Forgiven for yesterday, today and tomorrow

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
(Colossians 2:13-14)

Reflection:
Paul has a way with words! There was a time when we were both dead and dying because of sin and our sins. Like the uncircumcised person we were spiritually unclean and seen to be outside the provisions and scope of the covenant. There was nothing we could do to alter this state – it was as if we carried within us a written conviction and sentence of death. Then God did something – Jesus Christ came and took into Himself our sin, our sins and our conviction and sentence, and went to death on our behalf. The sentence has been paid and, when accepted, our sins can no longer be held against us in God’s judgement court – “He forgave all our sins.”

As believers we no longer live under the law, we live in the grace of God – we live in forgiveness as those who have been forgiven, even in advance. Instead of facing death we have entered into life. That is not a mandate for us to live carelessly or to indulge ourselves in sin – that can never be acceptable when we look at the terrible cost to God of our forgiveness. It does, however, mean that when we do sin we can go to the Father and ask for forgiveness, a forgiveness that has already been achieved for us. But let us never forget that it is ‘the blood of Jesus’ that ‘purifies us from all sin,’

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9)

Although this amazing grace is extended and available to all people it is not a blanket provision acquired by all. It is a gift to be recognised, accepted, treasured and received. Those who reject the gift, reject God. Those who reject God reject the gift. Those who believe and put their faith and trust in the Saviour enter into the grace and love of God, as His sons and daughters, for eternity.

As believing Christians, no matter how difficult we find it to live pure and holy and faithful lives, the grace of God and the blood of Jesus have purified and continue to purify us. When we live in the grace of God we live in forgiveness, and in the new life and relationship that He has given to us. How wonderful is that! Learn to live in it every day – you are made right with God!

Response:
Acknowledge and accept the truth.

Prayer:

Thank You so much Father for Your wonderful love and grace. Please help me to believe, accept and live in it every day – for Jesus sake, Amen.

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Limitless Grace

“I always thank God for you because of his grace
given you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Corinthians 1:4)

Reflection:
Our relationship with God is all about reality. It is based on His reality and the fact that He has intervened in our reality – the reality of our everyday lives, as well as the reality of our past and our future. Whilst the world offers us concepts, philosophies and ultimate loneliness and death, God offers us truth, personal relationship with Him, and eternal life and healing. Where the world tells us what we must do, God shows us what He has done. Where the world will sell to us, God gives to us freely. Where the world gives no visible proof, God gives us His Son. Where the world offers no guarantees God sends His Spirit to live within us. Whereas the world ultimately discards us, God promises us resurrection and life.

The wonder of our relationship with God is that everything that He has done for us, and that He offers us, is done out of His great and unlimited love.

This love of God is not revealed only in words, it is revealed in the gift and sacrifice of His Son on our behalf. There could be no greater gift or example of the love that God has for us. And, because it is only through the grace of God, flowing from this love that we have a future and a hope, Jesus Christ stands also as the revelation of this grace. We become personal recipients of that grace as we believe and trust in HIm. We receive not only God’s love but the salvation and ever-present relationship with Him that flows from it.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”  (Ephesians 2:8)

From beginning to end the reality of God, and the relationship that we can have with Him, is revealed and assured in the reality of Jesus Christ who entered into the reality of human life to bring to it a new and eternal reality with God.

Response:
Consider the reality of the cross. God speaks through it to each one personally.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help me to look not to myself but to You, and to continually receive the wonder of God’s grace and love. Amen.

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Take it personally!

“As they talked and discussed these things with each other,
Jesus himself came up and walked along with them”
(Luke 24:15)

Reflection:
On the day of the Resurrection two of the disciples were walking away from Jerusalem and towards the village of Emmaus – a journey of about seven miles. They were discussing ‘everything that had happened’ including the accounts of the empty tomb and the women’s report of ‘a vision of angels, who said He was alive.’ As they proceeded on their way ‘Jesus came up and walked along with them.’

How easy it is to be aware of great events and fail to appreciate their personal significance. Jesus ministry and death were important enough to occupy their thoughts and discussion. They were aware of the empty tomb and the angels report that He was alive. Yet they still walked away from the centre, presumably back to their homes, not appreciating the possible impact upon their lives of one of the most significant events in history. And, when Jesus appeared and walked with them, they did not recognise Him. It was only after He had been revealed to them that they could not wait to return to the others in Jerusalem, bursting with the good news.

We can fall into the same trap and fail to recognise the importance of a personal relationship with the Lord, the personal significance of His life, death and resurrection and the personal reality of His presence in our lives.

The wonder of it is that the risen Jesus comes to find us with the purpose of revealing Himself to us – even when we are walking in the wrong direction.

Response:
Jesus is right with you – be aware of Him.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus please help me to be aware of the reality of Your presence – and not to treat You as an object of interest. Amen.

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He’s done it!

“Jesus said, “It is finished.”
(John 19:30)

Reflection:
Finally it was all over.

Like an exhausted but triumphant long-distance runner Jesus had reached the end of His race. He was breasting through the tape. He had achieved the goal for which He had been sent. He had not given way to temptation, to pain and suffering, to abuse and humiliation. All that He had been given to do and to bear had been achieved – and He had been obedient and faithful to the very end.

Around God the angels must have begun to breathe a sigh of relief and exultation. And we can imagine that there was a quiet smile of love and pride on the still tear-stained face of the Father. For truly,

“You are my Son,
whom I love;
with you I am well pleased.”
(Luke 3:22)

Look at My Son,
Love of My Love,
In whom I delight!

As we look back we can only begin to imagine and grasp just how much hung upon the faithful and persevering achievement of the Man upon the cross. My life and your life and all our lives hung with Him in the balance. For He achieved what none of us could even begin to achieve. And he revealed a love we had not even begun to imagine. And He gained for us a future that was love and light instead of misery and darkness. And as His life ended here ours in eternity really began. For truly

I was there when they crucified my Lord.
I was there when they nailed Him to the tree.
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
For I was there when they crucified my Lord.

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O God – where are You?

“About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46)

Reflection:
It had happened. For the first time ever Jesus knew what it was to be separated from God. He had taken onto Himself and into Himself the sins of the whole world – past, present and future.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us”
 (2 Corinthians 5:21)

God was not just on the other side of a barrier – He had disappeared. Jesus great cry of abandonment –prefigured in Psalm 22 – would have echoed throughout the whole of creation. And unsaid but inferred the next verse would hang in the air,

“O my God, I cry out …
but You do not answer”

We have to let our imaginations discern the truth that the heart of God Himself was in agony at this time – sustained only by His great love for His Son and for you and for me and for us.

As we look in horror and awe at the figure on the cross – straining against the nails, the pain and the suffocation – we begin to see more of the truth. The darkness upon Him and within Him is our darkness. The fingers of death reaching out and grasping Him is our death. The sin that has invaded Him and which burdens Him is our sin. In the flickering light His body seems almost to disappear and to be replaced by a list of our sin and sins. There they are – the sins of yesterday, the sins of today and – O no! – the sins of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

He is forsaken and I am set free.

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

(Isaac Watts)

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Today You will be with Me

“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:43)

Reflection:
Some of the most beautiful and significant words that could be spoken to anyone. And how very special they were when spoken to a man dying for his sins.

Both the criminal and Jesus were looking beyond their present circumstances, beyond the pain and the slowly approaching death. They were moving away from the crowds into another space. And here Jesus could promise the man not just a relief from pain, nor a misty vision of some lovely garden, but the incredible promise that they would be together. Nor was the promise for some unknown date in the future with all the years of darkness still to pass. This was a promise not for tomorrow but for ‘Today’.

It was as if Jesus were saying to the man that as death claimed him in this world Life would open out before him in the world to come – and Jesus would be there with him to carry him through and into His eternal presence. We are not told of the man’s response, but Peter Marshall interprets it like this.

“Jesus, His face drawn with suffering, but His voice still kind, answered:
“This very day when this pain is over, we shall be together … thou and I … in Paradise.”
And the man, comforted, set his lips to endure to the end.”

He might well not have understood what was going to happen or what it would be like. However the promise that he would be with the Lord, wherever He was, was more than He could have expected or imagined.

What amazing grace! And what a beautiful promise for you and for me to hold on to when our time comes.

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(Picture: Artist Unknown)

Clean at last

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered,
 “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
(John 13:8)

Reflection:
O Lord, how I identify with Peter. How can You possibly kneel before me, reaching out to wash my feet? This is me – the one who is unworthy to undo the strap on Your sandals. I could not even aspire in my imagination to wash Your feet – unless, like the woman we watched, it was with my tears of guilt and shame and sorrow. Even that would be too much for how could I even touch You with such tears. I might only hope with David that they would be stored somewhere in a bottle for You to see one day.

And yet, and yet, I do need to be washed by You – for who else could wash away the sin-shamed stains that so disfigure my spirit? And so I begin to realise that Your washing has to be individual and personal and intimate for these are my sins and I need to be cleansed and set free. Here is the wonder of it all – You have called me individually, Your word has spoken to me in a way that is particular and specific to me and, as an individual, I have responded to You and placed my life in Your hands. It is this You tell me that, through the Cross, has cleansed me and made me acceptable to the Father.

But now Lord what is this washing of the feet? It is not the washing of salvation but the cleansing away of the travel stains and dirt picked up on the journey. It is not a washing of the spirit for that You have already done – it is a washing of the soul so that nothing sticks to me that might mar my life and ministry. For once I have been saved I do not need salvation again – just a regular washing away by You of the grime I have picked up, cleansing me and setting me free under the glorious cover of the eternal salvation that You have already conferred upon me.

You have already cleansed my whole person and now You seek to cleanse me day by day  from the stains that come from life in the world. But still – kneeling before me? Lord what are You doing ….  for this is so personal and intimate, so embarrassing and yet … so gentle and loving and affirming and wonderful …. and You are smiling up at me all the time. I understand now that no one else can do this to me or for me – only You. And this is Your ongoing service of love to me for the rest of my life here.

So I come Lord Jesus – dare I turn away!

There is no one as special and as wonderful as You! I thought I knew it – but again I catch another glimpse beyond the cloud.

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(Picture: Christ washing Peter’s feet – Ford Madox Brown)