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Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Full Suffering

In my last post I discussed the importance of accepting suffering because Jesus suffered for us, but I think that most of us tend to forget just how much suffering He went through. It's one of those things where we go, "Oh yeah. I know He did." And then the next moment, we go off and live our lives as if we don't even understand His sacrifice for us. Because tomorrow is Easter, I wanted to remind us all of just how much Jesus suffered, so we can realize its implications and walk accordingly.

Jesus didn't just suffer on the cross. Yes, that was a lot of agony, and I'm not minimizing that suffering, but I think we tend to think that was the full extent of His suffering. Here's a list of things Jesus had to go through

  • Endured constant loneliness (Isaiah 53:3)
  • Endured rejection (Isaiah 53:3)
  • Endured sorrow (Isaiah 53:3)
  • Endured constant weariness (John 4:6)
  • Endured constant danger of being murdered before the appointed time (Luke 4:29)
  • Endured being misunderstood (Luke 6:2)
  • Endured being mocked (Matthew 27:31)
  • Endured constant disrespect (Luke 6:2)
  • Endured temptation (Luke 4:1-13)
  • Endured hunger (Luke 4:2)
  • Endured poverty (Luke 9:58) 
  • Endured being beat (John 19:1)
The verses listed are just some of the verses that point to these things. There are many other verses not listed.  Jesus went through the same emotions we go through in order to save us and redeem us. Jesus understands our turmoil in life because He has been there, and it's been far worse than whatever we're going through.

There's something even greater though that Jesus endured and that was something that happened as just before He died on the cross.

"they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it." Matthew 27:34

Jesus had just been beat and mocked by the soldiers. As he was on His way to be crucified, some people, gave him this odd mixture. Have you ever wondered what gall was? According to Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers, gall was a "poisonous herb . . . given by the merciful to dull the pain of execution." I'm not sure about you, but I always thought Jesus refused to drink this odd concoction because it was disgusting. It actually symbolizes Jesus's deep love for us to take on the full suffering God had planned for Him. He instantly knew what it was when he tasted it, as poisons are bitter, and knowing that it would numb the pain to a certain extent, he refused to drink anymore. Instead, He chose to endure the full amount of pain he would receive on the cross. 

This is His great love for us! If Jesus purposefully endured all of the pain and didn't bail out and try to ease the suffering, then how much more should we as Christians? He drank the full cup, and so should we, in honor of our Lord who gave up so much for us.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Accept Suffering

We know that Jesus suffered for us, but a lot of times we don't correlate that Jesus's death and resurrection was an example for us to emulate.

Our culture tells us that it's important to get a good education, having a nice job, and make a lot of money in order to live in a big expensive house, drive a luxurious car, and buy other luxuries. There's nothing about suffering that bit. Oh sure, it's accepted that sacrifices in college will be made for a future life of luxury, but that's about it. After that it should be smooth sailing and life should be enjoyed to the fullest, cramming it with every whim and desire. Because of that mindset that is blatantly against God's will for the life of a Christian, we tend to mix that with our Christian mindset, not even realizing it. We know it's wrong, but it becomes intertwined with our viewpoint when we complain about not getting that job we want, that relationship, that promotion, that degree, that house, that car, etc. We grow weary when we can't have that child we so desire or a clean bill of health. We're sick of not being happy and having that cloud hang over our heads. If only we had that one thing, we'd be happy. And it's this attitude that comes literally from Satan.

This is what Jesus said about his future suffering:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." - Matthew 16:21-23

Jesus accepted that it was God's will for Him to be killed, though he was innocent and had done nothing wrong. He did not fight it. He accepted it and treated it just as if it were a normal activity. Peter couldn't accept God's will for Christ though and encouraged Christ that this was not a good way to think. Jesus's response revealed that Peter's denial of submitting to God's will was an attitude that only came from Satan.

Satan wants us to believe that we deserve to be happy and shouldn't have to suffer. He wants us to feel miserable until we get that one thing we desire and the misery is over with. But that's not God's will for us. His will is to accept that times of suffering will come to every believer and to accept and endure it, just as Jesus did. This is God's will for us, and anyone who opposes this doctrine or who resists submitting to God's will of suffering for their life is acting against God.

Suffering isn't enjoyable. It's not supposed to be, but it's supposed to draw us even closer to God. During times of suffering, it's hard to accept it and continue to bear the burden, and sometimes we just can't muster the strength to do so. It's in these times that we remember that Christ accepted suffering though He had done no wrong. He was perfect. He didn't deserve it. In a way, we deserve any suffering that comes our way as we are still sinners who sin on a daily basis. On the other hand, we can take heart that oftentimes suffering doesn't come because we have committed a certain sin that deserves suffering as punishment; rather, if Jesus had to suffer punishment He did not inflict upon Himself, then so must we.

So what will your attitude be when suffering comes? It's coming, and you should prepare to accept it with a humble attitude, which pleases the Lord.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Through the Psalms Part III

Sometimes people wonder what the purpose of the Old Testament is if we have the commands God has given to us in the New Testament. We take our beliefs from the New Testament, so what's the point of the Old Testament?
Psalm 78 gives us a good reason why God wants us to pay close attention to the Old Testament. This Psalm is a Psalm of Asaph, and in it, Asaph says this:

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have hard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell them to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

Asaph then explains why the generations to come must know about what God has done for the past generations:

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Asaph gives four reasons on why it was important for his generation to recite the works of God to the younger generations. First, recalling to mind the things God has done in the past helps us to trust in God. The ability to call to mind all the times God helped us in the past gives us hope that God will do the same, even when the future seems bleak. These reminders help to direct our focus on a truth that God will come to our aid, just as He has done in the past. So the first two reasons go hand in hand, recalling to mind the works of God helps us not forget what He has done for us.

The third reason Asaph gives is so that we will keep God's commandments. This might seem like an odd reason for recalling the past, but there are two ways this can be viewed. The first is that remembering how God worked in the past ellicits a response of wonder at God's power. When we remember who we are and who God is, we are better able to keep God's commands, recognizing God deserves our obedience to Him. The second reason could be taken that in recalling what God did for Israel, they also remembered what God did to their enemies. It's a scary thought to think about what happens to those who oppose God.

The fourth reason Asaph gives is to ensure that the younger generation will not repeat the same mistakes their forefathers made. There was a purpose behind knowing all of this historical information.

So if Asaph urged the Israelites to recall the deeds of the Lord from the past, how much more should we as Christians do the same? It seems like that's the reason for the Old Testament. It serves as our guide of how we should not behave, how we should fear God's punishment upon the Israelites, and it also gives us hope of how God led His people through the wilderness with the promise of an even greater hope of the Messiah to come. They couldn't see the fulfillment like we can; all they could see was one side of the picture, and yet God still led them.

That's the way it is with us. We can only see half of the picture, this side of Heaven. We cannot see the fulfillment of our eternal life in Heaven yet, but we know God is guiding us toward that. We are better able to understand this when we see how God led His people and still continues to lead us today. So take some time to reflect on the Old Testament. Don't dismiss it as pointless information irrelevant to today. It's very relative to today, serving as a reminder for all of us!