Why Did Jesus Suffer?

The amount of our sin did not affect the degree of Jesus suffering. It was God’s plan, not our plan that caused Jesus to suffer. God did not have Jesus suffer so we would feel guilty about our sin, nor did he suffer so we would be proud of how sinful we were. In the very beginning, God planned for Jesus to suffer so we would not have to suffer. In fact, that was the very reason that Jesus came to earth. God caused Jesus to suffer so we could see how much God loved us, not to show how much we sinned.

 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:10-12(NIV)

Jesus wanted to follow the human way when he went to Gethsemane to pray. He did not want to suffer for our sin so he asked God to take the cup of suffering from him. And three times he prayed that it not be his will, but God’s will be done. (Matthew 26:39, 42, 43) Three times Jesus surrendered His will to His Father’s will.

Jesus also told his disciples that the spirit was strong but his flesh was weak. The human nature that Jesus was given, wanted him to forgo the suffering.

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Matthew 26:36-46(NIV)

God made Jesus suffer so we would not have to suffer for our sin. Jesus became the blood sacrifice that satisfied our sin debt.

As we think about Jesus death and resurrection, let us not get caught up in the suffering of Jesus. Do not dwell on our past sins, God does not remember them anymore so why should we?  Rather, let us think about God’s great love for us. Let us think about the victory that Jesus won when he became victorious over death.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me,  from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:33-34(NIV)

God loved us so much that he provided a way for us to overcome the damage that Adam and Eve caused when they ate the forbidden fruit. Through Jesus death and resurrection, the penalty for our sin was paid in full, we have been adopted into God’s family, and we can enjoy a restored relationship with God.

Have a happy Easter, basking in God’s love and the freedom we have in Christ Jesus!

NOTE: All scripture used in this blog was downloaded from: www.biblegateway.com, March 28, 2015

A Prescription for ‘Dying Church Syndrome’

Many of the mainline denominations are faced with churches that have only a few elderly people whose children left the church. Now they are experiencing the “dying church syndrome.”

Years ago churches were started when a few families in the neighborhood got together to share a mutual interest in spiritual matters or social gatherings. Churches were frequently used a schools during the week. Families were quite large because the family was needed to help raise the crops and livestock necessary to support the family. As the children matured, the young people chose their spouse from a family within the community. They got married and had children.  Churches grew because children were born to the congregation. However, many of the children followed Christ because that is what the family taught. It is what they were expected to do.

Over the years, families became smaller and more mobile. The young people sought jobs outside of the family business, and discovered spouses in other communities. They moved away from the community and frequently away from church. As the families grew and moved away, the churches began to decrease in size.

People began to lose interest in spiritual things. The Bible which was once the main text book in school was removed from the schools. Prayers were no longer welcome in school and at school events. The family structure began to break down. Churches were not receptive to having divorced people in their congregations, so families began leaving the church.

God intended the church to grow externally.

When Jesus gave the Great commission to his disciples in Matthew 28, He said: “Go and make disciples”. He did not say we should entice them to come so we can make them disciples.

Earlier in Jesus ministry, he illustrated to his disciples how they should make disciples. Matthew 9 is one of those illustration of how Jesus attracted church members (workers). Matthew 9:35-38(NIV) says:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 3Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:35-38(NIV)

While Jesus was going through towns and villages, he saw people that had no hope. They were behaving like sheep that had no shepherd. When he saw the crowds of people, Jesus had compassion on them. Jesus saw people who were sinning and he loved them in spite of their sin. He loved them because they were in need of what Jesus had to offer. Today, people outside of the church are needing what Christians have to offer.

The first steps in prevention of the ‘dying church syndrome’ is go to sinners, and love them regardless of their behavior and location.

The second step in prevention of the ‘dying church syndrome’ is to pray.

Pray for people to send

In Matthew 9:38, Jesus told his disciples to ‘ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers’.  Who are the workers in a church? Where do workers come from?

In this passage, workers are followers of Jesus. They are people who have denied themselves so that God would be glorified. In fact, Jesus frequently called them “fishers of men

People cannot make workers. Programs will not make workers. While the church can provide training and encouragement to the workers, only God can make workers. God is in charge of the harvest. He is the one who provides workers. God is calling us to become workers.

Conclusion

Churches and locker rooms have one thing in common. They are places where people are dressed and prepared to face the opponent. How many games have been won by the team staying in the locker room? None, the only way you can defeat the opponent is to confront them on the playing field. In the same way, Christians need to get out of church and face the opponent on the playing field.

Is God calling you to be a worker or is he calling you to be unconcerned about the harvest? Is God expecting you to leave the locker room and confront our opponent, or is He expecting you to get comfortable in His locker room, the church?

NOTE: Scripture used in this blog were downloaded from: Biblegateway.com.

Who is Controlling the Church?

While reading Dr. Ron Welch’s book: The Controlling Husband, I was reminded of some of the churches I have the opportunity to visit, observe, or read about. Ideally, our churches belong to God.  He is the one who should be in charge of our churches, in the same way that He should be in charge of our marriages.

In Dr. Welch’s book he tells about three major keys to control: Intimidation, Narcissism, and Selfishness. How do these keys play out in the church? Intimidation can take on two different forms: violence and physical actions. In a church, we may hear statements like: “If the preacher don’t stop medaling, I am taking my money to another church.”;  “If they don’t put that little table that my Great great aunt donated 70 years ago, back in the foyer I am taking the table and leaving the church.”; or “I donated a lot of money to this church, I should be able to say what goes on here.”; Etc. These statements are merely intimidation in an effort to control the church. When money or furniture is donated to a church, it should be given to God. Once it is given to God, it is no longer ours to control! If we give to the church with the intent of controlling the church activities, then we really haven’t given the donation to God. We have merely invested it in our own fleshly desire; we have given it so we can be comfortable in church. How can we give gifts to God and not let God run the church?  Malachi 3:8-10(NIV) says:

 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Giving to God should not be taken lightly. When we try to control the church with our money, we are keeping control of how that money is used. This is the very same problem that Ananias and Sapphira had in Acts 5. They promised to give God all the money they received from selling some property. After they sold the property, they decided to keep control of some of the money. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 5:2(NIV). As a result of this action, both Ananias and Sapphira were both struck dead! When we fail to surrender our tithe and offerings completely to God, we become dead spiritually. We do not trust God with our donations. We want to control what happens in church. We are following our own fleshly desires. When enough people fail to surrender their tithe and offerings to God, the church will become dead. It will be of no value to God! It is simply a place where people have invested their money in an effort to appease their guilty conscience regarding their giving to God. It becomes a place where, through intimidation you force people to have the exact same beliefs that you have regardless of what God says. Another way of controlling the church is with our voices. We dominate the discussions of the governing body of the church. We raise our voices if someone opposes us; we cut off their comments without hearing what they have to say. In fact, I have seen people send threatening emails to the people who oppose their ideas or actions. Some church members use manipulation to control the church. They befriend the pastor or church leader so they can control the message that the pastor has for them. They threaten to withhold something if the message is not what they want to hear.  They may even try to bring other people into the church to help the control how the church is run. They vote for church leaders based on how they will operate the church. They are not interested in choosing people who are try to do what God wants done in church. In fact in many cases, they don’t want God to control the church. Rather than controlling the church, our emphasis should be on reaching unity and maturity in Christ. We should be building up others rather than ourselves. God made His grace available to everyone, not just us. Listen to what Paul said to the Ephesians in chapter 4 regarding what we should be doing in church:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:2-7,11-13(NIV)

Rather than control the church, we should follow Paul’s advice and work to build up each other so we may have unity in Christ. NOTE: Scripture used in this blog were downloaded from: www.biblegateway.com