Ref: Acts 4:27-28.
The heart of the Bible is not an explanation of where evil came from, but a demonstration of how God enters into it and turns it for the very opposite—everlasting righteousness and joy. […]
[T]he most astonishing thing is that evil and suffering were Christ’s appointed way of victory over evil and suffering. Every act of treachery and brutality against Jesus was sinful and evil. But God was in it. The Bible says, “Jesus [was] delivered up [to death] according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). The lash on his back, the thorns on his head, the spit on his cheek, the bruises on his face, the nails in his hands, the spear in his side, the scorn of rulers, the betrayal of his friend, the desertion by his disciples—these were all the result of sin, and all designed by God to destroy the power of sin. […]
[God’s] aim, through evil and suffering, was to destroy evil and suffering. “With his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Is not then the passion of Jesus Christ meant by God to show the world that there is no sin and no evil too great that God, in Christ, cannot bring from it everlasting righteousness and joy? The very suffering that we caused became the hope of our salvation. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
—Pages 118, 119
Why does a good God allow evil and suffering? I don’t know. But I do know what the answer cannot be: it cannot be that He doesn’t care. Why? Because He stepped into human flesh and endured the same evil and suffering.
Ref: Hebrews 2:9; Philippians 2:7-9; Revelation 5:12.
The passion of Jesus Christ did not merely precede the crown; it was the price,and the crown was the prize. He died to have it.
Many people stumble at this point. They say, “How can this be loving? How can Jesus be motivated to give us joy if he is motivated to get his glory?” […]
But we know better. Even before we come to the Bible, we know this is not so. Our happiest moments have not been self-saturated moments, but self-forgetful moments. There have been times when we stood beside the Grand Canyon, or at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, or viewed a stunning sunset over the Sahara,and for a fleeting moment felt the joy of sheer wonder. This is what we were made for. Paradise will not be a hall of mirrors. It will be a display of majesty. And it won’t be ours.
[…] If we are to be as happy as we can be, we must see and savor the most glorious person of all, Jesus Christ himself. This means that to love us, Jesus must seek the fullness of his glory and offer it to us for our enjoyment.
—Pages 116, 117
I find this concept freeing. If it was all about my being made much of, there are days I would be less deserving than others. Knowing that it doesn’t depend on me frees me to make much of Christ, because He never changes. If you don’t understand what I’ve just said, don’t worry, I’m still trying to grasp it myself :)
Ref: Hebrews 12:2.
The joy set before [Jesus] had many levels. It was the joy of reunion with his Father: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). It was the joy of triumph over sin: “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). It was the joy of divine rights restored: “[He] is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). It was the joy of being surrounded with praise by all the people for whom he died: “There will be . . . joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”—not to mention millions (Luke 15:7).
In the same way that the hope of joy enabled Christ to endure the cross, our hope of joy empowers us to suffer with him. Jesus prepared us for this very thing when he said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). Our reward will be to enjoy God with the very joy that the Son of God has in his Father.
If Jesus had not willingly died, neither he nor we could be forever glad. He would have been disobedient. We would have perished in our sins. His joy and ours were acquired at the cross. Now we follow him in the path of love. We reckon “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Now we bear reproach with him. But then there will be undiminished joy. Any risk required by love we will endure. Not with heroic might, but in the strength of hope that “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
—Pages 114, 115
Fight for joy. That’s the thought that came to my mind as I read this chapter. It is always so much easier to have a pity-party than it is to be joyful. Some time back, I heard a new take on “giving thanks in everything”—that we should be thankful that we know God, and we’re going to spend eternity in His presence, whatever the current circumstances. I really needed to hear that…
Ref: Hebrews 9:28.
The Christian idea of salvation relates to past, present, and future. The Bible says, “By grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). It says that the gospel is the power of God “to us who are being saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18). And it says, “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). We have been saved. We are being saved. We will be saved.
At every stage we are saved by the death of Christ. In the past, once for all, our sins were paid for by Christ himself. We were justified by faith alone. In the present, the death of Christ secures the power of God’s Spirit to save us progressively from the domination and contamination of sin. And in the future, it will be the blood of Christ, poured out on the cross, that protects us from the wrath of God and brings us to perfection and joy.
Until we feel some measure of dread about God’s future wrath, we will probably not grasp the sweetness with which the early church savored the saving work of Christ in the future: “[We] wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Jesus Christ, and he alone, can save us from the wrath to come. Without him, we will be swept away forever.
—Pages 112, 113
Ref: John 11:51-52, John 10:16
It is an awesome thing that God looks down on all the peoples of the world and names a flock for himself, and then sends missionaries in the name of Christ, and then leads his chosen ones to the sound of the gospel, and then saves them. They could be saved no other way. Missions is essential. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out . . . the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).
Jesus suffered and died so that the sheep could hear his voice and live. That’s what Caiaphas said without knowing it: “Jesus would die . . . not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” He gave up his life to gather the sheep. By his blood he bought the mercy that makes his voice unmistakable to his own. Pray that God would apply that mercy to you, and that you would hear and live.
About sheep: Whenever the Bible refers to God’s people as ‘sheep’, there is always a mention of the shepherd. Too often, we focus so much on the nature of the sheep, and not on that of the shepherd.
If you think of it, the well-being of the sheep totally depends on their shepherd. If he’s good, he’ll know where to find pasture; he’ll go looking for the lost and straying members of his flock; he’ll protect them from danger…
PS. Read Ezekiel 34 and John 10:1-18 for more meditations on God as our shepherd.
Ref: Revelation 5:9.
Christ died to save a great diversity of peoples. Sin is no respecter of cultures. All peoples have sinned. Every race and culture needs to be reconciled to God. As the disease of sin is global, so the remedy is global. Jesus saw the agony of the cross coming and spoke boldly about the scope of his purpose: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
‘Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.’ ”
Ref: Ephesians 2:14-16.
Ritual and race are not the ground of joyful togetherness. Christ is. He fulfilled the law perfectly. All the aspects of it that separated people ended in him—except one: the gospel of Jesus Christ. […] God sent [Jesus Christ] into the world as the one and only means of saving sinners and reconciling races forever. If we deny this, we undermine the very foundation of eternal hope and everlasting unity among peoples. By his death on the cross, something cosmic, not parochial, was accomplished. God and man were reconciled. Only as the races find and enjoy this will they love and enjoy each other forever. In overcoming our alienation from God, Christ overcomes it between races.
We cannot be more exclusive than Christ. If Christ has accepted a person into His kingdom, who are we to say that they don’t belong?