Jesus knows all about your trouble


_____sorrow_longing_tears______by_WestiaFor a Christian to want to be like Jesus is the most noble of desires. Those who love and serve him want to imitate him. All of us who march under his banner want to love like he did. We want to be righteous as he was. We want to be devoted to our heavenly Father as he was. The list of qualities that define his holy character is long.

The result we expect from living like Jesus, the best we can, is that we will be full of joy, know true peace in our hearts, and live above the cares of the world as we look for his appearing. I am sometimes amused and sometimes angry when on the rare occasion I watch a TV preacher. It seems that most of them teach that if you follow Jesus you will have no want, spiritually or financially, and live in good health. They didn’t get that from the Bible.

Being like Jesus will be painful. Hundreds of years before Jesus became a man the prophet Isaiah said of him.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.(Isaiah 53:3)

Jesus knew the pain of rejection, experienced deep sorrow, and was acquainted with grief. Did you know that when you are rejected you are living like Jesus? Do you realize that when you are in your deepest sorrow that Jesus has been there too and knows how you hurt? And are you aware that in those times when grief has almost completely overwhelmed you that you are perhaps more like Jesus than at many other times?

Jesus was fully God but fully human too. Joy springs from our hearts when we talk about, and sing about Jesus calming the raging sea, giving sight to the blind, and forgiving the sins of many. We glory in his deity and we should. Oh, but he was just as human as we are.

Because Jesus was human there is no depth of loneliness, no sense of rejection, no storm without or within that he does not fully know and understand. There is an old song we sang in little mountain churches in the hills of North Carolina that says, “Jesus knows all about our troubles…” and “There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus”.

May we not only glory in Jesus’ deity but let us also glory in his humanity. But for his humanity his deity would be pointless. It was in a human body that he always did the will of his heavenly Father and in that human body, though tempted in every way we are, never once sinned. It was that righteous life, that lifetime of loving obedience, that Jesus offered when he willingly gave himself to die for us. It was in a body like yours that he was beaten, humiliated, was sorrowful, grieved, cried, and was rejected. Because he loved us so he gave his holy life by dying on a cross where he took the full measure of God’s wrath against sin, for you, for me.

It’s the greatest love story ever told. Because he lives, even death is not a threat. And you can know that in the middle of your deepest trouble (you will have trouble…) Jesus is with you and knows in the most intimate way possible what you are experiencing. You can rest in the truth that he has your best interests in mind and that in that awful pain you are being like him.

Have you lost someone you love? Did you just learn your child has a disability? Did your business fail? Did a loved one betray you? Jesus knows all about your troubles and he will lead you through them all into the sunlight of a better tomorrow. He has been where you are, he is with you now, he will never leave you, even in death, he is there.

So, when trouble comes, don’t try to run away, run to Jesus, you’ll find him right in your worst troubles and where he is you are safe and secure. In Jesus’ life of suffering and dying there came a resurrection morning. Because he lives you will have one too!

Accepted by God? You didn’t do that!


Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9)

God did that! No man can truthfully lay claim to any part of his own justification. It is wholly a work of God accomplished by the sinless life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus.

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

“ALL this is from God”! “God through Christ reconciled us to himself.”, God “gave us the ministry of reconciliation”. It is God who is “not counting their trespasses against them”.

Remember the story of the tax collector and Jesus? Jesus invited himself to dine with this little man, Zacchaeus, and was roundly condemned for eating with sinners. Jesus announced to those who were present “Today salvation has come to this house”. (Luke 19:9). When Jesus showed up salvation showed up! Then Jesus defined his mission in no uncertain terms.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)

Jesus does both the “seeking” and the “saving”. Ungodly men and women are not looking for Him, He is looking for them. People do not save themselves, Christ saves them.

A man centered gospel is no gospel at all. A gospel that is accomplished through rites and rituals is no gospel at all. A gospel of do’s and don’t’s is no gospel at all. A gospel that is accomplished by the goodness of man is no gospel at all.

The Bible pictures those who are not Christians as being spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) and the cure is that God makes sinners live! (Ephesians 2:5-6). Christians are said to have been adopted (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5) into the family of the faithful. Is anyone so naive as to think someone who is dead can give himself life? Can an orphan baby cause his own adoption? Of course not!

The reason the story of the worth and work of Jesus for sinners is “gospel”, or “good news” is that sinful men and women are helpless to fix themselves, but God has made reconciliation by the blood of Jesus! The offering of Jesus’ perfect life satisfied God’s demand that you and I be perfectly righteous. And in His sacrificial death by crucifixion God’s holy wrath against your sins and mine was absorbed fully in that horrific punishment of rejection and death.

Not only did Jesus live for us the life we couldn’t live, and die the death we should have died, He was raised out of death to die no more so that we too can live forever!

None of this, no tiny part of this is our own doing. the old song says, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe”. If Jesus did all that needs to be done for God to justify sinners like me and you we can boldly reject every voice that claims something different and declare the good news that Jesus saves!

 

God came to me.


I’ve recently been thinking through what I believe about God, about His scheme of redemption, and how in the person of Jesus He brings sinners like me to himself. In two recent posts, here and here, I tried to display a snapshot of man’s sinfulness and his hopeless and helpless condition without God. In this post I want to show what I believe is the clear teaching of Scripture about how a person  is awakened to the grace and mercy of God in Christ.

It is very common to hear someone serve up the idea that salvation is a cooperative effort, “God’s part” and “man’s part“. For many years I have contended that this idea is not true, and cannot be true. Two verses come to mind that are convincing.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Romans 8:7

A person in his natural state of being is so alienated from God, and the things of God because of sin, that he does not and cannot receive the things of God. Look closely at these verses.

1. A natural man “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God“.

Left to his own devices and his own resources a person without God will not accept the truth of God. This is true every time, in every case. Why? Because the things of God are “foolishness” to him. The story of the passion of Christ makes no sense to him. I have spoken to many people who upon being told of God’s love expressed in the work of Jesus’ death for sinners, and that he now makes sinners pure without their participation, reject it outright. They want no part of it! Man always wants to get credit for his goodness.

2. A natural man “does not submit to God’s law“.

It isn’t that a person without God is neutral, that he just has no interest. Oh no, the truth is he is in rebellion against God. He is “hostile” toward God. He doesn’t “accept” the things of God, and doesn’t “submit” to God’s law because he is against God in his heart.

3. A natural man “is not able to understand” the things of God. And, he “cannot submit” to God’s law.

Here in these two verses is the picture of men and women apart from God who have NO ability on their own to receive the truth about God, to understand, or to submit to Him. You might say to yourself, “If these verses are literally true then how could anyone ever be saved”? It’s a legitimate question and there is an answer, but first one more passage to affirm the utter hopelessness of people without God.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Ephesians 2:1-3

Here the Apostle Paul is speaking to folks who are now God’s very own children. He is reminding them of their past and the awful condition of that ugly past. They were “dead” to the things of God, they lived in “trespasses” and “sins“, they were on a course like the rest of the world, following Satan (“the prince of the power of the air”), they lived only to please themselves, and were “children of wrath” like everyone else.

This is indeed a pretty sad state. Here is a people who are dead in sin, dead to the things of God, following the devil, against God, not willing to accept or submit to God, and in fact cannot possibly do so. How then can a person come to Christ and be saved? Thank God the passage above did not end with verse 3.

But God, being rich in mercy,because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:4-5

Yes, people are helpless and hopeless. Yes, they are dead to God, are his enemy, and can’t do anything about it. They have absolutely NO ability to come to God. But God! 

God came to where we were. Right in the middle of our rebellion, our spiritual death, our selfish, ungodly lives and “made us alive together with Christ“! My salvation and yours was by God’s initiative, not mine or yours.

You see, this is precisely what grace is! God loves sinners and he provided a remedy for their sins and then comes to gather them to himself. Paul continues….

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

But for God’s work in us and for us, shining the light of the truth of the gospel into our dark souls we should all perish in our ungodly condition. But He does come to us! The Holy Spirit stirs the heart to faith and repentance and the light of the gospel dispels the darkness of sin and unbelief and God gives LIFE to the lifeless!

“Nothing in my hand I bring, only to the cross I cling” goes the old song. I can claim no worth, no merit, no work. I can only give glory and praise to a loving God who makes the dead live and love! Oh how wonderful is the story of Jesus and his love for sinners like me. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord! He alone can save the lost sinner.

May God’s truth grip our hearts and minds so that He alone has the glory he deserves.

Royce Ogle

 

 

Christmas, the rest of the story


When I think of the humble birth of Jesus the first Bible verse that comes to mind is this one from Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:5
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,but a body have you prepared for me”.

The “consequently” in that verse refers to the prior verses that explain that offerings, sacrifices, and religious ritual, and law keeping can never take away sin. Only the once for all, once for all time offering of the body of Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, can take away sin forever.

It is good and right to celebrate Jesus’ birth, and just as important, we celebrate his sacrificial death and victorious resurrection. Each time we share together in communion, eating the bread and drinking the cup, we declare the Lord’s death ’til He comes. And, each time a new believer is immersed in water, the gospel is acted out, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is proclaimed.

The Christ child did not come into the world just to be imitated. He came to pay the awful price of the wrath of God against sin and to show the love of God for sinners. The innocent babe of Bethlehem was just as innocent before His crucifixion until…., until the sins of the world were laid upon him. He suffered the shame, torture, and abandonment of God the Father and friends, and He did it for the ungodly, you and me.

Hebrews 10:10
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Never again would it be necessary for a priest to go daily offering sacrifices. The one offering of Jesus of his own body satisfied completely the justice and righteousness of God so that based on that once for all, once for all time offering, God can declare an ungodly sinner “not guilty”. Those who are in Christ by faith need not try to appease God about their sins or do anything to attempt to gain His favor. His awful punishment of the Christ is His definitive statement on His love for sinners.

The coming of the baby Jesus was marked by people coming from afar to see him and by a bright star that lit the night sky over Bethlehem. He died alone, his friends had forsaken him, even the Father God turned away for a time, and light left the sky. But He rose from death victor over death, hell, and the grave.

Today the gracious offer of Christmas is Jesus Christ who himself is life everlasting, peace, and righteousness. Those who trust Him alone and forsake all to follow Him have newness of life, the forgiveness of all sins, and the promise of a heavenly inheritance reserved for them.

Peace on earth and goodwill toward men is only possible because the One who would suffer and die for us, and now lives for us, was born. “God with us” is the blessing of Christmas. From my home and heart to yours, may you know the true blessing of the Christ whose birth we joyfully celebrate.

Royce Ogle