Does Your Gospel Sound Like This?

Luke 24:45-47 – 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

What is the gospel? How do we proclaim it? What is the Great Commission? How do we obey it?

Here at the end of Luke’s telling of the gospel, we see Jesus present the Lukan version of the Great Commission. It does not contain everything that we see in Matthew, but it still shows us something important.

Boiling this passage down, Jesus, in commissioning his disciples, tells them that they should understand his death and resurrection and they should proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins. That is all Luke was led by the Spirit of God to include in his expression of the Great Commission. And I think we should learn from it.

The first part is easy. We know that anybody who gets the gospel must grasp the death and resurrection of Jesus. After all, there is no gospel without the Son of God dying to pay the price for the sins of others. There is no gospel if Jesus stays in his grave. We must see that the price was fully paid and that all who are saved by Jesus will live with him eternally just as he lives after death in a glorious, resurrection body.

But how about that other part? When you think about the gospel, when you share it, would you describe your gospel presentation as the proclamation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins? Is that the message of your church? Or have other things snuck in there?

What is present in this gospel? Those who repent are saved. What is repentance? To repent is to change how you think, how you feel, and what you do. To repent in a gospel context is to stop thinking you are OK on your own. It is to stop trusting in yourself and your own goodness. It is to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and your only hope of salvation through is life, death, and resurrection. It is to genuinely sorrow over your sin and to understand that you have earned the judgment of God. It is to throw yourself on the mercy of Jesus, asking for salvation based solely on Jesus and his finished work. And it is a salvation that, once you receive it, leads to a new life of repentance where you continue to turn from sin and continue to trust in and obey the Lord.

What is not in this message? Look at the text. It’s not anything gimmicky. It’s not a sappy, emotion-only appeal. There is nothing here that should lead a church to try to bribe someone into the gospel with giveaways, false promises of prosperity, or capitulation to modern political whims. There is no message that says that you can have salvation while continuing to be and believe all that you were and thought before salvation. There is a demand for faith that will change your very life even as that demand tells you that you are saved by Jesus and not by your change.

I would never want us to proclaim a loveless message of a harsh Jesus. Nor would I suggest that there is not beauty in the promise of grace. But I do believe that many a church has mistaken the call to make disciples for a call to make converts by any means necessary. I believe that many seek to draw people to pray a prayer without actually calling them to repentance. I believe that many people are fooled into thinking they have checked the box to gain a free pass to heaven without ever being called to change a single thing about who they are. And that kind of presentation is not a call to repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Is the message about God’s love? O yes! God is wonderfully, gloriously loving toward his people. All of us have sinned. All of us deserve judgment. God has provided one and only one way of salvation. None of us can work to earn it. The way of salvation is Jesus, his perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection. The way of salvation is by God’s grace through faith alone, trusting Jesus alone. And God’s way of salvation can be summarized by this call, “Repent!” All who wish to be saved let go of everything to take hold of Jesus. All who wish to be saved stop thinking they can define morality in their own way, and they surrender to the lordship of Jesus. All who wish to be saved turn from sin to follow Jesus. All who wish to be saved trust only in Jesus. And when they are saved, all who are saved are saved, not by their actions, but by the person and the finished work of Jesus.

A gloriously God-Focused Testimony

Galatians 1:15-17 – 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

How do you speak of your salvation? What words do you use? When you speak of being saved, are you the prime mover? Does your doctrine of salvation focus more attention on yourself or on the Lord?

Just recently, we had a new members class at our church. Eight folks sat with me through an afternoon of looking at our church’s beliefs, structures, values, strategies, and all the rest. In the beginning of that class, we took time simply to get to know one another. The stories of how couples met, how people found their way to Vegas, and past church experiences were fascinating.

Of course, in our discussion, we talked with each other about how each person came to faith. Some had particular moments they could point to. Some had only a season of life that blossomed over time into true trust in Christ. And many in the group included in their story a time when they grew in greater understanding of the gospel they had already received. For many, as they grew, a greater grasp of the powerful working of God that drew them to salvation gave them great hope, peace, and joy.

So, this morning as I was reading Galatians, I found myself drawn to Paul’s words of personal testimony beginning in verse 15 of chapter 1 and the four parts of that testimony that give all the glory to the Lord. Paul, speaking of his salvation and his later calling to ministry, says that God had set him apart before he was born. Like Jeremiah, Paul is clear that God knew him before he was formed in the womb. God not only was aware of Paul’s person, but God chose a path and purpose for Paul before Paul was conceived and before Paul had ever chosen to do anything either good or bad. God predestined Paul.

Next, in his testimony, Paul declares that god called him by his grace. Think here of what you do and do not hear in that. Paul does not give you a big list of the ways in which he investigated the faith before coming to a conclusion. Nor does Paul talk about his willingness to give God a try in order to fix his struggling marriage or to give his waning career a boost. Paul simply says that, by his grace, God called Paul. The picture is not one of Paul set on neutral ground, given two options, and picking the one he liked better. The picture is of a firm, authoritative, commanding, calling voice of God moving Paul from death to life, from lostness into salvation.

Then Paul points out that God revealed his Son. Paul did not know Jesus. If you know Paul’s story, you know that Paul had many of the facts about Jesus. Paul just hated Jesus and the church that followed Jesus. But one day, one single moment, took place that changed Paul forever. Jesus came to Paul. Jesus powerfully took Paul by the soul and changed him. Jesus changed Paul, by grace, out of love, for God’s glory.

Then, Paul says that this also included his life-change and mission. God had set Paul apart, called him, and revealed Christ to him. Once Paul was drawn to Christ, Paul had a new life mission, to preach Christ. Paul was no longer to be a man living for advancement in the Jewish religious ranks. Paul was to suffer for the sake of the gospel that saves souls and truly honors the Lord. Paul was to take the message of Jesus to Jew and gentile alike. Paul was to proclaim that salvation is not to be found in obedience to Jewish laws or participation in ceremonies but only in repentant faith in Christ. And Paul would find joy and eternal reward in doing what God had planned for him since before he was born.

When Paul told his story, he was clear that all glory for his salvation belongs to the Lord. God set Paul apart before birth. Paul can take no credit for that. God called Paul to himself. Again, Paul cannot claim that he did something to make that happen. God revealed Jesus to Paul. That was not the future apostle’s doing. And God changed the newly believing Paul into a powerful preacher, missionary, and author of Scripture. No way would Paul say that he had earned that job.

What about you? Are you saved? How do you speak of your salvation? Does your testimony as you present it include God’s plan for you from before the dawn of time? Do you tell of God grabbing you and drawing you, calling you, supernaturally changing you and pulling you to himself? Do you tell of God showing you the truth of Christ by God’s revelatory power and not by your intellectual wranglings? Do you tell of how God changed you and set you on mission for Christ?

The interesting thing is you do not have to have a dramatic testimony like that of Paul to have this story. Even if you were converted as a young child, this story is still yours. God predestined you to salvation. God called you to want him, moving you by his power. God revealed to you your need for Jesus. And God gave you a mission, to live for him and his glory for the rest of your life.

Think about your testimony. Think about your doctrine of salvation. Be sure that as you tell your story, you know that it is far more about the God who saved you than the you he saved. Give God the glory he so richly deserves. And continue to yield yourself to the mission that God saved you and gave you to accomplish.

Pentecost and the Anti-Babel

Acts 2:5-6 – 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.

Genesis 11:7-9 – 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

The scene on the Day of Pentecost when the disciples spoke in many languages is one of those well-known passages of Scripture. Many a strange doctrine has been built from it. Many a fascinated Christian has wondered what that day must have looked and felt like.

What grabs my attention as I read Acts 2 in my daily reading plan is the reversal taking place here. This is sort of the anti-Babel. In Genesis 11, God confused human speech. In Acts 2, God grants unity in speech now that Christ has come.

Think of the Genesis context. In Genesis, God promised one to come who would rescue his people. But humanity became so rebellious that God destroyed the world with the flood. In Genesis 9, God promised he would preserve the world, never flooding it again because of human sin. But, by chapter 11, humanity is sinning to such a degree that we once again deserve destruction.

God, instead of destroying the world, in keeping with his covenant, chose to scatter the people at Babel. God confused the language of the people so that there would not be a unified rebellion against him as at the tower. God mercifully made it so that one evil idea would not so easily spread through all people that something like the flood would be the only possible ending.

All through the rest of the Old Testament, God continues to promise the coming one who will rescue. Many nations, people groups, are formed and separated at Babel, and God selects one man, Abram, to be the father of one nation, Israel. And God says that the Rescuer will come through that singular nation. And all the Old Testament keeps making that promise and shows God keeping that promise.

Then, once Jesus comes, God’s promise is fulfilled. Once Jesus died, rose, and ascended, connecting to God no longer has anything to do with any particular nation. Now the good news of Jesus needs to go to all nations. And here, at the moment of the arrival of the indwelling Holy Spirit, God gifts the apostles with a sign of his fulfilled promise. God gives the disciples a gift of being able to speak the message of Jesus in languages they did not previously know. Where God jumbled and confused the languages at Babel, at Pentecost, God united languages so that we might see that people from any nation can be saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus.

Pointing to Jesus in Judah

In the latter chapters of Genesis, we watch the unfolding tale of Joseph in Egypt, the famine, and the move of the people of Israel into that foreign land. While Joseph is the man used of God to prepare the way for the family’s move, Judah begins to emerge as the leader among the brothers. Though he is the fourth-born, Judah will be the son of Jacob who will carry forward the promise of God’s blessing.

Interestingly, Judah is not at all a good man as the story opens. In chapter 37, Judah is the one who suggested selling Joseph to slavers (Gen. 37: 26-27). In chapter 38, Judah is a scoundrel from the beginning. In that scene, Judah moves among the Canaanites, is dishonest with his daughter-in-law, and even unknowingly commits sexual immorality with her. Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute hoping to get pregnant by Judah, and her scheme works.

At his lowest point, Judah attempts to have Tamar condemned to death for her sexual sin (Gen. 38:24). But then Tamar makes Judah aware that he is the father of the children she is carrying. Tamar brings forth some personal items of Judah’s that he had given to the woman he believed was a prostitute. When he sees them, he is changed.

Genesis 38:26 – Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.

Judah confesses. He knows that, though Tamar behaved badly, she was still more righteous than him. From that point forward, Judah would not misuse Tamar. And, from that point forward, when we follow the story of the brothers, Judah begins to play a prominent role. His changed life makes a difference.

During the years of famine, Jacob sends his older sons to Egypt to buy grain, Joseph, recognizing his brothers and testing them to see if they have changed, sends them all home, but keeps Simeon as a prisoner. Joseph’s demand was that they must return to Egypt with all the brothers including the youngest, Benjamin, Joseph’s only full brother.

Jacob is hesitant to send the men down to Egypt. He believes that joseph is dead. He fears losing Benjamin as well. And it is Judah who steps in.

Here is where I found myself contemplating a pointer to Christ in Judah. Obviously, Judah is not perfect like Jesus. In Judah’s story, we see what looks like a conversion. And once God has changed Judah, the Lord will use Judah. In that changed man, God shows us a hint of the self-sacrificial love of Jesus.

Genesis 43:9 – I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.

Before, Judah had been the one to sell Joseph for profit to slavers. Now, Judah is the one who says that he will offer himself as a payment. If the young men cannot return with Benjamin to their father, Judah says that he will personally bear the blame.

Then, when the encounter happens with Joseph just before Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, we see a hint of what Jesus, the Messiah descended from Judah’s line, would do. Joseph threatened to force Benjamin to remain in Egypt. Judah stepped in.

Genesis 44:32-34 – 32 For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ 33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”

Judah stands before Joseph, the second most powerful man in Egypt, and pleads for Benjamin’s life. Judah asks that Joseph punish him in Benjamin’s stead. Judah does not ask that Joseph’s justice not be served. Instead, Judah asks that he take that penalty so that Benjamin might be free.

Was Judah a good man? Again, from the beginning, we know that he was not. But the Lord changed him. More importantly, the Lord used him to point to exactly what Jesus would do. We have sinned before God. We deserve God’s wrath. Unlike Benjamin’s story, there is no set up here. We are truly guilty. And our sin would earn us hell.

What did Jesus do? Jesus carried out God’s design. God the Father sent God the Son to accomplish redemption. Jesus stood in the stead of all those God will forgive. Jesus took upon himself the full punishment of God for the guilt that God would forgive. Jesus sacrificed his life, suffering the equivalent punishment to our forever in hell, in order to prevent us from facing that judgment. Jesus then rose from the grave, proving the judgment fulfilled and offering life to all who will come to him in faith and repentance.

It is beautiful to see hints of the gospel scattered all throughout the Old Testament. Judah is changed, and it reminds us of our conversion. Judah stands up and offers himself as a substitute for Benjamin, and it reminds us of Jesus.

A Fact Upon Which the Faith Rises or Falls

With Resurrection Sunday on the horizon, many Christians are thinking about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We are moved by the scenes of the love of Christ laying down his life to save us from our sins. We grieve with the disciples as we think of their loss at the sight of the sealed tomb. And we rejoice in wonder as we think of our mighty Savior walking out of the grave to physically live eternally.

As we think about these glorious truths, may we also remember that God, in his holy word, tells us that this truth, the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, is a truth upon which our faith either stands or falls. If Jesus is alive, Christianity is true. If Jesus is not physically alive right now, our faith is empty and meaningless.

1 Corinthians 15:17-19 – 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

In this chapter, Paul is clearly responding against some in Corinth who are denying the physical resurrection of the dead. Part of Paul’s logic here is that, if indeed the dead are never raised, then Jesus was not raised. If Jesus is not raised, then we have lied about God and we have no eternal hope. If Jesus is not raised, Christianity is a farce.

Again, see the power of that language. If Jesus is dead, there is not a shred of hope. If, as some would claim, the resurrection of Jesus must be a figurative truth, a metaphorical truth, an in-your-heart truth, then there is no truth in the faith. If the body of Jesus lies in a grave, then claims of life in Christ are lies.

Christians, our faith stands or falls on the objective reality of the resurrection of Jesus. This is not an opinion question. This is not a morality question. This question is a factual and historical question of eternal significance.

So, let me proclaim truth to you today: Jesus is alive! He is not in the grave. His resurrection is not an imaginary wish or a figurative claim. The Son of God stood up, walked out of the tomb, and lives right now. Were Jesus still dead, a body would have been produced in the first century when claims of the resurrection began to spread. Were Jesus dead, his disciples would not have willingly gone to their own martyrdom to continue to proclaim Christ. The claim of resurrection would have fallen away nearly two millennia ago but for one thing: it is true.

What one believes about the resurrection of Jesus is a thing that impacts one’s eternity. If you believe in the resurrection of Jesus so as to run to him for grace, you have eternal life. If you reject the resurrection of Jesus or turn your back on the resurrected Jesus, you have no hope before God. Look at how Paul closes his letter to the Corinthians in the next chapter.

1 Corinthians 16:21–24 – 21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Love Jesus, and you have life. Do not love Jesus, and you are accursed by God. All this begins with a genuine belief in the fact that Jesus walked out of the tomb. Without a living Jesus, our faith is worthless. With a living Jesus, with love of the living Jesus, with grace from the living Jesus, we have eternal hope and eternal life.

No Other Way

Have you ever stopped to think about the difficulty of our forgiveness? God is holy. God is good. God is just. God is merciful. God agreed within the trinity to save a people for himself before time began. What are his options when dealing with our sin?

Understand, by the way, that when I speak of God’s “options” for dealing with our sin that I am not at all suggesting that any external force or morality imposes upon God restrictions. I am simply suggesting that God, because of exactly who he is, will only do that which is perfectly in keeping with his holy nature. God is not forced to be just by some external principle of justice that restricts him. Rather, God does justice because God is just. Justice is just because of the nature of God who is perfect justice. Understand the same thing if you apply love, goodness, mercy, kindness, or even wrathfulness to the character of God. These things are true of God because they are who God is, not because they impose themselves upon him or measure him from outside of himself.

Keep some other thoughts in mind. It is good and right for God to have wrath for sin. We all know that good people are rightly angry when evil is perpetrated. You have certainly watched the news, perceived a wrong, and been angry. And you have likely known a person who has been hurt by another person and felt genuinely and rightly furious. But even the best of people is sinful; our anger tainted. We have no idea of the intensity of the white-hot burning fury of totally righteous anger.

It is also good and right for God to have a heart of compassion. God loves to show mercy. God is kind and gracious. We know a little of what that feels like. WE know what it is like to have compassion on the ones we love. But our compassion is tainted by our sin too. We only have a tiny glimpse of the depths of the love and compassion of the Lord for us.

These issues come together in the glorious plan of the Lord. God chose to save a people for himself. At the same time, God would appropriately punish with infinite fury every sin that has ever been committed. For those who persist in hating and rejecting God, the wrath of God in hell will be just and perfect.

But what about the forgiven? We deserve infinite wrath too. How can God forgive us and still be just? He cannot simply overlook our sin and still be a God perfect in justice. If he fails to punish our sin, something is wrong in his love. Something is wrong in his treasuring of all that is good if the wrong against the good can simply be ignored.

Hence the perfect and eternal plan of God. God would take upon himself the just penalty for our sin so that it is properly punished while he simultaneously grants us mercy. Jesus would die in our place, a sacrificial lamb, to carry out the justice of God. Jesus would take to himself the infinite fury of God for the sins of the forgiven even as he, in his infinite worth, covers our sin and satisfies the anger of God for the evil we have done. This is precisely what Paul was pointing us to in Romans 3 when he spoke of the death of Jesus as something done so that God could be just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Christ (Romans 3:25-26).

Now, here is the question that got my attention to cause me to write this down: Was there any other way? Could God have chosen some other plan? Could God have forgiven us in any way that would not require the death of his Son and the outpouring of wrath on Jesus to perfectly do justice for our sin?

The answer to the question is unequivocally no. God could not have saved our souls in any other way.

How do I know? Consider Jesus in the garden the night of his arrest. Jesus prayed to his Father with a very simple request.

Matthew 26:42 – Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

Jesus asked his Father to remove the cup of wrath from him if there was any other way (c.f. Matthew 26:39). Jesus asked if there might be any other way for the cup of wrath to be properly handled without him drinking it. Could God still rescue the chosen without Jesus having to take their sins upon himself and suffer in their place? And the rest of the book shows us that the answer from the Father is that this in fact cannot be done. The only way that our souls can be saved is if Jesus is directly punished by the Father for every last one of our sins.

Analytically this is not super difficult to understand. God, in his perfection, will properly punish every sin. If he does not do so, his love and his perfection and his justice and his holiness are all called into question. God lays upon Jesus the proper punishment for every person he will forgive, and Jesus bears their sins in his body on the cross. For those who will not be forgiven, their sins are properly punished as they spend eternity in hell under the wrath of the Almighty.

Stepping back from the analytical, this is emotionally stunning. God wants to save a people for himself. God rejoices in showing mercy. God rejoices in, as the holy trinity, gifting a people from the Father to the Son. We receive the infinite mercy of God because that fits perfectly who God is. And there was no other way for this plan to be accomplished than through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Friends, the gospel is glorious. Never lose that wonder. God is just. God is merciful. Jesus proves both. And we who know him receive that glorious benefit. Praise be to our Lord!

Our Hope: Resurrection

The world we live in is maddening. Christians have conflict with each other over politics, policies, masks, social media posts, ministry strategies, and so much more. The cancel culture makes our society look like a bad joke made in a poorly written dystopian teen novel. Society embraces evil. Some believers are misled with bad doctrine or no doctrine at all. And our own personal sinfulness is clear.

Where do we find hope? In a recent reading, I was reminded of hope in something that should never be outside of my field of vision. Sadly, sometimes it takes a reminder to put my mind back where it belongs.

Think with me to the upper room discourse. Jesus has just had the last supper with his disciples, and he is teaching them to prepare them for his coming suffering. And, though the disciples are barely ready to receive it, Jesus points not only to his coming death but also to his resurrection.

John 14:18-19 – 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”

Jesus knows that his death on the cross will be a terrible discouragement for the disciples. They will feel that they have been orphaned. They will feel alone and afraid. They will feel like the years of ministry that they have done and the hope they put in Jesus has somehow all gone wrong.

In some ways, the disciples will feel like Christians today can be tempted to feel. When your body does not do what it is supposed to do, you feel alone. When your children remind you of your shortcomings as a parent, you feel alone. When you realize that you have never lived up to being the husband or wife you promised your spouse you would be, you feel alone. When you want a spouse or you want children and this seems like it is just not on the way, you feel discouraged. When you see the nation slide toward self-destruction, you feel overwhelmed. When you see Christians show little grace and much nastiness in how they write to and about one another in public, you feel like there is nothing you can do to fix things.

Hear both what Jesus says as well as the huge biblical marker that he gives you for hope. Our Savior says to you, “I will not leave you as orphans…Because I live, you also will live.” Jesus promises us not to leave us as orphans. He will not leave us alone. He will not leave us without him. He will not leave us to ourselves. He will not leave us to the hopelessness of this world.

Where then is our hope? Here is the familiar doctrine that comforts and motivates us if we will remember it. Because Jesus lives, all of those who have come to him for grace will live too. The resurrection is our hope. The life of the Savior after death is our hope. The Savior’s conquest of the grave is our hope.

Jesus died. Jesus died the worst death any person has ever faced. This is not because of the physical horrors of the cross, though those were great. No, Jesus’ death was horrible because as he faced it, he bore the wrath of Almighty God for every sin God will ever forgive. Jesus took upon himself a sentence worth several eternities in hell, one for every sinner he will save. And—get this; don’t miss it—Jesus rose from the grave. Jesus took the ugliest death in eternal history and walked out of the tomb on the third day. Jesus truly conquered death.

And Jesus, who conquered death, Jesus who broke the power of death, Jesus who proved God just and merciful, that same Jesus says to us that, because he lives, we too will live. His resurrection is our hope. Jesus defeated a darkness that none of us could ever imagine. None of us has ever seen or felt the type of death that Jesus died. And Jesus got up. And Jesus tells us that we will live with him.

I cannot over-sell this. Christians, your hope is in the resurrection of the Savior. Without the resurrection, the cross is hopeless and empty. With the resurrection, we know that Jesus has defeated death, perfectly paid the price for every sin he will forgive, and opened the way for all of us to live well beyond this broken life. Jesus reminds us that our hope is not in our government. Our hope is not in the masks we wear or the masks we hope not to wear. Our hope is not in the civility of Christians on-line. Our hope is not in our skill as parents, spouses, money-managers, or coworkers. Our hope is built on the perfect life, sacrificial death, and gloriously powerful resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christian, let yourself reflect on the hope you have in the resurrection of Jesus. Do not stop at the cross as if that is all there is to our faith. Oh, the cross work of Christ is glorious, do not get me wrong. But the cross only gives us life if the Savior walks out of the tomb victorious. And the Savior says to you, “Because I live, you also will live.”

And if for some crazy reason you are reading this and do not know Jesus, let me tell you that the resurrection of Jesus is your only hope too. If you want to live, you must find yourself in the grace of Jesus. Stop battling against God. Stop living for yourself alone. Stop thinking you are the boss of your life and the one who determines true and false, right and wrong. Surrender to Jesus. Ask him to pay for your sins with his death. Ask him to give you credit for his perfect life. Ask him to give you life in his resurrection. Believe and Jesus and ask him to be your Savior.

Why Be Thankful?

I’m glad today to live where I do and when I do. I’m grateful for all who have sacrificed and served to give me what I have. I am grateful for the opportunities and the freedoms that I experience. I’m grateful to have family, friends, and a church who love me. And these are not the primary reason I’m thankful today.

Why be thankful? I am created by the God who made the universe. He gave me value and a purpose. And I, like all of humanity, promptly refused to fulfill that purpose. I have failed to be perfect from conception forward. And the God who made me could very rightly have cast me into hell immediately.

I am grateful, however, because the God who made me, against whom I have rebelled, chose to rescue me. God the Father sent Jesus, God the Son, into the world as a man to accomplish some amazing things. Jesus lived a perfect human life—the life I should have lived but could not. Jesus died as a sacrifice on the cross—suffering the death I deserve to die. Jesus rose from the grave—a feat I could have never accomplished and which proves his success and his glorious identity. And Jesus brought me salvation.

God has said that all who will repent and believe, all who will genuinely come to Jesus and Jesus alone for salvation, will be saved. When God brought me to trust in Jesus, he gave me glorious gifts. God applied to my account the perfect life that Jesus lived. It is as if his perfect test score is written down on my score sheet. God also applied Jesus’ death to cover my sin—he died a death that would have cost me an eternity in hell. And God proclaims to me that Jesus’ resurrection is my own. Now, because of Jesus and Jesus alone, I know that eternity in joy with the Lord is my forever home.

Why am I grateful? It has nothing to do with politics, health, wealth, prosperity, family, food, music, or the rest. All good things are gifts that ultimately remind us of the good God who made us and who sent his Son to be our Savior. And I encourage you, be thankful like this. Be thankful for Jesus.

And if you do not have his salvation, come to Jesus for life. How? Believe that God made you. Believe that you have sinned in falling short of God’s perfection. Understand that you can do nothing on your own to bridge the gap between you and the Lord. Entrust your soul to Jesus, placing all your hope for all your eternity in Jesus and his finished work. Admit you are a sinner and ask Jesus to forgive you. Surrender your life to his lordship. By the grace of God, truly believe in Jesus, and you will be saved. And that salvation will change your life, reorient your priorities, and grant you the forgiveness and eternal hope that will give you true reasons for gratitude.

God Provides His Own Lamb

H – Highlight

Genesis 22:8 – Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together.

E – Explain

God tested Abraham with a command to sacrifice Isaac. Of course, Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s promise that Abraham himself would have a son with Sarah. And Isaac was to carry the promise of god.

When Isaac noticed that they had everything they needed to make an offering to God other than a lamb, he asked his dad. Abraham confidently tells Isaac that the Lord will provide his own lamb.

A – Apply

It is hard to say if Abraham knew how meaningful his words would be. We only understand it later. Abraham knew that God would solve the problem with Isaac. Abraham believed God, and his faith did not waiver here. But I wonder if Abraham knew that, in ultimate reality, God would provide his own Lamb, the Lamb of God, to pay for the sins of all he would save.

This text calls on me to understand that God provides what is necessary for my salvation. I could never have provided the needed Lamb for my sin. No animal could take my place and cover my sin. Only Jesus, the Son of God and the perfect Lamb of God, could do this.

R – Respond

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for providing for yourself the Lamb. I could never have covered my own sin. This should make me grateful and humble. Help me to remember Jesus and be wonderfully grateful that you chose to do the impossible to save my soul. Help me live to glorify you, as you did all the work to save my soul.

Faith Alone

H – Highlight

Genesis 15:6 – And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

E – Explain

Abram was uncertain as to how God would fulfill his promise to him early in chapter 15. God had said Abram would have a family that would grow into a nation, but Abram and his wife had no children. When Abram asked God how this would work, God told Abram again that he would have as many descendants as he can see stars in the sky.

Abram believed God. And when Abram believed God, the Lord credited Abram with righteousness. Instead of Abram living a righteous life, fully sinless and perfect, God took Abram’s faith and credited Abram with a record of righteousness.

A – Apply

This verse got my attention because it is one of the most significant verses in all of Scripture. It lays a foundation for us to see that we do not please God by being good. Instead, God sees our faith, a faith that is a gift from him (Eph. 2:8), and he grants to us a record of righteousness.

R – Respond

Prayer: Lord, I’m so grateful that salvation is by your grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. I’m grateful that you give us our faith as a gift. Thus, I see that my salvation is completely of your doing, by your grace, and for your glory. I praise you for this gift. I acknowledge here and now that I have never been good enough to earn anything but your judgment. I thank you for Jesus.