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Looking at the cross1 Cor. 15:3 – For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

Yesterday, we discussed why the Lord Jesus had to die.  It was necessary for Him to die in order that God may raise Him from the dead.  But what does it mean that Christ died for our sins?  If we look at the above passage in isolation, it is easy for us to place a period at the end of that passage instead of recognizing the comma that is there, implying that there is more to the sentence.  Many Christians like to read the above passage as follows:
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”  If read in that fashion, one can easily see why we would focus on the death of Christ.  Yet, it is not a period at the end of that phrase, but a comma, indicating there is more:
1 Cor. 15:that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.
Paul didn’t stop at the death of Christ; indeed, Paul knew that the good news was that God raised Christ from the dead.  So what, then, does it mean that Christ died for our sins?  Did Christ die so we wouldn’t have to?  Paul explains this further in his letter to the Colossians:
Col. 2:13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
So what is Paul suggesting here?  Simply put, Paul is saying that sin was a slaveowner, and we were the slaves.  What Christ did, then, was to set us free from the slaveowner of sin by purchasing us to be His bondservants. In short, we were transferred from one owner to another.  Here is what Paul told the elders at Ephesus:
Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”  So in truth, we weren’t emancipated from sin to live life as we please; rather, we were transferred from one property owner to another.  When we say Christ died for our sins, it doesn’t mean He performed a duty on our behalf.  For example, if I needed to wash my dishes, and my wife said “I did that for you,” that implies that I no longer have to perform that task.  She completed the task on my behalf.  But did Christ die so we wouldn’t have to?  Consider what Paul said in his letter to the Galatians:
Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Paul explains it clearly in his letter to the church at Corinth:
1 Cor. 6:19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your bodies.
We, the church, were bought at a price.  We are not our own.  Christ’s death symbolized the purchase of our lives.  We were transferred from one property owner to another.  In truth, we were never freed to live as we please.  We were purchased to labor in His kingdom.  In short, Christ did not die so we would not have to; He died as the prototype to show us how we must die to the things of the world and live in this world as citizens of His kingdom.  As a wise man and dear friend helped me see, we do not have dual citizenship.  Our citizenship is in heaven only if we are not looking at Christ on the cross by Himself, but rather seeing ourselves crucified with Him.  Christ died for us, in order that we may follow His example.

cross (2)It was inevitable.  In our home school at the fellowship, we were reading the gospel of Mark chapter 15.  It is in this chapter that the Lord Jesus is apprehended and crucified.  After I had finished reading the chapter, it was time for questions.  “Why did Jesus have to die?”  At this point, it would have been simple to respond by simply saying “He died for our sins,” or “He died so we can live.”  However, this was an opportunity to explain the crucifixion from a kingdom perspective.  First, I reminded the student that in Mark’s gospel, that Christ no less than three times reminded His disciples that He must die:
Mark 8:31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many thingsand be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
Mark 9:30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
Mark 10:32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Even at the mountain of Transfiguration, the Lord Jesus reminded Peter, James and John that He would rise from the dead through His instruction to them:
Mark 9:
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?
So why did the Lord Jesus have to suffer and be crucified?  One of the answers is that it had to occur because God declared it.  If the Great King spoke it, then it must happen.  Remember, God is a Great King, and the commands of a king must be obeyed.  As I was responding to the question, however, the Holy Spirit revealed another reason to me which I hadn’t previously considered.  It was a surprisingly simple reason: if Christ did not die, God could not have raised Him from the dead.  It was at that moment that the gospel message became even more clear.  The good news was not that Christ died – there is no power in death – but rather, that God raised Him from the dead.  This is the process that happens to us.  Before we hear the gospel, we were dead people walking.  We were separated from God, dead in sins and trespasses.  When we respond to the call of the gospel, however, the Holy Spirit gives life to our human spirit, and we are raised to life in Christ Jesus.  In truth, we follow the same process that our Lord followed.  We are to put to death the old man, and walk in the spirit of the new man, raised to life by the Spirit of God.  However, we would could not walk in the Spirit unless, like Christ, we put to death the old man.  In other words, we must be crucified like Christ and with Christ.  Tomorrow, we will discuss this crucifixion process in more detail, for it is truly easy to talk about, but much more difficult to put into action.  

 

death-of-selfToday’s devotional is a quote from the upcoming book “A Glimpse of the Kingdom” –

“If we are not willing to subdue our bodily passions, if we are ruled by our own desires or emotions, if we constantly yield to the temptation of satisfying self, we will learn in due time that our eternal citizenship will be with the kingdom that we habitually yield to.”

The objective is not to live the way we want to here on earth and expect to be united with Christ after we die.  The objective is to be united with Christ here on earth by dying to self now.

jesus-lazarusraisedToday, we conclude our study on how the kingdom of God was explained in the miracles of Christ Jesus by observing how Christ raised Lazarus from the dead:
John 11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day?If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarushas fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again inthe resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,who is coming into the world.”  28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jewswho were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”  38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
The Lord Jesus performs His seventh miracle by raising Lazarus from the dead.  This is what happens with us – we are dead in our sins and trespasses, and He alone can bring us back from the dead.  It is also from this death, this nothingness that the kingdom of God is built on this earth.  How the Lord can use imperfect people to spread His perfect kingdom is truly beyond our comprehension.  Yet, this is what our Lord does by bringing life to the dead and calling the things that be not as though they were (Romans 4:17).  Notice that it is He that calls the things that be not as though they were, not us.

Luke 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

What did Christ christ_thievesmean when He said these important words?  Today, we will examine these words in the context of other passages to determine if our belief conforms to what the Bible actually says.  First, let us consider what our Lord Jesus told His disciples prior to His crucifixion:
John 14:1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”  Notice Christ declared that He will return at a later time to take His disciples to be with Him.  In other words, Christ was going ahead of the disciples to prepare the place for them.  He did not imply at any time that the disciples would go with Him.
Next, consider what Peter said in Acts 2:

Acts 2:34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

Peter made it clear that David did not ascend into heaven.  Instead, 1 Kings 2:10 says “Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David.”
Finally, Paul encouraged the Thessalonian saints with these words:
1 Thess. 4: 13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
So when the Lord Jesus returns, those who are asleep in Christ will rise first.  Even more important, notice what Paul wrote to the saints: “For we believe that Jesus died and rose again.”  Our belief is that Christ ascended into heaven after God raised Him from the dead.
In light of these passages, how should we understand the statement Christ made to the thief on the cross?  To interpret Christ’s statement as saying “today, I am going to paradise and I am going to take you with me” would not be consistent with other passages in the Bible.  An understanding that would be consistent would be to interpret Christ’s statement as saying “this day, I am making a declaration that at the appropriate time, you will be with me in paradise.”  Paul admonished us not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Believing the gospel of the kingdom is the first step in transforming our minds in order that we may understand what was written.