Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can have godly character. What is godly character? God has many attributes and some are communicable to us through Jesus and some belong solely to God. For example, only God is incomprehensible, the creator, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent or sovereign. However, those characteristics of God that He wants us to possess are vast and wonderful. He desires that we are like Him in having peace, joy, being forgiving, thankful, honest, friendly, generous, loving and humble to name just a few. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit transforms us in a process called sanctification as we are made more and more like Jesus.
Why does God want to do this for us? Scripture is clear there are great benefits to this character transformation. Romans 5:2-4 “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Wow! Through faith in Jesus we stand in grace, rejoice in hope and our suffering produces godly character in us! James 1:2-4 also speaks of the trials of life bringing about change in our character for good. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Life’s trials test our faith and produce character that is steadfast and leads to perfection in Christ. It is the trials in our life that God uses to hone and shape our character to make us more and more like Jesus as we learn to depend upon Him and place our Hope in Him.
May you find joy in your trials and suffering as God works on your character, a character that will bring you hope!
Suggestion: Determine to take a different view of the hard things you face today. Seek to see them as character building. Praise God for the ability to cling to Him with a thankful, joyful and hopeful heart!
Lent is a time of reflection, fasting, praise, worship and thanksgiving as we walk daily towards the cross. The number 40 is used in the Bible to signify a time of testing and trial. During your Lenten journey which is from today, Ash Wednesday, to Good Friday when Jesus died on the cross, we are to think about the price Jesus paid for our sins through His own death. How we do that can take many forms. Daily devotions with prayer and scripture, fasting for a meal or even a whole day can bring your focus on Jesus to a greater height. Or you can choose to let go of something you really like to do, say or eat as a form of penance or identification with Christ’s suffering for you and your sin. Last year, I found this quote from Pope Francis and it brought a new perspective to fasting during Lent. It isn’t just denying myself chocolate or alcohol, it is denying myself in other ways. I love his suggestions to fast from stress and pressure by being intentionally more prayerful, or letting go of bitterness and focusing on love.
Today as you think about Christ and His suffering and the price He paid for your sins- think about ways you can honor Him in the next 40 days. Each day at the end of my devotion I will have a suggestion of what you might do that day to honor Christ by doing for others in love as Christ did for you at the cross. My daily blogs will focus on what we have in Christ because Jesus died on the cross and rose again. I pray that my blogs and suggestions will help you to gain greater love and appreciation for your Lord and Savior and be prepared in your heart, mind and soul when Good Friday and Easter arrive.
Let the journey begin today in your heart as you set your mind towards the cross.
Suggestion: attend an Ash Wednesday service or spend some time reflecting on your own sins. Take a piece of paper and write them down. Then take that paper place it before you as you pray and ask God to take those sins away and fill you anew with His love and devotion. Symbolically placing your sins on the cross of Christ helps us to see that He died for me and my sins. Romans 5:8 “But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The Messiah next returns to Isaiah 53:8 as Handel continues to show the suffering and rejection of our Savior. His birth at Christmas is a celebration but it led to a pathway filled with grief and sorrow for our Lord Jesus. I think the Amplified Translation will help us to see this verse more clearly.
Isaiah 53:8 “After oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation [His contemporaries], who [among them] concerned himself with the fact
That He was cut off from the land of the living [by His death]
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke [of death]was due?
Jesus’ persecution by both the religious Jews in several illegal mock trials and then His judgement by Jews and condemnation by the Romans are what is spoken of here as oppression and judgement. His trial before the Sanhedrin is recorded in Matthew 26:62-67 “Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God:Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him.” Later before Pilate they all demanded death for Jesus. Matthew 27:20-23 “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. 22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Verse 8 also states that Jesus would be cut off from the land of the living and sentenced to death for the transgressions of the people not his own. Paul puts this cutting off plainly in Romans 5:6-8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
How can we be encouraged by these words of suffering and death of our Savior? Jesus came as a babe fully aware of his life and purpose. Even as young as 12 when he spoke in the temple people were amazed. Luke 2:46-47 “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” When Mary and Joseph asked him about it he replied in verse 49 ““Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Jesus knew His purpose and came to earth to do the will of His Father in heaven. He came for us. Are you motivated by the love of God to give yourself willingly to serve others? It is Jesus’ example to us given at Christmas for us to ponder and imitate in our own lives. What better time of year to put this into practice!
Today’s scriptures in Isaiah are some of the most poignant and convicting for us as believers. We see the anguish, pain and separation our Lord Jesus endured for us as wayward, lost and sinful believers. Ponder these ancient words this 3rd Sunday of Advent. Isaiah 53:4-6
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Consider these related verses in the New Testament. 1 Peter 2:23-25 “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Romans 4:24-25 “but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Hebrews 10:22-23 “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
May God’s Word speak to you today so that you can better comprehend the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice in coming that Christmas. Praise Him today for His mercy, love and compassion of us. Praise Him for His plans for you and me.
Part 2 of Handel’s Messiah returns to Isaiah for some prophecies of Jesus and what His time on earth will bring to pass. Isaiah 53:3 “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Isaiah 50:6 “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.” Both of these prophecies were given hundreds of years before Messiah was born. They tell of the pain and suffering He was to endure both mental and physical. He was going to be despised, rejected, suffer beatings, insults, mocking and would be spit upon. During His ministry He was rejected and despised, Mark 8:31 “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” He would be beaten, insulted, mocked and spit upon. Matthew 27:26-32 “Then he (Pilate) released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”
What do these prophecies say to us today during the Season of Advent? Jesus came willingly that Christmas into a world that would reject and hate Him. He came because He loves us. John 3:16 says it best, “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.” Because of His LOVE, He came. Praise Him today for coming and celebrate His victory over sin on our behalf. “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57