?

 

So they took Jesus, and he went out. John 19:16-17

He had spent the night in agony, and in the early morning He was hurried from the hall of Caiaphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from Herod back again to Pilate. Consequently his strength was almost gone, but He was granted neither food nor rest. They were eager for His blood and therefore led Him out to die, burdened with the cross. At this sad procession the women wept, and my soul weeps in turn.

What do we learn here as we see our blessed Lord led forth? Do we not perceive the truth, which was foreshadowed in the scapegoat? Remember how the high priest brought the scapegoat and put both his hands upon its head, confessing the sins of the people, so that those sins might be transferred from the people and laid upon the goat. Then the goat was led away into the wilderness, and it carried away the sins of the people, so that if they looked for them they could not be found.

Now we see Jesus brought before the priests and rulers, who pronounce Him guilty. God Himself imputes our sins to Him: “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”;1 “He made him to be sin.”2 And as the substitute for our guilt, bearing our sin upon His shoulders, represented by the cross, we see the great Scapegoat led away by the appointed officers of justice.

Beloved, can you feel assured that He carried your sin? As you look at the cross upon His shoulders, does it represent your sin? There is one way by which you can tell whether He carried your sin or not. Have you laid your hand upon His head, confessed your sin, and trusted in Him? Then your sin no longer lies on you; it has all been transferred by blessed imputation to Christ, and He bears it on His shoulder as a load heavier than the cross.

Do not allow this picture to disappear until you have rejoiced in your own deliverance and bowed in adoring wonder before the Redeemer upon whom your iniquities were laid.

1) Isaiah 53:6   2) 2 Corinthians 5:21

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg

Charles Spurgeon – Mr Fearing comforted

 

“O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Matthew 14:31

Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 51:9-16

Why did Simon Peter doubt? He doubted for two reasons. First, because he looked too much to second causes, and secondly, because he looked too little at the first cause. The answer will suit you also, my trembling brother. This is the reason why you doubt, because you are looking too much to the things that are seen, and too little to your unseen Friend who is behind your troubles, and who shall come forth for your deliverance. See poor Peter in the ship—his Master bids him come; in a moment he casts himself into the sea, and to his own surprise he finds himself walking the billows. His foot is upon a crested wave, and yet he stands erect; he treads again, and yet his footing is secure. “Oh!” thinks Peter, “this is marvellous.” He begins to wonder within his spirit what manner of man he must be who has enabled him thus to tread the treacherous deep; but just then, there comes howling across the sea a terrible blast of wind; it whistles in the ear of Peter, and he says within himself, “Ah! Here comes an enormous billow driven forward by the blast; now, surely, I must, I shall be overwhelmed.” No sooner does the thought enter his heart than down he goes; and the waves begin to enclose him. So long as he shut his eye to the billow, and to the blast, and kept it only open to the Lord who stood there before him, he did not sink; but the moment he shut his eye on Christ, and looked at the stormy wind and treacherous deep, down he went.

For meditation: The Christian is in a battle against unseen enemies. The shield of faith helps us to fight and, having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:12-16); to put it down for a moment and to rely on sight is to risk falling in battle.

Sermon no. 246

3 April (1859)

 

John MacArthur – Relying on God’s Grace

 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

Poverty of spirit is a prerequisite to salvation and to victorious Christian living.

In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells of two men who went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee boasted to God about his self- righteous efforts; the tax collector humbly acknowledged his sin. The Pharisee was proud and went away still in sin; the tax collector was poor in spirit and went away forgiven.

The Greek word translated “poor” in Matthew 5:3 was used in classical Greek to refer to those reduced to cowering in dark corners of the city streets begging for handouts. Because they had no personal resources, they were totally dependent on the gifts of others. That same word is used in Luke 16:20 to describe Lazarus the poor man.

The spiritual parallel pictures those who know they are spiritually helpless and utterly destitute of any human resources that will commend them to God. They rely totally on God’s grace for salvation, and they also rely on His grace for daily living. Jesus called them happy people because they are true believers and the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

The word translated “theirs” in Matthew 5:3 is emphatic in the Greek text: the kingdom of heaven definitely belongs to those who are poor in spirit. They have its grace now and will fully enjoy its glory later (1 John 3:1-2). That’s cause for great joy!

Isaiah 57:15 says, “Thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'” David added, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17).

Like the humble tax collector, recognize your weaknesses and rely totally on God’s resources. Then He will hear your prayers and minister to your needs. That’s where happiness begins!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that when you come to Him in humility and contrition, He hears you and responds.
  • Prayerfully guard your heart from the subtle influences of pride.

For Further Study

Read the following verses, noting God’s perspective on pride: Proverbs 6:16-17; 8:13; 11:2; 16:5; 18-19.

 

Joyce Meyer – Don’t Be Hasty

 

The thoughts of the [steadily] diligent tend only to plenteousness, but everyone who is impatient and hasty hastens only to want. Proverbs 21:5

By not moving emotionally in her decisions about life, the Bible says the Proverbs 31 woman saves time and strength, which she then uses to plant fruitful vines in her vineyard (v. 16). Everything that looks good is not good, and a wise person will take time to examine things thoroughly. If you think about it, what looks good is sometimes the enemy of what is best. There may be lots of good opportunities for you to minister in your church, but that doesn’t mean that each opportunity is the best choice for you.

We should choose the more excellent things and not merely settle for another good thing. I receive many good opportunities almost daily, and I have to decline most of them. I know what I am called by God to do, and I stick with my call. I encourage you to take time to think about things. Remember that “a calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body” (Proverbs 14:30), and to be hasty in making decisions is just the exact opposite. She who is hasty almost always ends up unhappy.

Lord, I realize that not everything that glitters is gold. Give me a calm mind that refuses to be hasty when opportunities come my way. I want to be doing the best I can do. Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Gift of His Spirit

 

“This is what God has prepared for us and, as a guarantee, He has given us His Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 5:5).

A dynamic young business man sat across from me in my office. By almost every standard of human measure he was an outstanding success in both his business and his religion.

He was one of the leading men in his field of specialty in the world. A highly moral, religious person, he was very active in his church. And yet, he was not sure that he was a Christian.

He wanted desperately – more than anything else in the world – to have real assurance, but he did not know how to go about obtaining it. Step by step, I explained to him from the Bible how he could receive Christ into his life and be sure of his salvation.

Soon we were on our knees in prayer, after which he went on his way rejoicing in the assurance of his salvation to begin a supernatural walk with God.

Many pastors and other Christian leaders, I have discovered, also have this same gnawing doubt about their salvation. One pastor who had preached the Bible-centered gospel for 40 years told me that he was still unsure of his salvation.

The wife of an evangelist confided, “During the past 30 years, my husband and I have introduced thousands of people to Christ, but I have never been sure of my own salvation. Never before have I had the courage to share this concern with anyone, but now I am so desperate that I have come to seek your help.”

I explained that we receive Christ as our Savior by faith or on act of the will; then, as a guarantee, He gives us His Holy Spirit.

Bible Reading: II Corinthians 5:6-10

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  With God’s Holy Spirit as my constant witness, I will daily give thanks to Him for assurance of my salvation.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Sonrise

 

The sunrise has inspired poems and paintings. There’s something awesome about darkness of night ending and light for a new day beginning. When Zechariah prophesied about Jesus, what a beautiful word picture he painted – the sunrise “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:79)

Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high.

Luke 1:78

Today Christians remember “Good Friday,” the day that Jesus, the only one who was truly good, was punished for all sin for all time. His body was held captive in the dark tomb only for a little while. Sin keeps people in darkness, but because of what Jesus did, the Bible describes believers as children of the day (I Thessalonians 5:5). The prophet Isaiah said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2) And Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Today as you remember that dark day of Christ’s crucifixion, thank Him for your spiritual sunrise. Pray for unbelievers’ eyes to be open to the great light of His love and salvation this Easter season.

Recommended Reading: John 1:1-13

Greg Laurie – Finished!

 

When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.—John 19:30

The cross was the goal of Jesus from the very beginning. His birth was so there would be His death. The incarnation was for our atonement. He was born to die so that we might live. And when He had accomplished the purpose He had come to fulfill, He summed it up with a single word: “finished.”

In the original Greek, it was a common word. Jesus probably used it after He finished a project that He and Joseph might have been working on together in the carpentry shop. Jesus might have turned to Joseph and said, “Finished. Now let’s go have lunch.” It is finished. Mission accomplished. It is done. It is made an end of.

So what was finished? Finished and completed were the horrendous sufferings of Christ. Never again would He experience pain at the hand of wicked men. Never again would He have to bear the sins of the world. Never again would He, even for a moment, be forsaken of God. That was completed. That was taken care of.

Also finished was Satan’s stronghold on humanity. Jesus came to deal a decisive blow against the devil and his demons at the cross of Calvary. Hebrews 2:14 says, “Only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.” This means that you no longer have to be under the power of sin. Because of Jesus’ accomplishment at the cross, finished was the stronghold of Satan on humanity.

And lastly, finished was our salvation. It is completed. It is done. All of our sins were transferred to Jesus when He hung on the cross. His righteousness was transferred to our account.

So Jesus cried out the words, “It is finished!” It was God’s deliberate and well-thought-out plan. It is finished—so rejoice!

Max Lucado – An Anchor for Your Soul

Six hours, one Friday. To the casual observer the six hours are mundane. But to a handful of awestruck witnesses, the most maddening of miracles is occurring. God is on a cross. The Creator of the universe is being executed!

It is no normal six hours; it is no normal Friday. His own friends ran for cover. And now his own father is beginning to turn his back on him, leaving him alone. What do you do with that day in history? If God did commandeer his own crucifixion. . .if he did turn his back on his own son. . .if he did storm Satan’s gate, then those six hours that Friday were packed with tragic triumph. If that was God on that cross, then the hill called Skull is granite studded with stakes to which you can anchor your soul forever!

From On Calvary’s Hill