Lent Devotions 2008: Friday 21 March

Jesus said to her, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Why do they call it Good Friday? It certainly wasn’t good for Jesus. He was physically tortured; He died in agony; and He suffered the pain of hell for you and me as He was forsaken by God because of our sin. It certainly wasn’t a Good Friday for Jesus.

But it was a Good Friday for us. Our damnable sins were placed on the shoulders of Jesus as He hung on the cross. Jesus in our place experienced the eternal punishment we deserved because of our unrighteousness. The debt we owed God (an unpayable debt) was paid in full by Jesus (It is finished). So for us it truly is a Good Friday.

And on this day, we rejoice to know that God must kill us (our old sinful nature) in order to raise us to a new life. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, because He is the one who puts to death and brings to Life. Do you know that you have already died? Yes, in your Baptisms you died with Christ and were buried with Him. But you were also raised to new life with Him in that same Baptism because in Baptism we were united with Christ. So even though we died to our old sinful ways, we were resurrected into a new life with Christ. This new life is characterised by faith in this same Jesus Christ. His Word (the Law) has killed our old sinful nature, but that same Word (the Gospel) has given us new life; a life which will never end.

On this Good Friday, Jesus asks us the same question He asked Mary, “Do you believe this?”

Prayer: Gracious Jesus, thank You for dying for our sins. Thank You for putting our old sinful natures to death. Thank You for resurrecting us to new life in You, now and forever, Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Thursday 20 March

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my Body.” And he took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my Blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the Forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)

What is it that makes Holy Communion “something special?” Today we tend to have the strange idea that in order for something to be “special” it must be a rare occurrence. The idea emerges that if something happens too frequently, it is no longer “special.” I have encountered some people that believe that if they receive the Sacrament too often, it will no longer be “special.”

To this argument I say, “Let’s listen to the words of Jesus.” Jesus took bread and said, “This is my Body.” He took a cup of wine and said, “This is my Blood.” Listen to those words. Whenever we receive the bread and wine in the Sacrament we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus along with the bread and wine. My friends, that will always be special.

You see, the power in the Sacrament rests in the words of our Lord: “This is my Body…this is my Blood…given and shed for you.” It does not rest in our ability to feel “special.” Its power is always there, always available to everyone who eats and drinks, believing these words of our Lord. It is power that works Forgiveness. It is power that Strengthens Faith. It is the Body and Blood of Jesus given and shed and sacrificed for all. Receive the Sacrament. Receive it often. No matter how often, it will always be special.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, You gave us Your Body and Blood to eat and drink in the Sacrament. This is special. Remind us whenever we receive Your Sacrament that we are receiving something special because we are receiving Your Body and Blood given and shed for the Forgiveness of all our sins. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Wednesday 19 March

Looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter are coming. Look around and tell me what you see; bunnies, cream eggs, Easter bonnets, but probably not a cross or empty tomb in sight. But this text encourages us to look to Jesus.

We are to look to Jesus because He is the Founder and Perfecter of our faith (for more on this see devotion for Saturday 8 March). He is the One who delivers us and fits us out to be people of God through faith in what He has done for us. But what has He done?

He endured the cross. The cross was an instrument of shame, torture, and humiliation; a punishment Jesus did not deserve. However, He voluntarily underwent this punishment in our place. There was no reason for Him to die, as He had no sin. But He voluntarily died because He took our sins upon His shoulders so that we might be forgiven.

And after His death, God raised Him to life eternal. He has passed through death and come out the other side. He now sits at God’s right hand because Jesus, as our High Priest, has completed His work on our behalf. He truly is King of kings and Lord of lords, and one day every knee will bow and tongue confess this.

Look around; enjoy your Easter eggs, but keep your eyes on Jesus. Jesus as He hangs dying on the cross. Jesus as He emerges from the tomb on Easter morning, and Jesus who lives and reigns for all eternity.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep our gaze focused firmly on our crucified and resurrected Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Tuesday 18 March

Help us, O God of our Salvation,
for the Glory of Your Name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for Your name’s sake! Psalm 79:9

In this verse forgiveness of sins is being asked for. It is important to remember as Christians that only God can forgive our sins and that Eternal Life and Salvation comes through faith and belief in Jesus.

This is why we have God come first in our lives. But though we try not to become distracted by bad influences, sin is a clear reality in our lives. Then God has to also return us to a state of wellbeing. He does this by just loving us.

Our God is a forgiving God, as is also shown in this verse. God’s Name is mentioned twice in this verse. Jesus asks God for His forgiveness for man, in His Own Name. Jesus asks God that He forgive man for the honour and glory that is due His Name.

If God did not forgive when being asked for forgiveness, He would hardly be the forgiving God that He claims to be.

Prayer: ‘All the prophets testify about You that everyone who believes in You receives forgiveness for his sins through Your Name.’ Lord, let Your Spirit guide our hearts to repentance of our sin so that we may gratefully receive Your Forgiveness. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Monday 17 March

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

This verse acts a corrective both to those who, well aware of their abilities, choose to use them selfishly, and to those who feel that they have no gifts at all. Peter rightly assumes that we all have some gifts – find yours and use them! We are called to serve using our gifts and talents for the benefit of others, for the blessing of the body of Christ.

The supreme example is that of Jesus who said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a Ransom for many.” (Mark 10.45) Paul urges us to have the same attitude as that of our Lord Jesus, who “made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant… He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2.7-8) This was costly service, sacrificial service, willingly given to secure our Salvation. As Christ’s followers, we are called to be little christs, following in His footsteps, walking the way of costly service, the sacrificial giving of ourselves – serving willingly, not grudgingly.

To serve faithfully, we need to do so in love and with perseverance. We cannot hope to administer God’s grace without the love of Christ. The way we serve is so important – not so much of what you do, but the way that you do it! The gospel of grace should be given like good medicine with TLC. People are more likely to take note of our witness if we deal with them in a gracious manner.

The world needs to see Jesus at work in the body of believers, the Church. Loving service is a powerful witness. May it be said of us, “See how these Christians love one another.”

Prayer: Thank you Heavenly Father for the gifts which You have graciously given to us. Help us to follow the example of our Saviour, who came to serve and to give Himself for us. May we serve You faithfully as we give our lives in service to others. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Saturday 15 March

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a Gift, through the Redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)

During the summer of 1996 I had the privilege of attending an Intervarsity Leadership Training Camp. One speaker, Andrew Page, gave us a wonderful example of how to explain Christian salvation to a non-believer. He said in most religions you have to do all kinds of “good works” to enter through the door of salvation. In Christianity you enter through the door of salvation and then you do all kinds of good works.

This picture of salvation reminds me that my salvation is not determined by my good works or by the sins I commit during my life. My salvation is determined by the redemption of Jesus Christ. As Paul states in Romans 3:23 we “all have sinned” and we all “fall short”. In God’s eyes sin is sin and we are all guilty. Yet, Paul goes on to say that, though we are all guilty, there is hope. We are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.” (Romans 2:24)

Christ redeems us; He bought us our freedom from sin by the blood He shed on the cross. As Christians we trust that Christ not only set us free from our sin, but that He also empowers us to live the way He taught us to live through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Help us to remember that Your gift of salvation came at a cost to Your Son, Jesus. Help us to turn from our sin and trust that the Holy Spirit will empower us to do good works. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Friday 14 March

I Am the True Vine, and my Father is the Vinedresser. (John 15:1)

Why the True Vine? Why not just “the Vine”? This is because Christ is emphasising another I AM statement. The ‘I AM’ was a way that Jesus had, of drawing the connection between Himself and His Father, our Lord. The vine represents growth, life and fruit. What is the point of any plant unless it produces something? We are the branches of that vine, the fruit, and the growth. He feeds us and nourishes us. We grow and should multiply as more and more branches. The Greek word translated ‘true’ in that sentence means ‘real; actual; not counterfeit, but genuine’. Jesus said: I am the real; the true; the actual; the genuine vine. There are many counterfeit vines in this world that we can attach ourselves to—religions such as Mormonism, whose teachings many people cling to— or Jehovah’s Witnesses, but there is only one ‘true’ vine who will enable us to bear fruit for God, and that true vine is Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Let us all grow in Christian wisdom, love and have desire for propagating Your Word and the knowledge of our loving Lord. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Thursday 13 March

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)

Jesus died for us, to ensure that our sins would be forgiven. His blood was shed so that we would be reconciled with God and not face His anger due to our sinful lives.

If we sincerely believe that Christ did die for our sins when He shed His blood on the cross, then God will accept this faith in Jesus and not judge us on our lives, but will accept our debt as paid through this faith.

Jesus did not die for Himself, but for us. All that Jesus asked from us was to believe, have faith, in Him and His victory over death

Prayer: Saviour and Lord, we cannot thank You enough for what You have done for us. May we honour You today with our lives because by Your sacrifice we are already saved eternally. Amen.

Lent Devotions 2008: Wednesday 12 March

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

It was looking like a scary Christmas. The kids were expecting lots of presents, but the bank account was low, the car needed repairs, and utility bills were on the rise. It was looking bleak. So imagine my utter amazement and joy when out of the blue a cheque for £250 arrived in the post. Great rejoicing followed as Christmas was saved.

Our spiritual journey is a bit like that. We seem to be in real difficulties. God demands so much, but we can do so little. God wants our all, but we only give a little. God commands us to be perfect, but no one is perfect.

By God’s standards we are in serious trouble. In fact, the words in this text used to describe us are dead in trespasses and uncircumcised in flesh. These are not flattering terms. They tell it to us straight. There is nothing we can do to impress God or earn His favour.

But God, knowing our hopeless situation, sent our deliverer Jesus Christ to nail our sins to the cross, to cancel our debts, and to make us alive through the forgiveness of our sins. All the things we needed, even if we didn’t even know it, God has provided for us through Jesus death and resurrection. Jesus gave His all for us, and He was perfect in our stead; thus, God gives us Christ’s perfection in place of our sin. Hence great rejoicing should follow as we are saved!

Prayer: Blessed Jesus, You have forgiven our sins, raised us from death to life, cancelled our debt, and turned our despair into joy— Thank You, Amen.