The cross was the goal of Jesus from the very beginning. His birth was so there would be His death. The incarnation was for our atonement. He was born to die so that we might live. And when He had accomplished the purpose He had come to fulfill, He summed it up with a single word: “finished.”
In the original Greek, it was a common word. Jesus probably used it after He finished a project that He and Joseph might have been working on together in the carpentry shop. Jesus might have turned to Joseph and said, “Finished. Now let’s go have lunch.” It is finished. Mission accomplished. It is done. It is made an end of.
So what was finished? Finished and completed were the horrendous sufferings of Christ. Never again would He experience pain at the hand of wicked men. Never again would He have to bear the sins of the world. Never again would He, even for a moment, be forsaken of God. That was completed. That was taken care of.
Also finished was Satan’s stronghold on humanity. Jesus came to deal a decisive blow against the devil and his demons at the cross of Calvary. Hebrews 2:14 says, “Only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.” This means that you no longer have to be under the power of sin. Because of Jesus’ accomplishment at the cross, finished was the stronghold of Satan on humanity.
And lastly, finished was our salvation. It is completed. It is done. All of our sins were transferred to Jesus when He hung on the cross. His righteousness was transferred to our account.
So Jesus cried out the words, “It is finished!” It was God’s deliberate and well-thought-out plan. It is finished—so rejoice!
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6.8-11, HCSB).
When you saw the title for today’s devotion, I imagine that you thought it was about Jesus. If so, you’re half right. The cross is always about Jesus, but believers are also destined for sacrifice and death.
“Death to self” happens at the moment of salvation, when we are crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6). The old self dies, and we are given a new nature as the Holy Spirit comes to live within us (John 14:17). At times it takes a bit longer to get to the sacrifice—the moment when we hand over to God everything we love and value.
God doesn’t stop at salvation; His purpose is to conform believers to the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:29). So He gives us a new nature—then we can experience freedom because Jesus has triumphed over sin. But in order to live as God intends, we must be willing to give Christ the centermost position in our lives. As a result, the Lord calls us to the cross on a daily basis to lay down the things that might distract us from our purpose to serve and follow Him.
Don’t misunderstand what it means to be destined for the cross. God isn’t going to take away everything and leave us as lonely paupers. Putting our valuables on the cross—whether they are possessions, people, or dreams—frees us from the attachments of this world.
When we lay down worldly attachments, our self-esteem isn’t tied to “stuff” and our sense of acceptance doesn’t come from people. We are complete in the Lord. Or as Paul said, we are “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). Enjoying a new life in Christ is worth a daily trip to the cross.
If you want to be a person with a large vision, you must cultivate the habit of doing the little things well. That’s when God puts iron in your bones!
The test of my calling is not how well I do before the public on Sunday; it’s how carefully I cover the bases Monday through Saturday when there’s nobody to check up on me, when nobody is looking.
When God develops character, He works on it throughout a lifetime. He’s never in a hurry.
It is in the schoolroom of solitude and obscurity that we learn to become men and women of God. It is from the schoolmasters of monotony and reality that we learn to “king it.”
That’s how we become—like David—men and women after God’s own heart.
For some, Easter will be a great day, spent surrounded by family and friends. But for others, it will be a sad day, because Easter is a reminder of a loved one who has died and is now desperately missed.
Death seems so cruel, so harsh, and so final. That is what the disciples were feeling when they saw their Lord, whom they had left everything to follow, hanging on the cross. They were devastated. Death had crushed them. But if they would have gone back in their memories, they would have recalled an important event and statement Jesus had made.
They would have remembered Jesus standing at the tomb of his close friend Lazarus. They would have remembered that Jesus did something completely unexpected: He wept (see John 11:35). Jesus wept, because He knew that death was not part of God’s original plan. Humanity was not meant to grow old, to suffer with disease, or to die. But because of the sin of Adam and Eve, sin entered the human race, and death followed with it. And death spread to all of us. Jesus wept, because it broke His heart.
But standing there at Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus also delivered these hope-filled words: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). Death is not the end. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ proves it.
If you have put your faith in Christ, then Easter means that you will live forever in the presence of God. Easter brings hope to the person who has been devastated by death.
The apostle Paul writes that when Jesus comes again, “He shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15). Paul is saying, in essence, “When Christ comes, He is going to show everybody who is Lord!”
God the Father enthroned Christ as king over all nations and all nature, and as Lord over the church. Paul is saying, “It doesn’t matter what things look like on the outside. Everything may seem out of control and it may look as if the devil has taken power. But the truth is, God has put all things under Jesus’ feet and He is still king over everything!”
“By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16). “He is the head of the body, the church . . . that in all things he might have the preeminence” (verse 18).
These passages prove that almighty God has appointed Jesus Christ as Lord, and all dominion has been given into His hands. Yet all around we see our society and government dethroning Christ, refusing to acknowledge His authority and kingship. We are removing God from our schools and courts and ignoring Him in the making of our laws. And now we are reaping a terrible harvest.
I believe America’s rejection of Christ’s lordship is the reason behind all the bloodshed, violence, racial hatred, moral decay, drug abuse and outbreak of deadly sexual diseases in our society. Lawmakers, educators and the media have made God an unspeakable subject.
Yet my concern goes beyond America’s rejection of Jesus’ authority. I believe the problem of Christ’s dethroning is much worse, much more tragic because it is happening in His church. It’s true! Our exalted Lord is being dethroned in churches throughout the land and in the lives of a multitude of believers.
It is understandable that ungodly people would want to dethrone Christ. But how it must grieve God to see Christ dethroned by those who call themselves by His name.
The volcano is quiet and silent for years. No fires and lava pour forth from its crater. Meanwhile, people venture up its slopes, and lay out their gardens, and build their villas, and plant their vineyards. And flowers bloom, and fruits hang in purple clusters, and beauty covers the once fire-swept, lava-furrowed mountain slopes. But has the volcano really been tamed? Have its fires been put out? Is all permanently peaceful in the volcano’s heart?
Just so is the heart of a man, who has merely trained himself into good moral and ethical habits. What the best mere self-culture can do for a life–is no more than the planting of flowers and vineyards on the volcano’s sides–while all its fires still burn within, ready to break forth again any day in all their old fury! Good manners are not saving religion. The heart must be changed. The heart of stone, must be made a heart of flesh. The heart that hates God, and holiness and purity–must become a heart that loves God, His holy ways, and His holy Word.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” Ezekiel 36:26-27
A good many years ago, there was a boy growing up in a home of poverty, with no advantages. He was long and lanky–a most clumsy boy. He would lie on the earthen floor at night, when the day’s work was done, reading by the dim firelight. There seemed little hope that the boy would ever be a man of influence. But the years pass, and we see him as President of the United States. One day we see him taking a pen and signing a paper which frees millions of slaves, and writes the name of Abraham Lincoln among the immortal names.
Just so, we should all just go on with our daily tasks, doing the best we can in our circumstances–and wait for God’s timing. It takes months for the apple to grow mellow and sweet on the tree. If you are a disciple of Christ–He is going to make something very beautiful, very noble out of your life, when His work on you is finished. You will not always be struggling with faults, fainting under infirmities, bowing beneath burdens, striving in vain against difficulties. It does not yet appear what you will be; but there is glory in reserve for every faithful follower of Jesus!
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2.9-14, NASB)
There is no circumstance in our lives about which the Lord will not speak to us. And we can be sure that when He does, His words are always purposeful. Consider some of the Father’s goals for His children:
• God wants us to comprehend the truth of what He is saying. As Christians, we can be confident that this will happen because the Holy Spirit is present within us, and John 16:13 promises that He will guide us into all truth. It may take time and effort on our part, but the Lord’s intention is for us to clearly understand what He’s communicating.
• Our heavenly Father also has a goal to conform us to the image of Christ. As we read the Scriptures, His Spirit may point out Jesus’ compassion toward the Samaritan woman as our example for living. Or He may warn us, through Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, not to rely on human understanding. Our part is to respond to His words by aligning our lives with the truth, and not to resist.
In addition, God reveals truths about life in Christ so we will be able to communicate those same principles to others. Jesus spoke only what His Father had taught Him (John 8:28). Likewise, we need to be listening carefully every time God speaks so we, too, will know what to say.
God has something to say: to the obedient and the disobedient; to the powerful and the weak; to the self-assured and the insecure; to the lost and the saved. Don’t miss what He has to tell you. Let whatever happens in the course of the day draw you to Him, and practice giving Him your full attention.
A California stagecoach driver had held the leather reins for so many years, that when he began to grow old, his hands were crooked into hooks, and his fingers were so stiffened into that shape–that they could not be straightened out.
There is a similar process that goes on in men’s minds and souls, when they continue to do the same things over and over. If you are trained, and train yourself, from childhood . . .
to be gentle and patient,
to control your temper,
to resist all wrong–
your life will grow into moral beauty, and the peacefulness of your heart will at length shine upon your very face.
If, on the other hand, you give way from childhood . . .
to all ugly tempers,
to resentful feelings,
to all bitterness and anger–
your life will grow into permanent moral disfigurement.
One who accustoms himself to think of pure and holy things, who sets his affections on things above, and strives to reach for things which are true, things which are honorable, things which are lovely–will grow heavenward toward the things which he loves and thinks upon.
But one who lets his mind turn habitually . . .
to debasing things,
to unholy things,
to impure things,
to earthly things–
will find his whole soul bending downward, and growing sinful, corrupt, and evil.
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise!” Philippians 4:8
Each one of us belongs to the same Lord. When we stop dictating, it is easier for others to mature as they follow the Lord’s directing.
Freeing others means we never assume a position we’re not qualified to fill. This, in one sentence, is enough to stop any person from judging another. We’re not qualified. We lack full knowledge.
How often we have jumped to wrong conclusions, made judgmental statements, only to find out later how off base we were . . . then wished we could cut off our tongue. What keeps us from being qualified to judge?
We do not know all the facts.
We are unable to read motives.
We find it impossible to be totally objective.
We lack “the big picture.”
We live with blind spots.
We are prejudiced and have blurred perspective.
Most of all, we ourselves are imperfect and inconsistent.
The devil is . . .
not a lamb–but a lion;
not a sleeping lion–but a roaring lion;
not a lion standing still–but a lion prowling around to devour!
He is not satisfied with the prey he has already gotten, but is restless in his designs to fill Hell with damned souls.
He never lacks . . .
an apple for an Eve,
nor a grape for a Noah,
nor a change of clothing for a Gehazi,
nor a wedge of gold for an Achan,
nor a crown for an Absalom,
nor a bag of silver for a Judas,
nor a world for a Demas!
If you look into . . .
one company–you shall find Satan a-dishing out his dainties to every palate.
another company–you shall find him fitting a lace to every shoe.
a third company–you shall find him suiting a garment to every back.
Here, with Jael, he allures poor souls in with milk–and murders them with a nail!
There, with Joab, he embraces with one hand–and stabs with another!
Here with Judas, he kisses–and betrays!
And there, with the whore of Babylon, he presents a golden cup–with poison in it!
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour!” 1 Peter 5:8
“His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.” Daniel 4:34-35
“Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him!” Psalm 115:3
“The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths!” Psalm 135:6
The Lord Jesus Christ is the sole Lord and Lawgiver of His Church. All His laws proceed from His loving heart–and are framed with a view to His people’s good, and His own glory. They are all merciful, just, and necessary. They cannot be dispensed with–or His glory would be obscured, and His people injured.
Jesus reigns over His people, He reigns in them, He reigns for them! He reigns . . .
over them, by His Word and servants,
in them, by His grace and Spirit,
for them, by His wise and holy providence.
He can do as He will–for His power is absolute!
He will do as He has said–for His faithfulness is unimpeachable!
Every being in creation is under His eye!
Every movement in the universe, is by His power and permission!
Nothing is too insignificant for Him to regard.
Nothing is too cunning to escape His all-penetrating eye! Nothing in all creation is hidden from His sight. All things are naked and open before Him–and sin has no covering.
He does according to His will in Heaven, earth, and Hell! He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers! He brings princes to naught, and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing! He remains King forever!
His people love His person, His government, and His laws! Whatever the sovereign King does–pleases all His redeemed people.
He is the omnipotent Lord God–and He reigns and rules over all!
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns!” Revelation 19:6
The Old Testament Book of Judges speaks of a time in history when everyone did what was right in their own eyes. And the Book of Isaiah offers this warning: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (5:20).
That is exactly where our culture is today. We mock that which is good, and we exalt that which is bad. We laugh at people who try to live moral lives. And a family with one man and one woman raising their children is becoming a novel thought.
In our postmodern culture, moral relativism is the rule of the day. Everything is upside down. And it will take an upside-down church to turn it right side up. In Acts 17:6, we find a backhanded compliment of the early church: “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.” The church of the first century turned the world upside down. And we need to do the same in our culture today.
But how do we reach people who don’t believe in moral absolutes? Is it possible to engage them with Scripture? We need to reach our postmodern culture, and I believe that we have opportunities to do so.
Billy Graham said, “The evangelistic harvest is always urgent. The destiny of men and of nations is always being decided. Every generation is strategic. We are not responsible for the past generation, and we do not bear full responsibility for the next one; but we do have our generation.”
I take this seriously. I want to do everything that I can with the life that God has given me to bring the gospel to my generation. We are all called to engage our culture.