Monday, April 14, 2014

Preparing for Easter

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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.

When you think about the cross, what words come to mind?

For me, it is sacrifice and hope.  How the words co-mingle together?!

What ties them together?  WOUNDS.  Sacrifice leaves wounds, yet the wounds also produce hope.  If we survived the hardship that produced the wound, surely we can survive what lies ahead.  

Jesus went to the cross to sacrifice for our sins.  He was wounded on the cross.  His hands and feet bore the wounds that our sin caused.  

John 20:24-29
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

-- Not focusing on Thomas' doubts, but on Jesus' wounds.  He had physical marks of what the cross did to him.  We, too, often carry physical marks.  If not physical, then emotional and/or spiritual.  We have all been hurt by someone or some situation and we carry wounds from it.  

1 Peter 2:18-25
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

It’s ironic, isn’t it?  God’s ways are so different from the ways of the world.  We are healed by his wounds.  Our sin sent Jesus to the cross; the cross produced his wounds -- yet those very wounds heal us.  

Like Jesus, each of us has wounds.  The wounds we carry around come from something or someone.  I read Donald Miller’s blog today about legalists coming from a wounded place.  I started thinking about it, and I think - to a degree - we all come from a wounded place.  Certainly, some are more wounded than others based on our past experiences and relationships.  But each of us has been scarred by things.  Some things within our control and some things completely out of our control.  However, regardless of what caused the wound, we get to choose how we respond to the wound.  It doesn’t make it right, but we can either hold onto it or ask the Lord to help us move forward from it...

Shut your eyes.  Relax.  Envision yourself walking down a long hallway.  It is the hallway of your life.  There are pictures on the wall.  Paintings of memories and experiences from your life.  There are paintings of pain and frustration.  Look at them.  Pick one painting in particular -- one memory that is hard to look at because you have been wounded.  Stare at it.  Get to know it well; look it dead in the eyes.  Then, ask the Lord to help you take it down.  Ask the Lord if you need to forgive someone and/or accept something.  

Does anyone want to share what they took off the wall?

It is a sacrifice to forgive those who have wounded us.  It is a sacrifice to accept where we may be for a season.  When we are hurt and wounded, it is hard to let others in.  I recently listened to a great sermon about sacrifice and obedience.  Within 4 minutes of the sermon, I knew there was something I needed to sacrifice.  I paused the sermon and thought about what it really means to sacrifice something.  I read the scripture and it was all so clear -- Abraham had to pull out a knife ready to kill his son.  

Genesis 22:1-18
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Was I really willing to kill the desire?  The dream?  The relationship?  

In doing so, in my heart, the Lord taught me that sacrifice yields provision.  What we are willing to give up, he will make a provision for.  Abraham and Isaac is a beautiful story.  When Abraham is about to kill his son, a perfect lamb is provided.  His willingness to sacrifice enabled the Lord to provide something better.  

I’m not saying that if we sacrifice our desires, dreams, relationships, etc. that something else will come through and we will really get to keep them -- as Abraham was able to keep Issac.  BUT when we do that, God’s promises are still kept.  And he will make a way for us to be provided for.  For me, making a sacrifice to the Lord yielded his presence.  Wonderful.

I love that Abraham and Isaac foreshadow Jesus on the cross.

Abraham found a substitute for Isaac.  However, there was not a substitute for Jesus.  God the Father had nothing else to send but his Son.  God has adopted many sons and daughters, but he only has One Son begotten of Himself.  And perfect Jesus was the only one that would do - that would be able to atone for our sins.  

Hebrews 9:24-26
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Isaiah 53
Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
   And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
   and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
   and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[b] by men;
   a man of sorrows,[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[f]
   he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
   and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
   smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
   and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
   we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
   yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
   and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
   so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
   and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
   stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
   and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
   and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
   he has put him to grief;[g]
when his soul makes[h] an offering for guilt,
   he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[i] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
   make many to be accounted righteous,
   and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[j]
   and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[k]
because he poured out his soul to death
   and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
   and makes intercession for the transgressors.

I listened to a sermon by Allister Begg and he said:
Wounded for me, wounded for me, there on the cross, wounded for me.  He bore all my transgressions to set me free.  The cross does not give guidance about what we may do BUT it proclaims good news about what Christ has done for us!  The cross does not proclaim we are worth saving, but it does proclaim God is mighty to save.

I’m not sure if you’ve given anything up or added something to your life this Lenton season.  Regardless, I love that this season prepares us for what is to come.  It’s a season of getting ready to celebrate what Jesus did for us on the cross.  That he made the ultimate sacrifice so that we don’t have to: giving up Himself.  As we celebrate that this Sunday, I challenge us to:

  1. Really allow ourselves to chew on the sacrifice he made for us
  2. Ask the Lord if we need to sacrifice something in our lives and
  3. Invite him into our wounds -- he carries them, too.

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