“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying… My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? Matthew 27:46 KJV. Of all the words of Jesus upon the cross, these are the ones that remain more of a mystery than any other. As we think of the eternal, perfect oneness of the Father and the Son, we cannot imagine such a loving Father turning away from and forsaking His only Begotten Son. But we struggle here, because we do not fully understand the enormity and awfulness of sin. In that moment the sins of the world were placed on Jesus. Paul tries to describe this in 2 Corin. 5:21, “For He hath made Him to be sin for us…”. The prophet Isaiah writes of Jesus in 53:10, that “His soul was made an offering for sin”. And as a result, God Who is infinitely Holy, had to turn His face away from His Son. For the first time, Jesus experienced what every sinner will feel eternally. And that is, being forsaken by God. Being separated from the presence of God. It is incredible to think that the Father and the Son were willing to go through such extreme depths of suffering for us. But let this speak loudly to us, He did it all because He loves us. He chose to die so that we could live. He was forsaken so that we would not have to be.
“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43 KJV. This is the brief conversation between Jesus and the repentant thief on the cross. It is one of the most amazing examples we have of God’s grace and mercy to undeserving sinners. This man could not go out and demonstrate a changed life, which we as Christians are called to do. He could not go and produce the fruits of righteousness. He could not help others or be a witness to the saving power of Jesus. In other words, he could not do anything outwardly to bring glory to God. And yet, the grace and mercy of God brought forgiveness of his sins and eternal salvation! How this should teach us, that our salvation can never be earned or merited. It is all by God’s amazing grace! And while we should caution souls against delaying for a ‘deathbed’ repentance, we should also remind them that God’s grace is greater than all our sins. This scene was upon the mind of William Cowper when he wrote that beautiful old song ‘There is a fountain filled with blood’. One verse says, “The dying thief rejoiced to see, that fountain in his day. And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away”. Let us praise God for His amazing grace.
“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him… Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…” Luke 23:33-34 KJV. These are the first recorded words of Jesus after He was nailed to the cross. Our minds can only comprehend them in small measure. We cannot truly grasp the magnitude of our sins against a Holy God. We cannot fully appreciate Who it was that was crucified there. We have but little idea of the enormity of this universal crime against the Son of God, that we all had a part in. And to imagine that this One, Who was suffering such unspeakable agony because of us, would look at us and ask the Father to forgive us! To think that the Innocent, Spotless, Lamb of God would ask forgiveness for the very ones who were guilty of His murder. And yet, while we cannot fully understand the depth of these profound words, what we can do is receive them and rejoice in what we know they mean to us! Today, we should thank God for the free and full forgiveness we have through Jesus Christ. And we should live as forgiven! We should not walk under a cloud of guilt or condemnation. Today, let us praise God, that through faith in His Son, we are forgiven and set free from the punishment our sins deserved.
“For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”
Philippians 2:21 KJV. Much of the reason for the world’s misery is found in these words. God created us to love Him supremely and to do those things that please Him. This causes us to seek Him first and to seek to do those things that please Him and bring glory to Him. This ‘Godly seeking’ brings joy and satisfaction to our souls. But sadly, the vast majority of people (even church people) seek the things of this world rather than the things of God. They seek to find happiness in worldly pleasures rather than in Christ. They seek to have their own will and way rather than doing the will of God and walking in His ways. They seek to please their children and families more than they seek pleasing God. May we be honest about what it is we are seeking. Even in religion, if we are seeking only for our own benefit, we are missing the mark completely. By God’s grace, let us seek Him with all of our hearts. Let us seek to do those things that please Him and to be the children He can smile upon. His smile of approval is worth more than anything in this world.
“But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:” Malachi 3:2 KJV. Like many scriptures, people try to place this passage either back to when Christ first came, or in the future when He will come again. But the real issue is, when He comes for us as individuals to transform our lives. When He comes to refine the impurities from our souls and cleanse our lives. When He comes to consume the dross from our hearts, who will abide that? What will there be in us that will make it through when our lives are in the refining fires? There is a terrible deception that has come into the modern church, which implies that sin doesn’t matter, or if it does it’s not a big deal. But from Genesis to Revelation, God’s Word makes clear that God desires a holy people. He wants His children to have pure hearts and clean lives. And so, He will allow many things to come against us which will serve to refine the impurities in us. Oftentimes, the very things we cry out for deliverance from, our loving Father has sent to refine our lives. May God help us, so that the fires reveal in us a heart that truly loves God and desires to please Him above all others! May we not be that ‘reprobate silver’ that is finally cast away because it cannot be purified.
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him, Who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”Psalms 43:5 KJV. Several times in these 2 Psalms, David asks this and other questions that reveal he was in a very low place emotionally. And we all know what it’s like to feel downhearted. We have low places that we go through. But do we ever pause to ask ourselves “Why? Why am I feeling so down? Why do the clouds seem to hang so low?” In asking this question honestly we can begin to encourage ourselves in God. Because, no matter what we give as our answer (or excuse), we can always have the reply that God is still God! He is still my God. He is still the same Unfailing God that I have placed my hope and trust in. We can begin to rejoice, that He has not changed! No matter what has happened to me, He is still the Almighty God Who lives in me. No matter who rejects me, He is still the God Who loves me and accepts me as His own. No matter what happens in the world around me, He is still the same Sovereign God Who promises to work it all for good to those who love Him. So in our discouraging days, let us lift our eyes of faith, to our Unchanging God and keep all our hope in Him.
“But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ…” Ephesians 2:4-5 KJV. What powerful words these are, “BUT GOD!” Paul is talking about who we used to be as children of wrath, BUT GOD made us new creatures in Christ. We used to live dominated by the desires of our flesh, BUT GOD changed our heart and gave us new desires. We could write down everything that old life of sin represented and then write these words, BUT GOD, and we would know that because of Him we don’t have to be the same person we were before! And thank God we can use these words every day we live as we face the daily challenges of life. We worry that the world is becoming so wicked, BUT GOD has promised to keep His own! We look around and see so many in religion going back or choosing some easier way, and we remember, BUT GOD still calls us to the straight and narrow way. We face personal struggles and wonder how are we going to make it? BUT GOD witnesses to our heart that He will be with us and carry us through! So whatever mountain is standing before you, take these words and know, BUT GOD is bigger than any mountain you face!
“The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the people see His glory.” Psalms 97:6 KJV. In these words the Psalmist is expressing a truth that every soul will one day acknowledge. And that is, that all God does is right. People say that they cannot see or understand the things of God. They complain that they cannot hear His voice. Many use as an excuse the idea that spiritual things are too difficult to comprehend. And yet all the while, the heavens above us are declaring the glory, majesty and righteousness of God! Every time we look into the night sky we can see the awesome handiwork of God. We see the perfect order in which He created this universe. We see the perfect arrangement of every part of the cosmos. And every glimpse reveals to us, that all that God does is right! His creation was done in righteousness. Every single atom was in the right place. Every star is in the right place. This earth is in the exact place it had to be to sustain life. Even man was created right! And how can we ever imagine that such a perfect and righteous God, could ever do anything that is not right? And so, no matter what we see around us or what happens to us, let us be sure, that our God is right in all that He does. May we open our eyes to see the glory of our righteous God.
“Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of Thy law; That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked.” Psalms 94:12-13 KJV. Most people think that chastening and correction are very grievous. In our human pride we don’t like to be corrected, even when we are wrong. But God’s Word tells us it is a blessed thing when we receive correction from our Lord. The Hebrew writer says “Those whom God loves He chastens (and) if we do not receive His correction then we are not His children”. And notice also, that part of the means God used to correct us is through the teaching of His law. That means we must be willing to humble ourselves before God’s Word and confess that He is right and we are wrong! And we must be willing to be taught and led in the right way. Of course, our Heavenly Father always has a purpose in this. He desires to give us rest from the weary days of allowing our own pride to make us miserable. He longs to give us rest from the struggle of having our own way. So we must decide. Will we be blessed as we humbly receive the correction of our loving Father? Or will we suffer the fate of the wicked?
“Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph? How long shall they utter and speak hard things? and all the workers of iniquity boast themselves?” Psalms 94:3-4 KJV. Several times in the Psalms the writers are asking God about the apparent success of the wicked. He sees that they afflict the righteous and destroy lives. He hears their cruel words. And here he asks the question “How long…?” He knows God is a just God Who sees and knows all things. He knows that the day is coming when the wicked will be put down and righteousness will be exalted. But still he wonders, “How long?” Today as we look around at this fallen world, filled with so much human pride and wickedness, at times we wonder “Lord, how long?” We see evil doers rise up and bring persecution upon God’s people. We see the good suffering and the wicked prospering and we ask “How long?” And in our shortsightedness and impatience we sometimes forget that God is taking account of all that is going on and He still promises that judgement and justice will come. So when this question comes to our mind, let us remember the answer. It’s not going to be very long! The proud will not be lifted up for very long. The wicked will not triumph for much longer. So what we must do, is hold on! Until then, let us hold on to Jesus.