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The Word For Today

The transforming truth about Calvary 4

'Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he... gave up his spirit.' John 19:30 NIV

Calvary was victorious! The cross may look like the triumph of evil over goodness, the powerful over the powerless, but only to those who don't understand Christ's mission. Never was courage greater or strength stronger. When he cried, 'It is finished' (some translations read 'It is completed'), he didn't mean, 'I'm finished, my cause is defeated.'

Far from being crushed at Calvary, Jesus triumphed in three ways: (1) He conquered his own human desire to avoid unspeakable suffering: 'He...bowed with his face to the ground, praying, "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine"' (Matthew 26:39 NLT). (2) He conquered the demonic powers of darkness. 'In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross' (Colossians 2:15 NLT). (3) He conquered the law's stubborn demands against sinners. 'Christ...brought the Law to an end, so that everyone who believes is put right with God' (Romans 10:4 GNT).

At Calvary love triumphed over law, forever freeing us who could never live up to the Law. 'It is finished' was the cry of a victor instead of a victim! It didn't look that way to the crowd or to his devastated disciples. But it did three days later when the empty tomb proved Jesus had won the victory over death. It all comes down to this: 'If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved' (Romans 10:9 GNT).

Soulfood: Gen 22:1-18 Luke 23:26-49 Ps 22 Isa 53,


The transforming truth about Calvary 3

'Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.' Hebrews 9:22 NAS

Third, Calvary was vital! Exactly how vital? As vital as life or death, hope or despair, Heaven or hell. It's our only means of salvation! 'There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved' (Acts 4:12 NLT).

Without Christ's death, our sins would have separated us from God forever. But for his death we'd be subject to the full penalty of God's law, pronounced guilty for every sin we've ever committed and as condemned sinners, lost forever. Paul writes, 'Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God' (Romans 3:19 NLT). No exceptions - 'the entire world', including you, stands guilty in God's sight. But because Jesus fulfilled every requirement of God's law on our behalf, we have been forgiven and declared righteous. That's vital information.

And you only have two options when it comes to Jesus: accept or reject him! He said, 'Anyone who believes and is baptised will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned' (Mark 16:16 NLT). Jesus' sacrifice resolved the sin question; now it's up to you to resolve the Son question: 'What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ' (Matthew 27:22 NKJV)? The answer is simple: put your trust in him and be saved.

Soulfood: Jam 3-5 Luke 23:13-25 Ps 7:10-17 Pro 10:17-18,


The transforming truth about Calvary 2

'He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross.' 1 Peter 2:24 NLT

Second, Calvary was vicarious, which means 'an act undertaken by someone in another's place'. Seen through the lens of sentiment or superstition, the cross may affect your emotions but it can't save your soul. But seen as substitution, the cross can save any soul!

The apostle Peter writes, 'He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right' (1 Peter 2:24 NLT). Had Jesus reneged at Calvary, God would have been forced to sentence us to death for our sins. Instead, as our substitute, Jesus suffered our justly-deserved punishment, freeing us and giving us eternal life. Substitution was historically God's idea to deliver his people from the penalty of their sin. When Adam and Eve sinned, God substituted an animal to cover their iniquity. He accepted Abel's sacrifice of the 'firstborn of his flock' (Genesis 4:4 NKJV), and Abraham's ram caught in the thicket in exchange for Isaac's life (see Genesis 22:13). But without question God's greatest soul-saving theme - substitution - was once-for-all-time demonstrated when Jesus offered himself at Calvary. Because of Christ's atoning death, God expunged our record and pronounced us innocent in his sight! God 'made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him' (2 Corinthians 5:21 NAS). On the cross Jesus became what we were - sin - so we could become what he was - righteousness! Everything Jesus did from his virgin birth, sinless life, redeeming death, miraculous resurrection, glorious ascension, and priestly ministry in Heaven, he did as a substitute and saviour.

Soulfood: Jam 1-2 Luke 23:1-12 Ps 7:1-9 Pro 10:16,


The transforming truth about Calvary 1

'They...come to...Calvary, there they crucified him.' Luke 23:33 NKJV

The word 'Calvary' appears only once in the New Testament, but what happened there changed our destiny. In spite of the myths and misunderstandings, the truth is clear and life-changing. Let's look at it.

First, Calvary was voluntary. Those who watched it thought Jesus was a victim of circumstances beyond his control: the collusion of Jewish hatred and Roman might. How wrong! Jesus rejected Peter's well-intentioned but misguided defence, saying, 'Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels' (Matthew 26:53 NIV)? Jesus could have chosen to live without hardship, pain or death. No one coerced him into going to the cross. He said, 'No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again' (John 10:18 NLT). Calvary was certainly unjust and unfair. But it wasn't assassination; it was atonement! His enemies intended Calvary to end his life, but Jesus intended it to save us from a lost eternity. And after they had done their worst and failed to stop him, Peter confronted them on the day of Pentecost with this victorious truth: 'In accordance with his own plan God had already decided that Jesus would be handed over to you; and you killed him by letting sinful men crucify him' (Acts 2:23 GNT).

Even the Father didn't force him. Jesus 'gave himself as a ransom for all people' (1 Timothy 2:6 NIV) - including you!

Soulfood: Dan 11-12 Luke 22:63-71 Ps 16 Pro 10:15,


FEAR False Evidence Appearing Real

'I trust in God and am not afraid.' Psalm 56:4 GNT

David said, 'I trust in God and am not afraid... What can a mere human being do to me' (Psalm 56:4 GNT)? And David should know, because God enabled him to defeat a lion, a bear and a giant. The story is told about the man who approached a farmhouse and every few yards he noticed signs that read, 'Beware of Dog'. When he finally reached the farmhouse, he discovered the dog was a tiny Chihuahua. 'You mean to tell me that little dog keeps people away?' he asked. The farmer smiled and said, 'No, but the signs do!' Fear roars like a lion, but much of the time when we confront it, it's just a Chihuahua!

The truth is, you can face anything when you know God has promised: 'I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, "Fear not; I will help you"' (Isaiah 41:13 NKJV). So instead of fearing the worst, start believing God for the best. And you do that by personalising his promises: 'Do not fear [anything], for I am with you...I will strengthen you... I will certainly take hold of you' (Isaiah 41:10 AMP). 'And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his plan and purpose' (Romans 8:28 AMP).

Don't let fear get the upper hand. Instead of giving in to it, stand on the word of God and believe he's going to bring you through your circumstances and make you stronger.

Soulfood: Dan 8-10 Luke 22:54-62 Ps 103:13-22 Pro 10:14,


It takes 'heart'

'The people had a heart to work.' Nehemiah 4:6 AMP

In San Diego there's a famous attraction called SeaWorld. If you go there you can see ducks on roller skates. But when you get close to them, you realise that their hearts aren't in it! You may smile, but a lot of people are like that - just going through the motions. Don't be one of them! If you want your life to count, find a cause greater than yourself and give your all to it!

Do you recall the story of Nehemiah? He risked life and limb in order to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Even though faced with threats and obstacles, he finished the job in record time. How did it happen? Because 'the people had a heart to work' (Nehemiah 4:6 AMP). An 1828 copy of Webster's Dictionary defines 'courage' as 'that quality which enables us to face difficulty and danger...without fear or depression'. Then Webster adds the words of Moses as he transferred leadership of the nation to Joshua. 'Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid...for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go' (see Joshua 1:9 NKJV).

At age 120, Moses was still telling the people of Israel, 'You gotta have heart!' Why? Because anything worth having is worth fighting for! It takes 'heart' to deal with a child's wilful defiance, or face your own fears, or pick up the pieces of your life and start over. It's easy to talk about what's wrong, but it takes 'heart' to do something about it. And where does that kind of courage come from? God! So talk to him today.

Soulfood: Ps 118:19-29 Matt 21:1-16,


Being friends with God 3

'He made known his ways to Moses.' Psalm 103:7 NIV

Let's listen again as Moses talks to God. 'If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you' (Exodus 33:13 NIV). Israel was in a crisis that threatened its relationship with God, but what did Moses pray for? Not, 'Lord, you've got to resolve it for me!' Instead he prayed, 'Teach me your way so I may know you.' He wanted more than just information about God, he wanted intimacy with him: to know his heart and mind - how he thought and felt about the situation. Why? Because knowing God and having his favour would bring all the other things he needed, including a solution to the crisis.

And God gave him what he asked. 'He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel' (Psalm 103:7 NIV). God responded to Moses' request, saying, 'My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest' (Exodus 33:14 NIV). In the Hebrew text 'you' is singular. God promised to accompany Moses and give rest to only him. Anybody else would have accepted gladly, but not Moses! His prayer surpassed his own concerns: 'If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here' (Exodus 33:15 NIV). In other words: 'Lord, it's not me I'm praying for, it's us!'

Question: Are your prayers bigger than yourself and your own needs? The Bible says, 'For God so loved the world' (John 3:16 NIV). So pray that your family, your town and a lost world will not perish but have everlasting life!

Soulfood: Dan 5-7 Luke 22:47-53 Ps 103:1-12 Pro 10:13,


Being friends with God 2

'"I know you by name and you have found favour with me.'" Exodus 33:12 NIV

We've witnessed Moses talking with God like a friend, saying what he truly felt and thought, and God wanted it that way. Let's listen in on their conversation. When Moses said, 'You have been telling me, "Lead these people"...You have said, "I know you by name and you have found favour with me"' (Exodus 33:12), he was mirroring back to God what God had just said to him. Do you remember saying to your spouse or friend, 'You were the one who said [fill in the blank]'? That's what Moses was doing here - reminding God of his own words.

The truth is, God wants you to remember his promises and speak them in prayer. Not because he needs reminding, but because we do; plus his word is the only word he's obligated to fulfil (see Jeremiah 1:12). When you verbalise God's word in prayer, you're praying in his will and you're guaranteed a favourable hearing. So memorise Scriptures that relate to your needs and desires. Clothe your petitions in his promises. For example, when you say, 'Lord, you said whatever I ask for in prayer, believing that I have received it, you will do it for me' (see Mark 11:24), it empowers your praying.

The more you learn of God's word, the more your prayer time will conform to his will and the more closely aligned you'll feel with him. Keep your Bible handy when you talk to God so he can direct your thoughts to the words he wants you to pray.

Soulfood: Dan 3-4 Luke 22:39-46 Ps 130 Pro 10:12,


Being friends with God 1

'The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.' Exodus 33:11 NLT

When you talk to a friend, you're unguarded and relaxed. No need to 'mind your Ps and Qs'. You can say what you think without fear of being judged.

That's how Moses and God talked to each other - like two friends who were trusting and transparent. They said what they felt and thought. The Israelites had just created a golden calf to worship, and God was angry enough to disown them and pick some new friends. Moses had a major crisis on his hands, and he engaged God in a serious conversation. In essence he told God, 'You see it one way and I see it another way. And your perspective is making me very uncomfortable.' Sounds like a candid exchange between friends, right? He wasn't being disrespectful, he was opening his heart. God and Moses knew each other well enough to speak 'face to face, as one speaks to a friend'.

Do you pray like that? No posturing; just a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend you trust and feel close to. That's what God wanted with Moses, and what he wants with you! Religious-sounding clich?s and the usual run-of-the-mill prayer request list can undermine your opportunity to connect deeply and personally with God. Open up to him instead. Get down to the nitty-gritty where you talk honestly about where you're coming from and what you feel, think and desire. That's what being friends with God is all about!

Soulfood: Dan 1-2 Luke 22:24-38 Ps 127 Pro 10:11,


What season are you in

'In season and out of season.' 2 Timothy 4:2 NIV

If you sow your seed at the wrong time, you risk losing your harvest. Why? Because you didn't recognise what season you were in. Are you in the season of small beginnings? If you are, God says, 'Do not despise these small beginnings' (Zechariah 4:10 NLT). The richness and stability that come from 'small beginnings' and gradual success are more lasting than the temperamental theatrics of those who have never learned their own vulnerabilities or developed a true sense of dependence on God. If you're not sure what season you're in, ask God. He does everything according to a set time and purpose.

In the autumn you break up the ground, turn the sod, sow the seed, add the fertiliser and look for the harvest next spring. In the meantime you wait, because the soil that has yielded so many of its nutrients is being replenished. The fertiliser that smells so bad is in the process of producing the highest quality crop. The root system that's required for strong, healthy growth is being developed. Understand this: God gives you grace for the season you're in - not the one you were once in, or the one you'd like to be in. When Paul said, 'Be prepared in season and out of season' (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV), he recognised that he was in the winter of his ministry. That's why he was pouring his knowledge into his successor, Timothy. Paul wasn't resentful about the changing seasons. No, when his days as a player were over he simply became a coach.

So ask God to show you what season you're in and how to make it the most productive season of your life.

Soulfood: Phil 1-4 Luke 22:14-23 Ps 43 Pro 10:10,

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