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The apostle Paul said that God’s handprint on the world is so strikingly obvious that people have no excuse for missing it:
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. ~Roman 1:20 NLT
The above quote is taken from page 68 in the book, “God is Amazing: Everything Changes When You See God for Who He Really Is” (2014), by Bruce Bickel, an attorney, author, and speaker; and Stan Jantz, an author, marketing consultant, and Executive Director of Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). The two authors continue with the following on pp. 120-123:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. ~John 1:14
For all the amazing aspects of God’s being, character, and personality–His infinite power, knowledge, wisdom, love, grace, and mercy–the most amazing of all just might be the Incarnation. It is staggering to think about a perfect God taking on imperfect human form, the infinite becoming finite, the immortal taking on mortality, the invisible God becoming visible through His Son, Jesus Christ.
God coming to earth in the form of a lowly human being is such a profound mystery, and so unexpected, that even today, two thousand years after it happened, people still struggle to understand how it was possible. Even followers of Christ often fail to grasp the significance of the Incarnation. Once a year they, along with the rest of the world, are reminded of this event when they celebrate Christmas, but the true implications of what the birth of Jesus means are generally lost amidst the pageantry, decorations, and gift giving. . . .
The incredible benefits of the Incarnation can be seen in what God accomplished by becoming human. As A.W. Tozer said so well, “God came to dwell with us in person so He could be united to us, only to ultimately dwell in us, so that even now, two millennia after Jesus left the earth, He is still present in each person who calls Him Lord and Savior.”
While He was on earth, Jesus lived out the mystery of the Incarnation by being both man and God. At no time in His thirty-plus years of earthly existence was Jesus never fully human and fully divine. He had a human body, a human mind, and human emotions.
The people who knew Him as He was growing up–including His own family–didn’t believe in Him. They certainly didn’t think He was God (see John 7:5). To them, He was just a carpenter’s son. Yet when Jesus began His public ministry, He defied the natural world by performing supernatural acts. He turned water into wine, fed thousands of people with a sack lunch, healed the sick, and raised the dead. Once, when Jesus calmed a raging storm just by speaking, His astonished followers were terrified because they realized they were in the presence of God (see Mark 4:41).
People today will often acknowledge that Jesus was a great teacher, a good man, and a fine example for us to follow. but to leave Him as just that is to tragically miss the whole point. That baby born in a manger was a frail human who grew in human wisdom and stature, but He was also almighty God, the Creator of the universe, the Lamb of God without blemish who came to seek and to save the lost. To leave Him in that manger and disregard the amazing implications of what His coming to earth means for all people for all time is to miss the very reason God became flesh. He did it for us. (Quote source, “God is Amazing,” pp. 120-123).
In a few days we will commemorate the last week (known as Passion Week) of Jesus’ life at the end of his three-year ministry which starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday with Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. In between the two is the Jewish celebration of Passover (which lasts for eight days). The connection between the Old Testament Passover and the New Testament celebration of Easter is Jesus Christ, who became the Passover lamb. The following background on Passover is taken from GotQuestions.org:
Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is a Jewish festival celebrating the exodus from Egypt and the Israelites’ freedom from slavery to the Egyptians. The Feast of Passover, along with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was the first of the festivals to be commanded by God for Israel to observe (see Exodus 12). Commemorations today involve a special meal called the Seder, featuring unleavened bread and other food items symbolic of various aspects of the exodus. . . .
The Book of Exodus tells of the origin of Passover. God promised His people to redeem them from the bondage of Pharaoh (Exodus 6:6). God sent Moses to the Egyptian king with the command that Pharaoh “let my people go” (Exodus 8:1). When Pharaoh refused, God brought ten plagues on the land of Egypt. The tenth and worst of the plagues was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt.
The night of the first Passover was the night of the tenth plague. On that fateful night, God told the Israelites to sacrifice a spotless lamb and mark their doorposts and lintels with its blood (Exodus 12:21–22). Then, when the Lord passed through the nation, He would “pass over” the households that showed the blood (verse 23). In a very real way, the blood of the lamb saved the Israelites from death, as it kept the destroyer from entering their homes. The Israelites were saved from the plague, and their firstborn children stayed alive. From then on, every firstborn son of the Israelites belonged to the Lord and had to be redeemed with a sacrifice (Exodus 13:1–2, 12; cf. Luke 2:22–24).
The children of Israel in Egypt followed God’s command and kept the first Passover. However, none of the Egyptians did so. All through Egypt, behind the unmarked, bloodless doorways of the Egyptians, the firstborn children died at midnight (Exodus 12:21–29). “There was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead” (verse 30). This dire judgment finally changed the Egyptian king’s heart, and he released the Israelite slaves (verses 31–32).
Along with the instruction to apply the Passover lamb’s blood to their doorposts and lintels, God instituted a commemorative meal: fire-roasted lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread (Exodus 12:8). The Lord told the Israelites to “observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever” (Exodus 12:24, ESV), even when in a foreign land.
To this day, Jews all over the world celebrate the Passover in obedience to this command. Passover and the story of the exodus have great significance for Christians also, as Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law, including the symbolism of the Passover (Matthew 5:17). Jesus is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:12). He was killed at Passover time, and the Last Supper was a Passover meal (Luke 22:7–8). By (spiritually) applying His blood to our lives by faith, we trust Christ to save us from death. The Israelites who, in faith, applied the blood of the Paschal lamb to their homes become a model for us. It was not the Israelites’ ancestry or good standing or amiable nature that saved them; it was only the blood of the lamb that made them exempt from death (see John 1:29 and Revelation 5:9–10). (Quote source here.)
GotQuestions.org continues with the following:
The New Testament establishes a relationship between this prototypical Passover lamb and the consummate Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7). The prophet John the Baptist recognized Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29), and the apostle Peter links the lamb without defect (Exodus 12:5) with Christ, whom he calls a “lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). Jesus is qualified to be called One “without blemish” because His life was completely free from sin (Hebrews 4:15). In Revelation, John the apostle sees Jesus as “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). Jesus was crucified during the time that the Passover was observed (Mark 14:12).
The Bible says believers have symbolically applied the sacrificial blood of Christ to their hearts and thus have escaped eternal death (Hebrews 9:12, 14). Just as the Passover lamb’s applied blood caused the “destroyer” to pass over each household, Christ’s applied blood causes God’s judgment to pass over sinners and gives life to believers (Romans 6:23).
As the first Passover marked the Hebrews’ release from Egyptian slavery, so the death of Christ marks our release from the slavery of sin (Romans 8:2). As the first Passover was to be held in remembrance as an annual feast, so Christians are to memorialize the Lord’s death in communion until He returns (1 Corinthians 11:26).
The Old Testament Passover lamb, although a reality in that time, was a mere foreshadowing of the better and final Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ. Through His sinless life and sacrificial death, Jesus became the only One capable of giving people a way to escape death and a sure hope of eternal life (1 Peter 1:20-21). (Quote source here).
Passion Week (also known as Holy Week) is the time from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday). Also included within Passion Week are Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Passion Week is so named because of the passion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross in order to pay for the sins of His people. Passion Week is described in Matthew chapters 21-27; Mark chapters 11-15; Luke chapters 19-23; and John chapters 12-19. Passion Week begins with the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday on the back of a colt as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9.
Passion Week contained several memorable events. Jesus cleansed the Temple for the second time (Luke 19:45-46), then disputed with the Pharisees regarding His authority. Then He gave His Olivet Discourse on the end times and taught many things, including the signs of His second coming. Jesus ate His Last Supper with His disciples in the upper room (Luke 22:7-38), then went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray as He waited for His hour to come. It was here that Jesus, having been betrayed by Judas, was arrested and taken to several sham trials before the chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and Herod (Luke 22:54-23:25).
Following the trials, Jesus was scourged at the hands of the Roman soldiers, then was forced to carry His own instrument of execution (the Cross) through the streets of Jerusalem along what is known as the Via Dolorosa (way of sorrows). Jesus was then crucified at Golgotha on the day before the Sabbath, was buried and remained in the tomb until Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, and then gloriously resurrected.
It is referred to as Passion Week because in that time, Jesus Christ truly revealed His passion for us in the suffering He willingly went through on our behalf. What should our attitude be during Passion Week? We should be passionate in our worship of Jesus and in our proclamation of His Gospel! As He suffered for us, so should we be willing to suffer for the cause of following Him and proclaiming the message of His death and resurrection. (Quote source here.)
The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons. First, the resurrection witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, then He has power to raise the dead. If He does not have such power, He is not worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting and gain the victory over the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54–55). In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also important because it validates who Jesus claimed to be, namely, the Son of God and Messiah. According to Jesus, His resurrection was the “sign from heaven” that authenticated His ministry (Matthew 16:1–4) and the proof that He had authority over even the temple in Jerusalem (John 2:18–22). The resurrection of Jesus Christ, attested to by hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3–8), provides irrefutable proof that He is the Savior of the world.
Another reason the resurrection of Jesus Christ is important is that it proves His sinless character and divine nature. The Scriptures said God’s “Holy One” would never see corruption (Psalm 16:10), and Jesus never saw corruption, even after He died (see Acts 13:32–37). It was on the basis of the resurrection of Christ that Paul preached, “Through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin” (Acts 13:38–39).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only the supreme validation of His deity; it also validates the Old Testament prophecies that foretold of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection (see Acts 17:2–3). Christ’s resurrection also authenticated His own claims that He would be raised on the third day (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). If Jesus Christ is not resurrected, then we have no hope that we will be, either. In fact, apart from Christ’s resurrection, we have no Savior, no salvation, and no hope of eternal life. As Paul said, our faith would be “useless,” the gospel would be altogether powerless, and our sins would remain unforgiven (1 Corinthians 15:14–19).
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), and in that statement claimed to be the source of both. There is no resurrection apart from Christ, no eternal life. Jesus does more than give life; He is life, and that’s why death has no power over Him. Jesus confers His life on those who trust in Him, so that we can share His triumph over death (1 John 5:11–12). We who believe in Jesus Christ will personally experience resurrection because, having the life Jesus gives, we have overcome death. It is impossible for death to win (1 Corinthians 15:53–57).
Jesus is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). In other words, Jesus led the way in life after death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is important as a testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Unlike other religions, Christianity possesses a Founder who transcends death and promises that His followers will do the same. Every other religion was founded by men or prophets whose end was the grave. As Christians, we know that God became man, died for our sins, and was resurrected the third day. The grave could not hold Him. He lives, and He sits today at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Hebrews 10:12). . . .
The importance of the resurrection of Christ has an impact on our service to the Lord now. Paul ends his discourse on resurrection with these words: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Because we know we will be resurrected to new life, we can endure persecution and danger for Christ’s sake (verses 30–32), just as our Lord did. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, thousands of Christian martyrs throughout history have willingly traded their earthly lives for everlasting life and the promise of resurrection.
The resurrection is the triumphant and glorious victory for every believer. Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). And He is coming again! The dead in Christ will be raised up, and those who are alive at His coming will be changed and receive new, glorified bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important? It proves who Jesus is. It demonstrates that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. It shows that God has the power to raise us from the dead. It guarantees that the bodies of those who believe in Christ will not remain dead but will be resurrected unto eternal life. (Quote source here.)
Bickel and Jantz state the following in the last chapter of their book, “God is Amazing” (pp. 218-219):
In the ultimate act of love, God allowed His perfect Son to be crucified for our transgressions. Being sinless Himself, His death was a qualifying sacrifice sufficient to pay the penalty for our transgressions. Christ’s death proved His love for us; His resurrection proved that He was God.
God extends His offer of salvation to all people. It is based completely on the sacrifice of Christ. There is no “performance” required on our part. It is just as amazing as it sounds: those who put their faith and trust in Christ are immediately restored to intimacy with the almighty God of the universe.
Like our salvation, our continuing relationship with Christ is not performance-based. Followers of Christ are not in jeopardy of being kicked out of God’s family when they mess up. Of course, true Christ-followers desire to live according to God’s principles, but this is a matter of voluntary submission and commitment motivated by responsive gratitude. Perfection is not required. it is not even expected. God’s love, grace, and forgiveness extend to His followers with His foreknowledge that we will screw up along the way.
At some time in the future, God will restore order at the completion of His plan. Evil will be conquered permanently, and Christ-followers–from the past and present–will reign with Him for eternity in a perfect creation.
It is an amazing scenario . . . . (Quote source, “God is Amazing,” pp. 218-219).
Whoever believes in Him . . .
Should not perish . . .
But have everlasting life . . . .
YouTube Video: “Because He Live (Amen)” by Matt Maher:
During the next several days ending on Sunday, March 27, 2016, we will be celebrating several events here in America that encompass one of the greatest themes known to humankind–deliverance. Also known as “Passion Week” (the last week in the life of Jesus Christ), it starts this Sunday, March 20, 2016, which is Palm Sunday, and is followed by Good Friday on March 25th, and Easter on Sunday, March 27th. Thrown into the middle of this week is the Jewish holiday of Purim (based on the Old Testament book of Esther), which starts at sundown on Wednesday, March 23rd, and ends at sundown on Thursday, March 24th.
For the past couple of years I have reposted a blog post I first wrote at Easter 2013. That post is titled, “On the Road to Emmaus” (click here for link to last year’s reblogged post). I’ve also posted two other blog posts on Easter titled, “He Is Risen” (click here), and “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” (click here). Also, I have posted a blog post originally written on Purim 2014 with the latest version, “Celebrate Purim 5775 (2015),” published last year (click here for post).
The holidays of Purim and Easter are two holidays celebrating this theme of deliverance. Back in 2005 when Purim and Easter fell on the same day, Day of Discovery published a video titled, “Two Holidays of Deliverance: Purim and Easter” (click here to watch the video). Here is a brief description of Purim from Wikipedia.com:
Purim (Hebrew: פּוּרִים) is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot had been formed to destroy them. The story is recorded in the Book of Esther (Megillat Ester מגילת אסתר in Hebrew).
According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus (presumed to be Xerxes I of Persia) planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his adopted daughter Esther who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing (quote source here). [The entire story can be read in the Old Testament book of Esther].
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. ~John 3:16-18
While I was tempted to repost my previously written blog posts on Purim and Easter from past years again for this year, the subject of deliverance is one that is too important to overlook. So let’s start by finding out what the Bible says on the subject of deliverance. GotQuestions.org states:
Deliverance is defined as “a rescue from bondage or danger.” Deliverance in the Bible is the acts of God whereby He rescues His people from peril. In the Old Testament, deliverance is focused primarily on God’s removal of those who are in the midst of trouble or danger. He rescues His people from their enemies (1 Samuel 17:37; 2 Kings 20:6), and from the hand of the wicked (Psalm 7:2; 17:13; 18:16-19; 59:2). He preserves them from famine (Psalm 33:19), death (Psalm 22:19-21), and the grave (Psalm 56:13; 86:13; Hosea 13:14). The most striking example of deliverance is the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 3:8; 6:6; 8:10). Here is God defined as the Deliverer of Israel who rescues His people, not because they deserve to be rescued, but as an expression of His mercy and love (Psalm 51:1; 71:2; 86:13).
In the New Testament, God is always the subject—and His people are always the object—of deliverance. The descriptions of temporal deliverance in the Old Testament serve as symbolic representations of the spiritual deliverance from sin which is available only through Christ. He offers deliverance from mankind’s greatest peril—sin, evil, death and judgment. By God’s power, believers are delivered from this present evil age (Galatians 1:4) and from the power of Satan’s reign (Colossians 1:13). All aspects of deliverance are available only through the person and work of Jesus Christ, who was Himself delivered up for us (Romans 4:25) so that we would be delivered from eternal punishment for sin. Only Jesus rescues us from the “wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
Another aspect of deliverance concerns the temporal. While believers are delivered once for all time from eternal punishment, we are also delivered from the trials of this life (2 Peter 2:9). Sometimes that deliverance is God simply walking through the trials by our side, comforting and encouraging us through them as He uses them to mature us in the faith. Paul assured the Corinthian believers that “no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). In these cases, rescue is not immediate, but in due time, after patience has had its perfect work (James 1:2-4, 12). God makes the way of escape simultaneously with the temptation which, in His perfect will and timing, He permissively arranges or allows for His people.
Deliverance is often sought from evil spirits or the spirit of lust, jealousy, etc. It’s important to understand that, as believers, we already have eternal victory over Satan and demons. But we can be delivered from their influence in our lives by using two weapons God has given us as part of our spiritual armor with which we battle “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12-17). The believer defends himself with the shield of faith and uses the offensive weapon of the Word of God. Against these two, no spirit can prevail. By holding up the shield of faith, we extinguish the flaming spiritual arrows they send against us, arrows of lust, doubt, guilt, jealousy, evil speech, and all manner of temptations. With the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, we overcome the evil one by proving his temptations to be lies because he is the father of lies (John 8:44). John’s second letter commends the young Christians whose spiritual strength came from the Word of God living in them. By the offensive weapon of the Truth, we overcome the evil one (1 John 2:14).
Deliverance from sin, rescue from trials, and escape from the influence of a world in the control of the evil one come only through Christ, the Son of God who has come and “has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:19-20). (Quote source here.)
It is God who delivers. When we find ourselves going through very trying times that never seem to end, no matter how hard we may try to coerce or plead with God, or try to work it out on our own or manipulate our circumstances, it is only God who delivers in His way and in His timing. He sees the whole picture, and it’s always much broader then we can possibly know, conceive, understand, or imagine it to be. And it is always far greater and wider reaching than what we as individuals are personally going through at any point in time, although what we are personally going through is also of great importance to Him, too. Everything in this life is connected in one way or another, and in ways we cannot possibly understand. God didn’t create this world and then decide to leave it up to us to run. After all, we know what happened in the Garden of Eden when left on our own, and we haven’t done much better on our own down through the ages to today.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church during the reign of Adolf Hitler in Germany (1933-1945), wrote a statement in his diary in 1939 at a time when he was contemplating returning to Germany after spending only 26 days in New York City. While he was “safe” in New York City from the reach of Hitler, he was compelled to return to Germany in spite of Hitler’s growing reign of terror. While making the decision to return to Berlin, Bonhoeffer wrote the following in his diary:
It is remarkable how I am never quite clear about the motives for any of my decisions. Is that a sign of confusion, of inner dishonesty, or is it a sign that we are guided without our knowing, or is it both? . . . Today the reading [a passage of Scripture not noted in this diary entry] speaks dreadfully harshly of God’s incorruptible judgement. He certainly sees how much personal feeling, how much anxiety there is in today’s decision, however brave it may seem. The reasons one gives for an action to others and to one’s self are certainly inadequate. One can give a reason for everything. In the last resort one acts from a level which remains hidden from us. So one can only ask God to judge us and to forgive us. . . . At the end of the day I can only ask God to give a merciful judgement on today and all it’s decisions. It is now in his hand. (Quote source: “Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” (2014), by Eric Metaxas, p. 130).
Now I assume some people reading this blog post may not believe in God or at least think it is crazy that a God “out there somewhere” (if he even exists) would care about the decisions we make, or even on some level unknown to us, that this God could be directing our steps. However, God is not surprised by any of our actions whether good or evil, but only God can use everything to fulfill His purposes in this world which really does belong to Him. That is not to say we are robots as we certainly do make our own choices, even those choices that turn out to be extremely detrimental to us. When sin showed up in the Garden of Eden, it was passed down to all of us, and we all succumb to it on a very regular basis. The Bible is filled with the history of people who accomplished His will unknown to them on a personal level (even people who never claimed to believe in Him). However, it is also filled with many stories of people who loved God and sought His will on a regular basis.
Here are a couple of verses to get us thinking in this direction:
“The Lord works out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster.” ~Proverbs 16:4
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” ~Philippians 2:13
While scoffers are everywhere, for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ, we know that Romans 8:28-30 are key in understanding the very thing Bonhoeffer wrote in his diary on that day he made his decision to return to Germany:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. ~Romans 8:28-30
For the Christian, the more we love and follow after Jesus Christ (and I’m not talking about putting on a religious show), the more He shapes us into what he wants us to be and do in this life. Psalms 37:3-4 states the following:
Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
“Safe pasture” isn’t always what we think it might be, but if we trust in the Lord with all of our heart (see Proverbs 3:5-6), the safe pasture can be found even in a hotel room. It is not in the externals of life (e.g., a hotel room) where we find safe pasture, but in Who we trust to take care of us during this journey through life. And, in looking at the second verse, as we learn to delight in the Lord even when fear is stalking our paths, we find that the desires of our heart change to His desires for us, and our faith and trust in Him grows exponentially.
Let’s look at the two verses in Proverbs I mentioned above–Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Being human, our tendency to lean on our own understanding is as automatic as breathing air. I can’t tell you how many times over these past almost seven years now since I lost that job in Houston that I have thought something would work out one way and what actually happened could not have been further from what I thought would happen. It is so hard to “let go” of our own understanding when our world gets pulled out from under our feet. It requires total trust in God that the inner compass he provides will lead us on even when we don’t understand, just as Bonhoeffer stated in his diary entry on that very important decision-making day in his life. And, as we learn to trust that inner compass and submit ourselves totally to God on a daily basis, He makes our path straight, even if that path includes living in hotel rooms temporarily in two different cities as has been my circumstances for the past 17 plus months. And there have been times when I have experienced exactly what Bonhoeffer wrote about when he was making his decision to return to Germany. As we experience God bringing us through each day according to His will and not our own, the world around us opens up in amazing ways we would never have seen and experienced in any other way. And all of the people mentioned in Hebrews 11 (the “Hall of Faith” chapter in the Bible) knew the power of following God without knowing where it was leading in this life, but with an eternal perspective in mind.
Returning to the Easter story, Jesus Christ was both fully human and fully God (see John 1:1-18). Imagine being in his shoes from a human perspective during that last week of his life (click here for the chronology of the last week). Imagine what he must have been going through during the last 24 hours before he was crucified. Imagine what he must have been praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. We know part of what he said as it is recorded in Matthew 26:39 when he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Yet he knew the balance of the whole human race was about to change forever through his death by crucifixion, his burial, and his resurrection again on the third day. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). And for the past two millennium people from all the nations around the world have been coming to him and trusting in him as Savior and Lord.
As Hebrews 12:1-2 states:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [the people mentioned in Hebrews 11], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
As we start into the Passion Week, the last week of Jesus’ life before his resurrection on Easter Sunday, may we commit to . . .
Running with perseverance . . .
The race marked out for us . . .
Fixing our eyes on Jesus . . . .
YouTube Video: “Ready” by Third Day: