It was darkness, and it was light. It was torment, and it was peace. It was death, and it was life. The Cross; two heavy wooden beams, shouldered by the man of sorrows. It pressed hard upon His back. A back that had already been turned into an open wound by the lashes it had received. Compared to the burden He was about to bear, it was nothing, but it brought Him to His knees.
It was His choice to do it, but it was a choice that caused Him to sweat blood as He wrestled in prayer in the garden. He had made His decision; He would drink the cup that caused Him so much dread. If this cup were visible, the sight of it would have caused our hearts to stop, our stomachs to turn, and all our strength to vanish. It was a mixture of every dark deed we, as His people, would ever commit. It also included every foul emotion, every impure motive, and every heart’s desire for evil that we were unable to fulfill. If you have ever felt the weight of sin, you know it can break your heart and darken the soul, and because our hearts are still clouded by our lusts, we have never felt it to its full degree. It is crushing.
Not only were every one of our sins in that cup, but everything they deserved as well. The cup contained distress, depression, and despair. It included desolation, disease, and death. That cup was the wrath of an all-knowing, all-powerful God of righteousness. What we saw in the bodily suffering of Jesus was only the surface, and He drank the cup until it was dry.
At that moment, life left His body. His chest stopped moving, His tongue lay still, and His eyes went cold. The enemy of death had taken Him. He was supposed to be our Savior, but He was dead. The wages of sin had taken the sinless one who was meant to set us free. They wrapped His body, laid Him in a cold tomb, and covered it with a stone. Our hope had died. He had borne the brunt of our sins, and it had killed Him.
Then something happened on the morning of the third day. Though it occurred in the dark of the tomb, a light came back into his eyes. There was a newness to His body unlike anyone else who had ever returned from the grave. His body was alive, never to die again! The stone rolled away, and He emerged. Death had not defeated Him. He bore our wrath, and it had not overcome Him. He had conquered it. The bonds of death could not hold him!
In the resurrection, we have confirmation that His redeeming work was complete. He was a hostage to our debt, and now that debt had been paid. He died for our sins and rose for our justification. Death could not hold Him because He had laid His life down of His own will; no one could demand it from Him. He could lay it down, and He could take it up again.
Since the bonds of death cannot hold Him, neither can they hold anything that belongs to Him. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus in faith will be saved. Child of God, what is it that brings you down? Is it sin, guilt, failure, shame, condemnation, accusation, or a body that is experiencing death? Whatever it is, it will find its defeat in Jesus Christ.
He is King of Kings and Lord of Lord! He has risen, and He is alive!
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” – Jesus (John 11:25-26)
But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. – Luke 15:20
What a beautiful picture we have here. The prodigal has returned home, but only after forsaking his father and laying waste to his inheritance. The prodigal, living comfortably in his father’s house wells up with pride and renounces his father’s authority. He requests his estate and leaves. Filling his life with debauchery, he takes harlots as his companions, feeds his lusts, and squanders his father’s precious gifts. Oh’ but the child of God is never outside their Father’s providence, and famine hits the land. The prodigal’s hopes are soon dashed upon the rocks of vanity and sin, and he finds himself in bondage.
He is joined to a citizen of that country where he is required to feed pigs. In this state, the lords of this country do not offer him anything but to eat and sleep in the pig stalls. For a Jewish man to live with pigs is but another image of his descent into spiritual impurity. Sin brings temporary satisfaction but piles on long-lasting burdens, impossible to remove. The prodigal is in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction and delusion, but the grace of God is far reaching, and the prodigal comes to himself and says, “It would be better to be a slave in my father’s house than to live here.” What a shame it is, that many never come to themselves and never feel the burden of sin on their back, and what a shame many who do feel it, never venture to go home. They die in their despair, seeking some way to have the burden removed. They sink ever slowly into the “slough of despond.” What a shame, many have even taken their own lives in this despondency.
In his unworthy state, covered in the stains and wounds of the foreign land, the prodigal walks slowly home, crestfallen, seeking only servitude in the house of his father. However, he is not even worthy of that, for dishonoring your father and mother is a crime worthy of death under the law.
When he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion. Our Father’s eyes are ever on us, even when we cannot see Him. When our heads hang low, dejected from our sin, He looks and has compassion. How His heart aches when His children hurt, even from their self-inflicted wounds. The prodigal’s father then ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Before the son could say a word, the father had placed his lips upon his son. He did not wait until the filth was washed away. Nor was he concerned with any of the scoffing that the community might bring.
Oh, the kisses of the Father say so much. The kiss shows much love for the son. There has been no loss of love in the heart of the father. No uncertainty in the love for his child has occurred due to his son’s crimes. The kiss demonstrates full forgiveness, as it speaks of absolution. The debt the son incurred has been forgotten, and the burden of sin and guilt is gone. In the kisses of God, we see full restoration. The son is as much a son as he had ever been; the thoughts of servitude in his father’s house are to be rejected. No more food fit for swine, nor clothes fit for prisoners. There shall be a feast fit for royalty, a new robe is to be placed upon him, and a ring to signify to the world that he is part of his father’s family. The son has full restoration, and all this happens before the son can speak his confession, which he has undoubtedly been rehearsing.
There is a beauty in true humility, for it does not flow from our natural self. It is the direct result of the working of the Spirit of God. Nevertheless, the son proceeds to acknowledge his sin before his father. True repentance is shown in this way, that even those accepted by the father long to confess. It is almost as if the son is making sure the father realizes what he has done. He wants to make sure his sin is fully understood before accepting the welcome. Oh, but the father knows, and this kiss was no mistake.
Those who come to the Father by faith, in repentance, will receive all the kisses of God. We are given the kiss of a new heart and a new spirit as our hearts of stone are turned to hearts of flesh by the grace of God. We are kissed with strong assurance. Though the prodigal may have intense fears of walking away again, we see that the father is not apprehensive that son will disgrace his mercy and forgiveness. For the Father knows that of those who are His, He will not lose one of them.
There is also the kiss of intimate communion. The kisses that God gives are not like the kisses of Judas. Our Father looks at us and sees everything we are. He sees all of our depravity, yet He places His lips upon us and kisses us with close communion. The kiss He gives is more intimate in it than a husband could give his wife, or a wife could give her husband.
Children of God and those who long to be, run to your father while there is still time. Satan tells you that you are unworthy of the kisses of God, and the truth is you have never been worthy nor will you ever be, but that is the very reason you must go. Only the kisses of your father can offer you anything. The world will offer you its kisses, but they are the kisses of Judas. Betraying kisses that will lead to your demise. Reject the kisses of this world and run to your Father.
There are kisses for every one of your despairs. Every wound and disease that eats at your soul can be addressed by the kisses of God. It would be worthwhile to quote Charles Spurgeon at length here, for much of this was drawn from his influence.
“Perhaps one whom I am addressing says, “even though I confess my sin, and seek God’s mercy, I shall still be in sore trouble for through my sin I have brought myself down to poverty.” “There is a kiss for you,” says the Lord: “Thy bread shall be given thee, and water shall be sure.” “But I have even brought disease upon myself by sin,” says another. “There is a kiss for you, for I am Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord that healeth thee, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases.” “But I am dreadfully down at the heel,” says another. The Lord gives you also a kiss, and says, “I will lift you up, and provide for all your needs. No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly.” All the promises in this Book belong to every repentant sinner, who returns to God believing in Jesus Christ, his son.”
Child of God, let the world scoff and the consequences of your sin run their course. You have the kisses of God. For every trial, even the self-inflicted ones, can now do you no harm. All things work together for the good of those who love Him, even the haunting effects of our sin with which we now live. Everything in this world will pass away, and we will one day enter the kingdom of our Lord where every tear will be dried, and sadness will be no more. The world may continue to wound, and people may even look at you with disdainful eyes, remember it is not their approval you need, you have the kisses of God.
It would be beneficial to address those sit and ponder their sin, feeling proud that they are not like the great sinners being spoken of here. If you feel that you have not done such a great evil that you should drop you head in shame, may God be merciful and show you your misery. For like the Pharisee, you may fulfill your ritual of prayer in the public places, but remember the Pharisee walked away without forgiveness. It was the tax collector who beat his own breast as if to say, “it is I who should be accursed.” who found his sins washed away. The image of beating his chest symbolizes that he did not see his sin as mental mistakes, but something that flowed from his very soul. For that is what sin is, our very nature mocking the Holiness of God. He cried to God, “have mercy on me a sinner”, and how lovingly the Father kisses Him with forgiveness and acceptance.
There may be still others reading this who started out strong but have begun to be choked out by the cares of this world. Pleasures, promotions, and the search for prestige has taken you captive and have begun to steal your time away from God. May God grant you repentance, for many start strong down the narrow path only to taken away by such lusts never to return. They become like the man despairing in the cage in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, who took the hand of his lusts and could not repent because he loved them so. They overtook him and blinded him of his need for salvation, and he proved to have never been a child of God.
Come to His feet in repentance, for it is our only hope. The wrath of God will be poured out on sinners unless we accept the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. He did what we could not and lived a sinless life, and was crucified in our place. For scripture states “He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.” The repenting sinner is the only one who can receive a crown of righteousness, and it is not our righteousness but Christ’s.
How can we neglect so great a salvation? Make your election sure. May all those who are children of God, and those who long to be, come to Him today, and be embraced by his love and forgiveness.
Our sin is staggeringly heinous! We are finite beings who have sinned against an infinite God. This means each of our transgressions, and we have many, are worthy of infinite wrath. We are prone to wander, and even as believers, we have defiled ourselves more recently than we would like to admit.
John Owen once said, speaking to Christians,
“Temptation is like a knife, that may either cut the meat or the throat of a man; it may be his food or his poison, his exercise or his destruction.”
There were likely several times this week that we put the knife to our throat, drank the poison, and destroyed just a little bit of ourselves.
Thomas Brooks once pointed out,
“As sinful commissions will stab the soul; so sinful omissions will starve the soul.”
We have stabbed and starved our souls, for even though we have not fallen at every temptation, we have failed in both sinful commissions and sinful omissions. Some of us are reading this today, even as Christians, and we are bleeding to death. We are spiritually prostrate on the ground, weak and malnourished.
How do we stop the hemorrhage? The same cure that saved our soul, is the same cure that heals us daily. In Faith, we must lay our hands on the head of Jesus.
Under the old covenant, there were many ceremonial laws which were a shadow of how Jesus would eventually save us. Several of them, including the bull offering, required that the people lay their hands on the head of the animal before it was killed.
In the case of sin, Leviticus 1:4 tells us,
“He [the sinner] shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”
This, laying of the hand, was a picture of their sins being transferred to the animal, and the animal would be sacrificed in their place. When we came to faith, we laid our hands on the head of Jesus.
Every filthy transgression, willful and unintentional, that filled our soul with darkness, made our hands foul. All the soul-poisoning fallout, that severed and abused our peace with God and peace within, made our hands repulsively unclean. It was in this sinful condition that our pure and unblemished Savior said, “Lay your sin-soiled hands on my head.” Then, through the Holy Spirit’s work, He took them and placed them there Himself, for we did not have the strength. He then took our defilement to the cross and paid it all: washing us clean.
If you find yourself in a similar condition today because you have wandered from His side, and you have taken hold of temptation and inflicted yourself with many wounds. Or if you have starved yourself by not attending to the things of God, He is reminding you, right now, to find your healing in Him.
Before this moment, you may not have had the strength to move, but if as you read this, you find your heart stirring with godly sorrow, along with a desire to wash under the cleansing fount, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus has come down to where you are. He has taken your hands and positioned them on His head, and He is saying to you, “Give me your filth and be clean, then go and sin no more. I love you and want you to walk with me.”
“This is the best clarifying juxtaposition of truth and prosperity preaching I know of. I pray millions of people around the world will watch this for the glory of Christ and his Good News.” -John Piper
American Gospel will stir even the most devout Christian to repent of not resting entirely in Jesus. For even the most sanctified among us, indwelling sin is working to turn our eyes from Christ and toward the lust of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life, and the gospel is the only answer.
American Gospel is masterfully crafted and lays out the gospel with such clarity that everyone should take note. From the interviews to the beautiful artwork and graphics, all of it is calculated to communicate the truth of the word of God. The first part of the documentary focuses on accomplishing this goal, then it moves into exposing the counterfeit gospel of the prosperity movement.
Anyone who has been told that if you are suffering, it is because you do not have enough faith, needs to hear the message of the film. Several stories of people whose lives have been harmed by such a theology appear in the documentary, but not merely to expose the errors and the harm that it caused, but, more importantly, to point people to our true hope in Jesus Christ.
I have spoken against the dangerous heresies of the prosperity preachers for quite some time, so the information presented in the film was not new to me, but what I was not expecting, was how much the Holy Spirit used the film to stir my heart to repentance. Christ is our everything, yet too often, the American Gospel of health, wealth, notoriety, and prosperity seeps into the hearts of us all. American Gospel is indeed a must-see film.
Then the priest shall look, and if the leprous disease has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease; it has all turned white, and he is clean. Lev. 13:13
This verse may seem strange to many of today’s readers, but if leprosy had only covered part of the body and not all of the flesh was white, that man would be pronounced unclean. On the other hand, if the disease covered his entire body, the man would be pronounced clean. This is because the flesh that was not yet white was still contagious, but if his flesh was completely white, the disease was no longer transmittable.
As interesting as this is, this text teaches us something much deeper for leprosy in scripture is often a representation of sin. We are the lepers. We are diseased with sin and completely full of guilt, but in our natural state, we strive to deny that truth. We go to great lengths to deny our unworthiness before God, thinking that we can somehow justify ourselves. Even if we admit that we are somewhat sinful, we still tend to think that God owes us something. In that condition, as we stand before the true high priest Jesus Christ, we are pronounced unclean. It is not until we stand before him in complete poverty of spirit, knowing we have nothing to offer Him, admitting that we are completely sinful saying, “you have every right to pour your wrath upon me, but I plead the merits of your sacrifice on the cross,” does Christ say to us, “you are clean.”
Though we have nothing to offer
We must go to the High Priest
To present our empty coffer
With self-righteousness deceased
With hearts as black as dross
Filled with the obscene
All paid for on the cross
He’ll there pronounce us clean
His mom had laid out the situation. The room was to be clean by 4:00 p.m. If he completed the job on time, his mom would buy him movie tickets so he could go out with his friends. If he did not finish on time, he would be grounded for a week. At 4:00 p.m. he had not even started to clean the room, and he was grounded. What was astonishing was what he did when he finished serving his time. He walked up to his mother and said, “my punishment has been paid, now give me my movie tickets.” The request was absurd. Even though the penalty had been paid, he never fulfilled what was required to receive the reward.
We have all come into this world under certain requirements. We are called to live a righteous life. If we accomplish it, there is blessing, and if not, there is cursing. The problem is that Adam was unsuccessful, along with everyone who came after him. You and I have failed to inherit eternal life and have merited nothing but wrath. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
No one had been successful until Jesus took on flesh and walked among us. He came, lived a perfect life and fulfilled the law. Then he went and died for our sins. He took our sins upon himself on the cross, becoming a curse for us. He bore the wrath that we deserved, but bearing our sins is not all he did. If it were, we would be like the young man asking for the reward after our punishment had been paid but having no claim to it. This shortcoming is why it is so important to understand that our justification involves two imputations: for those who have faith, our sins are imputed to Christ, and his righteousness is imputed to us.
Righteousness is more than guiltlessness. As our representative, Jesus not only bore our punishment and forgives us of our sins, but he also earned the reward by fulfilling what needed to be done. His righteousness is counted as ours. Because of this, we are not simply sinners who can no longer be punished. Instead, we are counted as those who had fulfilled the law, and we become co-heirs with Christ. Even now there is an inheritance being kept for us: one that can never perish, spoil, or fade.
When we stand before the Lord one day, we will have no merit of our own. We will stand and say, “it is because of what the Lord Jesus did in my place that I am declared righteous.” It is true that we will grow in righteousness as believers here and now, but the righteousness we attain in this life will never be the basis upon which we have a right standing before the Lord. Like Abraham, it is through faith that we are declared righteous, and it will always be Christ’s righteousness.
For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.-Romans 5:19