John 3:1-8, Romans 6:8-10
Jesus often confounded religious thinking. In John chapter three, Jesus declares to Nicodemus the Pharisee, “You must be born again.” It was a statement that encapsulates humanity’s need for a savior. Since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, human flesh has carried an inherent nature of sin. All humans were born of the flesh, and born with this sin nature. Jesus explains that in order to see the kingdom of God, we must be born a second time. By dying, we would no longer be held by a sin nature, and by being born again, we live again as a people who are spiritually alive to God. It was this second birth that Jesus would accomplish on Easter Sunday.
Jesus paved the way for us to be free from sin by dying on the cross as payment for the sins of the world. All those who accept Him die to sin with Him on the cross. Jesus’ ministry was not fulfilled just at the crucifixion, but also in His resurrection. When Jesus rose from the dead, he overcame death for us, and made a way for humanity to rise again to new life in the spirit. By accepting Jesus, we not only die to sin, but are made alive again, this time not born of flesh, but born of the Spirit of God. We live in Jesus Christ. We no longer act according to a fleshly nature, fulfilling the passions of the flesh, but live according to the Holy Spirit, producing His fruit. This fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Human bodies waste away and die, but those that are born of the Spirit live forever. Through Jesus’ death we die to sin forever, and through His resurrection we are made alive again in communion and fellowship with God, listening and obeying His Holy Spirit. Today may you understand the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and may you live out this new spiritual life, free from sin and fully alive to God.
Jesus’ death on the cross coincided with signs and wonders. While Jesus was on the cross, darkness fell on the land. At his death, the earth shook, rocks split open, the veil of the temple was torn, and the dead rose out of their graves and appeared to people in Jerusalem. These events on earth displayed the true gravity of what was taking place in the spiritual world.
Jesus died as a substitute for humanity. The sin of the world was put upon Him, and He received the punishment for that sin at the cross. Only Jesus was qualified to do this. Every human has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, sin had reigned over the human heart. We were slaves to sin. The punishment for sin is death. By coming to earth as a man, and living a sinless life, Jesus was the only human who was free from punishment. He died as payment for humanity. By laying down His life for us, Jesus -the only holy human- became the perfect substitute. To all who accept Jesus Christ, our old self is crucified with Christ. We have died to sin. We are no longer slaves to sinful desires and passions. Those who believe and are baptized are baptized into Jesus’ death. It is a death to the old self; a death to sin and a lifestyle of sin. It is through this death that we are set free from sin. It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus that the believer’s life is made completely new. Maturity in Christ includes a greater realization of the freedom that comes from Jesus’ death and a recognition that we have died to sin and sinful desires. Today, may you fully realize the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in your own life, and may you be totally set free from the slavery of sin.
Matthew 16:24-25, John 12:24-26
Throughout Jesus’ instruction to His disciples, He consistently foreshadows what He must endure to fulfill His ministry. In order for humanity to be saved from their sins and be reconciled to God, Jesus had to endure torture and death. His execution would be one of pain and humiliation. To be hung on a cross was to be made a public example; a living and dying warning sign. It was a death of dishonor. Prisoners were made to carry the cross they would be hung on up the hill to Calvary, where they would be nailed to it. When the cross was stood upright, they would die through suffocation or organ failure. It is in this context that Jesus declares that to be one of His followers, ‘let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’
Jesus was giving the invitation to public humiliation and death. It was the invitation to Calvary. Jesus then explained that whoever sought to save his own life would lose it; in John he says whoever loves his life loses it. Whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it. Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. The journey of following Jesus starts with a denial of self. It is a surrendering of our own life, our own reputation, to serve Jesus. Our own life is made to carry a cross, and to die, so that we might find new life in Him. Jesus asks the question, ‘What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ The world strives after earthly riches and success. It desires the praise and honor of the crowd. None of these things can save the soul. It is only through choosing Jesus, and denying ourselves of these worldly pursuits, that we find eternal life. It is in this crucifixion of the carnal desires that we begin to serve Jesus. Through this death to self, we become more like Jesus, and begin to bear spiritual fruit in our lives. As we deny ourselves and serve Jesus, God the Father honors us. Today, may you follow Jesus to Calvary by denying yourself, serving Him, and may He use you to produce spiritual fruit, and in the end, attain eternal life!
The story of Gideon is a story of transformation. Gideon begins in a time of conflict. Midianites and other tribes would oppress Israel by swooping in anytime there was a crop and devour the produce. Presumably they saw any time reapers came to harvest a crop and rode in and stole or destroyed it. Because of this, Gideon hides down in a winepress so that no one can see him harvesting wheat. It is here that the angel of the Lord visits Gideon and sends him to rescue Israel. Gideon responds by questioning his own ability and his humble stature in the Israelite community. God responds: “but I will be with you.”
It is in the low places, and the moments of humbling that God often comes to us. Hiding in the winepress, God calls Gideon. When Gideon speaks to his own inability to do the task, God reassures him by declaring the He will be with him. Confidence to complete the things God has called us to do doesn’t come from our own ability, it comes from an encounter with the Lord and an assurance that He who has called us is with us to complete the task.
It’s also a process. God reassures Gideon many times through multiple signs. He also takes him through different tasks. Before He overthrows the Midianites, God commands Gideon to cast down the idols in his own family. Often when God calls us to something, it must be addressed and resolved in our own hearts and in our own family first. Gideon destroys his father’s idols at night because he is too afraid to do it by day. His confidence was small, but he still obeyed the Lord. Even though we are fearful, we must find a way to fully obey what God has told us to do. As we obey God and see how God uses us, our confidence and trust in Him grows. Gideon went on to free his nation and do many mighty things for God. Today, let’s encounter God, push down our own fear, and begin to walk in confidence in God as we obey Him in all that He has asked us to do!
The name of Jesus is the most powerful name in the world. God has exalted it; it holds true power because it holds the authority of God the Father. When Jesus died on the cross, Death thought it had won, but Jesus conquered death, hell, and the grave. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father and His name is far above every other name. At the mention of the name of Jesus every knee bows in heaven and hell.
In Colossians 1, the Bible declares that through Jesus all things were created, and everything was created for Him. He is the head of the church, the first one who was born from the dead, and in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. He has reconciled all things to God and made peace by the shedding of His blood on the cross.
If you are a member of the police department, you wear a badge and a gun. This identifies you as having the authority of the local or state government. You have the power to arrest. As Christians who are part of the church of Jesus Christ, we have the authority that is in the name of Jesus. In old western movies, the sheriff or deputy says “Stop! In the name of the law.” Our authority does not come from human laws or governments, but from the government of God. It is with this authority and power that Jesus spoke to the wind and rain and caused it to cease. This is the authority that has been given to the believers of Jesus Christ.
In John 14-16, Jesus tells his disciples to ask God the Father for things in prayer using His name, the name of Jesus. God has given the power of Jesus’ name to us, his children. This is why we end our prayers with “in the name of Jesus”. If we are disciples of Jesus Christ, whatever we ask in Jesus’ name, God the Father will give to us. Nothing is impossible for those that know and believe in the authority and power of Jesus and who invoke the name of Jesus in prayer. In the name, and with the authority of Jesus the answer to all of our prayers are “Yes!” and “Amen! (so be it!)”