Our Righteousness

“In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:6

There is nothing that feels better than a crisp, clean set of clothes. I’ve been trying to take up running. After I come in from a three mile run, my shirt is gross! It’s smelly and drenched with sweat. It feels so good, after I’ve showered, to put on a shirt that is dry and clean.

We have all made our spiritual clothes sweaty, dirty and gross. Our unkind words and self-centered thoughts are like mud caked on our spiritual shirts. God is not going to let us into his house (heaven) wearing those kind of clothes!

But there is nothing that feels better than a crisp, clean set of clothes! Jesus lived a completely righteous life. His spiritual clothes were never stained with a single sin. And then he said to you, “Change shirts with me.” He put on your shirt that was stained with sin, and in exchange he gave you his crisp, clean shirt. That’s what the Bible means when it says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus was wearing our sinful clothes when he suffered and died on the cross. In exchange, he gave us his sinless clothes. Now, when God looks at us, he does not see dirty, sinful clothes. Instead, he sees the crisp, clean clothes of Jesus. The Bible puts it this way: “He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).

We haven’t lived a perfect life, but Jesus has. And he lets that perfect life count for us. He is “The LORD Our Righteousness,” (Jeremiah 23:6). Because Jesus’ perfect life (his righteousness) counts for us, that means that we can get into heaven!

So the next time you finish some strenuous activity, remember with joy that Jesus put on your grimy, sinful clothes. And when you open your dresser and find a neatly folded shirt, remember that Jesus has put a fresh, clean shirt on you. You are clothed in his perfect righteousness, and there is nothing that feels better than a crisp, clean set of clothes!

The Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

Man Dies to Save Trapped Bunny pops up as you scroll through your news app. You tap on the video. You see what reminds you of the furry little Cadbury Creme Egg mascot. A heroic rescue follows.

You’re baffled. You’re impressed! You think…What inspired that guy to give his own life for a bunny? Come to think of it, I sometimes forget even to feed my own pet!

Try another headline: Man Dies to Save World. That headline actually does pop up when you read the Bible. At first it may sound like it’s from a too-predictable superhero movie. It seems too good to be true. But it is true! Jesus is that man. He died an agonizing, humiliating death on a Roman torture-pole to save the world. He wasn’t saving it from global warming or hunger or war, but saving it from damnation. And despite what some speculate, Jesus didn’t come to post the Ten Commandments at every town hall and enforce them. No, the world already stood condemned by the law because of its sin. Instead, Jesus came to rescue the world. By the way, “world” means everyone in it. You too!

Look at the extraordinary heroism in Jesus, this world’s Rescuer! Really, it was more than heroism. He, being true God, displayed God’s love and God’s plan to give forgiveness and eternal life to all! Jesus’ life, death, and bodily resurrection show us the very heart of God. This is a headline worth your time. It is worth hearing and reading more about. Scroll on.

Here’s a way to picture Jesus your God and Savior: Jesus is The Good Shepherd. He describes himself, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” We’re the sheep. We’ve strayed and “bleated up” life because we’re sinful. We are lost sheep needing rescue. Not just by a hired hand. Not just by any shepherd, but by The Good Shepherd. Not just a no-name hero, forgotten tomorrow. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who, being both God and man, laid down his life for you. He really did save the whole world. Your sins are forgiven.

Your life’s headline reads: Good Shepherd Dies to Save THIS Sheep. It’s a headline others need to hear about too! Share it!

Ponder the Wonder of God

He will be called Wonderful. – Isaiah 9:6

What a wonder! God superseded the laws of nature to be born a human being. Nothing is beyond his ability; his love for us stops at no limits to exercise itself for our complete welfare.

Let the wonder of our Savior’s nativity convince us once and for all that we ought not expect God’s ways to coincide with our earthbound thinking. God’s rescue plan for mankind required going beyond human comprehension. The wonder of the scene at Bethlehem is a testimony to that.

Ponder this in the solitude of your heart: What God accomplishes in our lives cannot always be gauged by appearances. If loneliness grieves us, if reverses or humble circumstances distress us, we must not conclude that our God has turned from us. It is through just such conditions that he can bring about the fulfillment of what he in his love is planning for our eternal benefit. His ways are not our ways. He often acts in ways that are mysterious to us–that are a wonderful display of his power, love, and discipline. He who once miraculously gave his eternal Son wrapped in human flesh can send us the most precious of blessings in the plainest packages.

Christ

“We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). – John 1:41

Many expressions of love and affection are exchanged between people–especially on special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Yet, there is no greater act of love than the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus for our salvation. The whole of Scripture revolves around this one supreme act of unconditional love!

But why is it that Christians associate the title Christ with God’s love in Jesus? What does the word Christ mean? A look at God’s Word will help explain this. The Gospel of Matthew begins by recording the genealogy of Jesus, “…and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” (Matthew 1:16).

As Matthew sets the tone for his Gospel, he is careful to note that Jesus was revered as Christ. This familiar title is actually a form of the Greek word chrio meaning “to pour or anoint.” To anoint was to pour sacred oil over someone’s head as a visible sign that God had set him aside for a special task. Jesus bore the title Christ because he was the one God anointed to be the world’s Savior.

The Gospel of John in the first chapter reveals Jesus, the Word made flesh, and describes Andrew’s excitement at having met Jesus: “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ)” (John 1:41). Andrew bursts forth in joyful acclamation, using the title Messiah which is the Hebrew equivalent of Christ, “the Anointed One.”

The Gospel writer John is keen to point out that from the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry the hope of the ages was intimately associated with salvation in Jesus. Yes, at the time of his baptism Jesus was consecrated for his messianic ministry in a remarkable way…“heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17). Jesus was anointed by the Spirit of God and received the clear approval of his heavenly Father. Talk about divine endorsement!

Because Jesus is The Anointed One, he is the one foretold in ancient prophecy who would bring salvation, redeeming us from the curse of sin! There is no greater act of love—true love!

Lamb of God

“Look! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29

In today’s urban society, many people don’t often come into contact with farm animals. So when the Bible describes Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” it’s easy to miss the comfort in this unique name for our Savior.

When John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, “Look! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” it would have immediately grabbed the Jews attention. God had commanded the sacrifice of lambs as part of their worship life to teach them that they needed the blood of a substitute to pay for their sins. They couldn’t just make that sacrifice once. They had to offer it again and again because it was imperfect blood offered by imperfect people. They sacrificed animals, lambs that could never really take away their sin.

Sometimes we don’t understand the full magnitude of our sin. Sin isn’t just what we read about in the newspapers. Sin is when parents want the best for their children, but allow other things to become more important. Sin is when spouses want to be loving, but instead put their own needs and desires first. Sin is when teenagers struggle for independence and step over the line of disrespecting their parents and others in authority. Sin is nothing more and nothing less than failing to be the perfect people our perfect God demands of us.

We need the perfect blood of a substitute to take away our sins. Jesus is the only Lamb who could do that because he’s the Lamb of God. He’s the perfect Lamb who never fell short of God’s expectations. He’s the Substitute offered on the altar of the cross. His blood fully pays for the sin of the world. And that means he paid for your sin too! He’s the Sacrifice that enables you to live life without fear of God’s punishment. Jesus is the Lamb who gave you what you could never earn—eternal life and a home with him in heaven.

King of kings and Lord of lords

On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16)

We live in a world that is often affected by tragedy and disaster. Terrorist attacks, war, crime, disease, natural disasters—these are just some of the evils that affect our world. As sinful people living in a sinful world, these are sad realities that we must sometimes face. Even if we aren’t directly affected by any great tragedy, problems still affect us all.

Evil in the world around us and problems in our own lives can make us afraid. They can make us feel weak and helpless. Sometimes evil seems to have the upper hand. Sometimes it seems like this world is out of control. We might wonder, “Where is God?  Who is in control?”

Our Savior Jesus is in control. The Bible assures us, “The Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers” (Revelation 17:14). Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” is King and Lord supreme. He is in control of all things. He rules for the good of his people. His ultimate goal is to bring us safely to our eternal home in heaven.

The evidence of his rule is seen in God’s plan for our salvation. On the cross, Jesus conquered sin, death and the devil. He wasn’t caught off guard and forced to die. He has always been in control, even on the cross. Jesus willingly gave his life for us, only to take it up again. His death on the cross seemed like defeat, but he rose victorious. He has power over life and death. His resurrection is certain proof of our salvation and assures us of his loving rule.

He remains in control today, despite how it may appear to our human eyes. The Savior, whose love moved him to die for us, is the same Savior whose love leads him to rule everything for our eternal good. That truth calms my fears. It gives me strength to face the difficulties of life.

Especially in difficult times, I need to go to the one who is in control. I need to draw near him through his Word, the Bible. There I hear his promises. There I receive his comfort and reassurance.

He is King of kings and Lord of lords. What comfort I find in that truth!

Redeemer

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25)

In the Star-Spangled Banner, Americans sing about living in the “land of the free and home of the brave.” But do we always feel free? Aren’t there times when we feel as if “chains” were shackling us? There are the chains of responsibility at work and home, the pains we face or the financial strains that come our way. There are the chains of guilt that press us down as we look back at our past wrongdoings.

In the Bible Job tells us, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). Easter celebrates the reality that our Redeemer lives. A redeemer is someone who delivers others out of trouble by paying a great price for their freedom. Jesus, the Son of God, came into this world to be our Redeemer. From what did he redeem us?

Sin puts us in opposition to God. He is holy – completely without sin – and requires us to be holy too if we are to live with him.  Indeed, what we know of ourselves and all those around us proves the truth that Bible states, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  What’s the result? God’s word tells us: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That’s more than death that we associate with funerals and cemeteries. Our sinfulness puts us under the sentence of God to be separated from him forever in a very real, painful place called hell.

The wonderful news is that Jesus paid for our release; he bought our freedom from sin’s punishment. The price he paid to free us was his holy blood. He took our place under the sentence of death. He shed his blood and sacrificed his life to free us from the curse of sin and the condemnation of hell. Three days after he was placed in the grave, he rose from the dead on Easter to prove that his payment was complete and we are freed. “Because I live, you also will live,” Jesus assures us (John 14:19).

Rely on Jesus your Redeemer. By his blood he bought you for a life of glory with him now and forever. As your Redeemer he is always present to help as you deal with the “chains” of living in this world. You can trust him for he loves you.

Immanuel

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

In 1995 Joan Osborne released the song “One of Us.” Catchy tune. Provocative lyrics. A repeated question: “What if God was one of us…just a slob like one of us?”

I don’t know the songwriter’s intent in asking the question. Was there a searching desire to know the answer? Or was it a commentary on God as he is often portrayed and perceived—a distant god who doesn’t care about the human condition? I don’t know. However, I do know that in the Bible God gives an answer to the song’s question.

God is one of us. Come again? It’s true! God is one of us. In the Bible we are told of a promise God made to become one with the human race: …they will call him Immanuel—which means, God with us. Those words are spoken of Jesus Christ at the time of his birth. The Bible teaches that Jesus is true God and true man at the same time! This is the mystery and miracle of Christmas. This is the mystery and meaning of the special name for Jesus, Immanuel.

Let that thought sink in. God is one of us! Think about it when you’re having a rough day and it seems like nobody cares. Jesus knows and cares because he once lived in our world. In fact, he had it much worse than we do. He was perfectly innocent of all wrongdoing, and yet he suffered humiliation and scorn. He hadn’t hurt anyone or broken a law of God and yet he was sentenced to death.

Jesus died…for no fault of his own. But that’s what he came to do. He was born to die, because our relationship with God is totally messed up otherwise. We have been slobs in the way we’ve lived before God. We deserve his anger for disobeying his commands and living according to our own standards. But Jesus became, not a slob like one of us, but a slob instead of us! He died on the cross in our place. He rose from the dead…in victory.

What if God was one of us? In Christ Jesus he was and truly still is! Through faith in Jesus Christ we have what he came into our world to win—complete forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Look to Immanuel who promises to be your compassionate and powerful companion in this life…and the next!

Prince of Peace

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called…Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Peace. That is a concept the Bible talks about. Only when the Bible talks about peace, it is referring to something far greater than a peace that we talk about in our lives and in the world. It is referring to peace with God.

So do you have it? Do you have peace with God? Or perhaps a better question is this: Is it even possible for unholy, imperfect, sinful people like we are to have peace with a holy, perfect, and sinless God? After all, God himself demands in his word that, if we are to have peace with him, we must be holy and perfect just like he is. So is peace with God even possible?

It sure is. And not because we are somehow going to become holy and perfect on our own. It is because we have one who has been holy and perfect in our place. His name is Jesus, the one the prophet Isaiah so aptly calls the “Prince of Peace.” Through his perfect life and innocent death, Jesus removed all of our sins and gave us his perfection. In doing so, the Prince of Peace has given us exactly what our holy and perfect God demands of us. Through faith, we now have peace with God as our personal possession forever.

That is the peace that the Prince of Peace brought you. Jesus brought you peace with God. And that peace will last forever.

The Word

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1,14

“I give you my word,” we sometimes say when making a promise. We say it because we want to be trusted, to have others take what we say as true. “I give you my word; I’ll do more of the housework,” says a concerned husband to his exhausted wife. “I give you my word; I’ll be there for you whenever you need help,” says one friend to another. “I give you my word; I’ll be at your soccer game,” says the young business man to his daughter, who only wants her dad to be proud of her.

But what happens when we hear that phrase without seeing results? It’s emptied of meaning. Ultimately, we need to see someone keep their word before we’ll believe them when they say, “I give you my word.” It’s frustrating when people make promises and fail to keep them. Just ask that daughter of the young business man who got called in to work and missed her soccer game. Broken promises hurt.

But when God makes a promise, he keeps it. He made a promise to right what we have done wrong. He promised forgiveness for our sins. He promised life rather than death. Then he kept his word by sending his only Son, Jesus Christ. To keep the promise of righting our wrongs, Jesus lived the holy life which we could not. To keep the promise of forgiving our sins, Jesus died the death we deserved. To keep the promise of giving us eternal life, Jesus rose from the dead. It is very fitting, then, that in John 1, Jesus is called the Word. He is God’s promises in action. He is the proof that God keeps his word. God said, “I give you my word,” when he made those promises. Then when he sent Jesus, he said, “I give you my Word.” Jesus made those promises reality.

God has made even more promises. He promises to help us when we are helpless, to strengthen us when we are weak and to guide us when we are lost. Such promises are more than just nice thoughts or good intentions. God will keep them. They’re promises from the God who gave his Word, Jesus, and kept his word to save us.