Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh” (Jonah 1:1-2). God spoke plainly to Jonah and instructed him to visit the capital city of Israel’s enemies with a message of repentance and, ultimately, grace. Yet Jonah refused. Why did Jonah — and why do we still today, as recipients of the Great Commission — disobey God?
He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). At the heart of the gospel — at the heart of what happened on the cross to Jesus Christ — is substitution. It is Jesus taking the place, and therefore the punishment, of sinners who deserved God’s wrath. At the cross, Jesus got what we deserved. Isaiah 53:5 gives us this clear insight into Jesus’ death.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Salvation means “to deliver” someone out of danger. Salvation, especially in the Bible, implies then that people need to be saved. It also implies that someone is able and willing to save the person who needs to be saved. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the only source of true salvation for any human being.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). There is a well-known real estate maxim that lists the three most important characteristics of any property: “Location, location, and location.” This famous real estate maxim holds true in the Bible, as well. In the Old Testament in particular leaving Israel is seen as departing from God, and returning to Israel represents one’s returning to God.
Lead us not into temptation (Luke 11:4). (Today’s is the last in a brief series of meditations on the Lord’s Prayer.) James says no one can say God has tempted him; this request, then, is for God to keep us from situations where we might fall. It is a recognition of the dangerous, bait-riddled, sin-inducing nature of this world. If love of money doesn’t get us, perhaps the temptation to fit in with the crowd will.
Forgive us our sins (Luke 11:4). (We are continuing in our brief series of meditations on the Lord’s Prayer.) Jesus teaches us to pray daily (see previous post) for the forgiveness of our sins, assuming (as we ought to) that we have strayed from the mark each day. Sins are sins — they are not merely mistakes, flaws, personality, or “my truth versus your truth.” And every sin is against God ultimately, and so must be dealt with before God (Psalm 51:4)
Give us each day our daily bread (Luke 11:3). (We continue today in our brief series on the Lord’s Prayer.) The opening requests that Jesus models for us are about God — so like God they are majestic, huge, and inspiring. A lesson Jesus clearly means for us to learn in this prayer is that God comes first, and only when God is first does everything else matter or fall into place. However, the following pleas that Jesus himself places in our mouth are about us — and like us they are daily, mundane, unspectacular.
Your kingdom come (Luke 11:2). In my last post I began a series of brief meditations on the Lord’s Prayer. The prayer begins with the request for God’s name to be hallowed, followed immediately with the prayer for his kingdom to come. When we ask for God’s kingdom to come, we are reminded that not only is God’s name and glory to come first — but also God’s desires, his will, his purposes, and his authority.
When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name” (Luke 11:2). It is doubtless true that the Lord’s Prayer is routinely abused around the globe every day, mouthed by people who neither think about its meaning, nor would mean it even if they did. This is why Martin Luther referred to the Lord’s Prayer as “the greatest martyr on earth.” It is, as it were, butchered by thoughtless, soulless prayer on a daily basis. However, the other extreme, into which many evangelicals today have fallen (and it’s just as bad) is this: we have largely neglected it!
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it“ (1 Corinthians 3:10). Paul emphasizes over and over again that his labors were “according to the grace of God.” In other words, we can only do what God enables us to do. We are only as strong or skillful or successful as God’s grace working in and through us. Have we been blessed to persevere in Christian service for several years or decades? We are
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Paul is speaking here to Christian believers, to those who have trusted their past, present, and future to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. And Paul reminds Christians that the Holy Spirit within us now gives us the true witness that we are his. The Spirit, it is important for us to recognize, is not lying to us. This is not merely some pep talk that the Spirit gives us, in order to make us feel better:
God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). There are countless emotional obstacles that keep us from freely praying to God each day, and moment by moment. But there is one overriding reason, Paul says, for you to fight through and go to God in prayer: the Holy Spirit himself is the one beckoning you, drawing you into God’s presence. I was struck recently, in reaching this passage, by the fact that each of these nouns refers back to the Spirit.
Paul, in the middle of a praise-hymn to God in Christ, makes the astounding claim that He is “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,” because of the power that is working in Christian believers (Ephesians 3:20). God is able! He is able to do what we ask; he is able to do more than we think; he is able to do above all that we can ask or think. And this doesn’t just mean that God is capable of answering more prayers than we are asking; it also means he is answering
“[We have] boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). Access to the holy God who created us is the most precious commodity in the universe. So precious, in fact, that no person can afford it, can purchase it with any amount of money or sacrifice or even personal godliness. This is the lesson we are meant learn from the Old Testament sacrificial system of worship. The innermost room (the “holiest”) of the temple was where God’s presence was experienced in a special way. Yet the writer of Hebrews reminds us that there is only
Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding. (Proverbs 9:6) It is interesting how these two things go together: 1) forsaking foolishness, and 2) living wisely. In order to pursue the way of truth, the way of understanding, you must forsake the company of foolish companions. You can’t have both. You can’t go in the way of understanding, and also keep your foolish friends close by. “Forsake the foolish and live,” and in forsaking the foolish, “go in the way of understanding.” To pursue wise ways of living, you must—you must—forsake the company and counsel of