Hearing the Voice of God

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Today’s guest post is by Dr. Brian Simmons, the lead translator for The Passion Translation. He is also the author of I Hear His Whisper, 52 devotions to encounter God’s heart for you.

True prayer is a love relationship with God—it is enjoying a relationship, not enduring a religious activity. Prayer is the privilege of soaring to the very throne of God to touch His face. It is meeting with God Himself. Our souls are starved for this sense of awe . . . to speak and to hear from God. We must never forget that Father God loves to share His heart with His children.

Fellowship with God in prayer is meant to adjust us, not to adjust God to what we want. We must have frequent, intimate contact with our Father—the Daddy Abba Father of Galatians 4:6. Prayer is more than speaking to God; it is speaking with Him. We cannot build an intimate relationship on one-way speeches.

As I pray to God, I am aware of this: both of us will speak, and both of us will listen. When we practice two-way prayer, listening carefully and humbly, God will often speak. This prophetic interchange is not limited to verbal communication. We can expect to encounter God in various ways. However we hear Him, this divine encounter will always do two things: it will change us, and we will be given ammunition for spiritual warfare.

As we hear accurately from God, the church will begin to enter into prophetic praying. Prophetic prayer is praying with revelation and receiving God’s response. It is becoming a prayer partner with Jesus. God will not only speak to us, but He will also pray through us.

I encourage you to become one who hears from God in the secret closet where you are trusted with strategic prayer assignments. Instead of praying, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” it’s easy to fall into “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking!” Decide today that you will have a heart that will wait on the Lord and listen for His voice.

Your tools for ministry must include a consistent life of hearing from God. I love the words of Isaiah 50:4–5 (NKJV):

“The Lord God has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.
The Lord God has opened My ear;
And I was not rebellious,
Nor did I turn away.”

Ask Him for a listening ear! Marvelous revelations and a deeper understanding of Scripture await those who will ask for it . . . and linger in His presence to hear His voice. Our Lord is known as the great “Revealer of mysteries” (see Daniel 2:29, 47). There is much He has to say to the seeking heart.

Sometimes people ask me, “How do I know when it is God speaking? I don’t want to be misled. I only want to listen to the Holy Spirit.” Here are some simple guidelines for knowing God’s voice and discerning when it is the voice of the enemy:

  • Jesus is a gentle Shepherd; Satan is a condemning and accusing intimidator.
  • The Lord’s voice is often quiet and deeply internal; Satan’s is intrusive and vulgar.
  • The Holy Spirit calls and draws us; Satan threatens, demands, and drives.
  • Check the content—does it agree with the Scriptures?
  • God’s voice drips with mercy; He does not condemn our personal worth before Him.
  • The Lord’s voice will change you and touch you.
  • His voice is rooted in hope, not negativity or despair.
  • God’s Word is for now; Satan locks us into our past.
  • God uses the ordinary, not merely the spectacular.
  • His Word gives more hope, not more condemnation.
  • God’s voice inspires us to love, not to criticize others.
  • Peace comes from God; anxiety comes from Satan.
  • The voice of the Spirit will always glorify Jesus as Lord and point us to Him.

John 10:2–4 (TPT) gives us reassurance that we can hear God’s voice. Are you listening today?

“And the sheep recognize the voice of the True Shepherd, for he calls his own by name and leads them out, for they belong to him. And when he has brought out all his sheep, he walks ahead of them and they will follow him, for they are familiar with his voice.”

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Redemption for All

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Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Greenwood, author of Let Our Children Go, Defeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil. She’s also the cofounder and president of Christian Harvest International and Strategic Prayer Action Network, as well as an internationally known speaker who’s appeared on TBN, Daystar, and Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural! Her articles on prayer have appeared in The SpiritLed Woman BibleCharisma Magazine, and Pray! magazine. Greenwood is part of the core faculty at Wagner Leadership Institute under C. Peter Wagner and Ché Ahn. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. And at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep in death were raised [to life]; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those who were with him keeping watch over Jesus observed the earthquake and all that was happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, Truly this was God’s Son!

Matthew 27:50–54, AMP

God did not forget His covenant plan for mankind. When Adam failed, God in His perfect time sent His Son, Jesus, to save humanity from its lost state. Jesus laid down His heavenly robes to walk the earth and restore that which was forfeited by Adam and Eve. He came as a servant, priest, deliverer, savior, and redeemer to defeat and strip Satan of his grip over our lives and to give us redemption through the price that He paid by shedding His blood and dying on the cross.

Can you imagine what those painful final days of earthly ministry must have been like for Jesus? After three awesome years of deliverances, healings, supernatural encounters, raising the dead, teaching, and performing numerous signs and wonders, our Jesus experienced one wounding after another as circumstances tragically turned against Him.

There were the religious leaders who were jealous of Jesus’ popularity and threatened by His power and authority. To put it bluntly, it appears that they hated Jesus. There was Judas, the sadly deceived disciple who thought the payment of 30 pieces of silver was worth betraying His friend and master. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to be betrayed by someone who had intimately walked with Him for three years. They had experienced life together, incredible kingdom moments of ministry together.

After Judas there was Pilate, the weak governor of the Roman province of Judea, who attempted to wash his hands of any personal responsibility of Jesus’ suffering and death. Then there was Herod, the powerless Jewish king who mocked our Lord. The chief priests and teachers of the law observed the unfolding drama and ridiculed Him as well. And we can’t forget about the crowd shouting, “Crucify Him!” I often wonder how many were in that crowd who had earlier witnessed Jesus performing a healing, salvation, or supernatural miracle.

There was Barabbas, the renowned criminal who gained his unjust freedom at Jesus’ expense. And then there were those in the Roman army who mercilessly beat and tortured our Savior beyond the point of recognition. Then there were the three denials of Peter at the exact time when Jesus needed His most cherished friends and disciples the most. Finally, the Roman soldiers who hung him on the cross and mocked Him, saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself” (Luke 23:37, MEV).

As Jesus hung on that cross, He carried the weight of the sin of every person who had walked and who would walk the earth, including you and me. Yet after His persecution, the numerous betrayals, the excruciating torture, and the unimaginable agony of His crucifixion, our magnificent savior, Jesus, became the ultimate example of forgiveness. While facing the very ones beating and killing Him, He cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34, KJV). It was a demonstration of mercy unlike any that had been witnessed in that day and time, and a powerful example for each of us.

The particular time of day and year that Jesus gave up His Spirit coincided with the annual sacrifice of the Passover lamb as the priests made atonement for the sins of the Jews. At that moment Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, making atonement for the sins of all mankind. The veil in the temple was rent in two from top to bottom, making a new way for all people, Jew and Gentile, male or female, free man or slave to enter into the Lord’s presence through a personal relationship with Jesus. No longer were animal sacrifices required. They were not necessary because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice given for each of us once and for all.

The temple itself was divided into various courts—the holy of holies, the holy place, the priest’s court, Israel’s court, and the courts for women and Gentiles. A dividing wall, approximately three to four feet high, ran through the temple area separating the court of the Gentiles from the inner court into which only the Jews were permitted. No longer was man’s relationship with God dependent on trying to fulfill the Law as determined by the Jewish religious leaders. No longer was there any separation based on sex, race, ethnicity, or political status of those who desired to worship the true King.

The power of death was defeated once and for all at the death and resurrection of Jesus. One of the miraculous signs was the opening of the tombs with many bodies of dead saints coming forth and appearing in the city. Can you imagine the response of those in the city to whom they appeared? It must have been a frightening and awesome experience to witness the power of death being defeated.

Many say that the tombs were opened as a result of the earthquake, which is a highly probable explanation. But, friends, earthquakes do not have the supernatural power to raise the dead! I find it interesting that the Greek word anoigo means “to open,” and it refers to God as the one who does the opening. And egeiro is the word used for “to be raised, to wake up, arouse or rise from the dead.” When the power of death was defeated by Jesus, the ground could not hold the dead. This also serves as a prophetic sign that the redeemed, those who have believed upon and given their lives to Him and His saving grace, will be raised and with Him upon His return.

* * *

Learn more from Rebecca Greenwood by downloading her powerful ebooks: Let Our Children Go, Defeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil. Get them on Vyrso today!

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Redemption for All

discipline

Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Greenwood, author of Let Our Children GoDefeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil. She’s also the cofounder and president of Christian Harvest International and Strategic Prayer Action Network, and an internationally-known speaker. Her articles on prayer have appeared in The SpiritLed Woman BibleCharisma magazine, and Pray! magazine. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Colorado Springs.

 

“And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. And at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep in death were raised [to life]; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those who were with him keeping watch over Jesus observed the earthquake and all that was happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, Truly this was God’s Son!”

—Matthew 27:50–54 (AMP)

God did not forget his covenant plan for mankind. When Adam failed, God in his perfect time sent his Son, Jesus, to save humanity from its lost state. Jesus laid down his heavenly robes to walk the earth and restore that which was forfeited by Adam and Eve. He came as a servant, priest, deliverer, savior, and redeemer to defeat and strip Satan of his grip over our lives and to give us redemption through the price that he paid by shedding his blood and dying on the Cross.

Can you imagine what those painful final days of earthly ministry must have been like for Jesus?  After three awesome years of deliverances, healings, supernatural encounters, raising the dead, teaching, and performing numerous signs and wonders, our Jesus experienced one wounding after another as circumstances tragically turned against him.

There were the religious leaders who were jealous of Jesus’s popularity and threatened by his power and authority. To put it bluntly, it appears that they hated Jesus. There was Judas, the sadly-deceived disciple who thought the payment of 30 pieces of silver was worth betraying his friend and master. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to be betrayed by someone who had intimately walked with him for three years. They had experienced life together, incredible kingdom moments of ministry together.

After Judas there was Pilate, the weak governor of the Roman province of Judea, who attempted to wash his hands of any personal responsibility of Jesus’s suffering and death. Then there was Herod, the powerless Jewish king who mocked our Lord. The chief priests and teachers of the law observed the unfolding drama and ridiculed him as well. And we can’t forget about the crowd shouting, “Crucify Him!” I often wonder how many were in that crowd who had earlier witnessed Jesus performing a healing, salvation, or supernatural miracle.

There was Barabbas, the renowned criminal who gained his unjust freedom at Jesus’s expense. And then there were those in the Roman army who mercilessly beat and tortured our Savior beyond the point of recognition. Then there were the three denials of Peter at the exact time when Jesus needed his most cherished friends and disciples the most. Finally, the Roman soldiers who hung him on the cross and mocked him, saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself,” (Luke 23:37, MEV).

As Jesus hung on that cross, he carried the weight of the sin of every person who had walked and who would walk the earth, including you and me. [Click to tweet!] Yet after his persecution, the numerous betrayals, the excruciating torture, and the unimaginable agony of his crucifixion, our magnificent savior, Jesus, became the ultimate example of forgiveness. While facing the very ones beating and killing him, he cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34, KJV). It was a demonstration of mercy unlike any that had been witnessed in that day and time, and a powerful example for each of us.

The particular time of day and year that Jesus gave up his Spirit coincided with the annual sacrifice of the Passover lamb as the priests made atonement for the sins of the Jews. At that moment Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, making atonement for the sins of all mankind. The veil in the temple was rent in two from top to bottom, making a new way for all people, Jew and Gentile, male or female, free man or slave to enter into the Lord’s presence through a personal relationship with Jesus. No longer were animal sacrifices required. They were not necessary because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice given for each of us once and for all.

The temple itself was divided into various courts—the holy of holies, the holy place, the priest’s court, Israel’s court, and the courts for women and Gentiles. A dividing wall, approximately three to four feet high, ran through the temple area separating the court of the Gentiles from the inner court into which only the Jews were permitted. No longer was man’s relationship with God dependent on trying to fulfill the law as determined by the Jewish religious leaders. No longer was there any separation based on sex, race, ethnicity, or political status of those who desired to worship the true King.

The power of death was defeated once and for all at the death and resurrection of Jesus. One of the miraculous signs was the opening of the tombs with many bodies of dead saints coming forth and appearing in the city. Can you imagine the response of those in the city to whom they appeared? It must have been a frightening and awesome experience to witness the power of death being defeated.

Many say that the tombs were opened as a result of the earthquake, which is a highly probable explanation. But, friends, earthquakes do not have the supernatural power to raise the dead! I find it interesting that the Greek word anoigo means “to open,” and it refers to God as the one who does the opening. And egeiro is the word used for “to be raised, to wake up, arouse or rise from the dead.” When the power of death was defeated by Jesus, the ground could not hold the dead. This also serves as a prophetic sign that the redeemed, those who have believed upon and given their lives to him and his saving grace, will be raised and with him upon his return.

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Resurrecting Clay

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Today’s guest post is by Anita Agers-Brooks, author of Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over: Moving Past Your Pain into Lasting Freedom available for pre-order on Vyrso. Agers-Brooks is also an inspirational business and life coach and an international speaker.

We live in a world of makeovers. People, relationships, homes, careers—it seems there’s nothing reality TV won’t reconstruct. By the numbers of viewers, it seems everyone wants a change. But no one wants transformation to take place through pain.

This makes me think of Christ’s plea in Luke 22:42. As he anguished in the Garden of Gethsemane, I imagine his knees ground so hard into the dark soil that his imprints remained once he stood. His eyes looking to heaven. His hands gripping his scalp as he cried out, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

And yet, without his death, there could be no resurrection.

According to Merriam-Webster, to resurrect is to bring back to life, to cause (something that had ended or been forgotten or lost) to exist again, to be used again, etc.

As defined by the dictionary, how many of us long for a resurrected life? A transformation? A makeover? But what are we willing to give up in order to receive it?

Just over a decade ago, I went through a period I call my Jobette years. Think female version of Job. Near death, betrayal, financial challenges, prodigal child, loss of my eyesight over an extended interval, a tsunami of painful events that threatened to break me. But I have a confession.

Prior to the start of this deeply painful period, I had offered a prayer. “Lord, I know I fail you. You are the potter and I am the clay. Too often I don’t look like someone made in your image. Please break me down and remold me.”

Yes, I now know—be very careful what you ask for.

But I also know something else:

  • The power of complete and total submission to God’s will
  • The transformational ability of Jesus’ saving ability to transform the ashes of our lives into a crown of beauty
  • The comfort available through the supernatural touch of the Holy Spirit

In the midst of my sorrows—mask off—I cried out in raw and honest anguish, much like Christ did in Gethsemane. My prayers were a bit different, but the core message was the same.

One night in my living-room floor, I fell to my knees and prayed, “I know I’m supposed to forgive, but right now I really don’t want to. I need you to rip the roots of bitterness out of my heart and plant flowers of forgiveness in their place.”

Another time, as a thunderstorm raged around me, and rain pelted my face, I stood in my front yard, arms raised in desperation, and said, “I know I’m supposed to thank you in all things, but I can’t imagine how I’ll ever be able to thank you for this.”

Though there was no instant flash of healing or magic wand–waving improvements, God absolutely heard my cries.

Over time, He corrected my want to.

Then He taught me to forgive.

And today, I not only thank Him for every experience, but I praise Him for resurrecting my life through them.

Today, the messages that resonate the most with audiences I address, come from that excruciating period. My latest book, Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, was born out of my sufferings, and the true stories of many others who endured things many can’t imagine. We each discovered purpose through our pain.

It’s interesting that Job received a double portion blessing after going through multiple tragedies. I’m sure he would not have chosen that path. I wouldn’t have chosen mine either. But today, I am grateful.

In the final chapter of Getting Through, I share many key things I’ve learned from enduring things I’ll never get over. One is a Twelve-Step map I follow today.

Number three says this: “Take a risk and believe God. This is different from believing in God.”

Jesus demonstrated more than belief in God, he showed us what it looks like to trust Him. To die to self. And as a result, Christ was raised from the dead to do greater things.

One day, our troubles will become memories of the past. If we allow Him, God the potter can take the dust of our pain, mixed with tears from our sorrow, and remold us.

Our pain is not wasted. It is the foundation for transformation. It’s true we may go through things we’ll never get over, but with Christ, we will be made new. God is still in the business of resurrecting clay.

* * *

Want to read more from Anita Agers-Brooks? Pre-order her new ebook—scheduled to ship April 1—Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over: Moving Past Your Pain into Lasting Freedom for just $9.74 on Vyrso.

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The Holy Spirit: Our Faithful Discipler

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Today’s guest post is by Jennifer LeClaire, senior editor of Charisma Magazine. She is also the director of Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale and the author of several books, including Mornings with the Holy Spirit: Listening Daily to the Still Small Voice of God and her upcoming book, The Next Great Move of God: An Appeal to Heaven for Spiritual Awakening. You can learn more about her work at JenniferLeClaire.org.

When Jesus walked the earth, His disciples followed Him just about everywhere He went. They turned to Him for wisdom, for comfort, for protection, for provision—and more.

Before He ascended to the right hand of Father God, Jesus said something shocking: “I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you,” (John 16:7, MEV).

This must have been unsettling to the disciples. If Jesus left, who would offer them wisdom and comfort? Who would be their advocate and intercessor? Who would disciple them? Jesus followed on by explaining, “But when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13, MEV). Jesus is in heaven, but the Holy Spirit remains with us to lead us into all truth—to disciple us.

Although we can glean invaluable lessons from pastors, spiritual fathers and mothers, and others in the body of Christ—and we should—the Holy Spirit who dwells with us is our first Teacher. John writes about the anointing we have received from Him abiding in us and teaching us concerning all things (1 John 2:27).

Indeed, the Holy Spirit will disciple us—if we allow Him. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener and Standby (John 14:16, AMP). The Holy Spirit leads us (Rom. 8:14) and guides us into truth (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).

I believe the Holy Spirit is always trying to teach us. He teaches us to walk in the fruit of the Spirit. He teaches us who Jesus is. He teaches us about the Father’s heart. He teaches us how to walk through a trial with character. He teaches us how to navigate life’s challenges. He’s always teaching us—always discipling us—if we’ll listen.

In my devotional, Mornings with the Holy Spirit, Listening Daily to the Still Small Voice of God, I share with readers something important the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart:

“Take a moment—take some time—to meditate on the lessons you are learning. I am teaching you new things and reminding you of things you know that have slipped out of focus in the midst of the warfare around you. Consider what I have taught you. Meditate on those truths. Record them on the tablets of your heart. Never forget them. Call them up when you need them. This wisdom will serve you and others around you in the days ahead.”

Again, the Holy Spirit teaches us all things and will bring to our remembrance the Word of God we sow in our hearts when we need it (John 14:26). Our part in the discipleship process is to exercise Proverbs 7:2–3 (MEV): “Keep my commandments and live, and my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”

As disciples of Christ, we need to tune our ears and align our hearts with the Holy Spirit Jesus sent to walk with us after He ascended to the right hand of the Father. God puts many wonderful spiritual leaders in our lives and we should welcome and submit to that authority, but when the lights go out at the end of the day, it’s just us and God. Sometimes man’s wisdom—our own wisdom—fails us but God’s Word and His Spirit never fail. The Holy Spirit is the best discipler I know.

Prayer this prayer with me:

Holy Spirit, put me in remembrance of the teachings of Christ and the words of wisdom you’ve spoken to my heart. I ask You now for the grace to draw on what you’ve taught me so that I will walk in Father’s ways and glorify my Savior through my words, thoughts, and actions.

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Study the Significance of the Cross

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As we draw closer to Holy Week, we’ve taken the time to look intently at the death of Jesus. In Bill Giovannetti’s guest post, we looked at the pain that Jesus suffered when the nails went through his hands. In Bob Hostetler’s guest post, we explored the revolutionary that Jesus was in his day and how this echoes into our lives now. We’ve highlighted a few discounts to aid you in your study of Jesus’ death including:

Crucify! Why the Crowd Killed Jesus by Timothy J. Stoner—available for free through April 3, 11:59 p.m. (EST).

You can also get The Meaning of the Death of Jesus Bundle for just $20.99 through 11:59 p.m. (EST) on March 22. In the bundle you’ll get the following three titles in the bundle:

-The Day That Changed Forever: Twenty One Life Changing Experiences at the Cross by Tim Roehl

-Bought with Blood by Derek Prince

-Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross: Contemporary Images of the Atonement by Mark D. Baker

Want to learn more about this exclusive ebook bundle? Check out our blog post from Monday this week, here.

Check back next week as we conclude the second to last week of Lent. We’ll be featuring content on the meaning behind the resurrection of Jesus. There will be guest posts by Karen Jensen Salisbury, Rita Schulte, Anita Agers-Brooks, Rebecca Greenwood, and Brian Simmons. You’ll find a new bundle and individual titles available at a discount to aid you in the study of Jesus’ resurrection.

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The Power of the Cross

The Power of the Cross

Today’s guest post is by Bill Giovannetti, the senior pastor of Neighborhood Church of Redding and a teacher at A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary and Simpson University. He is the author of Grace Intervention: Understanding God’s Beautiful Gift of and Secrets to a Happy Life: Finding Satisfaction in Any Situation.

Pretty gold crosses dangling on shiny chains have a narcotic effect on our thoughts about the Cross. So do 2,000 years of time’s passage and 5,000 miles of distance. Our sanitized crosses fall far short of the gut-wrenching realities of crucifixion. What the Gospels say in four icy words, “and they crucified Him” (Mark 15:25), would have been emotionally devastating to behold, much less endure.

Of all the big deals in theology, the biggest deal is the Cross of Christ and all it means. So Jesus gathered his ragtag followers and turned a Passover meal into an endless commemoration of that dark day soon to dawn.

Jesus is into commemorating because we are into forgetting. “Never forget,” he said.

As we move from Good Friday, into Easter, it’s crucial we re-calibrate our hearts to this mother of all theological messages.

Scripture contemplates the Cross in five little words: “Christ died for our sins.” Christ died — that’s history; we could have seen it with our eyes had we been there. For our sins — that’s theology. It requires a revelation of God. Let’s open our hearts this season to the brutal realities of these words.

Christ Died (History)

Medical experts have reconstructed the physiological effects of this horrific Roman death by torture. Though they don’t all agree on the various details, they all affirm agonies beyond comprehension.

Scourging

“So Pilate too Jesus and scourged him,” the Bible simply says (John 19:1). To scourge means to skin alive with a whip. The beating was made worse by bones or weights embedded in the whips tail. Deep bruising, rib fractures, and open lacerations would result.

The Crown of Thorns

Most likely, the crown of thorns would have been shaped more like a cap than a circlet, and would have covered the whole head. Matthew explains that soldiers “took the reed and struck Him on the head” (Matthew 27:30), in effect hammering the spikes into Christ’s scalp. Excruciating pain would have followed.

Nails

 The spikes were made of iron and about four to five inches long. The force used in driving the nails would have caused searing pain throughout his body. Given what Jesus had already endured, shock was inevitable. As soon as the body’s full weight transferred to the nails through his hands and feet, Christ’s already horrific pain would have been magnified to levels beyond words.

The two little words, “Christ died,” pack enough punch to send the devil tumbling head over heels across the cosmos forever. Christ died because his work was finished. He paid the price. He satisfied justice. He died the death we deserved.

The next time you partake of the Communion cup and bread, stop and take a breath. Bring your mind back to that awful day. Block everything out long enough to remember the Lord’s brutal death.

This is the fountainhead of all grace. This is the Cross. This is what God did for you when Jesus died.

Yet, none of his physical sufferings compared to the pains about to come.

For Our Sins (Theology)

What could be more painful than the tortures, the beatings, the crown of thorns, and the nails through his hands and feet?

Our sins.

When our sins were laid upon him, that’s when Jesus cried out.

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)

For Jesus, no physical suffering compared to being forsaken by God—a black-box mystery, a breach in the eternal fellowship between Christ on the cross and his Father in heaven. This is impenetrable darkness. Bow in wonder and keep silent.

Why did God forsake him?

Because God was judging him for the sin of the world. Damning him. Condemning him. Christ died for our sins. For my sins. For yours.

By the blood of his Cross, you’ve been redeemed (1 Peter 1:18–19), reconciled (Colossians 1:20), forgiven (Ephesians 1:7), brought near to God (Ephesians 2:13), cleansed in conscience (Hebrews 9:14), been made satisfactory to God (by propitiation, Romans 3:25), and declared good enough for God forever (by justification, Romans 5:9).

It was his death—not his life, not his teachings, not his miracles, not his love—that shoved darkness into a bottomless pit and rescued your sorry soul forever. Yes, these wonders of the life of Christ dazzle angels and demons, yet they were nothing if not a prelude to his death.

Let’s not rush through Good Friday. Let’s not forget the Ground Zero of our salvation — the birthplace of grace, and the foundation of the church.

Christ died for our sins.

Hallelujah.

***

Learn more about the power of the cross in Bill Giovannetti’s ebook, Grace Intervention: Understanding God’s Beautiful Gift of Grace for $9.74 on Vyrso today.

 


 

This article is adapted from his latest book, Grace Intervention (Barbour Publishing/Shiloh Run Press, 2015).

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The Revolutionary Jesus

The Red Letter Life

Today’s guest post is by Bob Hostetler the author of The Red Letter Life: 17 Words From Jesus to Inspire Simple, Practical, Purposeful Living, and the upcoming The Red Letter Prayer Life: 17 Words from Jesus to Inspire Practical, Purposeful, Powerful Prayer

The land of Jesus was always a hotbed of revolution.

A man named Theudas led a rebellion among the common people, raising an army of 400, until he was killed and his rebellion ended.

A Galilean named Judas, when Jesus was a boy, led a tax revolt and gained a following, until he too was killed and his rebellion ended.

Like them, Jesus amassed a popular following. And, like them, he died.

But Jesus was different. And rather than dying in failure, he died in victory. Because he did not come to overthrow armies or governments or economies. He came—and he lived, and died, and rose again—for a better cause.

He came to overturn religion

“Now, wait a minute,” someone says. “I thought Jesus came to establish a religion!”

No. Not hardly.

That’s a common misconception, you know, that Jesus came to launch a new religion called “Christianity.”

But the world of Jesus’ day was not short on religions. He came to overturn religious futility, to revolutionize how people relate to God, and enter into his kingdom, and grab hold of eternal life, abundant life.

By his death and resurrection, Jesus flipped the process as he overturned tables in the temple. Rather than people trying to get to God by their efforts, he granted access to God by his efforts. [Click to tweet!]

 

He came to overwhelm darkness

In July 1999, a pilot, his wife, and her sister boarded a Piper Saratoga airplane in New York City to fly to Martha’s Vineyard. The pilot had flown that route before. . . but seldom at night, and never on a night like that one. As the lights of the coast disappeared and their route took them over the ocean, the darkness and haziness of the night combined with the utter blackness of the waters below began to to disorient the pilot. Experienced pilots will tell you that at such times with no landmarks, no lights, no stars in the sky, only the plane’s instruments can tell you whether you’re rightside up or upside down. That is how experts think JFK Jr. and his wife and sister-in-law died.

It is a fitting parable of the human situation.

Dallas Willard, in his book The Divine Conspiracy, wrote:

Most of us as individuals, and world society as a whole, live at high-speed and often with no clue to whether we are flying upside down or right-side up. Indeed, we are haunted by a strong suspicion that there may be no difference.

Jesus came to change that. He said, “Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going,” (John 12:35, NLT). But he also said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life,” (John 8:12, NIV).

He came to plant within us the light that will dispel doubt and sin and darkness, the truth that will expose the lies—the forces in this world that have been trying all your life to convince you that you’re worthless and will never amount to anything, or that God feels nothing but disgust toward you and that if you approached him he would slam the door in your face, or the forces that want you to think you’re powerless, a victim of evolution and environment and circumstance who can never live a life that will bless yourself and others. He came to overthrow that deception in your heart and mind and show you that, “You [can be] a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light,” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV).

 

He came to overcome death

Less than a week after Jesus rode into Jerusalem amid adoring throngs on Palm Sunday and then cleared the Temple precincts of merchants and moneychangers, he was arrested and executed, like Theudas and Judas the Galilean before him.

Unlike them, however, Jesus’ revolution didn’t end there.

Because Jesus didn’t stay executed.

The testimony of the church for two thousand years— and the overwhelming weight of the evidence—says that Jesus rose from the grave that first Easter Sunday.

He overcame death.

He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die,” (John 11:25-26, NIV). He also said, “I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full,” (John 10:10, NIV).

John Huffman said, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ equips us to face the two biggest fears in the world: the fear of dying and the fear of living.”

That is what Easter means. It is why Jesus came. He said it himself, quite succinctly, when he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” (John 14:6, NIV).

Religion is not the way. . .“I am the way.”

The stuff this world has you believing is not the truth. . .“I am the truth.”

Even this mortal life you’re leading is not real life. . .“I am the life.”

 ***

Start reading Bob Hostetler ebook, The Red Letter Life: 17 Words From Jesus to Inspire Simple, Practical, Purposeful Living for $8.44.

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Symbol of Salvation

do-you-believe-40-day-devotional

Today we’re featuring an excerpt from the ebook Do You Believe? 40-Day Devotional, by Robert Noland. Robert Noland has continued writing and is currently a freelance writer and author for faith-based organizations, ministries, and Christian publishers. You can purchase the ebook on Vyrso for $7.49.

Day 1

Symbol of Salvation

Matthew is a pastor, sitting at his desk at night. The house is very quiet. He is intent in his thoughts and appears burdened. The small desk lamp illuminates a legal pad. As we move closer, we see he has filled the page by drawing a simple outline of a cross. Underneath it, he has written a bold message: Do You Believe?

Humans have always used symbols to represent important elements of their existence. Few have stood the test of time and lasted throughout generations, becoming unmistakable, nonverbal icons to create a recognizable image of deep meaning.

One of the most enduring symbols of all time is the cross. But different people understand different meanings based on their life experience, so let’s ask. . .

When you hear the word cross, do you tend to think about . . .

. . . a fashionable piece of jewelry?

. . . a classic element of church architecture?

. . . a representation of a religion long since left behind?

. . . the physical instrument God used for the spiritual redemption of your soul?

For you, is the cross’s meaning. . .

. . . historical?

. . . religious?

. . . personal?

While your answer to the latter question could certainly be “all three,” there is a likelihood one rings the most true for you.

As we begin this forty-day journey centered on the cross of Christ, evaluating how you feel, what you think, and how deep your belief goes is important to how impactful these days will be for you. One of the vital keys for experiencing life change will be the level of honesty and transparency you allow with God. He already sees you and knows you intimately, but opening your heart to him will make all the difference.

A distinguishing focal point of the cross is that it is not associated with any belief system other than Christianity and with no person other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Throughout church history, and in art of all forms, the cross is presented in two ways.

First is with Jesus hanging on its beams, representing his suffering, sacrifice, and eventual death. Second, and where we find many of our artistic images, is the empty cross. While this could seem to denote an absence of Christ, it is actually showing the opposite—a presence. Christ has risen! He is alive and seated at the right hand of God. The cross and the tomb are now empty so that our hearts can be full and our lives fulfilled.

Few will debate or argue the historical fact that Jesus hung on the cross and gave his life. The only disagreement for people is whether or not his death meant anything for mankind.

The simple, rough-hewn wooden beams strapped and nailed together convey a powerful and prevailing image of God’s intervention in the world. While the cross may instigate different responses, the image has remained a respected, valued, and consistent reminder of man’s problem met with God’s presence. But the real question is not what does the cross mean throughout history for the world, but rather, what does the cross mean to you?

Regardless of your own personal perspective, this cruel device of torture and execution the authorities used to eliminate Jesus actually was the instrument God wielded to surgically remove the sting of sin and death forever from those who would choose to believe him.

Today, let us not think of the cross as a symbol, an image, or an icon, but rather, a personal choice each one of us must make. So our closing question today comes from the film’s title and Pastor Matthew’s drawing. . . Do you believe?

Whether you feel you are hanging on to life by a thread and desperately searching for answers or you are a vibrant, mature follower of Christ simply looking to grow, we must continually ask ourselves what we believe and what the cross means to us—today. This day!

And when he was living as a man, he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death—death on a cross. —Philippians 2:8 NCV

With as honest of an answer as you can give, complete the sentence below on your journal page, while expressing any other thoughts you have on today’s reading.

For me, the cross of Christ means. . . [Click to tweet!]

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Do You Believe?

do-you-believe-40-day-devotional

Today’s guest post is by Robert Noland, author of Do You Believe? 40-Day Devotional. He began writing in 1983 as a songwriter, musician, and producer. Robert Noland has continued writing and is currently a freelance writer and author for faith-based organizations, ministries, and Christian publishers. You can connect with Robert Noland on his blog.

The Jesus Movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s spawned many great Christian slogans, used to communicate the hearts of a virtual army of young believers. Many of them were emblazoned across banners and waved unashamedly for the world to see—sayings such as, “One Way—His Way,” “Right On With Jesus,” “The Jesus People Are Here,” and “Turn On to Jesus.” Even if the language used back then makes us laugh, the very present and prominent placement of the word “Jesus” is impressive, inspiring, and challenging to us today. And these weren’t just clever hashtags to promote a brand; they were expressions of a new community living for Christ.

One of the most poignant statements brought to life from this era was actually a question—“If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” In our current politically correct culture and seeker-friendly church environment, this question sounds rather militant today, does it not? It draws a line, demands an answer, gets a bit in-your-face. After being hidden in the Christian closet, so to speak, for decades, the film release of Do You Believe? in theaters March 20 dusts this question off.

When I received the call about writing the companion devotional book for the film and heard the vision, I knew I was all in. The widely popular Pure Flix film, God’s Not Dead, offered the opportunity for viewers to see there is a God who loves and cares for us, and the film Do You Believe? brings the eternal question to the individual heart—what do you do with Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross? Does this make a difference in your life? And, finally, yes, that burning question revived out of the 60s: “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

During The Jesus Movement, young people brought the son of God to the conscious of the culture and offered up the gospel as a solution for the pain of a rapidly changing and deeply hurting nation. But let’s face it. We haven’t seen anything like a revival in a very long time. In fact, to say we’re on a downward spiral could be an understatement. Sure, there have been pockets of renewal rising up here and there over the past 40 years. But a movement? No.

So could it be time for The Jesus Movement of the 21st century? Are we desperate enough yet as a nation? Might the question, “do you believe?” become a societal line-in-the-sand?

Statements that demand a commitment to the ways of God weren’t born in the ’60s, in the revivals of the 1800s, or the Reformation in the 1500s. They were written on the lips of our Lord.

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30) NIV.

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38) NIV.

Regardless of the church’s choices or culture’s mood swings, generation after generation, Jesus has consistently stood before the world, making these statements. Black and white—no shades of gray. Clear-cut—no question. Young people of the ’60s asked some hard questions, made some bold statements. Why? Because they heard Jesus and obeyed. It’s that simple. The question for us in 2015 is, while he is still speaking, are we going to listen? Will we obey or just keep sleeping, while the world slips away?

Are the Jesus people here? Is your one way, his way? Do you believe? Is there evidence enough to convict you of standing with Jesus? I pray there is. So we can once again stand firm, gather for him, and live lives worthy of the name of Jesus!

***

Be encouraged with Noland’s, Do You Believe? 40-Day Devotional and his other ebook on Vyrso, Think, Act, Be Like Jesus.

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