We will be providing 21 days of devotionals leading up to Easter Sunday (April 21). The theme will run parallel with the series being covered on Sunday mornings, entitled Sacrificial Victorious Saviour.
We have all experienced loss to varying degrees. Anything from losing a wallet to losing a loved one has an effect on us. Loss often brings emotional pain. Loss brings change and the need for adjustment. When we look at sin coming into the world, we see there was a tremendous loss for us. We lost our place of righteousness before God, we lost our connection to Him. We lost life. The pain and change of that loss has resulted in so much evil in this world.
However, we were not the only ones to experience loss at that point. God also experienced loss. He lost fellowship with His most beloved of creations — those made to be in His image. The whole order of creation changed at that point. Disorder and disarray, conflict and death became the order of the day.
Yet God, in His great love for us, turned that loss into a gain when He sent Jesus to reclaim and restore us.
As we journey through these devotionals, we will look at losses and gains — and how we are the beneficiaries of the gains.
Think about loss. Think about how God’s love was so strong for us that He made a way to gain us back. Take time to give thanks for His amazing love for you.
Sacrifice : an act of giving up something of value for the sake of something that is of greater value or importance. (Concise Oxford English Dictionary)
Have you ever made the choice to give up something for the sake of something more important to you? New moms sacrifice sleep for their children. People sacrifice free time to work overtime for extra pay. People sacrifice time to help others because they see the value in it. Someone may sacrifice their favourite foods to get healthier. We have all made sacrifices one way or another.
Sacrifice is a willful exercise in loss. Sacrifice has purpose attached to it. It is deciding that the loss is less valuable than the gain at the other end.
Jesus offered up His very life as a sacrifice. He was willing to undergo torture, torment, and death because there was a greater gain at the other end. The gain? The breaking of sin’s power to destroy us, the restoration of our relationship with God, and His exaltation to the highest position of authority. Jesus became the conquerer of all evil by his sacrifice.
How many times have you felt that you made a great sacrifice? Think of the sacrifice Jesus made for you. Take some time to reflect on how Jesus’ sacrifice brought you gain. You have forgiveness of sins and eternal life, not because of your sacrifice, but because of His!
Are you willing to sacrifice so that others may gain? This is the love of God in action.
Have you ever wanted justice? Did you want it right away? It’s interesting how our desire for justice is often accompanied by impatience, as if delayed justice costs us something. Indeed sometimes it does cost us something.
If God had demanded immediate justice for sin the human race would have ended with Adam and Eve! God made a significant sacrifice by delaying His right to justice in the case of our sin. He chose not to punish the sins committed by people until Jesus came as our substitute. Then he carried out the punishment on Jesus instead of us. He chose to experience the loss of delayed justice so that we could experience the gain of justification.
Perhaps you have been wronged and need to practice this same sacrifice — withholding the demand for justice and replacing it with forgiveness — or at least not take the role of judge upon yourself but give it to God.
Take some time to give thanks to God for His great patience. Examine your own heart to see where you may need to practice patience with others as well.
There are likely few of us that have ever been homeless. If you have, you understand the sense of instability it can bring. Home is meant to be a place of safety. Jesus left the ‘safety and stability’ of heaven to come here and have an unstable existence.
As a child, he lived in three different locations, being a refugee in Egypt for part of that time. In his ministry life, he had no place he could call home. This was the sacrifice (loss of stability) he experienced to provide a massive gain for us.
We gain the stability of an eternal dwelling. Life here can still be unpredictable. Careers and jobs change. Locations change. Family dynamics change. Yet we have the promise of an eternal, stable, safe place to look forward to.
Keep life in perspective. If your life is in a state of flux, of change, of instability, remember that Jesus is very familiar with that experience. Any level of loss you may feel will be replaced with the eternal gain of a permanent home with God. Be hopeful. If your life is stable and safe. Appreciate it and don’t take it for granted. Be thankful.
Reputation is about what others think of you. It is your social capital. Reputation can give you leverage in situations and relationships, or it can strip you of influence. We all, to some degree, want a good reputation.
It can be easy to see Jesus’ reputation as shining and stellar when we read the Gospels. People crowded to see Him. They went out of their way to get near him. They would speak of him and of his power. Yet these are the people that mostly stopped following him as soon as he preached a challenging message (John 6). These are the people that shouted “Hosanna!” when he arrived in Jerusalem and “Crucify!” within a week.
In other spheres his reputation was not so good.
Jesus’ own family had a low opinion of him. The Jewish leaders had a low opinion of him. And, finally, the crowds in general abandoned him.
His reputation with the Father was good.
I was once told, “It’s better to smell like a rose in heaven and stink on earth than the other way around.”
How important are people’s opinions of you in contrast to God’s? Where is your reputation most important? At work? At home? In the community? In heaven? If we experience loss of reputation for the sake of following Christ we gain reputation in God’s eyes.
Jesus sacrificed earthly reputation, not restore ours but to give us the courage to do the same, understanding that God’s opinion of us is what matters most.
I am not fond of getting fillings from the dentist. I don’t enjoy the needles, the open jaw, the smells, trying to drink or eat with half of my mouth numb. I’d rather do just about anything else than submit to that process. But I appreciate the fact that a filling will protect my tooth from deterioration or worse, infection.
So for a time I surrender my will to the dentist so that I may benefit overall.
When Jesus was about to go to the cross to die for our sins, he also wrestled with submitting to the process needed to gain salvation for us.
Jesus had to resolve to submit his own will to the Father in that moment. He wrestled significantly — well over an hour in prayer (Matt 26:39-44). It was agonizing:
Yet Jesus came to the place where he sacrificed his own desire and will for our sake.
You may experience times in your life when you would rather avoid something but know that God is asking you to sacrifice your own desires, your own will. Remember that Jesus did the same and can help you in that process. Remember that what God asks is for your ultimate good and that His plan, although sometimes painful, results in life.
Sacrifice: the practice or an act of killing an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to a deity. (Concise Oxford English dictionary)
This is the first definition of sacrifice — one not nearly as common today as the other we have looked at. This is also the first aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice. It was not simply that he experienced losses, giving up His place in heaven and coming to earth. It was that He was our substitute in offering himself as the payment for our broken condition.
Jesus was the one and only sacrifice that could fully pay for our sins. Every time we sin, we no longer need a fresh sacrifice to make payment. Jesus’ death was enough to pay for every single flaw, every single mistake, every single failure in our lives!
Take a moment to think of how great a love Jesus has for you that he would do that. Express your gratitude for his inexhaustible grace.
“God if you don’t get me a friend by the end of the month I think I’ll die of sorrow.” This was a prayer I prayed when I was 17 and in need of a Christian friend. It hurt so much inside that I thought I would physically die. I didn’t get that friend by the end of the month. I did three months later. There were two lessons to be learned there. First, God could provide for me, in His time. Second, He could sustain me while I waited. I learned to trust Him in a deeper way.
We are all pain averse — we avoid it as much as possible. From a cut on the finger, to a broken bone, to a pinched nerve, pain is like an enemy. This is also true of emotional pain. The pain of rejection, loss, loneliness, betrayal, etc. all affect us profoundly.
Before Jesus had experienced any physical pain he experienced emotional pain. He experienced such emotional pain that it was overwhelming. He was already beginning to experience the suffering necessary to bring peace into our own lives.
That sacrifice of emotional pain resulted in our having His promise of peace and comfort in our pain.
We are still not immune to pain, but we do have the promise of God’s presence and peace in the midst of it. Receive His comfort and pass that comfort along to others when you have the opportunity. Remember that when Jesus returns He will wipe away every tear. There will be no more sorrow, not more pain. (Rev 21:4)
“I know how you feel.” You may have heard it. You may have said it. Sometimes it’s true. Sometimes it’s not.
I’ve had many a conversation with people where all I could say was, “I can only try to imagine how you feel”, because I really don’t know — not experientially.
When Jesus came to earth he did more than just show up and pay the price for our sins. He could have arrived one week, died the next, risen in three days and returned to heaven to sit on the throne. But he didn’t.
He experienced life. He experienced childhood, adolescence, adulthood.
He experienced temptation in all of its facets. Tempted to quit? He felt it. Tempted to get revenge? He experienced it. Sexual temptation. Yep. The temptation of greed and power. Yep again. Whatever temptation you may have experienced, he is familiar with it — at least its core driver.
Jesus is able to say to each one of us, “I know how you feel.” He has the right to say it because he experienced it. And just as these verses say, he is able to help us when we face temptation and pressure.
I am so thankful that our struggles are not foreign to Jesus. He doesn’t just know them in theory. He knows them experientially. Thank you Jesus for understanding! Thank you Jesus that you can help us!
Have you ever had a time when things were going well for you yet all you could think about was what misfortune was coming? A foreboding is the sense of coming evil. Some people have that experience every time they are experiencing something good. For some, it becomes such a conviction that it becomes self-fulfilling prophecy — they participate in causing their own problems.
This robs us of the capacity to live fully in our moment. We don’t experience the fullness of joy in the good because we are looking ahead to bad times. We don’t immerse ourselves in the good experience because we are fearful of what may follow. This is often fuelled by fear of disappointment.
Jesus knew his purpose and that he was going to suffer and give his life for us. Yet he was able to rejoice and enjoy life in the good moments.
Jesus was able to fully immerse himself in every moment. He didn’t spend all his time ruminating about the coming bad days.
You may not have control over what happens tomorrow but you can fully enjoy the goodness of God today. Don’t rob yourself of today’s joy because of what might happen in the future. Be thankful, fully engage yourself, and life the moment to the full.
It is interesting how our good moments can be robbed by foreboding of the future. Yet when we are in a difficult place we don’t naturally lean toward an expectation of good. How do we live our moment when that moment is a bad one?
When Jesus entered into his time of suffering, he was able to endure it because he knew there was something far greater on the other side of it. In the same way, when we experience hardships of suffering, there are rewards for our perseverance. If we lose sight of the eternal view we can get stuck only looking at our present circumstances.
This makes it more difficult to stand and endure. The hardship of the present becomes too big for us and we lose sight. This is the link to hopelessness. We then believe things may never change.
Remember that our lives are made up of moments. Actually, from an eternal view, our lives ARE a moment. There is joy set before you and it’s worth persevering. Let us follow Jesus’ example so we don’t lose sight and give up.
When it came to sports, baseball, hockey, and the like, as a young boy I was always the last one picked to be on a team. Without a doubt, my skill level was the lowest among them. Actually, when it came to hockey, I was so bad that they often made me the referee rather than put me on a team. Okay, don’t shed a tear for me. I’m over it. But I was always last.
Have you ever chosen to be last? Have you ever chosen to be the bottom of the barrel? We live in a society that treasures being the king of the castle (another game I rarely succeeded at).
Jesus’ very act of coming among us was going from the top of the heap to the bottom of the barrel.
Jesus took the lowest form. Yet the final outcome was him being exalted to the highest place.
In the same way, Jesus calls us to sacrifice by being willing to serve others and not insist on being first. It is important to realize that the God’s Kingdom works differently than the world does. It takes courage to choose last or lowest place. But God promises reward for it.
“Let me help!”, young little Sam said as he ‘helped’ his mom and dad carry the heavy box into the house. Mom & Dad smiled, knowing Sam was actually bearing very little of the weight.
I’m sure you’ve seen something like this happen at one point or another. We all know that if Mom & Dad allowed the full weight of the box to be on little Sam, it would be far too much and would likely result in injury.
Jesus has played the role of weight bearer for us. He carried what we could never bear. He made our load far easier to bear.
We can find ourselves in places where we still feel overwhelmed with the weights of life. Jesus has promised to be our weight bearer.
When two animals are yoked together, they share the load. Yet Jesus promises to carry the largest portion of that load. We can be like a child, doing our part but understanding that Jesus has done the greatest part.
We all have desires. Things we want. Things we want to do. Places we want to go. Most of the desires we have are from us and for us. We also have desires for others. That our children do well in life. That our community thrive and prosper. That poor and needy people get help.
However, it is another thing altogether to live an entire life only desiring what another wants. One of the sacrifices Jesus made for us was to forfeit his own desires — for his entire life. He lived all of his life for the Father’s will and plan.
I can hardly imagine someone living every moment for another’s will. Imagine Jesus setting aside every desire that differed from God’s will and instead completely pursuing God’s desires.
Here’s the thing: God calls us to live our lives to please Him as well. Yet His promise is that, as we do so, we will experience an abundance of life that cannot compare with what our own ways would bring. Let’s follow Jesus’ example of desire and pursue God’s desires for us in our own lives.
These twelve men were chosen as a result of Jesus spending an entire night in prayer. In our world of gift and skill focus, we would likely have chosen a different group — both for our benefit and theirs.
Jesus chose Simon(Peter), who put his foot in his mouth often, and who denied Jesus three times. He chose John, who wanted to call fire down from heaven on people who were preaching Jesus but weren’t part of their group. He chose Matthew, a tax collector that would be viewed as a traitor by the average Jew. He chose Thomas, who always saw the negative in a situation, “Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” (Jn 11:16). Thomas refused to believe Jesus had risen from the dead and insisted on physical evidence. He chose fishermen instead of scholars. And finally, he chose Judas, who, as the money keeper, regularly stole money for himself, and who, given the opportunity, betrayed Jesus for money.
This was Jesus’ dream team — the motley crew. They often argued among themselves. They were in competition with each other even about their spirituality. It must have been both a challenge and a sacrifice for Jesus to have these men as his ambassadors and his team.
Yet we can take great encouragement to see that God saw beyond all of their weaknesses to what they would accomplish later — all except Judas, who took his own life after betraying Jesus. We can appreciate that God can do significant things through unlikely people. He is not looking for pure talent. He is looking for surrender.
I would gladly be part of Jesus’ motley crew even today. And we are if we follow him with all our hearts… His motley crew, His mighty men and women.
I once found myself in a situation where a group of people were making comments to me that were somewhat accusatory and a little derogatory. There was a tone of criticism about something I had done. Yet I knew in my own heart that my motive for doing it was noble and good. If felt I had been misunderstood and my integrity had been attacked.
As I walked through that conversation I did my best not to deflect or over-defend myself. I tried hard to be gracious and understanding, without compromising my position. I later received a phone call from a colleague who said to me, “I admired how magnanimous you were at that meeting today.” I had no idea what the word even meant — hoping it was a compliment.
Magnanimous: generous or forgiving, especially towards a rival or less powerful person (Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.)
Also: Showing or suggesting nobility of feeling and generosity of mind (Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary)
Jesus displayed a magnanimous spirit toward those who were condemning, mocking and torturing him. He sacrificed his right to retaliate and responded with forgiveness.
The next time you encounter opposition or criticism by others, consider how Jesus responded. He calls us to have a same kind of grace toward others. There is a difference in what we say and how we say it. We can still stand for truth but we must do so in a gracious and life-giving way. Let us make magnanimity a goal in our lives.
Relationships can be wonderful. They enrich our lives. They bring connection, strength, encouragement, and many other benefits. Relationships can also be challenging. There is always a certain level of risk with trust and vulnerability. You have likely experienced disappointment at one point or another in your life.
Jesus experienced relationship in very real ways. He experienced the joy of friendship. He experienced the sadness of loss. He experienced some of the most painful aspects of relationship possible — betrayal, abandonment, being forsaken.
Jesus experienced the deepest relational pain from those closest to him — his disciples, his friends, even his heavenly Father! Jesus is well acquainted with the loss that comes from broken relationships.
He took this on so we could be promised unbroken fellowship and relationship with God. He was forsaken so we wouldn’t be.
We may still experience brokenness in relationships in this life, but Jesus identifies with it and can help us. His love is stronger. His love is greater. His love is eternal.
In the Old Testament, people were commanded to sacrifice various different offerings to God. One of those sacrifices was the guilt offering. It was for sins committed in ignorance. Even unintentional sin had to be paid for.
It’s one thing to think we’ve done well and not hurt others. It’s another to say we’ve never unintentionally hurt anyone or disobeyed God. All are guilty. There is a certain sense of shame that comes with being declared guilty — and rightfully so. Guilt as an emotion should be felt where guilt as a condition exists.
This is where Jesus steps in. He took the verdict of our guilt on himself to free us from the condition and the feeling of guilt.
Jesus made a way for us so that God could declare us not guilty, even though we are. God can declare us righteous, though we are not. This brings us freedom from a sense of shame and guilt. We can approach God confidently because Jesus took our guilt and its punishment for us.
Oh what a precious gift we have in Jesus Christ!
Today is Good Friday, the day we pause to contemplate the sacrifice and death of Jesus. We think of his sufferings, his beatings, his torture, his mockery, his shaming, and his excruciating death. Today’s passage of Scripture is a long one but deserves careful reading.
This passage describes the great sacrifice Jesus made for us resulting in peace, healing and salvation.
Jesus ‘made intercession for the transgressors’. This does not mean he prayed to the Father on our behalf but rather that he intervened, filling in the gap that stood between us and God and made the way for us to be restored to relationship with God.
Think of the depth of the sacrifice and the profoundness of the blessing we have received because of Jesus’ love for us. Made this a day of gratitude and thanksgiving to him.
I have a thing about budgeting. It’s a contradiction of feelings. I enjoy doing it and I feel great when I’m caught up. Yet when I think about doing it the next time, I dread it. It’s strange. It’s a love/hate relationship. You likely have a task in life that is similar. It may be yard work, cleaning a vehicle, making a meal. You know the benefit of doing it but you avoid it. Once done, you feel a sense of accomplishment, or at least relief.
Prayer can be like that for me, and I suspect for many. We know it should be a consistent part of our lives but we sometimes avoid it — like it’s a sacrifice. Yet when we actually pray it becomes a benefit. So strange.
Was Jesus’ prayer life a sacrifice or a benefit? Both! I have no doubt rising early in the morning or staying up all night in prayer was something that cost him. Yet he did it — because the benefit far outweighed the cost.
The sacrifice of his prayer life resulted in his complete obedience to the Father, and ultimately, our salvation.
Prayer is a small price to pay for the benefit it brings into our lives. It may feel like sacrifice but it results in benefit. We are more connected to God. We experience his peace, his direction, his power. We align ourselves with God’s ways when we pray and submit ourselves to Him.
In our twenty-first century busyness we can’t afford to make excuses for not praying. Jesus paid the price so we can commune with God in prayer. Let us be thankful for the privilege of approaching God in prayer.
We opened this series of devotions looking at the great loss we, and God, experienced when sin came into the world.
We experienced spiritual death when sin entered the world. We lost our connection to God. God lost the relationship he wanted with humanity — that we would reflect his image to the world.
Alienation. We were separated from God. No relationship. No life connection.
Reconciliation. We were restored to relationship with God. Brought back to his original design. We have his righteousness, his life, and his love within us!
As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection today, let us celebrate the complete restoration of relationship with God. Jesus didn’t just give us a faith, a religion, a set of beliefs or practices. He gave us life! He reconciled us to God and restored the original design for us to be reflections of his image on earth.