Counseling One Another

Helping you grow in God's all-sufficient truth and grace

Counseling One Another

May 15, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Cease Striving

In light of the psalmist’s assurance of God’s protection: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” he instructs us to “Cease striving” (Psalm 46:10). The Hebrew word translated “cease” means to sink or relax. “Striving” is a term that typically refers to warfare, so the admonition can be stated this way: “Be at peace.”

According to Philippians 4:6–7, the means of gaining this God-given, protective peace is prayer: “Be anxious for nothing [do not fret], but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When we bring our fears and worries to God in prayer, He sends us His peace to stand like a sentry at the door of our heart and our mind. God’s peace is a secure deadbolt against anxiety.

God’s peace comes as we remember the powerful deeds of God. These provide us with an essential weapon in the battle against fear. Verses 8 to 10 of Psalm 46 instruct us,

Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations in the earth.

He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;

He burns the chariots with fire. “Cease striving and know that I am God.”

In other words, “Stop worrying! I am God—you are not! I will get the victory. Stop acting as if you are in charge. Stop, relax, rest in Me. I am your God. I will be your peace.” This spiritual rest is not something we passively experience; it is a demonstration of an active faith. Walter Kaiser writes, concerning our “rest” in God and his word to us: “The word for ‘rest’ (manoah) is related in Hebrew to the word for ‘comfort’ (menahem) and is a word possessing considerable theological weight. The ‘rest’ of God is a state of being that we enter into by belief [emphasis added].” In other words, unlike physical sleep, spiritual rest in God actually involves an active choice. We must end our worrying and instead replace those worries with confidence that God is God and is, therefore, in full control. As fears threaten to overtake us and destroy our peace, we must actively rest in God by faith.

We rest by remembering His mighty deeds: “Come, behold the works of the Lord.” When we are tempted to worry, we must remember the great works that God has done—not only in the earth, but in our own lives. Rest involves reflecting on the many ways in which God has providentially cared for us, satisfied our needs, and demonstrated His power, love, and grace. This is a direct antidote to our worries, and is the same principle Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6:25–34:

For this reason [because you cannot serve two masters] I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air [behold the works of God!], that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow [behold the works of God!]; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field [behold the works of God!], which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Worry will hinder our faith, cloud our focus, and rob us of our ability to see clearly the good works of the Lord. Worrying brings us no benefit. Someone has well said, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” And worst of all, worry is an enemy of faith. Instead of fretting over that which we cannot control, we need to learn to quietly rest in the One who is sovereign over every atom in the universe. Jesus Christ, the omnipotent Creator, “is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

Psalm 46 ends by repeating a key truth for us: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” This truth was already stated for us in verse 7 and in verse 1, but in different words: “God is … a very present help in trouble.” By stating the same truth three times in slightly different ways, the psalmist is making a point: we must never forget when we are in the midst of our storms. God’s presence is real. He is not far away. He is very near to us in our grief and suffering. Therefore, cease striving.

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May 9, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Grief Stirs Our Anticipation for Redemption

In Psalm 116:15, we read these words: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.” God delights in the death of a believer because it stirs anticipation for the fullness of redemption. The death of a believer builds in our hearts a longing for the redemption that is coming to us in Jesus and his return. The death of a believer produces a desire for the completion of what God has begun (Philippians 1:6). This is Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 5:1–8:

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house [the human body that houses who we really are] is torn down, we have a building from God [the glorified body of the believer], a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

Here Paul looks forward to the fullness of his redemption. When he speaks of the earthly tent (the human body that is already in the process of decaying, even while we live), his heart is filled with anticipation. While we live here, in this fallen world, we groan and are burdened. Yet we know that the Holy Spirit has been given to us as a pledge: a down payment, the promise of something more to come, which is the resurrection—at which time our mortal bodies will be “swallowed up by life” (v. 4). When our bodies are raised from the grave, we shall receive new ones—glorified bodies—that will not be susceptible to cancer, strokes, or heart disease. They will never die again. We will live with the Lord, whole and complete, for all eternity.

In the great resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes, “The last enemy that will be abolished is death” (v. 26). When Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week, He secured our resurrection. He is “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (v. 20), meaning that His resurrection is the guarantee of more resurrections still to come. At the final resurrection, Paul tells us that death will be forever destroyed. Until then, death is our enemy and it seeks to threaten us and lead us to despair. Paul Tripp writes, “We all feel death’s wrenching finality. Death is so wrong, so completely out of step with life as God planned it. The apostle Paul could think of no better word for it than “enemy” (1 Cor. 15:25–26). Death is the enemy of everything good and beautiful about life … Death was simply not meant to be. When you recognize this, you will hunger for the complete restoration of all things. You will long to live with the Lord in a place where the last enemy—death—has been defeated.” [Paul David Tripp, Grief: Finding Hope Again, New Growth]

The glorified bodies of believers will one day be rejoined with their spirits that are now present with Christ. One day, body and soul together, we will spend eternity with the Lord in the new heavens and earth.

God uses the sorrow of death in his church to produce in us a hunger for all things to be restored, to the glory of Christ. Our hope as believers is not bound to the things of this world, not even to those we love the most. “Ours,” writes Charles Spurgeon in a sermon entitled “The Hope Laid Up in Heaven,” “is a hope which demands nothing of time or earth but seeks its all in the world to come.”The death of a believer reminds us that we must live every day in light of the imminent return of Jesus our Lord when he will usher in the final restoration of all things.

Our grief is real, but it is not final. It leads to understanding, to growth, and to our transformation.The Bible doesn’t discourage our sorrow, even when fellow believers are ushered into glory. We don’t need to pretend we are happy when we feel deep sadness. We don’t need to hide our grief. Lamentation is a normal part of our Christian experience. However, it is not the end, the final word. We are not left with just our tears. Rather, our sorrow has a purpose, to lead us to seek for something more certain than this transient life. Our grief encourages us to seek the promises of the gospel as the anchor for our soul.

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May 5, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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When the Cross Speaks Most Powerfully to Us

While reading a chapter in How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, by D. A. Carson, I was struck by this excerpt, which introduced to me a poem I had not seen before: “Frequently it is when we are crushed and devastated that the cross speaks most powerfully to us. The wounds of Christ then become Christ’s credentials. The world mocks, but we are assured of God’s love by Christ’s wounds. Edward Shillito understood this. Writing in the way of the First World War; when an entire generation of young men was mown down by machine guns and artillery in the endless trench warfare that marked that conflict, Shillito composed the poem ‘Jesus of the Scars’:

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.

If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds speak;
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

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May 3, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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NIU Announces Partnership with CCEF

I am pleased to inform you that Northland International University and the School of Graduate Studies, where I have completed graduate work and taught as an adjunct professor, have just announced a formal partnership with the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF) in Glenside, PA, to provide the biblical counseling core courses for the Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling degree. These courses are offered online and at multiple times throughout the year. Northland believes this to be an extremely advantageous partnership for the student who completes a degree with Northland, because a student will graduate with both a master’s degree and the Foundations Certificate from CCEF.

To read the full press release and a see list of the courses taught by David Powlison, Ed Welch, and Michael Emlet, click here.

Also, read about David Powlison’s personal journey to biblical counseling.

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April 30, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Golden Sentences of Grace

Charles Spurgeon is real; that is one reason why we love him so much. In his writings, he bore his heart and soul to us—he took the risk of being transparent and, as a result, left rich words that continue to feed our souls to this day and, more than likely, will feed the souls of God’s people until we all dwell together in Glory.cheque

A few months ago, a dear sister in Christ, whose writings the Lord has used to encourage both me and my wife, sent us a copy of the Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith, a devotional from Spurgeon’s pen. This morning, I found the Preface to be so personally enriching that I read it, literally, four times. Here are some excerpts from that Preface, which I hope will encourage you to press on in faith, laying hold of the promises of God.

A promise from God may very instructively be compared to a cheque payable to order. It is given to the believer with the view of bestowing upon him some good thing. It is not meant that he should read it over comfortably, and then have done with it. No, he is to treat the promise as a reality, as a man treats a cheque.

He is to take the promise, and endorse it with his own name by personally receiving it as true. He is by faith to accept it as his own. He sets to his seal that God is true, and true as to this particular word of promise. He goes further, and believes that he has the blessing in having the sure promise of it and therefore he puts his name to it to testify to the receipt of the blessing.

This done, he must believingly present the promise to the LORD, as a man presents a cheque at the counter of the Bank. He must plead it by prayer, expecting to have it fulfilled. If he has come to Heaven’s bank at the right date, he will receive the promised amount at once. If the date should happen to be further on, he must patiently wait till its arrival; but meanwhile he may count the promise as money, for the Bank is sure to pay when the due time arrives.

Some fail to place the endorsement of faith upon the cheque, and so they get nothing; and others are slack in presenting it, and these also receive nothing. This is not the fault of the promise, but of those who do not act with it in a common-sense, business-like manner.

God has given no pledge which He will not redeem, and encouraged no hope which He will not fulfill. To help my brethren to believe this, I have prepared this little volume. The sight of the promises themselves is good for the eyes of faith: the more we study the words of grace, the more grace shall we derive from the words. To the cheering Scriptures I have added testimonies of my own, the fruit of trial and experience. I believe all the promises of God, but many of them I have personally tried and proved. I have seen that they are true, for they have been fulfilled to me. This, I trust, may be cheering to the young; and not without solace to the older sort. One man’s experience may be of the utmost use to another; and this is why the man of God of old wrote, “I sought the LORD, and he heard me”; and again, “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him.”

I commenced these daily portions when I was wading in the surf of controversy. Since then I have been cast into “waters to swim in,” which, but for God’s upholding hand, would have proved waters to drown in. I have endured tribulation from many hails. Sharp bodily pain succeeded mental depression, and this was accompanied both by bereavement and affliction in the person of one dear as life. The waters rolled in continually, wave upon wave. I do not mention this to exact sympathy, but simply to let the reader see that I am no dry-land sailor. I have traversed full many a time those oceans which are not Pacific: I know the roll of the billows, and the rush of the winds. Never were the promises of Jehovah so precious to me as at this hour. Some of them I never understood till now; I had not reached the date at which they matured, for I was not myself mature enough to perceive their meaning.

How much more wonderful is the Bible to me now than it was a few months ago! In obeying the LORD, and bearing His reproach outside the camp, I have not received new promises; but the result to me is much the same as if I had done so, for the old ones have opened up to me with richer stores. Specially has the Word of the LORD to His servant Jeremiah sounded exceedingly sweet in mine ears. His lot it was to speak to those who would not hear, or hearing, would nor believe. His was the sorrow which comes of disappointed love, and resolute loyalty; he would have turned his people from their errors, but he would not himself quit the way of the LORD. For him there were words of deep sustaining power, which kept his mind from failing where nature unaided must have sunk. These and such like golden sentences of grace I have loved more than my necessary food, and with them I have enriched these pages.

Oh, that I might comfort some of my Master’s servants I have written out of my own heart with the view of comforting their hearts. I would say to them in their trials – My brethren, God is good. He will not forsake you: He will bear you through. There is a promise prepared for your present emergencies; and if you will believe and plead it at the mercy-seat through Jesus Christ, you shall see the hand of the LORD stretched out to help you. Everything else will fail, but His word never will. He has been to me so faithful in countless instances that I must encourage you to trust Him. I should be ungrateful to God and unkind to you if I did not do so.

May the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, inspire the people of the LORD with fresh faith! I know that, without His divine power, all that I can say will be of no avail; but, under His quickening influence, even the humblest testimony will confirm feeble knees, and strengthen weak hands. God is glorified when His servants trust Him implicitly.

Our copy of the leather-like Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith is published by Christian Focus and can be found at a better-than-Amazon price at Cumberland Valley Bible & Book Service.

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April 29, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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People Can Really Change

In the blockbuster film Frozen, one of the mother trolls believes, “people don’t really change.” But is this true, biblically? No, of course it isn’t. Salvation is about transformation, not merely forgiveness and eternal life. The good news of the gospel is not only that Jesus Christ died and rose again to redeem us from the penalty of sin so that we can enjoy eternal life in heaven someday. But God also has redeemed us from the power of sin so that we can be transformed into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29; Col 3:10) and live for the one who died and rose again on our behalf (2 Cor 5:15).

What are the reasons we can change? In their new book, God’s Solutions to Life’s Problems, the father and son team, Wayne and Joshua Mack, gives us four reasons true believers can really change.

  1. We can change because of the plan and power of God. “God did not save us because we were holy, but He did save us to be holy. To say that you can’t change is to say that the great plan of God will be thwarted by you!”
  2. We can change because of the grace of God. “If you are a believer, you can change because of the grace of God (Titus 2:11-12)….It is ludicrous to say that a Christian can’t change.”
  3. We can change because of the promises of God. Based on the truth of 1 Corinthians 10:13, the authors assure us: “God promises that you will not be given more than you, by His grace, can handle. So you don’t have to sin when you are in the midst of temptation. You can overcome!”
  4. We can change because of the commands of God. “What would be the point of that command [to put on the new self and walk the new walk, Ephesians 4:20-24] if it were impossible to obey? Paul expects Christians to change. Change is not an option. It’s a command. To say that you can’t change is to say that the commands of God are futile.”

If you are a true believer (a possessor and not merely a professor) then you are already a new creature in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). That is true of every genuine, converted believer. Now, to become holy we must daily put on the new man. This is a call to discipline ourselves for the sake of godliness, to put away godless myths and get serious about training ourselves in the ways of God (1Timothy 4:7).

God’s Solutions to Life’s Problems is available at Amazon and CVBBS.

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April 25, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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An Appointment in Samara

In Psalm 39:4 we read, “Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am.” These words remind us that life on this earth is temporary and uncertain. It has been said that everything in life is uncertain except death. James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us of this when he writes, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Any of us may be called next. The question we must all ask ourselves is, “Am I prepared?” Peter Marshall, a Scottish-American preacher and Chaplain of the US Senate in the first half of the twentieth century, once told the following story:

An old legend tells of a merchant in Baghdad who one day sent his servants to the market. Before very long the servant came back, white and trembling, and in great agitation said to this master: “Down in the market place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd, and when I turned around I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Master, please lend me your horse, for I must hasten away to avoid her. I will ride to Samara and there I will hide, and Death will not find me.”

The merchant lent him his horse and the servant galloped away in great haste. Later the merchant went down to the market place and saw Death standing in the crowd. He went over to her and asked, “Why did you frighten my servant this morning? Why did you make a threatening gesture?”

“That was not a threatening gesture,” Death said. “It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samara.”

Each of us has an appointment in Samara. But that is cause for rejoicing—not for fear, provided we have put our trust in Him who alone holds the keys to life and death.

God’s Word assures us of this promise when we look to Jesus Christ by faith: “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:11-13).

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April 18, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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“Accept Jesus,” or “Be Accepted By God”?

Nothing is more important than understanding what the Bible teaches about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What we understand and personally believe about this historical and supremely spiritual event determines our eternal destiny. Therefore, there is no room for error on this doctrine. Error will only lead to eternal damnation in hell. Biblical truth is our only hope of heaven.

There is one verse that so completely defines the meaning of the death of Christ that if we had no other verse, it would be enough. It would be enough to tell us why He died, what His death accomplished for sinners, why He only remained dead for three days, and how our guilt can be removed so that we can be restored to God.

The verse I am referring to is 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”

Here we discover five truths that explain the meaning of the death of Christ.

It was a sacrificial death (for sins).

Jesus died for sins because death was God’s requirement. God pronounced this death sentence before man ever sinned. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). That is surely what happened. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and they died. Now, they did not drop dead immediately, but the slow process of physical death began that very moment. More tragic than the slow deterioration of their physical bodies, is the fact that they immediately experienced spiritual death, separation from God. They lost their oneness and fellowship with Him and attempted to hide from His presence because of their guilt. As a result, God pronounced His judgment on their sin, killed an animal and used its skin to make a covering for their shame, and cast them out of the garden to prevent them from eating from the tree of life and forever sealing their doom (Genesis 3:15-24). The consequences of their actions then spread to all men. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).

Later, in the book of Exodus, God raised up a man by the name of Moses to deliver His people from Egyptian slavery. What was the sign of their deliverance? The blood of a spotless lamb applied to the doorposts of every Jewish home. Passover, still an annual feast of the Jewish people, reminded them of God’s deliverance and prophesied of the one, final Passover Lamb that would give His blood as payment for man’s sin. The New Testament declares, Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7).

While the nation of Israel was in the wilderness, God established a way for their sins to be covered by a sacrifice and for fellowship with Him to be restored. The opening words of Leviticus, which defines the provisions and boundaries of this sacrificial system, established death as its foundational requirement: Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock…that he may be accepted before the LORD’” (Leviticus 1:1-3). Why was the sinner required to bring this offering? That he might be accepted before the Lord. Many people today talk about accepting Jesus as one’s personal Savior. However, the Bible is more concerned with whether or not God accepts us. From the beginning, the Bible established the only means of acceptance with God—the death of a sacrifice. And he shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering [this demonstrated personal responsibility for sin], that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf (Leviticus 1:4).

The sacrifice was brought for sin and fellowship with God was established on the basis of its death. This is consistent throughout the Bible. So, when we come to 1 Peter 3:18 and read this incredibly simple statement, Christ died for sins, we must look backward and understand what Peter meant. Christ offered Himself as a sin offering though He had no sin of His own to atone for. He died for sins—our sins. In other words, the Old Testament animal sacrifices looked forward to the New Testament “Son sacrifice;” the Son of God who died for our sins.

It was a sufficient death (once for all).

The death of Jesus Christ for sin was so complete that it is the only sacrifice that can ever be offered for sin and does not need to be repeated EVER. This is what Peter meant by three simple words, once for all. The book of Hebrews teaches this same truth. The context of the following verses is the comparison of Christ to human priests that repeatedlyoffered sacrifices for their own sins and the sins of others: For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins [because He had none of His own], and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself [on the cross]. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever (7:26-28). See also Hebrews 9:11-12 and 10:10-14.

The death of Christ was sufficient to pay the penalty for sin once for all. That means the only way to be accepted by God (saved) is through His death and resurrection. It also means we must never offer to God any sacrifice while thinking that it is even remotely a part of obtaining our salvation. To think that we can add anything to the sacrifice of Christ is an error that leads to hell. Yet many people continue to attempt to pay God back for the bad things they have done. The Apostle Paul addressed this when he wrote, if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).

It was a substitutionary death (the just for the unjust).

When Jesus died, the innocent died for the guilty. The righteous died for the unrighteous. God died for man. The Creator died for His creatures. The phrase, the just for the unjust, is a summary of Isaiah 53, the most thorough Old Testament prediction of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. Notice the language of substitution, i.e. someone doing something for someone else.

  • Verse 4: Our griefs He Himself bore
  • Verse 4: Our sorrows He carried
  • Verse 5: He was pierced through for our transgressions
  • Verse 5: He was crushed for our iniquities
  • Verse 5: The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him
  • Verse 6: The Lord caused the iniquity of us to fall on Him
  • Verse 11: My Servant, will justify the many
  • Verse 12: He was numbered with the transgressors
  • Verse 12: He Himself bore the sin of many

Jesus was the Someone doing something for someone else and the something that He did was to meet God’s required punishment for sin—death. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men (Romans 5:18). The one act of righteousness that saves those who believe is His death on the cross. Adam was our representative for sin, which led to death. Jesus is our representative for righteousness, which leads to life.

It was a saving death (that He might bring us to God).

The death of Christ purchased reconciliation with God. This was its purpose. He died to bring us to God. Think back to the sacrifices of the Old Testament. How were the people brought back to God? By the death of a sacrifice. How are sinners, today, brought back to God? The same way—through the death of the One sacrifice.

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministy of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:14-19).

Why has God not counted my sins against me? Because, while Jesus hung on the cross, the Savior assumed punishment for my sins. God was reconciling me back to Himself through Christ. This is the truth that has transformed my life and given me a new purpose to live. As a church-going boy, I knew Jesus was the Savior of the world, but I failed to understand that He was my Savior. Only when I saw the death of Christ as being in my place did the truth of the Gospel set me free from my sin and give me hope of new life in Him.

The message that I am now obligated to tell you is: He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21). God the Father imputed [placed] the sins of the world on the back of His sinless Son in order to give the righteousness of Jesus Christ to those who trust Him as their Sin-bearer. If we do not understand and believe that Jesus paid for our sin on the cross to give us His righteousness then we are without eternal hope. This is the very heart of the Gospel. This is the Good News!

It was a satisfactory death (but made alive in the spirit).

Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was a public demonstration of the satisfaction of God. Jesus predicted this: Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews therefore said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken (John 2:19-22).

It was as if the Father verbally spoke: “I am completely, 100% satisfied with the death of My Son on the cross as full payment for man’s sin. There is no need for any more sacrifices for sin. It is finished.” He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification (Romans 4:25). John 6:37-40 shows how these truths relate to us.

Everyone who beholds the Son (sees Him for Who He is and what He has done) and believes in Him (trusts that what God says about the purpose of His death is true) will be saved. If we apply the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ to our spiritual need then the promise of God is that we will one-day live with Him forever.

What about you?

If you are still wondering how First Peter 3:18 applies to you, here is the clearest answer to your question: if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord [behold the Son], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead [believe the Son], you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:9-10).

Have you applied the death of Christ to your own spiritual need by acknowledging your sinfulness to God? Do you believe the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is the one blood sacrifice you need in order to be made right with God? Have you embraced Jesus Christ as the one-and-only Lord? That is what it means to be a Christian.

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April 16, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS – Family Matters [4/16/14]

Growing Up Gothard – I’m not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I saw this coming when first exposed to homeschool guru Bill Gothard in Kansas City almost three decades ago.

8 Things Healthy Couples Don’t Do – Here’s a few habits to avoid in order to keep marriages healthy and growing.

The Porn-Free Family Plan – Tim Challies gives excellent counsel in this follow-up article. Be sure to read Part 1 as well.

7 Truths for a Christ-Centered Marriage – John Henderson counsels husbands and wives about their bodies from 1 Corinthians 6.

31 Days of Praying for Your Husband – Here’s an older article from Nancy Leigh DeMoss

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April 15, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Stop Stopping at the Disney World Sign

Followers of Jesus Christ (myself included) have the habit of taking our eyes off of Him and, specifically, our identity in Christ and the beauty that is ours by virtue of our union with Him. In his book, A Shelter in the Time of Storm, Paul Tripp encourages us to remember that all the beauty that we see in the created world is “sign beauty,” that is, it is there to direct us to worship the One who created it. He writes, “All of the beautiful things that we see, touch, taste, and hear every day were designed to be signs that would point to the ultimate beauty that can be found only in the One who created them.” Tripp then makes this application by means of illustration:

So when you are looking at the beauty that surrounds you in the physical world that is your present home, require yourself to look beyond the signs to the stunning beauty of the God to whom each sign points. Only his beauty can give you hope, strength, and peace. Only his beauty can give you life. Don’t be like the family that saved for a year to experience the glories of Disney World, packed the car in anticipation, drove hundreds of miles, and stopped at the first Disney World sign and had their vacation.

When we look to our husband or our wife for our identity, we are stopping at the Disney World sign. When we look to our job for our meaning and purpose, we are stopping at the Disney World sign. When the acceptance and respect of friends is what gets us up in the morning, we are stopping at the Disney World sign. When we look to material possessions to give our hearts peace and rest, we are stopping at the Disney World sign. When we look to theological knowledge and ministry skill to satisfy our hearts, we are stopping at the Disney World sign. When we look to our children to fulfill us, we are stopping at the Disney World sign. When in moments of pain, we turn to food, alcohol, TV, or the Web, we are stopping at the Disney World sign. When a day in nature means more to us than a half-hour in personal worship and prayer, we are stopping at the Disney World sign.

Perhaps our hearts feel empty and our souls are dissatisfied because we have tried to get from sign beauty what only ultimate beauty can give us. Look beyond the orchid, the lightning, the bird, and the leaf and see the Lord. In him you will find true beauty, the kind that really does satisfy.

[Get your own copy of A Shelter in the Time of Storm here.]

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