Our Crucifixion 5

2 Peter 3:13-14

Now and then my wife and I like to go out to a nice dinner, or dinner with friends and perhaps a movie. Though we have been married many years it is always fun to dress in fine clothes and go some place special. I really look forward to those times. In spite of how long we have been together, in spite of how familiar we are with each other, it is good to present ourselves to one another in a special “cleaned up” way.

Peter gives us a prediction of the future in this reading. What are we looking forward to? How do we know it will happen? What should we do about it?

There are so many people who label themselves as “Christians.” There are so many who can even quote the Bible or tell you the details of many of the Biblical stories. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are real Christians.

There are many houses of worship with seats filled with “pew-sitters,” those folks who go through the act of being Christian, of worshiping, of living Godly lives, when in fact their heart and soul isn’t in it at all.

As Easter nears I struggle with the message of the day. Do I tell the story of the empty tomb? It has been told so many times before. Is there anyone who will be in our church who doesn’t know the story? The Christian faith is founded largely on the belief of the resurrection, but that story can become such a tradition that it loses impact.

The story doesn’t need to be told again. The meaning of the story needs to be told.

What does the resurrection mean to us? It means that we have had our sins forgiven. It means that we are offered everlasting life through Christ. But it means more than that.

It also means we are expected to live out the fruit of the Spirit. We are expected to walk in step with the Holy Spirit and exhibit all the aspects of that fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

And it also means that we will have our own crucifixion. We are to crucify the sinful nature in us and make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What do you need to do to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with God?

Our Crucifixion 4

Galatians 5:22-24

All of my life, it seems, I have heard the story of how my mother made a pie once and forgot the salt. Needless to say the situation was memorable because the pie was such a flop. One little ingredient left out and the whole thing was ruined.

Leaving out any other ingredient or not following directions on the baking temperature and time would have also ruined the pie. It all has to be mixed together properly to be a success.

We have read this passage before. For the past three months we have been looking at the fruit of the Spirit listed in verses 22 and 23. What else is said in verse 24?

The nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit can be a challenge to every one of us. It may be a struggle to be able to live out these characteristics. Yet these are necessary to be living as Christians. If we are in step with the Holy Spirit we will be exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit – every aspect of it.

Now we are faced with another challenge. Yet this challenge goes hand in hand with living out the fruit of the Spirit.

If we will be genuine Christians, following Jesus and living in step with the Holy Spirit, we will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit AND we will crucify the sinful nature within us. If we will accept the sacrifice of Christ’s crucifixion, then we need a crucifixion of our own. We need to put to death our former way of living. We need to put to death our sinful desires and our selfish impulses which prevent us from living out the fruit of the Spirit.

These three verses are intertwined and meshed together. Love – agape – helps us to exhibit the other eight parts of the fruit of the Spirit. Living out the first eight parts helps us to have self-control – egkrateia. And having egkrateia helps us live out the first eight.

Likewise, crucifying the sinful nature allows you to live out the fruit of the Spirit, and if you exhibit the fruit of the Spirit you will be crucifying the sinful nature. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Which ingredient (or ingredients) are you missing?

Our Crucifixion 3

Isaiah 53:5-6

When our children were very young we frequented a local chili parlor. Our three children would make such a mess with the crackers and shredded cheese that I got into the practice of getting out the restaurant’s broom and sweeper and cleaning up the mess myself. I did not like the idea of someone else cleaning up after our mess.

But the prophet Isaiah predicted what Jesus would do long before Christ was even born. Why would the Messiah suffer? What would happen to us? What are we compared to in verse 6? Who will suffer for us?

There is a certain amount of guilt that comes with knowing what Jesus has done. Because of our inability to be perfect, our inability to be good, Jesus had to suffer so that we might be reconciled to God. Because of God’s love for us, He laid the punishment of our sin on Jesus.

Jesus willingly accepted the punishment for our wrong. He willingly sacrificed himself that he might clean up the mess we have made. Through his suffering, through his wounds, we are healed. We are made pure before God and spared cleaning up our own mess in a sense.

We are like sheep, according to Isaiah. We have gone astray. We have failed to follow and obey God the way we should.

Knowing what Jesus has done for us should make us incredibly grateful. Knowing that we are forgiven, that our debt that is owed because of our fallibility, should fill us with joy and love.

But I also feel that it should fill us with a sense of duty and obligation. We should each strive to put an end to our sinful ways. We should each try to crucify the wrong behaviors and attitudes we maintain so that we might be more holy in our thoughts and actions.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What “mess” can you avoid making by crucifying your sinful nature?

Our Crucifixion 2

1 Peter 4:12-13

This was one of the devotions we shared while we were in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during our mission trip. We gathered in the evening and this passage was read after a particularly difficult day of hard work and exposure to the quality of life we were seeing around us.

What should not be a surprise? Instead, how should we react?

Life as a Christian is no bed of roses. There is certainly a joy and peace that comes in being a child of God and a servant of Christ. The death and resurrection of Jesus should be a comfort and an assurance to each of us.

But to truly follow Jesus means that we must imitate Christ in every way. This means that we share love as Jesus did; we offer hope and comfort as Jesus did; but we also endure hardships as Jesus did.

It is unlikely that we will suffer in the same way that Jesus suffered on the cross, but we should suffer that longing and desire to bring hope and joy to others. We should be willing to be uncomfortable – physically and emotionally – to serve God.

That was what we were going through in Haiti. We were certainly out of our comfort zone in many ways, but we did it willingly because we wanted to be servants of our Lord. We wanted to do good work for fellow human beings, and we were willing to give up comforts, at least for a little while, for the ultimate good of others.

This should be our attitude as Christians. The gift of salvation and eternal life that Jesus has given allows us the freedom of living a good and holy life. But it also comes with the responsibility of doing what Jesus did – sacrificing, enduring pain and discomfort, persisting through trials and hardships, and doing it all so that others may benefit.

We will likely not be crucified as Christ was on the cross, but we should be willing to crucify our own sinful desires and selfish wants, to put them to death so that we may serve.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What painful trial might you endure for the service of God?

Our Crucifixion 1

Romans 6:12-14

One of the best times in life when I was a child was the end of school. I remember being absolutely giddy with happiness that I no longer was under the strict rules of school nor the strict schedule of classes. I was free to do what I chose.

What are we to avoid? According to verse 13, what type of people are we? What are we to do with the parts of our body? Why is sin not our master?

As with Christmas, the holiday of Easter can lose some of its meaning. We can easily get caught up in the warming weather, the Easter Sunday meal, the egg hunts, the chocolate. And while we can remember that we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, we can overlook why that is important.

The candy, the eggs, the food, the clothing, even some of the pageantry of Easter are all simply layers that have been put upon the celebration of the resurrection. At the core Easter is all about Jesus rising from the tomb into new life. It was a demonstration – real and tangible – that nothing was impossible for God. It showed that we also have hope beyond death. The grave is not the end for us; just an interruption between this life and the eternal.

But beyond a hope and anticipation of things to come after our death, the resurrection gave us new life and freedom today. Because Jesus assumed the guilt of sin on the cross we are no longer under the law – that is, we do not have to fret and worry over the religious rules and regulations, the hoops and obstacles of faith. It is not through strict adherence to rules that gives us salvation and hope.

Instead we are under the grace of Christ. The crucifixion of Jesus took away our sins if we will accept the sacrifice.

So, under grace, we are free. We do not have to be slaves to sin. Rather we can refuse to do what is not acceptable. We are forgiven and we are empowered by God to do what is good and right. And so, as Paul urges, we do not offer ourselves or any part of ourselves to sinful or wrong activity. Instead, with the freedom of grace, we offer ourselves freely to the service and worship of God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What evil desires do you need to put to an end?