The Song of the Redeemed

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans‬ ‭8:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Today, in America, is a day of celebrating many things. Among them are freedom, sacrifice, heroism, and the birth of a new nation. Today is Independence Day. In 1776, the British colonies in America declared their separation from their sovereign empire and created a union of 13 stares. The following eight years saw large scale warfare waged from Canada to Florida all along the eastern portion of the continent. During the course of the war nearly 25,000 Americans lost their lives. But that doesn’t account for the devastation that the war inflicted on the landscape and the lives of merchants and farmers alike. Lives were forever changed and so was the world.

For the last several years today has meant much more to me than the birth of a nation. It’s been an indispensable reminder of my own personal Independence Day. Few people bleed the red white and blue more than me, but there is something far greater to celebrate than the birth of a nation. Around 2000 years ago another war was waged and won for the cause of freedom. Jesus Christ single handily defeated sin and death with the fatal stroke He dealt upon the cross and by walking out of the grave three days later.

What Jesus achieved for humanity was nothing short of heroic. He is the greatest hero in world history. What Jesus achieved required the greatest sacrifice for love has no greater action than to lay down ones life for another. Jesus willingly surrendered His own life that the world may know freedom. What Jesus did was to create something new in everyone who believes in Him. For Christians, we have two birthdays. The day we were born and the day we were reborn by the Spirit.

If you are celebrating the independence of the United States of America today, take time to reflect on the most impactful Independence Day in human history. It’s a day that anyone can celebrate no matter what country they call home. If you haven’t experience freedom in Jesus, I want to invite you to take today to declare independence from condemnation, fear, doubt, and sin. Declare Jesus as your Lord and Savior and join in the song of the redeemed being sung all over the world.

Happy Independence Day!

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Disaster Averted

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I had this old water heater in my last house. One night I noticed a tiny droplet of water on the bottom the expansion tank. Close by was a spot that looked rusted over. Directly below, at the bottom of the heater itself was another rust spot. Around that was a water spot on the platform that the water heater sat on. My assumption was that the drip from the expansion tank had been leaking onto the base of the water heater and causing it to rust. So I shut the water off and ran to the store to buy a new tank. Once I got that replaced I felt confident that the problem was resolved. A couple weeks later the water spot around the tank looked larger. I examined the tank that I replaced and all seemed well. I made a plan to come back and look at things in another day or two. But…it didn’t make it that long! The next day I get a call from my wife telling me how the garage is flooding. The water heater had ruptured. I told her how to shut off the water until I could get there to clean up the mess. My awesome father in law and along with one of my friends came to the rescue and helped switch out the tank for us before I even got there.

A slow drip had turned into a disastrous leak. Just like sin in our lives. There are things that are hurting us and are slowly showing signs of concern. Some allow anger to build and it slowly alters the way they treat others until one day they explode. Some allow lustful thoughts to creep in until one day they are wrapped up in an affair. Some pour themselves into their careers more and more year after year until one day they are so distant from their families. We have a choice to address those signs early and correct the problem before the flood happens. We can’t be negligent with sin. We can’t put it off for another day. Our motto cannot be, “I’ll just get through this and tomorrow I’ll do it differently.” Tomorrow will be too late.

I can’t say that I blew off the water heater issue. But I was not diligent in discovering the entirety of the problem so only part of it was solved. Partially dealing with our sin amounts to doing nothing. The disastrous flood is coming unless the sin is wholely addressed. We need to figure out why this is part of our lives. Why do I put such a high priority on work? Why do I lust after others? Why am I angry? There’s always a root and it’s not always easy to find. That’s why we need to be surrounded by safe people who we allow to speak into our lives. That’s why we need to abide in the Lord and devote ourselves to being connected to Him. That’s why we need to spend time consistently reflecting on our lives and motives. None of us are leakproof but we can all be patched up and made whole by the One who made us.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
    save me, and I shall be saved,
    for you are my praise.

Jeremiah 17:14 ESV

You’re Being Read

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Very few people in the world today actually read the Bible. The above image was taken from Christians….CHRISTIANS! More than 50% of Christians are not familiar with the Bible. Only 20% have actually read the entire thing. This is God’s story. This is the story of humanity. It’s the story of redemption, past, present, and future. It’s the most valuable information we could ever gain. It’s universal in application. It’s faultless. Yet, for so many, it’s collecting dust on people’s shelves or sitting as an unused app on their phones. If this is the case among Christians, you know that far fewer non-believers are reading it. But do you know what they are reading? You and me. If people aren’t reading about who Jesus is, we need to show them. We may be the only image of Jesus they get. What message are the people in your life getting? The message of Christ is not contained when it lives in and through His followers. Let’s show the world the contents of the Bible by how we live and love and the truth that is the banner of our lives.

He Is Alive

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“Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!

Job 19:23-27 ESV

Job makes one of the most profound statements in these few verses. He says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives and at last he will stand upon the Earth.” This is the foundation for every hope that Christians proclaim and all of humanity searches for. It was the lifeline that Job was so desperately clinging to. It’s a reality that can bring that glimmer of light into anyone’s dark world.

We’ve all felt the sting of sin. Some more than others. Whether self-inflicted or caused by another, it hurts…bad. Anyone who would try to argue that this world isn’t in need of redemption and renewal doesn’t have much of an argument to stand on. The evidence is all around us. The news blasts it, our hearts testify of it, and the pain experienced in every human’s existence rebukes any belief contrary to the notion that things are way off the mark. Just like Job, our hurt is far too real to deny the need for redemption. Our bodies, while absolutely amazing, are frail and prone to sickness. The world is decaying. Social structures, in every culture, are far from perfect. Violence and hate take up way more headlines than love and charity. The hope that this will not always be so, is what motivates many to face another day.

We’ve all tried to make up for the mistakes we’ve made. To set things right again. Most people want to see change and progress made. But no matter how much we try, all our efforts will come short of bringing a lasting change. That’s because we don’t last forever and there’s no guarantee that those after us will continue our efforts. This world needs a redemption far greater than we can accomplish because it owes a debt far greater than we can pay.  But that payment has already been made by another.

The Messiah goes by many names in the Bible. One of those is Redeemer. To redeem is make compensation for faults. Synonyms include to save, justify, rescue, or vindicate. Because of sin, everything and everyone in this world, past, present, and future, need to be redeemed. That’s why the message of the Messiah is a universal one.

Job proclaimed a few things. One, that there is a Redeemer. Two, He is alive. Three, that He will one day stand upon the Earth. And four, that he will one day see the Redeemer face to face. Most Biblical scholars agree that the life of Job came at least 400 years before Moses. That means that Job is at least 1700 years away from the day that Jesus walked the Earth. So how could he possibly see Jesus? And if the Messiah was alive in the days of Job, how could that be a reference to Jesus?

We know that Jesus walked the Earth. No one with any historical credibility would argue against that fact. But that’s only one of the criteria spelled out by Job for the Redeemer. There are a lot of passages that reinforce the idea that Jesus was not only alive during Job’s lifetime, but long before that and way afterward too. Revelation 22 calls Jesus the Alpha and the Omega. These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It’s a way of saying that Jesus is both the beginning of all things and the end of all things. Check out Colossians chapter one and John chapter one for more evidence to strengthen that concept. If Jesus was in the beginning and will be forever, then 3700 years ago and 3700 years from now is nothing in the life of Jesus. Jesus didn’t come into existence in a manger in Bethlehem. He has always been, and will always be. Our Redeemer is alive and nothing can ever change that. No cross. No grave.

Just like Job, we all can have the same promise that we will see Him. Not as some celestial being with wings and a diaper like popular images like to portray. We will see Him in the flesh. Jesus is coming back. Our destination is not heaven. Earth is our home and for the follower of Christ, always will be. God is making all things new one day. The Earth, along with followers of His, will one day be redeemed and we will enjoy it forever.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my [Jesus] word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.  And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

John 5:24-29 ESV

The Bible ends with the greatest of all happy ending stories. Revelation chapter 22 paints an amazing picture of what is to come. It shows a world redeemed, nations of people healed, and a multitude drinking from the well of eternal life. And Jesus is there too. Forever, with those, He created and chose Him.

I know that my Redeemer lives and that one day I will see Him face to face.

This is the final post in part one of the series showing how God revealed the Messiah throughout the Old Testament. We began in Genesis and are wrapping up here in Job. In all, part one has included 22 posts, covering nine different books, over the last seven months. If you’ve missed any of them you can go to the Messiah tab on my home screen or click here. My plans are to have three more phases to this series. Part two will cover Psalms and Proverbs. Part three will just focus on the book of Isaiah because it is arguably the greatest portion of scripture that prophecies about the Messiah. The final phase will span Jeremiah to the end of the Old Testament. I am planning a brief hiatus from this series so as to focus on some other topics I’ve been working on. Part two should launch this summer.  God bless you guys and thank you for coming along with me on this journey.

Arbiter

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For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.

Job 9:32-33 ESV

Anyone familiar with the story of Job knows that for period of his life it was pure misery. He had lost his entire family, besides his wife, and his body was riddled with pain. The quote from earlier comes on the heels of Job’s friends rebuking him and accusing him of sin. He’s being prosecuted by those close to him and labeled as guilty for his own misfortune. The problem with this is the God Himself had labeled Job as a righteous man earlier in the book. Here are the opening words of the story:

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

Job 1:1 ESV

Job tried to state his case several times to his friends, but they refused to listen. They tried to explain their view of who God was and why Job’s circumstances had to be due to him being at fault. Job’s friends, however, had not be privy to information that you and me are…Job was under the assault of Satan himself (refer to the rest of Job chapter one).

Bildad, one of Job’s companions, prompted Job to go before God and state his case to Him. Job wasn’t having any of it. In a direct rebuttal, Job proclaims a somewhat misunderstood view of God’s relationship to man. Much of what Job says is true, but he doesn’t clearly grasp Who God is or how He wants to relate to His creation. This ultimately leads to God rebuking Job and his friends later in the book. His blurred view of God becomes pretty clear in chapter nine when he says that there is no arbiter who can bridge the gap between man and God. Through Job’s misconception (which is not his fault because he was operating with limited knowledge from time and space) he makes a prophetic statement about God’s plan for His Messiah.

An arbiter is a mediator. According to the dictionary, an arbiter is, “a person who settles a dispute or has ultimate authority in a matter.” That is a great representation for who the Messiah is. On one hand, what Job says is true. No man can fill the role of arbiter. The only one who could lay hands on both man and God, would have to be God Himself. This is another one of the many prophecies of the Old Testament that made it clear that the Messiah had to be both man and God.

First of all, then, I [Paul] urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

1 Timothy 2:1-6 ESV [my emphasis]

Jesus solved Job’s conundrum. Jesus bridges the gap. He is both man and God. He is the Arbiter, because as the dictionary says, He has full authority in the matter of humanity’s salvation. No one supersedes Him. Before you say, “wait a minute, this passage says Jesus was a man and says nothing about Him being God. Isn’t that a contradiction to what you were saying earlier?” Not at all. Check out this passage from John chapter 10:

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

John 10:28-30 NIV

God is complex. By extension, so is the Messiah. No man could ever fill the role of Messiah because every human down through the ages are the same…we’re all fallen and imperfect creatures who fall vastly short of the glory of God. The Messiah had to be unique, set apart, and a one of a kind. Enter Jesus, who is both God and Man. He is the Bridge. He is the Arbiter.

For you and me, our enemy is the exact same as Job’s. We all have someone who is trying to blind us to reality, who is trying to make us consumed by our own goals, grief, and desires. Our enemy wants us to not know Who God is or that we have a way to be directly linked with Him. That is the beauty of the Messiah. He is someone who can connect a broken person with a Perfectly Holy God. You and me friend, have access to that loving Messiah…to Jesus. We can come boldly to the throne of God because of love…because of Jesus.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16 ESV

 

No One Until Jesus

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I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.

1 Samuel 2:35 NIV

The role of the priests in the Old Testament were second to no one. They tended the tabernacle and eventually the temple. They were on the front lines of ministering to the LORD. They were both worship leaders and pastors. They were set apart from the rest of Israel just as Israel was to be set apart from the rest of the world. If Israel was to be God’s light to the world, the priests were to be God’s light to Israel.

I’m sure, just as many worship leaders and pastors are looked upon with great admiration in Christian churches worldwide, so to would with the priests of Israel. The role of the priest, in a far greater context, was to point to something greater than themselves. The entirety of their responsibilities were to align the people with the heart of God. They were to be both faithful witnesses of Who God is and mediators for all His broken followers. They were to be both leaders and servants. Leaders of a nation and servants of the Most High God.  This image of servant leadership also pointed to something, or someone, far greater than themselves. It was to be a mark of all those who claimed allegiance to Yahweh. And no one demonstrated it better than the Messiah.

The book of 1 Samuel was recorded between 931 and 722 B.C. The central figure of the book is non other than a prophet and priest named Samuel. For his entire life he walked in faithfulness to God and continually pointed Israel back to true worship and obedience. He was arguably one of the greatest figures of the Old Testament. But he too was human. And by extension, he was imperfect. If Samuel had been a perfect representation of the character and mission of God, there would have been no need for a future Messiah. The fact remains, all of the priests down through history have portrayed an imperfect image of our God. Except one. Over 700 years after Samuel, a new prophet and priest would arise. He was and is like no one else. His name – Yeshua (Jesus).

Since the children have flesh and blood, he (Jesus) too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

Hebrews 2:14-17 NIV

Few books describe Jesus as our faithful High Priest quite like the book of Hebrews. Chapter two explains the reason why God put on flesh in the form of Jesus. It’s a powerful explanation of the need for a new High Priest to fill the role that all the priests before Him only pointed to. Jesus is a merciful High Priest, one Who has faced every form of temptation that you and me have battled with. He knows pain. He knows hardship. He knows homelessness and loss. He knows what it means to be without and to be forsaken by those close to Him. No one has ever experienced betrayal quite like Him. Despite all of this, Jesus was still perfect. His life was the model of servant leadership. Jesus walked in both humility and power. He showed us how true worship should look. And everything He did pointed people to God. Later in Hebrews it goes on to say this:

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

Hebrews 3:1-6 NIV

Moses set the bar for the priests who set the bar for Israel. Then came Jesus, Who set the bar for the world. When it comes to the priesthood, everyone who claims allegiance to Jesus is part of a kingdom of Priests (1 Peter 2:5). Jesus is our bar. Moses, who passed away, along with all other priests from history, have ceased to be priests. Jesus is the priest who continues forever.

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Hebrews 7:23-25 NIV

No priesthood was permanent, until Jesus. No priest could unite the nations, until Jesus. No priest could ever save a single soul, until Jesus. No priests could ever change the hearts of God’s children, until Jesus.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV

Peace in Christ, our Faithful High Priest, brothers and sisters!

Craving the Slop

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Have you ever craved the slop? I know I have. My life story is full of it.

One of my favorite stories that Jesus told was about a family torn apart by greed and selfishness and later restored by love and grace. In most Bibles, it’s labeled as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s part of a series of stories that Jesus told relating to the idea of things that were lost but searched out and found by God. They are stories of discovery that bring hope to even the most wayward soul. They are also stories that most people can relate to. I definitely can.

In Luke 15, Jesus talks about a boy who decides to go out on his own. He’s done with his family and all he wants is to claim his cash inheritance and live a self-indulgent life. As with anyone who chooses this path, life was empty and unsatisfying. For many, that lifestyle usually runs people into the gutters of despair. The young man from Luke 15 hit rock bottom. In verse 16 it says that he was so desperate that he craved the slop that he was feeding to the pigs as a hired worker. He had wasted all his money and was employed in one of the lowliest possible professions. It was a filthy job feeding unclean animals. Not only that, but he couldn’t even afford to eat. He was so hungry that he wanted to devour the nasty food that the pigs ate. That’s desperation. I’ve been there.

I too have craved the slop. In my darkest year (2009) I was wallowing in the slop. For me, the slop was an addiction to pornography, caught in a cycle of alcoholism and self-loathing, divorced from an adulterous woman, and at an end to a hopeful career. Just like the young man in Jesus’ story, I was craving all the wrong things and it led me into a destructive lifestyle. The scene from Luke 15 takes me back to that year in my life. I too needed to come home. I too needed to right many wrongs. I too needed to crave the right things.

This world presents us with more slop than things that actually provide for our need. The slop is anything short of anything that draws us closer to the Lord. My slop was creating an image for myself, gaining approval, and enjoying the flesh. I had the same aim as the young man from the story in Luke 15. I wanted to set out on my own. I wanted to get mine. I wanted to live a self-centered life. That’s what leads us to the slop. That’s because the slop feeds self, not the soul. The fortunate ones are those who come to enlightenment and realize they need to go home. They realize that where their life has led them is nothing more than a pigsty. The unfortunate ones are those who are living in a pigsty and don’t even realize it.

Let me make it plain – anyone who runs from the Father will end up in the pigsty, craving unclean things, surrounded by unclean things. The father in this story is meant to depict our Father in Heaven. He will let us go. He will let us run from Him. He will let us choose the slop. But He will always be watching for us and wanting us to return home. He will always come running to those who choose Him. It doesn’t matter how dirty we are from wallowing in the mud. He will always come running to embrace the wayward child who turns to Him.

Just as 2009 was the darkest year of my life, it was also the year I returned home. It was the year I felt the Father run to me and embrace me. It was my year of enlightenment and deep repentance. I felt what it was like to be separated from the Father and to be held in His loving arms. If you have wandered from the Lord as I did, just know that He’s waiting and watching for you. All you have to do is take the first steps home and He’ll come running your way.

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:20-24 NASB