Monday, April 9, 2012

What – really – is the big deal about Jesus?

Yesterday was Resurrection Day and the culmination of Passion Week. Last night, I was writing back and forth with a friend who commented that the day just kept getting bigger as it unfolded. It was just after midnight when I read that, and my first thought was “Yeah, it’s already stretched into tomorrow!” And then it hit me: What Jesus did, it stretches into all the tomorrows!

During all the conversation about the day yesterday, my friend sent me a copy of an old email I’d written. I’d like to repost just some of it:

I am reading Roland Buck's "Angels on Assignment" right now, and have been re-reading the same part for a week or more now because I cannot seem to move on yet. We have no idea the magnitude of what Jesus did for us! We have no idea - none of us - how much God loves us, wants us, has done (and still does!) to clear the way for us to be near Him! Even in the moments of revelation when we, with our faces overcome with emotion, think that we grasp His love and what it cost Him, we don't. Not really. How could we? We've never seen anything like what He did! And those people who were witnesses to the event still didn't see fully. If they did, the story would have been so different. And I suspect it had to be that way for the story to even be accomplished.

Can I share some excerpts from this book?
God not only wants believers to come closer to him; he wants those who are far away from him to come, too. He said that if you would call to him from wherever you are, from the very farthest point in all creation, he would remove all the distance between you and him. God WANTS you. He is not looking for reasons to disown you, but he is looking for reasons to help you and to bring you closer to himself...

God says, "You can come to me now! The barriers are down! You have been reconciled by the death of my Son!"...

All of our needs are covered in the atonement. With his covering over us, God can see us and accept us...Because people are in bondage to fear, it is important to God that people know that before he made the earth, he planned that they would be covered by his atonement. This is why he had Paul write in Ephesians 1:4, "Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own, through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault - we who stand before him covered with his love....

The reason this is of such high priority with God is that people cannot really serve him without genuine assurance that their position in him is safe. Knowing this is REAL security! God is letting people know that he will not let them go without a struggle...

Wherever Christ and his message have been carried, there has been light. Where he has not gone or where the message has failed to penetrate, there is darkness. He is the center of life! He is the heart! Without Jesus, the very life, the very heartbeat would be gone from everything. Oh, God, may we never be the same because we will see, we will know, we will feel, we will have, we will live, because of what the death of Christ has brought to us. May this be the time in our lives when we take out the contract you made with us, written in the blood of Jesus, look at it, and recognize that something very special took place. It was not merely the snuffing out of this life, and the putting to death of his human mortality!... It was more!...

The second death which faces mankind brings fear, dread and torment to him all of his lifetime. This was the death Jesus took for us...Jesus suffered pains that even the ungodly, those totally separated from God, had never felt, for the ungodly have never felt the pangs that come when the last little flicker of hope is extinguished...While living on this earth, they have never felt the weight, the hopelessness and the horror of feeling the cold side of God as he turned his back on them. Jesus suffered the torment of a damned soul! From his heart he cried out , "Oh, God, why have you forsaken me?" and the cold pangs of eternal damnation, those icy fingers gripped his life, and Jesus suffered the judgment of God. He was totally separated from God at that moment!

Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God! I want to bring this truth to people. Build a picture before us right now. Let us see what you have done. Let us see your love for us that was so great that your only begotten Son became our substitute! ... Every lie, every sin against ourselves and others, every murder, all adultery, all immorality, all dishonesty, all cheating, all rebellion, all idolatry, all enmity through witchcraft and satanism; yes, everything we could be charged with is laid on him.

He has become the sin bearer. He has become sin, bearing all the concentrated dregs of the rottenness of billions of people. Visualize him as the bulwark against Satan's attacks. God says, “See him, discern him, because if you don't, you are often weak, you are sickly, and you are subject to the attacks, the let-down and the draining of your spiritual strength. See him, not as something of beauty, but as that sacrifice, with that rottenness upon him, with every murder, every lie, every bit of immorality, every bit of wickedness that could possibly exist, all the stench of homosexuality that caused Sodom to be burned; everything laid upon him there!”

Then as you see him, God wants you to see on that body, YOUR sin, YOUR weakness, YOUR failings, EVERYTHING that you have been worried about! They are there, but they don't have any strength! They are only the ashes of sins that used to be. Just the burned-out cinders! When you see this, sin loses its grip and its power to hurt you. You sins are nothing but ashes, because the blazing stroke of God's wrath and judgment fell on that body. With all the sins laid on him, and all of God's goodness poured into us, we can stand before God, knowing that sin has lost its power over us. ... He has turned sin into cinders. He has blotted out the records...he WANTS us! He is not looking for reasons to destroy us, but to save us.

I know that was a lot to quote. I could quote more, but I'll stop there. I'm beside myself! It's more than we can comprehend! How is it that God is so good? He is so good! He is the standard of all that is good and none of what we call good compares to Him!

As I re-read this now, a year later, I’m still amazed by a Savior who would go to such great lengths to rescue me - and more. He got rid of anything that stood between God and me. And all of it – every barrier – was my own fault! Every selfish choice, every hurtful word, every shred of hatred and deceit and wickedness and every fear in me, Jesus overcame for me. He became the scapegoat for everything that was horrible in me in order to do what I couldn't. He really is better than anything we call good.

So...what – really – is the big deal about Jesus?

He did the greatest thing anyone could ever or will ever do, and what He did will last forever and ever, into your tomorrow and mine and all the tomorrows for always.

He is why we even HAVE tomorrows.

Ambushed by the God-Who-Overcame,

(Thank you, Kathy, for sending me that email to re-read!)

Excerpts from "Angels on Assignment" by Roland Buck, copyright 1979 Roland H. Buck, published by Whitaker House.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Good, New Life

When I was a little girl, I was always bothered that we call today “Good Friday”. It seemed wrong to call it “good” – what Jesus suffered on that day.

But “Good Friday” is the right name. We had nothing good to offer, and our lack of goodness was killing us. Goodness Himself came and did the greatest thing anyone had ever, could ever, would ever do in all of history and throughout all of eternity. He did it for us.

That’s the standard of “good” – Jesus. His perfect sacrifice.

And now we can have goodness, a new life. A good, new life.

One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.

Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!
Look at it!

(excerpted from 2 Corinthians 5, The Message)

Ambushed by God and given a good, new life,