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North Harford Baptist Church
John Manry  |  Jarrettsville, Maryland
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North Harford Baptist Church
4008 Old Federal Hill Rd
Jarrettsville, MD 21084
North Harford Baptist Church
4008 Old Federal Hill Rd
Jarrettsville, MD 21084
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What the Bible is About
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Jesus: The God Who Saves

What is the Bible about and why? The Bible is about how Jesus brings sinners into a relationship with God that will never end. This is the Bible’s story. It is a story that can be given different titles. It can be called the story of reconciliation because Jesus reconciles those who are alienated from God back to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). He makes peace between a Holy God and sinful rebels. It can be called the story of salvation because Jesus saves those who are destined for destruction from what is coming to them (Acts 4:12). It can be called the story of redemption because God purchases and frees those who are shackled in bondage under the power of sin and death (Ephesians 1:7-10). Deliverance, restoration, and re-creation are some other options.

All possible titles for the Bible’s story have something in common. They all summarize the story of how Jesus brings sinners into a relationship with God that will never end. They highlight different aspects of what Jesus does. They look at what Jesus does from a different angle. But they are looking at the same Jesus and the same story from the same book. The name Jesus means, “The Lord saves,” or, “The Lord is salvation” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is the Lord, and Jesus saves sinners. He brings them, by His grace and power not theirs, into an unending relationship with God. This is the Bible’s story, the story of redemption in Christ.

Eternal Life: God’s Gift

A relationship with God that never ends is the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). This is another way to summarize the Bible’s story. It is the story of God giving people eternal life through Jesus. The Bible is one large book made up of 66 small books. The Bible’s 66 small books are divided into two testaments, the Old Testament (39 books) and the New Testament (27 books). The Old Testament spans from creation to about 400 years before Jesus. It promises, predicts, and prefigures Christ in various ways. The New Testament begins events surrounding the births and ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus and ends with the sure expectation of Jesus’ return in the future. It chronicles the fulfillment and realization of what the Old Testaments promised, predicted, and prefigured, namely, Christ and the redemption that He accomplishes.

The 39 books of the Old Testament have different kinds of writings arranged in four sections: the Pentateuch (the first five books), the historical books (the next twelve), books of wisdom and poetry (the next five), and the Prophets (the final 17). The 27 books of the New Testament contain four gospels (theological and historical biographies of Jesus), one book of history (Acts of the Apostles), 21 letters (also called epistles), and the Book of Revelation (a unique blend of letters and prophecy). Both testaments, every section, and each individual book are vital parts of one overarching story, the story of God giving people eternal life through Jesus.

This answers what the Bible is about. But why is the Bible about this? Why is the Bible about how Jesus brings sinners into a relationship with God that will never end (i.e., eternal life)? There are two answers to this question because why can be asked in different ways. The answers are distinct but inseparably related. First, we want to know the origin of this story. Why does it exist? Where does it come from? Second, we want to know the goal of this story. Where is it going? What will it accomplish? One answer looks back and the other answer looks forward. Both answers tell us about the nature and significance of the Bible’s story, the story of redemption in Christ Jesus.

Looking Back: God’s Eternal Purpose

Why is the Bible about redemption in Christ? Because redemption in Christ was and is God’s eternal purpose. We look back, therefore, to God himself and his eternal purpose to understand why the things in the Bible exist and happen. God chose what he wanted to do based solely on His wisdom, desires, and unchanging character. He did not consult anyone or call a meeting. He did not take a survey of popular opinion. There was no one else. There was nothing else. There was only God dwelling in eternity—this is beyond comprehension since we live in time and think according to temporal succession—in the blissful perfection of divine joy, peace, freedom, holiness, delight, and infinite love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:3-14; 3:7-13). “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2).

God determined what he wanted to do. He determined to create and oversee a world where he would give people eternal life through Jesus, who is God the Son become a man. He is the Savior of the story of salvation, the Redeemer of the story of redemption, the giver of eternal life to all who believe. He is the Christ, the anointed King who conquers God’s enemies, delivers God’s people, and rules over all things in justice, righteousness, mercy, and gracious love and faithfulness; whose kingdom will have no end.

Why is the Bible about redemption in Christ? God determined that His world would be about it; and the Bible simply tells us what the world is about. Ours is a world where Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the liberating message of redemption, is actively bringing sinners into a relationship with God that will never end. The Bible tells us so.

Looking Forward: God with His People in Glory

Why is the Bible about redemption in Christ? Because it explains where the world is headed and how it will get there. The redeemed of God look forward, that is, to dwelling with God forever in resurrection glory (Romans 8:18-25; 1 Corinthians 15:42-58; Revelation 21:1-4). We anticipate a grand display of God’s radiant glory where we will be living and holy reflections of his character who see Him and sing of Him in a proper way. The Bible is the story of how Christ makes this happen. He attains resurrection glory; he shares resurrection glory with others (Hebrews 2:10). We look forward to this end-goal of all things.

This is why the Bible is about redemption in Christ: God is going to dwell with a redeemed people forever in glory, and redemption in Christ is how he does it. This is where the story is headed. This is what Jesus is accomplishing. This is what history is moving toward. This is the hope of Christians everywhere. This is the gift and the message the church shares with the world in with genuine compassion and strong conviction. It is inevitable because it is linked to God’s eternal purpose. God is creating a people holy unto himself in Christ. Come! Join the festal gathering and worship your Lord and Maker through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).

As we look back to God’s eternal purpose, we must look forward to the end-goal that His purpose had in mind. The Bible’s story connects the two. The story of redemption is birthed in God and his eternal purpose. The story of redemption is completed when God, at the end of the ages, dwells with his redeemed people forever in glory.

Think of two dots connected by a line. One dot is God’s eternal purpose that He freely determined in eternity past without consulting any outside source. The other dot is the future and grand display of God’s glory where He shares personal fellowship with a large group of people who reflect Him, love Him, and sing His praises. The line that connects that dots is history. We know about the dots and the line because God has told us about them in the Bible. The Bible’s story, therefore, is about how God purposed redemption, how God accomplishes redemption, and how God completes and consummates redemption. It is all done in Christ. It is all part of one story that is from God, for God, and unto God (Romans 11:36). There is a simple scheme to things:

(1.) Before Creation: God purposed redemption in Christ in eternity past

(2.) In Creation: God accomplishes redemption in Christ in time and history

(3.) A New Creation: God completes and consummates redemption in Christ to close out this age

Category:  The Bible's Story

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Christ's Suffering and Glory
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The Plotline: Christ’s Suffering and Glory

What is Bible study? Bible study is learning from God about the line that connects His eternal purpose to the completion of that purpose at the end of time as we know it. Bible study is the Spiritual act of seeing more clearly and grasping more deeply the plotline of God’s story of redemption in Christ. The story is not static, but dynamic. It is not monolithic, but multifaceted. It moves. It develops. It has stages like a seed to sprout to sapling to shade treed. There is always unity in what God is doing, but there is also diversity along the way. The more we grasp this plotline, the more we will grasp God’s will for our lives. As we grasp His will for our lives more and more, we, by faith and the Spirit’s power, are empowered to live for Him more and more. First we must hear God’s Word. Then we can live according to God’s Word. Both the hearing and living come from Christ. Both are gifts to be enjoyed by grace through faith.

Think of a novel with one main point or a play about one major event. The chapters are not all the same. The acts and scenes differ from each other. But all the diversity does not do away with the story’s unity. The diverse steps and scenes, rather, serve the story’s unity. They explain the one main story in an unfolding way. They move in a meaningful and purposeful way toward a conclusion. The Bible’s story works this way also. There are different eras, or epochs of redemptive history. From era to era, God moves closer and closer, with purpose and careful design, to fulfilling his eternal purpose and dwelling with his people forever. The eras are distinct but related one to another.

Jesus helps us begin to think about these eras in a simple way. He used two simple concepts, two “steps” to summarize the Bible’s story at the most basic level. Jesus summarized the Bible’s plotline as the story of His suffering and glory. This is a good place to begin. The story of redemption in Christ unfolds in a story about Christ’s suffering unto glory. In the Old Testament, it is promised, predicted, and prefigured. In the New Testament, it is fulfilled and realized.

What does the Bible say? It says about Jesus’ teaching, “‘Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:26-27; cf. Luke 24:44-47). Peter likewise explained how the Prophets, “predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1 Peter 1:11; n.b. 10-12; cf. Acts 3:13-18). The author of Hebrews uses the same framework to summarize Christ’s work. “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10; cf. Hebrews 5:8-9; 9:24-26). Finally, John sees a symbolic vision that communicates the same thing. He “saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6), that symbolizes “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, [who] has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” He saw, in other words, the One who suffered unto glory to accomplish God’s purpose of redemption. These are but the clearest examples.

Christ Jesus suffered unto glory to save sinners. This summarizes the two most basic concepts, or “steps” in the Bible’s plotline. This is how the story unfolds. This is how redemption in Christ is accomplished.

Step one, Jesus endured suffering on earth.

Step two, Jesus entered glory in heaven.

This gives us a good footing for further Bible study. This is how Jesus summarizes the plotline that connects God’s eternal purpose with the end of time as we know it.


Remember that the Bible tells the story of redemption. We think about Jesus’ suffering and glory, therefore, as redemptive in nature. Jesus experienced redemptive suffering. Second, Jesus experienced (and still experiences) redemptive glory. This means that his suffering and glory are the very things that achieve God’s purposed redemption. They fulfill God’s purpose. They save sinners. They bring the end of the world as we know to our doorstep. Jesus suffered and was glorified for the glory of God and the salvation of sinners.

Where does eternal life come from? Eternal life comes from Jesus sharing his glory with undeserving sinners. It is the glory of resurrection life. It is Jesus giving you and I that which he earned. Ineffable mercy! To say this gift is profound does not scratch the surface. It is immeasurably undeserved and immeasurably wonderful. Thank you, Jesus (Ephesians 2:7; 3:18-19)!

Now, there is one word from the Bible that summarizes all of this. To this word we turn next.

Category:  The Bible's Story

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God's Top Priority
Posted by: North Harford Baptist Church | more..
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Being Made Holy in Christ

Christ’s followers not only love Him (Luke 7:47), but also become like Him by the Spirit’s power (n.b. 1 John 4:19). We are made holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15). We come to seek what Christ seeks, desire what Christ desires, and prioritize what Christ prioritizes (Matthew 10:24-25). To put it simply, the most important things to Jesus become the most important things to Jesus’ followers (Matthew 6:33). This is discipleship (Matthew 16:24-26).

Of the sinful woman He said, “for she loved much.” By grace would the same be said of my and you.

Where does this Spiritual transformation come from? From our hearts? From our strength or wisdom? Never (John 3:5-6)! We “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The personal glory of Christ in heaven, as we behold Him by faith, transforms us to be like Him more and more as we step ever closer to our dying day. One day we will die. We will go to Him. We will reflect Him perfectly and praise Him properly. Till that day, the day we are completed and confirmed in holiness, we are in process. We are being made holy in Him. We are being sanctified.

Sanctification is a gift. It is the gift of holiness to undeserving sinners. Like all such glorious gifts—gifts of salvation—sanctification is a gift given in Christ. It is a gift delivered to us personally by the Holy Spirit of our risen Lord and great High Priest. He has justified us. He will glorify us. He is sanctifying us.

(1.) Justified – Being declared righteous in God’s eyes based on the righteous life and sacrificial death of Jesus.

(2.) Glorified – Being risen from the dead like Jesus was and living forever with Him in God’s presence.

(3.) Sanctified – Being set apart for God’s purposes and being conformed to God’s character by the Holy Spirit.

What’s Most Important?

What are the most important things in all the world? What are the most important things to you? What is your life devoted to? What will you be remembered for? What is the “Why?” that you wake up with in the morning? What is the “Yes!” that you will rejoice over in your final days, final breaths? Will it be money, trinkets, trophies, or hobbies? Will it be popularity? Perhaps tragic mistakes. Or maybe just a plain ol’ mundane story of another trivial existence consumed by meaningless entertainment and wasted time. God’s calling, and my challenge to the reader, is to make the most important things in God’s eyes the most important things in our eyes. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

What, therefore, is most important to God? What is greatest to Him? What is first in His eyes? What is of highest priority to the Almighty God and King of all creation?

There are different aspects of what is most important to God. First, the gospel of Jesus Christ is of first importance to God: that Christ died for sin, was buried, and then risen according to Scripture to achieve salvation (1 Corinthians 15:3). Second, two foundational commandments are of greatest importance to God: that we love Him with all and above all and that we love each other as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). Third, His own kingdom—the way he defeats his enemies, saves his people, and rules over all things in Christ in fulfillment of his eternal purpose—is first and should be sought first (Matthew 6:33). Fourth, the manifestation and recognition of His glory is God’s highest priority: the revealing of His nature and character through His names, works, and Word in the world; and the response of his children in glad adoration and joyful praise over this wondrous showcase revealed to them (1 Corinthians 10:31; Isaiah 42:8; Habakkuk 2:14).

These are the four pillars of God’s top priority. We must learn them, love them, understand them, and live by them. This is the path of Life, the path of living. The four pillars of God’s top priority are God’s gospel, God’s law, God’s kingdom, and God’s glory.

The Four Pillars

(1.) God’s Gospel – God’s message of good news that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection have achieved salvation for God’s people, i.e. all come to Christ in true repentance and faith.

(2.) God’s Law – God’s moral demands, the reward of Life for meeting those demands, and the penalty of death for violating them.

(3.) God’s Kingdom – God’s reign over all things that culminates in the full and final redemption of His people and conquest over evil.

(4.) God’s Glory – God’s revelation, or God’s showing forth of His own nature, character, and power in a way that can be observed, understood, and responded to.

The whole Christian life and perspective rests upon these four pillars of God’s top priority. There are other aspects that help describe what is most important to God. But apart from these four pillars, they are meaningless and lead to, at best, a shallow faith that is so vague it can barely be distinguished from other forms of monotheism. But we are Christians. We believe Scripture. We stand, therefore, upon God’s gospel, law, kingdom, and glory. These are God’s top priority; they must be our top priority as well.

These pillars, however, rest upon a foundation: God Himself. God Himself, in the most ultimate and absolute way, is most important. We are talking, though, about what God is doing, how God has revealed Himself, and how we personally take part in His plan for all things. The four pillars help us do so; but we must never lose sight of God Himself as the grand foundation holding them up.

Picture a majestic, towering building—perhaps a museum of some sort—that rests upon four massive and brilliantly designed pillars. Which pillar is most important? All of them are most important. They work together. They depend on each other. If you remove one, the others fail. Three pillars cannot hold up the museum in my mind’s eye. It needs all four. This is about personal application in how we live, not about philosophy or speculation. We want to know, understand, and live according to what is most important to God the almighty One. How foolish would it be to pit one pillar against the others? Or to isolate one pillar and try to understand it apart from the others?

Personal Obedience

God calls us to love and obey him through faith in Christ. Beloved of God, this is personal and practical: we want God’s top priority to become our top priority more and more as the Day draws near (1 Corinthians 3:13; Hebrews 10:25). Pray to this end; and do not lose heart.

God’s gracious gospel, God’s holy law, God’s kingdom of redemption, and God’s magnificent and manifest glory; these are the most important things to Almighty God. Are they most important to me and you? Upon these pillars can we build a life lived for God. Blessed is he whose life is devoted to the pillars of God’s priority; heaven is his inheritance. The one who wakes up with these pillars upon his heart is no fool; the secrets of God’s wisdom will guide his steps. He will not know regret when death comes knocking. He will look back with a hearty, “Amen! Yes!” at what God has done.

Your grace, O Lord, and strength alone,

Have made Your loves to be our own;

Hearts to cherish, minds to seek,

Ears to hear and mouths to speak.

These delights by Spirit given,

From Christ the Lord who reigns in heaven,

Forever on His throne.

So here it is. If you and I are united to Christ by faith, then we belong to Him. We are His and He is ours; you are mine and I am yours. We are filled with the Spirit of Christ. And will we seek what Christ seeks, desire what Christ desires, and prioritize what Christ prioritizes? Have the most important things to Jesus become the most important things to us?

Let us, by faith in Him, live and die for God—Father, Son, Spirit—and His gospel, law, kingdom, and glory. Let us eat, sleep, and breathe for these pillars of God’s top priority. Let us pour ourselves out as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) unto Him. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).

Lord, fill us with your Spirit.

Category:  God's Priorities

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Devoting Ourselves to the Lord
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Why do days exist? What about weeks? And what about months, seasons, and years? Why do they exist? They exist to structure life on earth. They exist to help us structure our lives in devotion to Christ, the Lord of heaven and earth. What about my days, weeks, and so on exist? What have my days, weeks, and so on been devoted to?

And what about yours? What have your days, weeks, and so on been devoted to? Do not lose heart, for today is the day of salvation. Repentance is on a table set before you. Turn to Christ and devote yourself to Him. There is time, but there will not always be time. Today, therefore, repent.

Do with your days, weeks, and so on in the future what, perhaps, you have not done with them in the past. See them as practical tools to help you live your life in full devotion to Jesus Christ.

4 “O LORD, make me know my end

and what is the measure of my days;

let me know how fleeting I am!

5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,

and my lifetime is as nothing before you.

Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah

6 Surely a man goes about as a shadow!

Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;

man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

7 And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?

My hope is in you” (Psalm 39:4-7).

Will you devote your days the Lord? Will you give your weeks to the Lord? Months, seasons, years? Death is coming. Unless Christ returns first, death will one day arrive for you. Do you know the day or hour? Certainly not! Neither of us knows even the year or decade. But we can purpose each day to live in devotion to Christ by faith.

We can confess our weakness and ask for help. We confess our sin and ask for mercy. “Lord, turn our hearts to Christ; structure our lives in devotion to Him; let Him set the course of our lives as rudder sets the course for a ship.”

Fill us, help us, lift us, strengthen us, send us, and use us. You are faithful, O Lord! Take our days, take our weeks, take our months, seasons, years, and the whole of our lives; and make them yours forever more.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Category:  Devotion to God

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The Nature of the Gospel
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The gospel is one of four pillars that show us what is most important to God. The pillars are God’s glory, God’s kingdom, God’s law, and God’s gospel. The gospel pillar helps us understand the other pillars. The gospel shows us how Jesus fulfilled God’s law. It shows us how Jesus established (and one day will consummate) God’s kingdom. It shows us how Jesus reveals God’s glory in a unique and climactic way. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). His name is Jesus because He saves His people from their sins; He is God with us (Matthew 1:21-23). We live in a world where me, myself, and I are most important. But God’s priorities differ. His glory, kingdom, law, and gospel show us his priority. Here we focus on the gospel.

Good News

If there were only minutes before we never spoke again, I would speak of the gospel. It is spring water in the desert of despair. If I were at your death bed I would speak of the gospel. If you are at my deathbed, I beg you please, speak of the gospel. I find rest in it. Sing that sweet song to me, the song of Jesus and the shed blood. Remind me of forgiveness. Christ warms the coldest heart, and mine leans that way on the best of days. He is the saving flame in this winter of sin. I would speak to you, therefore, of the gospel of God and I would ask you to do the same. Why must there be some awkward silence, or some killing the time with talk of trivial things? It is not sports, weather, current events, new movies or the like that can comfort my soul. Only Jesus.

“His banner over me is love” (Song of Solomon 2:4). His love comforts me. It gives me hope. Do you hear Him, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3)? Hear Him with an ear of faith. Be His.

The word gospel means good news (Luke 2:10; Mark 1:15; Romans 1:1-4, 15-17). The gospel is the good news of Christ’s redemptive suffering and glory, the Bible’s overarching story. The essence of the gospel message is simple: Though sinful man be separated from the Holy God and Creator of all things, Jesus, by virtue of His suffering unto death and resurrection unto glory, reconciles sinners to God through the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

(1.) The Holy God and Creator

(2.) The Separation of Sinful Man

(3.) Christ’s Redemptive Death and Resurrection

(4.) The Mighty Working of the Holy Spirit in the Sinner’s Heart

The Nature of the Gospel

I want to discuss the nature of the gospel message as a prelude to the substance, or the essence of the gospel message. By nature the gospel is news. It declares. It announces. It reports news. The gospel is not advice, rules, or therapeutics. News is different than advice. Advice is about what you should do in the future. News is about something that has already happened. The gospel is not advice, but news. Nothing anyone does can change the fact that the gospel events already happened. News is also different than rules. Rules are about things you must do and things you must not do. The gospel is not a set of rules, but news. Yes, God does have moral requirements and moral prohibitions, but these are law not gospel. The news is, “Jesus kept the law for you,” if you trust Him.

Finally, news is different than therapeutics. If you are drowning at sea, you do not need a rescue boat to stop beside you and try to help you find true happiness and meaning in your situation. You need them to rescue you. “Help! Help me please!” Therapeutics make you feel better and are often needed in different ways. My point is not that they are necessarily bad, though they can be abused and misused. My point is that the gospel is not therapeutics. The gospel does not float by you shouting things to make you feel a bit more happiness, joy, peace, and sense of meaning before you drown. The gospel gives Spiritual life to the spiritually dead. The gospel means to save you.

The gospel, furthermore, is not for self-help, self-esteem, or another form of man-centered positive thinking. The gospel wants you to see yourself truly, and the truth is that we cannot help ourselves. We need help from God through the gospel. The truth is that we should not hold ourselves in high esteem. We should see ourselves with the low esteem appropriate to wicked sinners driven by selfishness and hardened against God. We are all “under sin” (Romans 3:9). “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Esteeming ourselves instead of God is the problem; how then could having more esteem in ourselves be the solution?

The truth is, contrary to the message of pop-culture, there is no reason to think more highly of ourselves. What we need most is to think higher and higher of Jesus and lower and lower of ourselves. This is counter-culture; it is the road to life. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

The gospel aims for both the head and the heart, not one or the other. Jesus wants both your thinking and your affections. Know Him; cherish and desire Him. God wants you to believe the truth about Him, and He wants you to love Him above all things. The gospel does not call sinners to self-made moral improvement or shallow religious performance. It calls sinners to die to sin and live to God. Lastly, the gospel is not a way for you to gain material riches, physical health, or various worldly comforts and perks in life. This demonic counterfeit of the gospel has been peddled for millions of dollars by false teacher preying on the masses. They have their reward; and they will reap what they have sown.

The gospel is how sinners can make God theirs. Or rather, it is how God makes sinners His. Sinners given a way to make a holy God their treasure is profound. But wonder of wonders that God has purposed to make sinners His treasure. The nature of the gospel, therefore, is this: it is news about incomprehensible mercy and grace. Though sinful man be separated from the Holy God and Creator of all things, Jesus, by virtue of His suffering unto death and resurrection unto glory, reconciles sinners to God through the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

Category:  The Bible's Story

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The Essence of the Gospel
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The Essence of the Gospel

The essence of the gospel is easily remembered. It is about a person, something that person did, and how to receive something from that person. Who is the person? Jesus. He is the Savior, and He is both God and man. What does he do? Saves. Jesus saves from sin and gives eternal life through death and resurrection. How are salvation and eternal life received from him? Faith. They are received by grace through faith. The gospel is about who Jesus is, what Jesus did and does, and how to receive Jesus and the gifts that are found in Him.

(1.) The Person of Christ: Who is He?

(2.) The Work of Christ: What did He do? What does He do?

(3.) Receiving Christ: How can a sinner receive Him?

Who is Jesus? He is both God and man, the sinless Son of God and Savior of the world (4:42; 1 John 4:14; 1 Timothy 4:10; John 3:16-17). “Jesus” means “the Lord saves.” He is the Lord; and He saves (Matthew 1:21). What did Jesus do? What does He do now? He suffered and died on a cross for sin and rose again to imperishable glory. Reigning now from heaven, He reconciles sinners to God through the working of His Holy Spirit in their hearts (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6). He gives eternal life (Romans 6:23). He does so through the gospel message (Romans 1:16; 10:17). How can a sinner receive Him? Jesus is received by grace through faith accompanied by repentance (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:1-10).

Who, what, and how? The three simple questions can help you remember the simple essence of the gospel message. The gospel is about Jesus the person, Jesus’ work, and how to receive Jesus. It is about how to take refuge in God through Jesus. “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man” (Psalm 118:8).

The Problem

Notice the personal relevance of the gospel: “though sinful man be separated from the Holy God and Creator of all things.” This is the problem. Your personal eternity is at stake. The fate of your soul is at stake. We will die; it is just around the corner. Our personal standing with God is at stake. How so? God is holy but we are unholy. He has shown us what holiness through His commandments. We have broken them all. He has given us the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). He has clarified for us the two great commandments: love Him above all things with all that we are, and love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:35-40). He has summarized the one supreme commandment, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44).

I have violated every commandment. I have not loved God above all things with all that I am. I have not loved others as I have loved, cared for, and looked out for myself. I have not been holy. I am unholy in heart, mind, word, and deed. I need a to be purified and forgiven. I need a Savior more than anything. I need Jesus. He is, in fact, my greatest need and yours.

God is our Creator-King and has rights on all things and all people, but we have gladly rebelled.

God is Holy and worthy of imitation, but we have stubbornly rejected His ways and despised His commands.

God is of greatest value, truest love, and most radiant beauty, and yet we have loved other things above Him.

We have a problem. Alone and left to our own devices and resources, we live under a cloud of divine wrath that could burst upon us at any moment and plunge us into an unspeakable eternity of suffering and sadness apart from God and under His righteous judgment. Tragic. But there is an escape. There is good news. Jesus is Salvation. He is a sinner’s ready escape from God’s judgment. Come under the banner of His love and be saved. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Pride says you do not need it. The world says it is unfair or, shockingly, even unkind. The Devil says to not even think about it. Friend, it is good news, not bad news. The gospel is good news from God about God so that you can know God. It is the best thing in the world. Soften your heart to it, and God will show you.

Our natural response is to harden against such things. This is a symptom of the very thing we need to be delivered from. We need to be delivered from a state of spiritual death. When I was dead in sin, I was hostile to God, contrary to God’s holiness, indifferent to God’s holy law, deaf to His Word, and blind to His revelation in creation. Not only did I need to be made new, but I needed to guilt of my sin taken away and my standing with God made right. I thank God for the message of the gospel. It gives me rest. It comforts me.

Divine Justice

I am happy indeed if you have made it to this paragraph. Here I offer a small argument for the reality of divine justice, the problem facing sinners against God. Justice is apparent and applauded in every sector of human life. It is woven into the fabric of our existence. It includes a standard of right and wrong (morality, law), consequences for the wrong (penalties, judgment), and rewards for the right (prizes, praises). Our focus is the first two: morality, laws and penalties, judgment.

No parents would say to their children, “Do whatever you want in our home. There is no accountability and no consequences for anything.” No parent would send their children to a school that said, “Students can do whatever they want in our school. There is no accountability and no consequences for anything.” No family wants to live in a town with no judges and no laws, or corrupt judges with oppressive laws. We do not want criminals to go free. Imagine a nation where everyone agreed, “We will all do whatever we want in this nation. We will have no accountability toward each other and there will never be any consequences for anything.” Absurd. Madness. Chaos.

Accountability based on a standard of right and wrong (morality, law) is apparent and applauded in life. Fair consequences to protect others, curb evil, and encourage goodness (penalties, judgment) is apparent and applauded in life. This is true at every level. You cannot drive however you want on the road. You cannot go into whatever house you choose just because you decide to live there. You cannot steal. You cannot murder. You cannot do a lot of things. Law and penalties are meant to keep you in line; and this is for your good and the good of those around you.

Then we come to God and lose our collective minds, or at least pretend to because we do not want to face to obvious. We are accountable to God and rightly face divine judgment. We have violated his standard of morality and transgressed his law in heart, mind, word, and deed. We deserve our due. We have the penalty of heaven bearing down upon us. Why is justice so clearly woven into our life on earth? It is a reflection and lesson of the bigger picture. God is just and we are guilty. Hence the problem of sinful man’s standing before a holy God. Hence the solution of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is hypocrisy to applaud justice in all the world only to scoff at justice in heaven.

All systems of secularism, atheism, agnosticism, religion, and philosophy promote a code of ethics. “People should do this, but they should not do that.” “Society should be this way, not that way.” “These things are right, but those things are wrong.” I am sure that you have a code of ethics too. We all believe in morals and consequences. This is not unique to Christianity. It is an inescapable part of human existence.

Demonstrating how the Bible’s code is the right one is another discussion for another time. I only write this here so that you do not reject the gospel based on the idea of a world with morals, accountability, and justice. You already believe and live according to these ideas. The question is, is your current version of these things based on opinion, feelings, and pop-culture, or is it based on a standard or authority that transcends the world? This is the question for all of us, not just me and you. Every worldview faces this question.

You and I, you see, are a part of the world. How could our little minds be the standard or authority of truth and morals? If there is such a standard, it would have to transcend the world and transcend our minds. Otherwise, we are all wrong and there would be no code of ethics; it would be every man, woman, and child for himself. It would be global, “Do whatever you want and there are no consequences for anything.” Absurd. It would be madness. No one wants to live in that world.


The shell of the sinner’s heart is tough and thick, and I know it well, but it is not impenetrable. God can get through. The gospel can get through. Listen to it. Hear it. Contemplate who Jesus is, what He did, what He does, and how to receive Him. This good news about how to come to God through Jesus is the way you can seek God by faith. Jesus is invisible. You can know and love Him, but it can only be by faith. It can only be by the heart’s trusting in Him alone for salvation. He died in the place of the guilty and He rose to newness of life. By faith in Him, sinners die to sin and rise to newness of life in relationship with God. Jesus reconciles sinners to the one true, living God.

Do not lose heart. The Holy Spirit is mighty to break the sin-hardened heart and turn the sin-stiffened neck.

I could say that Jesus makes a way, but that is not enough. Jesus is the way. (John 14:6).

He maintains justice while providing mercy. My lawbreaking was not ignored in the gospel, but it was dealt with on a Roman cross in the body of Jesus. He stepped in as my representative before God and bore my sin and penalty. I am spared of God’s judgment by the ineffable love of Christ.

Jesus’ death was first and foremost a public showcase of God’s glory. It shines forth God’s righteousness and His love. It shouts out divine justice and divine mercy. God is both “just and justifier” (Romans 3:26). God, you see, will not ignore your sin because that would be unjust. He does, however, provide a merciful escape from sin in Christ Jesus. That is the essence of the gospel message. Though sinful man be separated from the Holy God and Creator of all things, Jesus, by virtue of His suffering unto death and resurrection unto glory, reconciles sinners to God through the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

Would you be reconciled? Would you come under the banner of His love? Jesus never has and never will turn away a gospel-humbled sinner who turns to Him in the desperation of saving faith. “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).

Category:  The Bible's Story

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Giving My Morning to the Lord
Posted by: North Harford Baptist Church | more..
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A day is a gift from God. “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). A day exists so that people who live on that day would acknowledge God, rejoice in God, and be glad in God. A day exists to give you and I an opportunity to devote ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Morning, noon, and night are practical tools to help us structure life in full devotion to Jesus (Psalm 55:17).


Is this how you have thought about your days? Has this been the express and heartfelt purpose of each day? Surely not. But each morning, thanks be to God, brings a new opportunity to repent and live for Him. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; [23] they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

This morning brought new mercy to your bedside. Awaken to the Lord! Awaken to His steadfast love; rise to His faithfulness. His mercy, the mercy of grace and help to wounded sinners, is fountain that never runs dry. Morning exists that you might stoop low and refresh yourself at these waters.

Being Awake

“Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. [34] It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. [35] Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—[36] lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. [37] And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake” (Mark 13:33-37 ESV).

Within seconds of opening your eyes in the morning, devote yourself to the Lord Christ. He is there setting His heart upon you; to “visit [you] every morning” (Job 7:17-18). Awake in the morning and cry out to Him; set your hope upon Him like shelter from the storm (Psalm 119:147). Set the day’s course through morning prayer. Aim to wait patiently for the Lord till He provides. Waiting is obedience; it pleases God. Pray for wisdom in this; that you would not rush ahead of the Spirit, but that you would not lag behind the Spirit either. Pray for Spiritual attentiveness.

Fill me with Your Spirit, Lord;

Leave me not to be alone.

Purify me and keep me.

Lift me, help me, and use me.

Take this day to be Your own.

Lord Christ, my rock, my rest

Consecrate my life to you.

Guard my eyes, my ears, my lips.

Guide my feet, my hands, my mind.

Cleanse my sinful heart anew.

As the body awakens to the light of day, the soul should awaken to the Light of God in Christ. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Call upon Him in the morning that He might come and stir your heart and mind unto Him. He will arouse your affections to His Word with all the riches of promise and holy guidance it contains (Isaiah 50:4). “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” (Psalm 5:3).

Jesus knew what mornings are for. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). If able, let us literally go to a lonely place and pray. If not, let us do so spiritually at bedside. “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

Simple Practical Helps

There is no mechanical formula (i.e., no set form of outward religion) for proper devotion to God. Basic principles and specific, concrete actions, though, are helpful. Here are some basic principles of proper devotion. It is a mark of spiritual maturity to schedule or set aside specific times to seek the Lord in prayer and the Word. Having a plan is good. Having a goal is good. Having the right heart, however, is essential.

(1.) Devotion is Relational – It is about enjoying and growing in a relationship with God. Listen; talk. Seek; rest. Worship; confess. Give thanks; ask for help. Be loved; love. Cry; rejoice.

(2.) Devotion is Spiritual – It can only happen through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

(3.) Devotion is Gracious – It is a gift given and sustained as a gift from God received by faith.

(4.) Devotion is Heavenly – It is based on God’s truth as revealed from heaven, focused on heavenly blessings and realities, and personally brought to our minds and hearts from Christ, our Great High Priest and King of heaven.

God is holy and we are sinners. In our devotion, then, we must seek fellowship with God through faith in Christ. Christ is our great High Priest in heaven who receives and purifies our offerings, works, and prayers. He makes them acceptable and presents them before the Father. We do not “work for” His presence or attempt to earn it in any way. Christ is sufficient to mediate this relationship; we devote ourselves to God through Him.

All our crying out to God, all our personal enjoyment of His goodness is graciously given through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Devotion is active not passive. It involves specific, concrete actions.

(1.) Seek the Lord in prayer – Pray in your heart, aloud, or on paper.

(2.) Seek the Lord in His Word – Read and meditate on Scripture.

The morning is the time to have your eyes opened to the love of God in Jesus Christ. If you devote yourself to His Word and devote yourself to prayer, you will find that He is faithful (Jeremiah 29:13; Matthew 7:7-8). He will meet you there according to His purpose. The Lord of majestic exaltation will find you at your bedside. Seek Him in the secret place.

Go, therefore, to the place He has shown you, and He will meet you there. By Word and Spirit He will sit with you. Come humbly that you might be lifted by the mighty and gentle hand of Christ.

Category:  Devotion to God

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The Idea of Grace
Posted by: North Harford Baptist Church | more..
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If I only had one minute to talk to you about Christianity, I would talk to you about the idea of grace. Grace is the spotlight that shines on the rest of Christianity so we can see it clearly. It is the window through which you can see everything else that’s going on inside the house of Christianity, inside the pages of the Bible. The whole world and all its religions (including counterfeit Christianity) tell you, “earn your way to God,” or, “you deserve God’s favor,” in one way or another. We tell ourselves these things as well. “I can do it,” or, “I’m entitled to it.”

But Christianity is different. Christianity is the way of grace: a free gift from God to undeserving sinners. Grace says, “you don’t need to earn your way to God,” and, “you don’t deserve divine favor.” God freely shows favor to sinners through Jesus by virtue of his righteous life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection. God does not ask you to work your way to Him through religion, morality, or good deeds. Rather, He Himself provides a way: Jesus. This is the way of grace. It is different than the message of the world. It is different than that rationalizations we tell ourselves.

Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:15). The message of grace begins and ends with this: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;

[8] blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Romans 4:7-8).

Jesus is the free gift from God to undeserving sinners. He is the grace of God to be received by humble faith. He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Would you look through the window of grace to see what else is inside? Would you look at the things the spotlight of grace shines upon to learn more about them? No one has regretted the joys of grace. No one who has truly tasted God’s favor in Christ has resented its sweetness. It is honey for the soul. I only ask if you will seek a bit further. And, if I may add, the window of grace is always open.

Recommended for reading, study, and prayer: Ephesians 2:1-10

Category:  Just a Minute

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Who is God?
Posted by: North Harford Baptist Church | more..
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The last time, we spoke about the uniqueness of Christian grace. Now, I’d like to talk about the unique God who gives that grace. My specific topic is often left for further down the road when sharing the Christian message, but it should not be. I would not save the basic truths about myself for further down the road if you I just met and were trying to get to know one another. You would not hide who you really are from me until we know each other. That is, after all, how we get to know each other. We are open. We are honest. We do not put on an act or pretend to be someone else.

In good relationships, two people will continue to grow in their knowledge of each other, but they do not hold back the most basic truths about themselves till further down the road. It is a shame that this has often happened in Christians’ attempt to introduce others to God.

One God in Three Persons

Who is the God that shows grace toward sinners? It is one God who exists in three distinct, yet inseparable persons. There is much to say about the nature of God, but I only wish here to introduce the Triune nature of God. “Tri” means three. “Une” means one. Triune refers to the three-and-one God.

The three uncreated divine persons – who are co-equal and co-eternal – are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit co-exist in a way that is unique to the being—or the essence, or the nature—of God. No created thing is like the Creator of all things. God is eternal and unchangeable, but created things are time-bound and changeable. The one eternal God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is called the doctrine of the Trinity. God is a uniquely Triune being of pure and eternal Spirit, the source of all that is and the fountain of life itself.

Relationships and God

Consider one interesting implication of this. Relationships of love are part of God’s eternal nature. This is unique to the Christian God just like the idea of grace is unique to the Christian God. Relationships are so important to you because you are made in God’s image. When you look in a mirror, you see a reflection of yourself. It is not you, but it is your image. When you look at yourself, you see a reflection of God. It is not God, but it is his image, though marred by sin.

We need grace because sin has warped the image of God in us in devastating fashion. The good news is that God’s grace given in Jesus restores his image in us. Restoration begins by the power of the Holy Spirit when you receive this grace through faith in Jesus—based on his righteous life, sacrificial death, and powerful resurrection. Only God can do this. It is not a human work. How can it be? If we could properly reflect God, then we would not need his restoring grace in Jesus.

My point is about relationships. Loneliness, abandonment, betrayal, and hatred are so painful because you are made in the image of God, and relationships of love are part of his eternal nature. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit. The Son loves the Father and the Spirit. The Spirit loves the Father and the Son.

These relationships of love are perfect, holy, eternal, and unchanging. And these love-relationships of God’s being are imaged on a created level in me and you. Things in your life, therefore, that contradict the nature of God’s love make you feel horrible. Love makes you feel wonderful. You want love; you do not want hate. You want faithfulness, not betrayal. Why? Because God is love and you are made in God’s image. No other faith system has a rational explanation for the essential nature and critical role of love and relationships in human experience.

You and I are meant for relationships of love: First, with God; second, with others. God’s greatest commandment to us is that we must love him with all that we are all that we do. His second is to love others as ourselves (see Matthew 22:35-40). They are these his two greatest commandments? It is simple. God’s holy commandments reflect God’s holy nature. They simultaneously show us what God is like and what we ought to be like (if we are to properly reflect his holy nature). But we do not. We are unholy, not holy.

Logic and God

God’s Triune nature transcends logic, but it is not illogical. It is not illogical because a thing’s essence is different than a thing’s personhood. Think about an apple, you, and God. An apple has an essence but not personhood. It is a created thing, but it has not been created in the image of God. You have an essence and are one person. You are a created thing, and you are created in the image of God. God has an essence that exists as three persons. How can this be? God is not a created thing and he does not have a limited essence like created things—for example, apples and people.

God is uncreated. God’s essence is infinite. He is categorically different than us and infinitely superior to created things. He dwells in eternity in the exalted majesty of his holy essence and perfect love. He is God. We are not.

The Triune God, therefore, is not illogical because personhood and essence are different things. One essence and three essences would be illogical. One person and three persons would be illogical. But one infinite essence that exists in three persons is not illogical. God transcends our grasp of logic, but he does not violate logic.

Doesn’t it make sense, after all, that an uncreated, eternal, and infinite being would transcend the puny little minds of created, time-bound, and seriously limited beings?

Meeting God

We do not have to know or understand everything about a person to begin to get to know them. Likewise, we do not have to know or understand everything about God to begin to get to know him. And this is God: one essence in three persons. Since coming face to face with God causes us to think about things more deeply and carefully, many Christians hold back the Triune nature of God till further down the road. That is a shame. This is who God is. This is how God has revealed himself. This is the God who shows grace to sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This is the God who forgives sin and gives the gift of eternal life.

If you and I were to meet over coffee, we would not know everything about each other. We would know little about each other. I would, however, know what you look like and what your voice sounds like. I would know some of your basic mannerisms and perhaps even your laugh. I would begin to form a general picture of your personality. You also would know the same things about me. Am I one of those people who is negative about everything, or am I generally positive and a joy to be around? Am I self-centered and do I frequently interrupt you, or am I genuinely interested in you and do I really listen to what you say?

We would, in other words, come face to face with the basics about each other. We would not know everything or understand everything about each other. So how much less would we know and understand when coming face to face with the nature of an infinite God? We would, and this is the encouragement, know some things about each other. Yes, we can also know some things about God. We can know there is one God—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, who have loved each other in perfect joy and holiness from all eternity.

What is the basic nature of the God who shows sinners grace through Jesus Christ? He is one eternal God who exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We come face to face with him in Jesus.

John 14:8–9: Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” [9] Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

For your study: John 1:1-18

Category:  Just a Minute

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The Heart of the Gospel
Posted by: North Harford Baptist Church | more..
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I wish for us to contemplate three things: the heart of the gospel, the darkness in which the gospel shines, and the light of the gospel itself (2 Corinthians 4:4-6; John 1:5; 8:12). The aim is to see the gospel for the treasure it is.

The Heart of the Gospel

Jesus’ death and resurrection are the heart of the gospel. His sacrificial death was the pinnacle of His suffering; His glorious resurrection was the dawn of His glory. Jesus died in the place of sinners. He rose as the hope of sinners. By death He conquered sin and by resurrection he conquered death. This is the heart of the gospel and the centerpiece of Christ’s redemptive suffering and glory. He was not the loser, but the winners. He conquered through death and resurrection. Two words capture the heart of the gospel: substitute and representative.

Jesus died as a substitute for sinners to bear their guilt and punishment. Notice the he/our and the us/his dynamic of the prophecy, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. [6] All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6). Jesus was and is a representative for His people (Matthew 1:21). He died so those worthy of death might live. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. [11] I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11).

As a substitute and representative, Jesus drank a cup of wrath that was rightfully ours. “For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs” (Psalm 75:8). “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me” (John 18:11)? “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39). “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).

It is finished? Yes! He drank the cup. He finished off the wrath of God rightly meant for me. Jesus died on a cross for the sake of and in the place of any person who would be joined to Him by faith. He was a sin-offering. He removes guilt from the guilty. He hung and bled in agony taking the verdict and punishment of the wicked. Dear friend, He finished every drop. If only you would believe he drank this cup for you.

Speak to me of this when I am discouraged. Speak to me of this if you find yourself with me in my dying days. Speak to me of this if you see me taken in by sin or overcome by weakness. Tell me of the blood that was shed so I might be free. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. [25] For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25).

Men do not willingly suffer the penalty of criminals, but this Savior Jesus does just that (Romans 5:6-8). He suffered on a cross for the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28; Mark 10:45). It is no wonder why the Apostle Paul wrote, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). He wanted more than anything to get the message of Christ’s sacrificial death on as many ears as possible. I pray your heart receives the message of the cross and blood, the good news of the substitute and the cup.

But He did not stay dead. God rose Jesus up with a new eternal body, a body of resurrection glory. This very same thing is promised to all who come to Christ by faith. You can share in eternal life before you die; but you reap the fullest blessing of eternal life some time after you die. Jesus will one Day return and give all His spiritual brothers and sisters resurrection bodies just like His (1 John 3:2; Philippians 3:21). We love Him now. We’ll be with Him later.

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15).

You and I began in a state of spiritual death. Christ’s death and resurrection are the path of life. Jesus is the way to God. He is a substitute for sinners; a representative for His people who died the death that we deserve that we may live the life that He attained. The gospel does not just administer medicine to the sick, it gives life to the dead. It shouts truth amidst lies, shows love amidst hate, and shines hope amidst despair. Come drink of these waters and live.

The good news of forgiveness in Jesus is light in the darkness. Our problem is not slight dimness, but utter darkness. To appreciate the radiance of the gospel, to truly see it, we must first see the darkness in which it shines. Before we expound the gracious light of gospel treasure, we will discuss the tragic darkness of sinful man.

The Greatest Sin

What is the worst thing you ever did? Did you do it once or many times? Do others know about it or only you? Close your eyes a minute and think on it. What is the absolute worst, most immoral thing you have ever done?

So, did you think about it? What is your answer? “The worse thing I have ever done is…” Now, probably 99% of us got it wrong. You most likely though about an action. You think the worst and most immoral thing you have ever done was something you did with your hands, mouth, or with your body in some way. Was it something you did or something you said? Was it somewhere you went or something you took? You got it wrong.

Heart-sin. All sins are horrendous and grotesque in God’s eyes. Some are worse than others (John 19:11). It is worse to murder than it is to gossip. It is worse to rape than in is to look lustfully. All sin merits the same consequence from God, but not all sin is the same (Romans 6:23). All sin is judged as sinful, but not all sin is the same. To say, “sin is sin,” is true but it does not say enough about the topic. That is like saying, “animals are animals.” But a gator is different than a puppy. Sin is expressed in different ways, in varying degrees, and renders many results and consequences. You are guilty before God just like a mass murderer is guilty before God, but you do not need to go to prison for the rest of your life. Your sins are different than his, but you still need forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

The Bible does teach that the heart behind all sin is the same (Matthew 5). More to the point, the heart-sin that leads to all sinful actions is the same (Matthew 15:19). And there is one heart-sin behind them all, which we will get to in a moment. Murder is worse than gossip, but murder and gossip come from the same heart-sin, i.e., selfish hatred. Rape is worse than a lustful glance, but rape and lustful glances come from the same heart-sin, i.e., sexual impurity. It all warrants God’s judgement, but it is not all the same (James 2:10). What is the root sin? Where do selfish hatred and sexual impurity come from?

The Root. Now to the root, the heart-sin that yields all wicked fruit. It is the worst thing I have ever done and the worst thing you have ever done. We have not loved God as God deserves to be loved. Behold your vilest offense! It happens in the heart, not the hands. Behold the height of all wickedness and rebellion. It happens in the heart, not the mouth (Matthew 22:34-40!). God’s greatest command it to love him above all things, with all that we are, in all of life. Our greatest sin is our failure to do so. And we never bat an eye about it.

We are so accustomed to not loving God as God deserves that we can be faithful, biblical, devoted, and growing Christians for decades and still not know that this is our greatest immorality. It happens in the heart, not the body. It is the greatest law we violate, the greatest commandment we transgress, and the greatest mark of holiness we lack and ignore with stunning coldness. There is much outward fruit of this sin of sins. But the root grows in the heart. It gets worse.

The Heart Itself. The great sin “happens” in the heart. It happens by commission (i.e., we do what we ought not do). For example, we do treat other things the way only God should be treated. We treat money as most valuable, things as most precious, people as most beautiful, image and reputation as most important. The great sin also happens by omission (i.e., we do not do what we ought to do). We do not adore, acknowledge, seek, cherish, thank, or desire God. So, there are always two sides of this coin. We ignore God’s truth, despise His commands, reject His morals, and detest His presence, all the while we create our own truth, embrace society’s commands, celebrate culture’s morals, and rejoice in God’s absence. What is worse than these sins of commission and omission?

What is worse is the spiritual nature of the heart that commits them. We do not have time to go into it here. The darkness we need to see before we can appreciate the gospel’s light is the darkness of our sin-corrupted hearts. We need new hearts. Praise God that He graciously gives new hearts through Christ, the Savior. The good news is not merely that God forgives but also that God purifies and cleanses. These twin blessings of forgiveness (of guilt) and purification (of heart) are found in a person: Jesus. He is the blessing; from Him all other blessings flow.

Go to Christ and be cleansed. Rest in Him and find forgiveness.

Picture a man sitting on a bomb about to explode, but he does not know about it. He sits and sits. He does not move. He dies. He did not know about the problem. What a pity to be so aloof to such a need! God has told us our greatest need and has given ample provision in Christ. Let us not be perpetually aloof. Aloof to our greatest sin, we neither rest in nor rejoice in Christ and His shed blood as we ought. We do not cry out to Him as we ought; we do not cherish His power as we ought; we do not ask for the Spirit and repentance as we ought. All because we go day after day without noticing, much less thinking about, the worst thing we have ever done: We have not loved God the way God deserves. How dark is this darkness! The light of the gospel is what keeps us from despair.

In the darkness of my heart and yours, we look to the light of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Category:  The Bible's Story

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