Jesus is the Plan

With the grand sweep of biblical history stretching from before the beginning of world all the way to recreation, it is easy to miss the overarching plan of God. The Bible is thousands of pages and covers thousands of years. A lot happens between creation and the coming of Jesus. It is easy to mistake Jesus’ coming as a second try, a do-over of sorts. But is that the case? Is Jesus’ ministry, His sacrifice, His resurrection, the salvation He provides a do-over? Is it plan b?

Peter clears this up for us in one of his first speeches in the book Acts. During Pentecost, the Spirit of God was poured out on Jesus’ disciples (Acts 2:1-13). Some were amazed that they could hear what the disciples were saying in their native language, while others chalked it up to them being drunk. Peter responds with a message that links back to the book of Joel, explaining that the event was a fulfillment of prophecy and everyone should take note. He also issues a warning about the coming day of the Lord (Acts 2:19-20). The warning is followed up by an offer of salvation. All people’s everywhere who call on the name of Jesus will be saved. Salvation is not just for the Jews, it is for all people’s everywhere (Acts 2:21).

How does salvation come to all people’s? Peter reveals it is through Jesus. His crucifixion at the hands of lawless men provide salvation, as well as His resurrection (Acts 2:22-24). It is in this section that our question is answered.

Peter writes in Acts 2:22-24

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

Do you see it? In verse 23, we are told Jesus was delivered over to wicked men who would kill Him as part of God’s definite plan. It wasn’t a plan concocted on the spot, instead it was foreknown by the Lord. He knew it would happen. He planned for it to happen all so that you and I could experience salvation in Jesus?

How amazing is our God? He gives Himself for us not by accident but according to plan.

Praise and worship God today! He is a promise keeping, grace extending, good and loving God who desires we experience salvation so that we might bring Him glory and enjoy Him forever!

Christian, Take Up Your Cross

Following Jesus is a daily decision to pursue Him in the direction of the cross. Jesus tells the crowds this much in Mark 8 beginning in verse 34 when he says:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34–38)

The Christian life is a daily pursuit in the direction of the cross. In other words, it is a daily dying to self and living for Christ, pursuing Him with all we have.

In order to run after Jesus in this way, we must see Jesus as more valuable than anything the world has to offer. Jesus makes that clear when He asks: “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” The world has a lot to offer — riches, fame, acceptance, comfort, pleasure, etc. The world can offer these things, but they don’t last. They are here today and gone tomorrow.

Take your house for instance. Many want and chase after a home that is full of the comforts of the day. You sacrifice for it. You spend time working on it. You might even become consumed by it. While it is not wrong to have a nice home and nice things, if God so chooses to bless you in that way, there is not a command against it. But we must not make our home our idol. Something we believe will give us more satisfaction and joy than the Lord. Something we believe will provide us with meaning and hope. Something we put before and in place of the Lord. A home won’t, it can’t, provide us with what the Lord can and does. A home will let us down, whereas the Lord will not.

It is terrifying to imagine but fires happen all the time. In many instances, everything in the home is ruined. All that you placed your hope in gone in a matter of a couple of hours. Taken by the flames. In that moment, if your hope is in your home, your life is over. But if it is in the Lord, it might be sad, but your life is not ruined, your hope is not dashed, your world has not gone up in flames.

The things of this world are here today and gone tomorrow. We must not put our hope in them. Instead, we must exclusively put our hope in Jesus.

How can we get to a place where we see Jesus as more valuable than anything world can offer?

We must realize the world will let us down. That it can’t save our soul. It can’t restore our relationship with the Father. Once we see the world for what it is, we can enjoy it, but not live for it.

Have you taken up your cross today? Are you pursuing Christ with all you have? Are you allowing God to direct and control your life?

Be Confident in Your Evangelism

Mark’s gospel begins quickly and doesn’t slow down until passion week. He moves from Jesus’ baptism right into His ministry, showing His power to heal, cast out demons, control the weather, and teach with authority.

Jesus’ teaching is both straightforward and in parables. In one parable, the parable of the seed growing, He says,

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”” (Mk 4:26–29)

What is the point of this short story? It is to show us that we cannot manufacture disciples. In fact, it is not our purpose to manufacture disciples. God is the One who produces the harvest just like the earth produces a harvest of food for us.

Our job, like the farmer, is to collect the harvest. How do we collect the harvest? We must talk about and ask others if they believe the good news about Jesus. As we have conversations with others, we will see a harvest being brought into our churches. Jesus’ parable implies then that we must be about the business of evangelizing others.

We can be confident in our evangelism because God is the One producing the harvest.

God’s Speech is purposeful and brings results

““For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Is 55:10–11)

Talking is not a bad thing, but when you talk just to hear yourself talk, what’s the point. I am sure you know people like that – they love the sound of their own voice. Instead of talking with you in conversation, they talk at you.

God is not one to talk at us. He doesn’t just talk to talk. His speech is purposeful. It brings about results.

In Isaiah 52-55, God speaks in regard to salvation. He promises redemption through a suffering Servant. We know that servant to be Jesus. The One who was led to the slaughter like a lamb. The One who gave Himself on our behalf. The One who is our Redeemer.

The redemption Jesus provides didn’t just happen. Nothing took place in regard to Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf by happenstance. Rather, Jesus’ death on the cross, His giving His life on our behalf was purposeful and a part of God’s plan. He died in accordance with the Scriptures, as well as He resurrected in accordance with the Scriptures. His death on our behalf actually accomplished something. It accomplished exactly what the Father had purposed – redemption and vindication for His people.

God does not talk to hear the sound of His voice. His speech is purposeful and accomplishes that which He purposes. Praise God for His purposeful speech. Praise God He has the power and will to bring about that which He proclaims.

Praise and pray to the Lord alongside Solomon

After Solomon built the temple to the Lord, he prayed the following prayer of dedication. I as I read the text this morning, his prayer struck me. As you read through it, notice:

  • How he calls upon the Lord to act in regard to God’s own character, how He has revealed Himself throughout Scripture.
  • The promises he asks the Lord to keep.
  • The care of the Lord for His people and the foreigner.
  • How he calls his people to follow the Lord and how we likewise should follow the Lord.

1 Kings 8:22–61 (ESV)

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, 23 and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart; 24 you have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day. 25 Now therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26 Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David my father.

27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, 29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 30 And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

31 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven and act and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.

33 “When your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and if they turn again to you and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, 34 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to their fathers.

35 “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, 36 then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance.

37 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, 38 whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, 39 then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind), 40 that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.

41 “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake 42 (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, 43 hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.

44 “If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 45 then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause.

46 “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, 47 yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 48 if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, 49 then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are your people, and your heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace). 52 Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant and to the plea of your people Israel, giving ear to them whenever they call to you. 53 For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage, as you declared through Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God.”

54 Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the Lord, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven. 55 And he stood and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, 56 “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. 57 The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, 58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. 59 Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. 61 Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

Are you a real man?

““…Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn,” (1 Ki 2:2b–3)

King David gives final instruction to his son, Solomon, before he passes. What David says in these verses is applicable for all men everywhere, not just David’s son.

He tells Solomon a real man follows the Lord. He keeps his ways and statutes, his commandments and rules, his testimonies. Real men don’t blaze their own path. They don’t intimidate others so as to get their own way. They aren’t closed off to the things of God. They don’t stay home while their family attends church. They don’t let mom act as the spiritual leader of the family. Real men follow the Lord.

Culture, even recent modern culture with its focus on changing the way men act, portrays men in a wholly unbiblical way. Either you are a macho masculine man who blazes a path based on strength or you are emasculated so much so that you don’t speak out of turn and celebrate everything the culture says is right and good. But these two paths are not the biblical path.

The biblical path of manhood is meekness (controlled strength) not weakness. It is humility not pride. It is submission to the Lord not ruling in His place. It is love for family not domination. It is justice, equity, mercy and grace. It is care for others. It is self-sacrifice rather than selfishness.

Men, it is no wonder we craft and live by our own rules. Following the Lord is not easy, it is difficult. Nay, it is impossible without Him working in your heart, drawing you to Himself, and constantly changing you through the work of the Spirit.

Men, we show ourselves to be thus by following the Lord. Be a man this week!