Encouraging Words

Heb. 10:25 “... let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Easter Email 2020

Hello again! I trust all are doing well.

My thoughts in this Easter season have run to a simple truth. It is found in the words of Jesus in John 14:6 – “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

In the context, Jesus, the night before his crucifixion, assured his disciples that there was a place in His “Father’s house” for them and, furthermore, that He was going to prepare that place. He also promised to come back and take them there. Glorious promises for followers who were shortly to scatter in weakness and fear! What hope that should give us!

Easter should remind us once again that this present world is only a way station, that the Father’s ultimate purpose is a family with whom He can share His life and love forever in a new creation free from every ill that plagues this one – including coronaviruses! The question at hand was, by what “way” can a child of Adam get there?

Religion, including that of the Jews, would attempt to provide a prescription that amounts to a “salvation” of self-effort: things to do, things to believe, etc. However, I hope we know that the problem is not one of ignorance; nor is it one that can be fixed through changes in behavior. The problem is not what we DO; it is what we ARE. How do you fix that?!

As we pointed out recently, Paul was shockingly brought to a place where every religious precept he had cherished was tossed out with the garbage because he came face to face with God’s answer. God’s answer was not a better religion, but a Person. That is why Paul preached nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1 Cor. 2:2.

My mind often returns to the words of Jesus in John 12:31-32 – “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

One of the most common ideas, true as far as it goes, is that Jesus died as a “substitute” for us. He took our punishment and we get to go free. The truth is deeper than that. Christ was more than a simple “substitute”; He was a “representative.”

The first thing He represented was the world of lost men, Adam’s family. The destiny of Adam’s family had been firmly established because “all have sinned.” There is no escaping that truth. The death of Jesus on the cross foreshadowed the final destiny of the human race. As Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 5:14 – “… we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” “All died.” It is not merely a matter of destiny, but of history. Nothing can alter that fact. And yet, Jesus is “the way”!

In 2 Cor. 5:15, Paul continues, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” Think about that: all died and yet some live! Who? How?

As Paul says in verse 21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” What a key there is in the simple words “in him”!

To the world Jesus represented the certainty of final judgment and death; yet to others He was the “way” to eternal life in the “Father’s house.” Death is the only escape from the sin embedded in human nature. But how can I die, and yet live?

Imagine a simple picture: there is a certain island where a tribe of people live. There is a terrible and certain destruction coming to that island – but – most of the people refuse to believe it and willingly choose to remain there.

In the harbor of that island there is a ship headed for a wonderful, totally safe port. Most stay where they are but a few believe the warning and board that ship – and it sails. Destinies are determined; there is no neutral place; it is ship or shore, no in-between. Genuine “faith” means leaving the shore forever and departing with the ship.

That is how it is with the gospel. Every one of Adam’s race is either “in Christ” or else remains “in Adam.” In 1 Cor. 15:22, Paul says, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

It is wonderful that Christ is my “substitute,” willingly receiving the punishment due to me because of my sins. But now much more meaningful is it that He is my “representative.” When I truly repent and put my faith in Him, then I see His death as MY death. I am very personally embracing both my guilt before a holy God AND my just punishment.

But true repentance is more than merely saying, “I’m sorry.” It is also a decisive turning away from sin itself to live for God, to become His “possession.” When Jesus died, He did not merely die FOR sin, but also TO it. His death represented a total irrevocable renunciation of the sin that has corrupted Adam’s race. Getting in this “ship” means a whole-hearted joining Him in this renunciation. Read Romans 6.

And yet, how helpless we are to do this! This ship has to move past dying FOR and dying TO sin – and that is exactly what it did that Easter morning so long ago. He rose! Victorious forever over death and the grave! When we are united with Him – truly getting on His “ship” – we are indeed united with Him in his death – BUT – we are also united with Him in His resurrection! Rom. 6:5. We reach the far shore not because we are good swimmers but because we are on the right ship! Its destiny is our destiny.

I’m so thankful that my destiny is not determined by the ups and downs of my performance but by Christ’s power to save me completely. Heb. 7:25. That is why, as we pointed out recently, Paul’s life was defined by an insatiable desire to lay hold in his experience all that Christ accomplished through His death, resurrection, and glorification. He could leave the past behind because of the precious blood that had been shed. And he could embrace the future with hope, not in his own ability, but in that of a faithful Savior Who lived within.

Clinging to our own lives in this world is a prescription for certain judgment and death. Fully casting our lot with a crucified Savior is a prescription for the life with which He rose from the dead, free forever from its power! Whatever would discourage us or hold us back needs to be seen in the light of what took place on that Easter morning so long ago. It is finished! Never forget Rom. 8:28-39. Whatever comes, the gospel “ship,” loving sent by our Heavenly Father, will safely take us to His house. Jesus is the way. His destiny is the destiny of all who have been united by faith with Him!

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