a monthly devotional journal
Issue No. 57
In this issue:
Perspective 1 - A Botched Job
Perspective 2 - "You Saved My Life"
Perspective 3 - Only a Fighting Chance
Don't stand too close to me, because with the next statement I just may be struck by lightning. Here goes.
I think there's something missing from the Bible--specifically, from the narrative of Jesus' final forty days on earth after the resurrection. What's missing?
Linda and I love the old television series from the Seventies and early Eighties, M*A*S*H. One of our favorite episodes involves a wounded Marine, played by Alex Karras. In surgery, Hawkeye (played by Alan Alda) saves the hulking Marine's life who, upon waking in recovery, declares his undying appreciation to the weary doctor:
"Well doc, you saved my life. No one's ever done that before. Hawkeye Pierce. Well, you're some kinda genius doctor--and I'm gonna pay you back, doc. Anything. You just name it." 
The enthusiastic Marine then proceeds to make an absolute nuisance of himself trying to repay the surgeon who saved his life.
Put yourself in the sandals of Jesus. You have just suffered through the torment and humiliation of the cross and have finally died as a result. You've been wrapped up like a mummy and placed into a tomb where you have remained for two nights and a day. You have voluntarily put yourself through this for no selfish reasons, but for the good of all people, so that they might have eternal life with God. You have sacrificed yourself unto death for others.
On the third day you show yourself alive, resurrected from the grave. You present yourself to those who had been mourning your death, one after the other, singly and in groups.
When some are told of your resurrection they express disbelief, forgetting what you had told them just days earlier.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Luke 24:9-11
Some express joy at your return, but others are still mystified and distrustful.
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. Luke 24:36-37
Then, finally, the twelfth disciple arrives and expresses openly the doubt that just maybe percolates silently in the hearts of his brethren.
So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." John 20:25
And even after they all believe that you were who you said, after they all understood that you were their risen Lord--after all of that, still no one said a simple "thank-you" for what you had done.
A survey of Scripture reveals quite a number of passages where gratitude or thanksgiving is offered to God. Very often, in the New Testament, this thanksgiving to God is offered because of or through Christ, but in only one instance is gratitude shown directly to Jesus for something He had done--and that for healing, not redemption. 
In the narrative of Jesus' last forty days with the people, after He had suffered the pain of the cross, I look for someone--anyone--to come to Him and say, with grateful heart: "Thank you. Thank you for what you just did. Thank you for saving my life." But nowhere do I find it. It's never too late. We still have the opportunity to thank Jesus for His sacrifice, for what He did so that we would live.
I can express no kinder sign of love
Than this kind kiss. O Lord, that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness!
For thou hast given me in this beauteous face
A world of earthly blessings to my soul,
If sympathy of love unite our thoughts.
In January 1990, during the demise of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party relinquished its control over Yugoslavia. Then it was downhill from there.
By early in 1992 the country--whether by the name Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serb forces), Croatian Union of Herceg-Bosna (Croats), or Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnian Muslims)--was embroiled in a vicious civil war that even the most astute international diplomats came to find vexing.
Brutal, sadistic crimes were taking place and another beautiful country was being ripped apart by tribal and religious feuding. Human beings were treating each other as something less than human, and the rest of the world would ring its collective hands and fret over what to try next.
In May of 1992 the Serb forces began laying seige to the capital city, Sarajevo, which resulted in food and water shortages, winters without heat, and children learning to live without parents.
Still the international community was befuddled about how to respond to the carnage and inhumanity. So on May 30th the U.N., in all its wisdom, imposed economic sanctions--which left the Bosnian Muslims with insufficient arms against the well-armed Bosnian Serbs. In July of the same year, the first U.N. 'peace-keeping' troops entered Sarajevo to protect the people.
In essence the rest of the world was saying to the beleaguered Muslims, "We're going to take away your guns now--but don't worry: we'll take care of you."
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. Romans 3:22-25a
"A man had been condemned in a Spanish court to be shot, but because he was an American citizen and also of English birth, the consuls of the two countries interposed, and declared that the Spanish authorities had no power to put him to death. What did they do to secure his life, when their protest was insufficient? They wrapped him up in their flags; they covered him with the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack and defied the executioners. 'Now fire a shot if you dare, for if you do, you defy the nations represented by those flags, and you will bring the powers of those two great empires upon you.' There stood the man, and before him the soldiers, and though a single shot might have ended his life, yet he was as invulnerable as though encased in triple steel.Even so Jesus Christ has taken my poor guilty soul ever since I believed in Him and has wrapped around me the blood-red flag of His atoning sacrifice, and before God can destroy me or any other soul that is wrapped in the atonement, He must insult His Son and dishonor the sacrifice, and that He will never do, blessed be His name." 
What Jesus did He did perfectly. God requires blood sacrifice, and though it may offend our modern sensibilities, God's word is clear: where there is sin, there is no communion with God; without death there is no life.
So Jesus paid God's price for us. He said, "The Father cannot have a relationship with sin. Your sin must be paid for with blood. So I will pay the price. I will die in your place, and give you a relationship with the Father."
So He died in our place. He wrapped us in His atoning blood, so that when the Father looks at us, instead of seeing our sin, He sees instead the righteousness of His Son.
Lord Jesus, thank you for dying in my place. Thank you for your perfectly planned and executed mission of salvation that resulted in my eternal communion with God the Father. And thank you for doing everything in my life perfectly: for listening when I call; for never turning me away, but always being the perfect advocate on my behalf; for your tenderness and compassion, and your loving me in spite of my unloveliness.
Thank you, Jesus, for your perfect sacrifice.
Into the Word
Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said. He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, "We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey." Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words." Exodus 24:4-8
Digging Deeper--Moving Higher
Making it Personal
When did Jesus become your Savior?
If God has certain requirements that must be met for the payment of sin, what qualified Jesus to make this payment? (Be sure to use Scripture)
Write out a prayer of gratitude--in your own words--expressing your feelings and appreciation to Christ for what He accomplished so perfectly for you.
Into the Word
In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, "This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep." In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:16-22
On the southwestern Honshu Island of Japan lies a city of more than one million people today. The city was founded in 1594 on six islands in the Ota River delta. It grew rapidly as a commercial city, and after 1868 it was developed as a military center. On August 6, 1945, a B-29 Superfortress flew over the city of almost 350,000 people and dropped the first atomic bomb.
In the resulting explosion and firestorm, approximately 130,000 people in Hiroshima were killed or injured and 177,000 were left homeless. 60% of the city was destroyed. 
On a hot July afternoon in 1995, at an airfield just north of Des Moines, Iowa, three of the four surviving crewmen of the Enola Gay receive well-wishers and those requesting their autographs. Ted Van Kirk, the navigator, Tom Ferebee, the bombardier, and Paul Tibbets, the pilot, are comfortable with their place in history. Well aware of the controversy that surrounds their action fifty years ago, the three men are nevertheless confident that they did what was right, and what needed to be done.
As the airmen receive visitors at their booth, a 68-year-old man nervously approaches Tibbets, 80, and asks if the pilot would pose for a picture.
"I've always wanted the opportunity to meet you and say thank you, sir," Sam Parsons says. "You saved my life."
The younger veteran goes on to explain to Tibbets that in 1945 he was a Navy man stationed on the island of Okinawa. If the bomb had not been dropped, he would have been part of the initial assault of the Allied invasion of Japan and, as he sees it, might well have been killed as a result. 
There is no guesswork involved in what Jesus did for us. When He died for our salvation it was--and still is--a definite transaction. There was no maybe, no perhaps, no "might have been" involved. If Jesus had not died for our sins, we would have.
It's true that the bombing mission of the Enola Gay saved thousands of Allied lives. And the pilot and flight crew certainly made a sacrifice for those lives by placing themselves in possible danger; no one really knew what would happen when the atomic bomb exploded--not President Truman, not even Robert Oppenheimer,  and certainly not those riding in the delivery plane. In that sense, the airmen were like the Old Testament priests who offered a sacrifice at the altar for the people, yet who emerged from the holy of holies alive and well.
... and, as a penalty for the sin he has committed, he must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin. Leviticus 5:6
Jesus, however, did not just make a sacrifice on our behalf; He was the sacrifice.
The next day John [the baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29
Jesus did not place a lamb on the altar for our sins, He was the lamb on the altar. And there was never any question about the effectiveness of the sacrifice. If you believe that Jesus died for you, then He did. No question.
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?" "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied. "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." Genesis 22:6-8a
Lord Jesus, thank you for being the Lamb which God placed on the altar for our sins. Thank you for seeing it through to the end, for bearing the agony of separation from your Father and the weight of our collective sins. Thank you for willingly going to your death, and remaining there, until that bright and glorious Sunday morning when you arose in majesty and power. Thank you for doing it once, for all, for being the final sacrifice for our sins.
Into the Word
"'If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord's commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, they are guilty. When they become aware of the sin they committed, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the Tent of Meeting. The elders of the community are to lay their hands on the bull's head before the Lord, and the bull shall be slaughtered before the Lord. Then the anointed priest is to take some of the bull's blood into the Tent of Meeting. He shall dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle it before the Lord seven times in front of the curtain. He is to put some of the blood on the horns of the altar that is before the Lord in the Tent of Meeting. The rest of the blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. He shall remove all the fat from it and burn it on the altar, and do with this bull just as he did with the bull for the sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven.'" Leviticus 4:13-20
Digging Deeper--Moving Higher
Making it Personal
Have you ever questioned your salvation?
How would your life be different if you did not belong to Christ?
What is your life like, now that you do?
Thank Jesus for the peace of mind you have knowing that you belong to Him--and be sure to thank Him for what He did that gave you such peace.
Into the Word
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:24-28
Dennis Kerns, of Clearfield, Iowa, was installing a geothermal heating line at a construction site alongside Lake Panorama when the trench he was working in collapsed, burying him alive under 12 to 18 inches of dirt.
At the nearby lake were four off-duty members of the Des Moines Water Emergency Team--medic John Leto and firefighters Ron Dycus, Chad Bruns and Rick Jacobsen--intending to enjoy their day off swimming and water skiing.
Noticing the commotion on shore, the four men and their companion, Scott Kurtz, rushed to the construction site to help. With no regard for their own safety in the still-dangerous, collapsed trench, they immediately began digging to free the buried man. After about ten minutes they had the unconscious Kerns' head uncovered, but because of the crushing weight of the soil on the rest of his body, could do nothing to help him breathe until his torso was free of the dirt.
Finally, after about thirty-five minutes of digging, Kerns was free and airlifted to a nearby hospital where he was listed in critical condition.
News accounts on television and in newspapers hailed the rescuers as heroes for saving the man's life. But, actually, while their bravery and quick response was rightfully lauded, the rescuers had only succeeded in buying the victim a little more time, for Dennis Kerns eventually died in the hospital.
Christ is sufficient. We need add nothing to what He has already done on our behalf.
After Dennis Kerns had been removed from that premature grave by his 'saviors' his salvation was still incomplete. The paramedics had to treat him, the pilot of the air ambulance had to get him to the hospital, the doctors and nurses had to go to work--even Dennis himself had to participate in struggling out of unconsciousness.
But Christ's sacrifice was both sufficient and complete. He did it all. When Jesus saved your life, He did it completely, without anyone's help. Likewise, it is not necessary for you to do anything more to complete the transaction. It's done.
Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." Acts 15:1-11
"Christ victorious, high over all. He lives forever above the reach of His foes. He has but to speak and it is done; He need but command and heaven and earth obey Him. Within the broad framework of His far-looking plans He tolerates for a time the wild outlawry of a fallen world, but He holds the earth in His hand and can call the nation to judgement whenever He wills." 
Lord Jesus, thank you for being complete. Thank you for completing my salvation in that one act of supreme sacrifice. My salvation is dependable because you are dependable and complete, and I thank you for that. Thank you for being sufficient, so that my eternity would not be dependent on anything I might be required to do--save believing in Your sufficiency; for if that were the case, I would most certainly be lost. Thank you, Jesus.
Into the Word
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:1-4
Digging Deeper--Moving Higher
Making it Personal
Do you ever catch yourself--even unconsciously--trying to add to Christ's redemption? Do you ever find yourself trying to somehow purchase a salvation that has already been paid in full, or please a stern and demanding God who you imagine is angry with you? What are some ways that you--or anyone else--can fall into this habit?
Spend some time this month searching for those Scripture passages that speak of Christ's sufficiency in giving us eternal salavation. Then spend time meditating on these truths.
Write out a prayer of thanksgiving and appreciation to Jesus for the complete, once and for all, sufficient sacrifice He made on your behalf. Then speak it to Him with a heart filled with gratitude and joy.
Into the Word
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Col. 1:13-20
Issue No. 57
[1.] From episode number 51, "Springtime", by Linda Bloodworth and Mary Kay Place. (return to footnote 1)
[2.] Luke 17:11-19. I invite readers to find other instances of gratitude expressed directly to Christ; not worship or praise, but specific, face-to-face appreciation for an action performed. I was unable to find more. (return to footnote 2)
[3.] William Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part II, Act 1, Scene 1. (return to footnote 3)
[4.] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon (Shaw, 1990), p93. (return to footnote 4)
[5.] Matthew 26:28. (return to footnote 5)
[6.] Elvina M. Hall (1820-1889). (return to footnote 6)
[7.] Elizabeth P. Prentiss (1818-1878). (return to footnote 7)
[8.] Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1993 Microsoft Corporation Copyright (c) 1993 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation. (return to footnote 8)
[9.] Des Moines Sunday Register, July 23, 1995. (return to footnote 9)
[10.] American physicist and government adviser (1904-67) who directed the development of the first atomic bombs. Oppenheimer was born in New York City on April 22, 1904, and was educated at Harvard University and the universities of Cambridge and Gottingen. After serving with the International Education Board (1928-29), he became a professor of physics at the University of California and the California Institute of Technology (1929-47). During a leave of absence (1943-45), Oppenheimer served as director of the atomic bomb project at Los Alamos, New Mexico [The Manhattan Project]. (return to footnote 10)
[11.] Frances R. Havergal (1836-1879). (return to footnote 11)
[12.] William R. Featherstone (1842-1878). (return to footnote 12)
[13.] A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous (Christian Publications, 1986), p72f. (return to footnote 13)
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