Topic:GOD LOOKS FOR AVAILABILITY
“And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
The Old Testament passage being quoted is from Lev. 12:6-8. There the Lord commanded a lamb and a young pigeon or a turtledove as the prescribed sacrifice. If the woman was unable to offer a lamb, then two young pigeons or two turtledoves were acceptable. Mary would not have offered the lesser offering if it had been in her power to provide the lamb.
This reveals that Joseph and Mary were not well off financially, yet the Lord chose them to be the earthly parents of His only begotten Son.
The Lord doesn’t choose the way man chooses. Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).
Mary and Joseph were chosen when they were without: without fame, without position, without money. God entrusted the most precious gift He had to a couple who would surely have been overlooked if men had been conducting the search.
God isn’t looking for ability, but rather availability. D. L. Moody once heard a preacher say, “The world has never seen what God can do with one man who is totally yielded to Him.” In response, D. L. said, “By the grace of God, I’ll be that man.” This uneducated man went on to shake three continents for God.
God will choose you too, if you’ll make yourself available to Him (1 Cor. 1:26-28).
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
In another instance, Jesus said He did not come to send peace on the earth, but a sword. Then He prophesied that those who received Him would experience persecution, even from their own family (Mt. 10:34-36). How do these verses fit together?
The peace the angels were singing about was not a peace between men; they were rejoicing that there would be peace between God and man. When Jesus prophesied division and war in Matthew 10, he was speaking of relationships between men.
Through the Old Testament law, God began to release His wrath on man’s sin (Rom. 4:15). It wasn’t the wrath of Satan that Jesus suffered on the cross.
He suffered the wrath of His Father (Isa. 53:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:21). The Father placed His punishment for our sins on Jesus. This ended the war between God and man. This is the peace that the angels were proclaiming.
As a result of men receiving this peace from God there have also been many cases of reconciliation between men, but that is an effect; not the actual peace that was spoken of. These effects are secondary.
Today, through Jesus, we now have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). God is not mad at us. He isn’t even upset. We have been accepted through Jesus (Eph. 1:6).
Believe the good news that through Jesus, the war between God and us is over.
“And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Upon hearing the greeting of Mary, John the Baptist leaped for joy inside his mother’s womb (v. 44). A six month old fetus experienced unbridled emotion, voluntarily leaped for joy and was actually filled with the Holy Spirit.
It is no coincidence that the man Jesus called the greatest of all Old Testament prophets, was the only man in the Bible to be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb (Lk. 7:28).
The anointing of God that breaks every yoke is simply the manifest presence and working of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 10:27). The Holy Spirit is the part of the Godhead that empowers us for service.
God is not asking us to live for Him. He is asking us to let Him live through us (Gal. 2:20). The Christian life is not a changed life but an exchanged life. This can only be accomplished when the Holy Spirit is leading and empowering us.
Even Jesus didn’t begin His ministry until he was anointed with the Holy Spirit and He was the sinless Son of God. How much more do we need to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. Today, be conscious of the presence of the Holy Spirit in you and expect Him to supernaturally guide and empower you.
Topic:KNOWING GOD’S WILL IS NOT ENOUGH
“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”
Contrast Mary’s question and Gabriel’s response with the question that Zacharias asked Gabriel and the response that he received (Luke 1:18-20). You will find the questions are similar but the responses are totally different.
Both Mary and Zacharias asked how these miracles would occur but it is evident that Mary was asking “how” in faith while Zacharias was asking “how” in unbelief. It is a clear Bible teaching that unbelief doesn’t please God (Heb. 11:6), but the Lord doesn’t mind us questioning Him for the purpose of instruction so we can cooperate with His will in our lives.
Abram knew that it was God’s will for him to have a son but Abram and Sarai came up with their own plan which caused them and the world much grief (Gen. 16:1-6). Abram would have avoided many problems if he had asked the Lord how He was going to accomplish this miraculous event.
If Mary had not questioned this angel, she might have reasoned that Jesus would be born through the natural union of her and Joseph. This would have been a grave mistake. It would have disqualified her from being used.
It’s not enough just to know God’s will. We need to continue to seek the Lord until we know God’s plan for accomplishing that will.
“When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!”
Children are to honor their parents, even after they become adults. However, the command to obey is temporary (Gal. 4:1-2). Honor naturally leads to obedience if nothing is asked contrary to God’s laws, but honor and obedience are not synonymous. The scriptures teach that when a child marries he is to leave his father and mother and cleave unto his mate (Gen. 2:24). Parental dominance that extends into marriage is the source of many divorces and much marital strife. Yet, a child is to honor his parents for all their life.
The definition of the word “honor” means “to esteem, respect”, and the Greek word from which “honor” is translated means “to prize, i.e. to fix a valuation upon” (Strong). There are many applications of children honoring their parents. Certainly, one of the violations of this commandment today, is children esteeming and respecting the opinions of their peers above those of their parents. The idea that parents are out of date and therefore out of touch, is a devaluation of parents. Children should value the experience and wisdom of their parents more than their peers.
It says in Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16 that honoring your father and mother is the first commandment with a promise. This command is the first one of the Ten Commandments that gives a promise of blessing to those who obey it. The promised blessing is long life and things going well.
John is the only gospel writer to give us this account of Jesus’ last ministry to His mother. Even in the face of His own extreme suffering, Jesus thought of His mother and honored her by making sure that she would be taken care of after His departure
“And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.”
The veil spoken of here reached from the ceiling to the floor, from wall to wall, and separated the Holy of Holies from the holy place in the temple. Solomon’s temple was 30 cubits high (1 Ki. 6:2), but Herod increased the height to 40 cubits according to the writings of Josephus, a first century historian. Therefore, depending on what standard you use to convert cubits to feet (there is uncertainty as to exactly what a cubit equaled in our feet and inches), this veil was somewhere between 60 feet and 90 feet high.
It is significant that this veil was rent from top to bottom (Mt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38). No man could have torn the veil in this fashion. It was definitely God that rent the veil. The time when this veil was rent corresponds exactly with the moment Jesus died.
Hebrews 9:1-9 tells us that the veil separated the Holy of Holies, where God dwelt, from the rest of the temple, where men dwelt. This signified that man was separated from God by sin (Isa. 59:1-2). Only the high priest was permitted to pass beyond this veil, and only once each year (Ex. 30:10; Heb. 9:7). This symbolized the Christ who would enter into God’s presence for us and make an atonement.
The moment that Christ died, the veil was torn in two, revealing that the sacrifice had been made and that there is no longer any separation between God and man. Jesus tore the veil, that is to say His flesh (Heb. 10:20), in two and opened up a new way unto God through Himself.
“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
The paradise that Jesus spoke of must have been the same place that Jesus called “Abraham’s bosom,” when He told the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth after His death, and John 20:17 shows that it was some time after His resurrection before Jesus ascended back to His Father. Therefore, this paradise was “Abraham’s bosom” located in “sheol” in the lower parts of the earth.
The phrase “led captivity captive” from Ephesians 4:8, refers to Jesus liberating the Old Testament saints. When Old Testament saints died, they went to a place in the center of the earth which is called “sheol” in Hebrew. It is the Hebrew word “sheol” that is translated “hell” in Psalm 16:10, which prophesies Jesus saying, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:27-30).
The ungodly dead also went to “sheol” but the teaching of Jesus in Luke 16:19-31 shows that there was a great gulf fixed between the two, and those in torment (hell) envied those who were enjoying the blessings of the Lord in the part of “sheol” that was called Abraham’s bosom or Paradise.
Even though these Old Testament saints were blessed, they were not able to enter into the presence of the Lord because the atonement of Christ had not been completed. So, in that sense, they were captives. When Jesus died, He descended into “sheol” and took the captives captive. He took them to heaven, into the very presence of God and vacated that part of “sheol.” Now, all that’s left in “sheol” is hell. In the New Testament, the Greek word that is used to refer to this area is “hades” and it is only applied to the place of torment.
Topic:ACCEPT THE GIFT OF FORGIVENESS
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.”
Forgiveness of sins is one of the great themes of the Bible. There is so much that scripture says about it that it would take volumes of books to adequately deal with the subject. It will suffice to say that the blood of Jesus is what provided us with forgiveness of sins. That sacrifice was so great that it outweighed all our sins. It covered all the sins of the world-past, present, and future.
Most Christians have the concept that the sins they committed before they professed faith in Christ are forgiven at salvation, but any sins that are committed after that time are not forgiven until they repent and ask for forgiveness. This is not the case.
All our sins: past, present, and future were forgiven through the one offering of Jesus. If God can’t forgive future sins, then none of us can be saved because Jesus only died once, nearly 2,000 years ago, before we had committed any sins. All our sins have been forgiven.
The forgiveness of our sins is not the ultimate goal of our salvation. It is just a necessary step. The real goal of salvation is relationship with the Father and sin is a barrier to that relationship. So, it had to be dealt with, and it was, through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who stop with the forgiveness of sins and don’t go on into eternal life are missing the heart of salvation. Our sins have been forgiven so that we may enter into intimacy with the Lord.
It is through the riches of God’s grace that we have received forgiveness for our sins. There is nothing we can do to obtain forgiveness except humble ourselves and receive forgiveness as a gift through faith in Christ.
Topic:WHERE’S YOUR FOCUS?
“Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.”
These Jews, who had courted Judas’ favor to obtain his cooperation in arresting Jesus, cared nothing for Judas. They had simply used him. The devil’s crowd may flatter as long as they can use you, but you can be assured that when there is no longer anything in it for them, they will forsake you just as the chief priests did Judas.
The serpent didn’t come to Eve in the garden threatening to bite her if she didn’t eat of the forbidden fruit. Instead, he came with deception, presenting himself as being concerned for her welfare. Satan’s greatest weapon is deceit.
Just as a football player, a boxer, or military man’s success depends partly on how well he knows his opponent(s), so believers must not be ignorant of Satan’s devices. Jesus stripped Satan of all his authority (Mt. 28:18). The power that Satan uses against us now, is deception. Those who ascribe other powers to him have already fallen prey to one of his lies. The devil deceives us and uses our own power and authority against us. The thing that makes deception so deadly is that those who are deceived don’t know it. Once they realize they are deceived, they aren’t deceived any more.
The best defense against the devil is to be so God-centered that you give no place to Satan. People who are very sensitive to the devil’s presence usually are so at the expense of being sensitive to the Lord’s presence. David said, “If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (Ps. 139:8). Anytime Satan’s oppression is present, God’s presence is there too (Heb. 13:5). It’s just a matter of where our focus is. Focusing on the devil is a trick of the devil. Choose to focus on God
Topic:JESUS FREED US FROM SIN
“And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:”
What happened to Barabbas is a picture of what happens when a person is born again. Barabbas was guilty; Jesus was innocent. Yet Jesus suffered the death that Barabbas should have experienced, and Barabbas went free.
Likewise, we were all guilty (Rom. 3:23) and condemned to death (Rom. 6:23), yet Jesus suffered our punishment so that we may go free (2 Cor. 5:21). Just as Barabbas didn’t ask for this substitution, so “God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Barabbas was freed, but he had to choose whether or not to accept this new start and remain free, or go back to his old ways and come under the judgment of Rome again. Likewise, we have all been freed through the substitutionary death of Jesus, but we have to choose whether to accept our freedom by putting faith in Jesus or to reject it, by denying Him.
Our death to sin and resurrection to life with Christ, is already a reality in our spirits but will only become a physical reality when we know and believe it. In the same way that Jesus died unto sin once, and death no longer has dominion over Him, the person who recognizes their death with Christ unto sin, will not allow sin to rule over him anymore. Any Christian who is struggling with sin has not recognized that they are dead unto sin.