God created human beings special. We are created in His image and God has desired to have communion with us since creation. When we gave up that communion, God put into motion his plan to redeem us, ultimately finding its fulfillment in Christ Jesus.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It is a question every child hears many times when they are young. I remember, when I was little, thoughts of being an astronaut or a professional baseball player would often fill my dreams. Around the time I entered high school, my thoughts had shifted to the possibility of being an engineer. However, when I realized that I love the Lord and His Word a lot more than I did math and science, it became clear to me that preaching was what I was going to do.
I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of times when I still don’t really feel “grown up.” I suppose that as a Christian, I still have a lot of growing to do, as do all who walk in Christ. We know that we should be striving to grow in Christ every day. Perhaps as Christians, we don’t fully “grow up” until we attain the resurrection from the dead that Paul talks about in Philippians 3:11-12. The Apostle wrote:
that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Php 3:11-12 ESV)
With that thought in mind, when I “grow up,” I want to be like the angels in heaven. After all, that is what Jesus says about the resurrection when answering the Sadducees in Matthew 22, stating in verse 30 that “in the resurrection they…are like angels in heaven.” Humans are currently “a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:6-7), but Christ promises a day coming when we will be like them.
When I “grow up,” I want to be like Christ is. As a Christian I strive to imitate Christ every day, and be like him as much as possible in everything that I do, but there is an even greater sense of being “like Christ” that I aspire to. Again in Philippians 3, Paul wrote in verse 20-21:
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Php 3:20-21 ESV)
Yes, I still have a lot of growing to do. And I know I will not reach my goal until that day when I am raised to be with the Lord forever (1 Thess. 4:17). Meanwhile, I’ll keep doing my best to grow, and be more like Christ in this life, so that one day I may be resurrected to be like him in glory.
The Hebrew writer tells us in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (All quotations from the English Standard Version of the Bible)
We might think that the “joy set before him” is directly connected to his being seated at the right hand of God once he ascended to heaven, and that probably is a factor. Perhaps, however, we should consider other possible reasons that there was joy to look forward to beyond the cross.
One possible reason for the Lord’s joy beyond the cross is the opportunity to send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit of Truth, to his people. As Jesus was instructing his disciples regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit, he stated in John 16:7, “…it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” It pleased the Lord to send the Holy Spirit to his people, in whom, still today, we have the guarantee of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14)
It might also be said that it pleased the Lord to be in the position to be the mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). He himself said that He was the only way to the Father (John 14:6). If we would come to the Father, we can only do it in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). Going to the cross, being raised on the third day, and ascending to the Father placed Jesus in position to be that mediator between God and man.
Lastly, there was joy beyond the cross because it is through the cross that we are able to repent of our sins and be saved. Jesus, in three parables in Luke 15, noted how much joy there is in heaven whenever a sinner repents of his sin and turns to God. He even states in Luke 15:7 that there is “more joy in heaven over on sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Jesus is seated on his throne at the right hand of God. He is awaiting the coming day when we can be with him where he is (John 14:3) (another possible reason for joy, knowing that the day is coming). But until that day, there is joy in heaven knowing that the path to the Father is clear. One who believes in Christ must confess that belief (Rom. 10:9-10), repent of sins and be baptized for the forgiveness of those sins, after which he will receive the promised Holy Spirit, (Acts 2:38) which Christ sent as our Helper. And each time that happens, there is great rejoicing in Heaven.
We serve a God who is infinitely powerful, infinitely knowledgeable, and infinitely loving. Our awesome God created a universe for us to live in, and he created this race that we call humanity. From that human race he has brought into the world his people, first the Jews who led to Christ, and now Christians, the citizens of Christ’s kingdom. God wants all to be in his kingdom, and he desires that all would be saved.
We talk a lot about church attendance. We ought to know how important it is for Christians to gather together for worship. But it’s so much more than putting bodies in the seats. It is important that we understand that God has given us good reasons for wanting to come and worship Him. It’s all based in what He has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ.
In this evening lesson, we continue examining the five core doctrines of Calvinism, focusing on the third part of the TULIP acronym, Limited Atonement. Through this lesson, we hope to demonstrate that Christ died to give all people the opportunity to be saved, and to teach anything different robs the gospel of it’s power to save (Rom. 1:16)
Perhaps no day on the Jewish calendar was more important that the Day of Atonement. It was a day which the book of Leviticus centers around. And yet, it was not sufficient to fully take care of mankind’s sin problem. That’s why Christ came, to be our sacrifice. The Lamb of God came to take away the sin of the world.