A Spike-Torn Hand Twitched

Part of the curse Jesus would bear for us on Golgotha was the taunting and testing by God’s enemies. As he drowned in his own blood, the spectators yelled words quite similar to those of Satan in the desert: “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32). But he didn’t jump down. He didn’t ascend to the skies. He just writhed there. And, after it all, the bloated corpse of Jesus hit the ground as he was pulled off the stake, spattering warm blood and water on the faces of the crowd.

That night the religious leaders probably read Deuteronomy 21 to their families, warning them about the curse of God on those who are “hanged on a tree.” Fathers probably told their sons, “Watch out that you don’t ever wind up like him.” Those Roman soldiers probably went home and washed the blood of Jesus from under their fingernails and played with their children in front of the fire before dozing off. This was just one more insurrectionist they had pulled off a cross, one in a line of them dotting the roadside. And this one (what was his name? Joshua?) was just decaying meat now, no threat to the empire at all.

That corpse of Jesus just lay there in the silences of that cave. By all appearances it had been tested and tried, and found wanting. If you’d been there to pull open his bruised eyelids, matted together with mottled blood, you would have looked into blank holes. If you’d lifted his arm, you would have felt no resistance. You would have heard only the thud as it hit the table when you let it go. You might have walked away from that morbid scene muttering to yourself, “The wages of sin is death.”

But sometime before dawn on a Sunday morning, a spike-torn hand twitched. A blood-crusted eyelid opened. The breath of God came blowing into that cave, and a new creation flashed into reality…

—Russell Moore
Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ

Via: Tony Reinke

Never Give Up Praying

It is very apparent from the Word of God that he often tries the faith and patience of his people, when they are crying to him for some great and important mercy, by withholding the mercy sought for a season; and not only so, but at first he may cause an increase of dark appearances.  And yet he, without fail, at last prospers those who continue urgently in prayer with all perseverance and ‘will not let him go except he blesses.’

—Jonathan Edwards
A Call to United Extraordinary Prayer

Via: Ray Ortlund

You Must Be Born Again

This is an excerpt from a great post on regeneration that was published today on the Ligonier Ministries Blog. If you have time, I would encourage you to visit their site and read the entire article.

It is for this reason that Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). The spiritually dead cannot enter God’s holy presence. “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). In order to see God’s kingdom, then, the spiritually stillborn must be brought to life. There must be spiritual resurrection.

There must be new life, eternal life. “You must be born again.” Jesus’ words befuddled Nicodemus. He said to Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4). Here Nicodemus gives us a textbook example of missing the point.

Nicodemus is not alone. There are a large number of professing Christians who miss the point. To hear some tell it, you would think Jesus merely said, “You must be well again.” According to many, we are not spiritually dead but are simply sick. We are on our death beds, and Jesus offers us the cure. All we have to do is reach out and take it. Or we are drowning and Jesus offers us a life buoy, and all we have to do is grab it to save our lives. The picture painted by Jesus and the apostles, however, is much more bleak. In our natural Adamic state, we are not on our sick beds. We are in the grave. We are not flailing about on the surface of the sea. We are lifeless at the bottom of the ocean. We are dead.

This is the point that Nicodemus and we must understand. When Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be born again, He is indicating that this is not something Nicodemus can do himself. Just as we had no control over our physical birth, we do not control our spiritual birth. It is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Those who say that we are only spiritually wounded will say that we can be regenerated, born again, by placing our faith in Christ. This, however, puts everything precisely backwards. We do not believe in order to be regenerated; we must be regenerated in order that we might believe. Regeneration precedes faith.

Our spiritual situation is similar in some ways to that of Lazarus in the grave (see John 11). Lazarus was dead. He could do nothing in and of himself to gain new life. Jesus commanded Lazarus to come forth from the grave, but Lazarus could not respond unless God first gave him life. In the same way, we are spiritually dead and can do nothing to gain spiritual life. Jesus commands us to believe in Him, but we cannot respond unless God first gives us spiritual life. Jesus gives us this new life because he has overcome death, once and for all. As Peter explains, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

If you are a Christian, consider what God has done for you. Consider the fact that you were born dead in sin. Jesus came to your grave. He commanded you to come forth and gave you spiritual life and faith. Now you have been born again and are an adopted child of God (John 1:12). You are a co-heir with Christ. And although your physical body will still die, you can rest secure in the hope of the resurrection. Those in Christ will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). Our present body is perishable, but it will be raised imperishable, never to die again. When God raises us, death will finally be swallowed up in victory.

—Keith A. Mathison
Tabletalk Magazine, June 2008

I love the way that Jesus explained this to the Jews when he was at the temple in Jerusalem:

The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

— John 10:25-30, ESV

Jesus makes it clear that belief (or faith) is the result of our rebirth and inclusion in the family of Christ, not the grounds for it. Regeneration precedes faith. Soli Deo Gloria!

Via: Ligonier Ministries Blog

The Day Luther Died

Desiring God is offering a free copy of John Piper’s biographical message on Martin Luther in commemoration of the anniversary of Luther’s death.

In Germany 467 years ago, in a small, backwater town called Eisleben, the shaking hand of a dying man scribbled this simple line: We are beggars. This is true.

Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546. These last words of weakness echoed the life-changing truth he’d unearthed in the Scriptures: we don’t bring anything to the table of our justification. Jesus truly died for the ungodly.

Luther came to understand that if we are to be accepted by God, we need a perfect righteousness we can’t produce — we need an alien righteousness given to us by Another.

But this discovery didn’t just happen. It came after hours of the painstaking study of Scripture. Luther gave himself to the Book, which he later explained as the primary actor in the Protestant Reformation. And a great movement of God in our day won’t happen apart from that same ingredient. Pastors and Christian leaders must be devoted to God’s word.

So we have much to learn from Luther, says John Piper.

Luther was the subject of Piper’s biographical message at the 1995 Conference for Pastors. We’ve since reformatted that message into a five-chapter ebook, which presents a sketch of Luther’s life and distills relevant lessons for not only pastors and leaders, but all Christians.

—Jonathan Parnell

Get a free download of Martin Luther: Lessons from His Life and Labor (available in PDF, MOBI, or EPUB) from Desiring God.

Via: Desiring God Blog

Bring Your Heart to Christ’s Love

Bring your heart with its profoundest emptiness, its most startling discovery of sin, its lowest frame, its deepest sorrow, and sink it into the depths of the Saviour’s love… Christ’s love touching your hard heart, will dissolve it; touching your cold heart, will warm it; touching your sinful heart, will purify it; touching your sorrowful heart, will soothe it; touching your wandering heart, will draw it back to Jesus. Only bring your heart to Christ’s love.

—Octavius Winslow
The Sympathy of Christ

Via: Of First Importance

Your Prayers Are Not Lost

God’s children, should pray. You should cry day and night unto God. God hears every one of your cries, in the busy hour of the daytime, and in the lonely watches of the night. He treasures them up from day-to-day; soon the full answer will come down: ‘He will answer speedily.’

Christ never loses one believing prayer. The prayers of every believer, from Abel to the present day, He heaps upon the altar, from which they are continually ascending before His Father and our Father; and when the altar can hold no more, the full, the eternal answer will come down.

Do not be discouraged, dearly beloved, because God bears long with you—because He does not seem to answer your prayers. Your prayers are not lost. When the merchant sends his ships to distant shores, he does not expect them to come back richly laden in a single day: he has long patience.

‘It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.’ Perhaps your prayers will come back, like the ships of the merchant, all the more heavily laden with blessings, because of the delay.

—Robert Murray M’Cheyne
Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne

Via: Tolle Lege