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For more of my commentary on the Reason Rally see – The Reason Rally: Atheists Out of the Closet

Now read this: Atheists Rally for Reason; Urged to Mock the Religious, Christian News

My response to Richard Dawkins? Bring it on! I want to be blessed and joyful! And Jesus said I will be if I’m persecuted for righteousness’ sake and on His account:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

With this in mind, I’d like to share a chapter from my yet to be edited, yet to be published devotional commentary on Colossians.

Joyful Suffering With and For Jesus

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…” (Colossians 1:24). 

Max Lucado says, “Please understand, [God’s] goal is not to make you happy, His goal is to make you His. His goal is not to get you what you want; it is to get you what you need…Earthly discomfort is a glad swap for Heavenly peace.”[i]

Joyful suffering, if you understand the message of the Gospel, is not an oxymoron – a paradox, maybe, but not a contradiction. Here is a sample of some passages that assert, despite our natural aversion to it, suffering and persecution is an inherent and beautiful part of our faithful following of Jesus: 

  • His followers rejoiced in being counted worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name (Acts 5:41). 
  • Suffering providentially compels us to be dependant upon God and not ourselves (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). 
  • Spiritual maturity and character are developed through suffering (Romans 5:3-4). 
  • Suffering for Christ reminds us and others of the Treasure to come (Hebrews 11:25-26). 
  • We will be uniquely blessed if we are “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matthew 5:10-12). 
  • “The Spirit of glory and of God” rests on those who suffer for Him (1 Peter 4:12-16). 
  • Those fully surrendered to Christ view suffering for His name as a divine gift (Philippians 1:29). 

But this suffering and persecution is not fatalistic, purposeless, or hopeless. It has a mysterious yet divine purpose in us and for a lost world: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death,to the other a fragrance from life to life.Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).

So we see two potential reasons that we are called to suffer for Christ; the presentation of the Gospel and our identification with Jesus.

First we see in Colossians 1:24 that the spread of the Gospel is facilitated by the suffering of Christ’s servants. When commenting on this verse John Piper explains, “Paul suffers, and he says that in his sufferings he fills up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions? What does that mean? Here’s my answer in summary: What’s missing is the in-person presentation of Christ’s sufferings to the people for whom he died. The afflictions are lacking in the sense that they are not seen and known among the nations. They must be carried by ministers of the gospel. And those ministers of the gospel fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ by extending them to others. Paul sees his own suffering as the visible reenactment of the sufferings of Christ so that they will see Christ’s love for them.”[ii]

Secondly, suffering for Jesus identifies us with Him (see Acts 9:15-16). When we suffer for Him we are, due to the mystery of our spiritual union with Him, actually, in sense, suffering with Him. When Jesus accosted Saul on the road to Damascus He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-8). So we see that Paul’s persecution of the church was a persecution of Jesus. So everything that is done to the body of Christ (us) is also done to Jesus. Paul later explained this as “sharing in Christ’s sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). 

But Jesus had already told us this would be so: “You will be hated for my name’s sake,” he said (Mark 13:13). And especially in John 15:18-21: 

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” 

The joy we find in suffering for and with Jesus is that we are honored to image forth His beauty and the glorious Gospel of our Lord.  In our union with Him we magnify Him by demonstrating His suffering. For it is through His cross of suffering that He has saved our souls. And what a privilege it is to point others to Him, through our temporary afflictions for His name, knowing what eternal and indescribable glories await us in Jesus: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (1 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Apply It:

Meditate on Isaiah 53 and contemplate Jesus as the “suffering servant.” Spend time considering how much He suffered for you. Thank God for the infinitely valuable sacrifice of His only son, our perfect substitute. Seek the Lord’s guidance on how that translates to following Him. Ask yourself the penetrating question: Am I willing to suffer with and for the One who suffered for me so that I might live eternally with Him?  Ask God to give you the courage to do so with joy, if given that privilege.


[i] Lucado, Max. Colossians and Philemon (Thomas Nelson, 2007), 6.

[ii] Piper, John, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2003), 268.

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*Due to popular demand, this week I will repost this 2-part series. I pray that you are blessed by these thoughts.

”After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid,Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. “But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me…” (Genesis 15:1-2, NIV).

“…so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles [us], so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14, ESV).

Last time we saw that Abraham’s life had been radically transformed by the understanding that God Himself, not His promises or provisions, was his greatest reward. He so treasured God above all other things that he was willing to sacrifice God’s gift of Isaac, the very thing that would allow God’s promise of Abraham being the father of a great nation to become a reality. As we mentioned, God intervened, spared Isaac’s life, and set into motion the beginning of that great nation and the eventual habitation of the land by Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 22:15-18). God did so by providing another sacrifice (in God’s economy there must always be a sacrifice to restore relationship with Him and the inheritance of covenant blessing). This provision was a ram (Genesis 22:13).

But this was no ordinary ram; for it prefigured Jesus. Notice in Genesis 22:13 that the ram was caught by its horns in a thicket (the thicket always reminds me of the crown of thorns that was placed on Jesus brow as he was being mocked just before His crucifixion). Because of the way he was trapped, this ram was unmarred or unblemished, which made him an appropriate sacrifice. If his body had been cut or injured he would not have been the “spotless” sacrifice that God required. Here we see the picture of Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice for our sins (see John 1:29). Just as Abraham believed, “God Himself will provide the lamb” (Genesis 22:8) we see this sacrifice taking the place of Isaac – the ram was offered so that Isaac would live. Likewise, Jesus died in our place so that we might have eternal life.

So this is why we are to love God as the greatest thing, our ultimate reward. We are to admire, cherish, value, and adore Him above all else. Again, why? Because He is infinitely worthy: He has provided the sacrifice that extends to us eternal life (John 3:16) and life more abundant (John 10:10). And for this reason Jesus, our sacrificed Savior, calls us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). But, again, what does seeing God as our great reward (to love Him with all that we are) have to do with Jesus? Well, we can’t know God apart from knowing Jesus. And we can’t love God without loving Jesus. We can’t experience God as our great reward and treasure without knowing Jesus in that same way. So, in a very real sense, we love God by adoring Jesus as our greatest reward and treasure.

Why is this? Because the person of Jesus is the promise and provision of God that makes even knowing Him a reality. Actually, in a most amazing passage, we see Paul write to the Galatian church that really Jesus, the Seed, is Himself the promise made to Abraham (see Galatians 3:15-25)! This is because Christ is the fullest revelation of God (John 14:9). He is the one who interprets, or “exegetes,” God to and for us (John 1:17). Jesus is the only way to come to God (John 14:6). This is why He says, “But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me” (John 5:42-43) and, “the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). Therefore, if Jesus is not worshipped and adored as our ultimate treasure then God is not our great reward. And when Jesus is cherished, valued, and admired above all else then God is our great reward.

I can think of no better way to tie all of this together than to ponder and model the priority of Paul, a man who discovered the rich reward of knowing Jesus (and therefore God) as His greatest treasure:

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:7-10).


*Due to popular demand, this week I will repost this 2-part series. I pray that you are blessed by these thoughts.

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me…” (Genesis 15:1-2, NIV).

Although one of the heroes of the Christian faith, Abraham was by no means perfect. But God came to him (not the other way around), chose him (not the other way around), and, in a unique demonstration of His sovereign grace, promised to make him the father of a great nation. Since Abraham and his wife Sarah were childless, the pivotal blessing would be the giving of a son. Without a son there would be no one to carry on Abraham’s lineage and, therefore, no “nation.” But Abraham had to wait on God’s timing and, much like us, he failed “God’s waiting room” test abysmally.

Abraham showed flashes of faith by moving to Canaan. But, in just one example of his impatience and doubt, he fled to Egypt to seek provision in the midst of a famine (Genesis 12:10-20). I’m confident he didn’t fully believe God would provide and bless because he took matters into his own hands (sound familiar?) and moved to a land that God had not led him to (Egypt – which, providentially, God would lead Abraham’s descendants out of many years later). There he lied – and had Sarah lie as well – about the nature of their relationship in order to protect his own skin (as if God was not willing or capable of protecting him). Once Abraham did return to the place God had told him to go and stay, Canaan, he was wondering when all of these promises were going to happen. Especially the promise of Isaac, the son.

That’s where we pick up in Genesis 15. God now explains to Him the greatest blessing and gift that He had for Abraham. That blessing and gift was Himself. God was the ultimate provision, promise, and reward He had for Abraham. Even though Abraham’s reponse to the Lord (Genesis 15:2-3) indicates the significance of God’s statement hadn’t sunk in, I believe we see evidence later in his life that he finally understood what God was really saying. It is 7 chapters later that we see the person of God being more important to Abraham than God as provider and promise-keeper (even though God truly is both of these things). My point is that Abraham learned to treasure God more than His blessings and provision.

It is in Hebrews 11:17-18 that we get the best snapshot of the faith and priority of a more mature Abraham:

“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

Wow – what an amazing transformation! Earlier Abraham had doubted God and pestered Him with, “where is my land and where is my promised son?” Now, when God commands him to take His provision and promise (Isaac) and put him to death, Abraham goes without any hint of denial, doubt, or disobedience (Genesis 22:1-10).

Why the radical shift? I believe it is because Abraham finally and fully realized God’s greatest promise and provision is Himself (Genesis 15:2). And when he had come that point, God’s other promises and provisions (like Isaac and land) had become secondary. Abraham eventually began to love, worship, and follow the Giver instead of the gift! He was seeking God’s face and not just His hand. So he was willing, because he had God, life’s greatest treasure, to sacrifice all the rest.

Oh yes, there was a happy ending. God thwarted Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice his son. Isaac lived, the nation began, and the land was eventually inhabited by his descendants. But these promises did not begin to see their original fulfillment until Abraham knew and lived as if God was his all, his highest treasure, and his great reward. And that, as Abraham’s spiritual descendants (Romans 9:8; Galatians 3:7), is where God expects us to be as well – His people seeing, knowing, and living with God as our ultimate pursuit and great reward.

But, for us, how does Jesus fit into all of this? Abraham’s story does not end with the cessation of Isaac’s sacrifice. There was another offering, another sacrifice, which God provided to make His promises real – literally for Abraham and spiritually for us. Tune in next time and see how Abraham’s story foreshadows the sacrifice of Jesus and shows us that treasuring Christ above all things allows us to have God as our great reward.


“Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran” (Genesis 12:1-4).

Most of us want to know where we are going. Although, from what I see of Tennessee drivers, many don’t. Nonetheless, we have MapQuest, GPS, and various navigation systems. Every time I play golf I’m amazed at the number of folks pulling out electronic devices just to gather data about the hole so that they can better determine where they want their ball to go when they hit it (Of course, this is mere foolishness – the ball never goes where you want it to, even if you
have exact yardage and direction in mind).

And the older we get the more we tend to want to know where we are headed. We think about careers, retirement, vacations, and a variety of other life issues and want a map. Or, at least, our course marked. But here is Abram at 75 years of age. And God says, “Get up and go.” “Where” would be the natural response but there is no hint of that from him. God said go and I’m going was his attitude. Unlike Abram, we probably couldn’t keep ourselves from inquiring “Where though?” God’s potential response: “To a land that I will show you.” Now how do like them apples? Not my cup of tea at all. I’m thinking, Lord, I want to know where you are sending me or at least a map or markers. Tell me something. Don’t just say go and expect me to wander off into the desert with my family having no more information than that. Where’s my GPS?!

But Abram went without all the details. And aren’t we glad he did. For through his obedience a nation was born: he was blessed, his family was blessed, the world was blessed, and Christ-followers, as the spiritual Israel, are particularly blessed. By trusting in God, Abraham, as he was later called, believed in things unknown and was motivated by things unseen. He left his house and found a home, fled his country and found an eternal city, abandoned his land and
found his Lord. This is faith and this is what it does. It doesn’t have a map; it has a merciful Master. No well-marked course; but a compassionate Christ.

Some excerpts from the writer of Hebrews discourse on faith should shed some light on all of this:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible… And without faith it is
impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him…. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God”
(Hebrews 11:1-10).

The passage goes on to repeat the key phrase “by faith” 22 times in Hebrews 11 alone. Do you think the writer was trying to tell us something? He’s telling us that the “righteous live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4). Well then, how about them apples? God’s Word is a megaphone shouting that faith is not just part of the way we live but the only way we live – faith in Christ to save and faith in God to guide. When was the last time, trusting only in the compulsion of God’s Spirit and the truths of Scripture, did we journey to the land of promise and blessing, the land that, “[He] will show [us]?”

The typical retort is, “He hasn’t told me to. I haven’t even heard His voice?” But why hasn’t He told us and why haven’t we heard His voice? True, it could be that God doesn’t have some radical move planned for us (except a radical following of Jesus). But it could be that He does and we don’t hear because we aren’t open, we aren’t listening; we aren’t even open to listening. Or it could be (note to self) we have listened and heard but don’t have the faith to step out and totally trust God without all the details. In other words, living with saving faith – the kind of trust we placed in Christ when we asked Him to receive us as one of His own, even without all of the directions.


*Section 1 – Kingdom Character

Six- The Mercy Experience

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Often life seems merciless. Our days require constant work, whether we feel ill or well. Hunger gnaws, whether or not we have the means to buy food. And unfortunate circumstances and death happen, whether or not we toe a moral line. The relentless cycle of life, with its challenges and struggles, leads some to adopt a Scrooge-like sense of self preservation that routinely exalts itself over the needs of others. Unfortunately, this survival of the fittest, do-whatever-it-takes to come-out-on-top mentality has made the notion of extending mercy appear a sign of weakness. An old-fashioned idea that makes you vulnerable to manipulators.

When Jesus explained, in Matthew 5:7, that the merciful will receive mercy, He highlighted once more how different the lives of kingdom dwellers should seem when compared to the world’s ideals. In the days leading up to Christ’s delivery of this sermon, Jewish law made the stoning of an adulterer acceptable, though those who’d mete out the punishment were no less “sinful” than the one receiving it. Furthermore, the Jerusalem of Jesus’ day was under Roman rule. Rome prided itself on merciless advancement. They routinely crucified those who questioned their ways, determined to wipe out any resistance. Mercy was not a widely embraced concept in either Jerusalem or Rome at large. In ancient times, too, mercy was often dismissed as an Achilles heel.

The Greek word translated “mercy” in this passage essentially speaks to situations of need, pain, and distress that will go unalleviated unless someone steps in with an offer of compassion.[i] That intervention, an undeserved act that relieves a need, defines mercy. It lifts a burden. It pays a debt that its beneficiary cannot pay. We best understand the concept in light of what God did for us. Because of sin, humanity remains hopelessly separated from holy God. Between us stands a moral debt that we cannot settle: we deserve only His wrath and condemnation (see Romans 5:13-21). Yet out of love for us, God sent His only Son to die as a sacrifice that would cover the sin debt of all who believe in Him.

The mercy extended to us through Christ’s offer of salvation and the incredible way that God sustains us reveal how God lovingly withholds from His chosen what we truly deserve. It reveals a divine attribute that the world finds surprising. Our holy ruler and judge exhibits love and grace towards us by removing us from the eternal consequences of our sin. It makes sense, then, that those who serve Him would choose to project to others the merciful attitude their King first extended to them. We can better identify with Christ and more fully understand His design for His kingdom when we choose to display His mercy. As we show unmerited kindness, we’ll find supernatural satisfaction.

In my own experience, too much negative introspection, self-pity, and self-absorption trigger discouragement and depression. When I find myself in such a state I need to “get outside of myself” and practice acts of kindness and mercy. Such was the case when I decided to start a Bible study at a local nursing home. Although I felt saddened by the circumstances of the attendees, I found my spirits lifted with each visit. As the elderly men and women began to depend on me for instruction from God’s Word and simple caring, I received the blessing of a renewed heart. The thoughts that clouded my perceptions crumbled, and I increasingly sensed Jesus’ movement in my attitude and life. The more I ministered to those nursing home residents, the more Jesus ministered to me.

As this story suggests, mercy goes beyond feeling concerned for people. The language of Matthew 5 implies that merciful people actually do something to alleviate dire circumstances. This verse suggests extending relief, healing, and helping whether the recipient proves worthy or not. Interestingly, mercy in action is a clear symbol to those outside of God’s kingdom: Someone out there is willing to extend unmerited favor. As Jesus’ disciples show mercy, we project a unique sense of God’s favor and the joy and blessing He brings. Demonstrating mercy shows that we live as examples of what He has done for us.

In Matthew 6 Jesus says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). Clearly, God expects the forgiven and aided to pass the blessings on to others. This does not mean that we must earn God’s mercy by being merciful. Instead, when we reflect the mercy God first demonstrated to us through Christ, we gain a heightened sense of the benevolence He shows us. For example, the more I give, forgive, and show mercy, the more I grow aware of the gifts that God graciously showers on me. Kindness to others simultaneously gains for us a greater knowledge and experience of God’s mercy in our own lives.

These days the weak and needy are often overlooked and abandoned as people seek after personal pleasure and ease. Many corporations give only for the purpose of gaining tax breaks, and they often avoid causes that won’t make the news. Charity giving dwindles as families spend more on their personal desires and set aside less for the needs of others. Even some churches have become more myopic, focusing their budgets around scrapbooking seminars and elaborate sound systems instead of meeting the more pressing needs of the hurting and pained people who live nearby. We must remember that our King loves benevolence. He desires that the Jesus follower’s life be defined by giving and forgiving—ideas often diametrically opposed to the philosophy of our culture.

Various actions exhibit mercy. At times, extending mercy requires that we offer forgiveness, even to those who wound, wrong, and malign us (see Matthew 5:44). In those instances we can choose to image forth the forgiveness and grace of our loving Lord, even though we may feel our “enemies” deserve our vengeance. Sometimes, as in the case in the parable of the Good Samaritan, mercy means providing assistance to someone we do not know (see Luke 10:30-37). Perhaps it requires making and delivering a meal. Maybe it means giving towards the medical bills of a family facing tragedy. Even personal involvement in local and foreign missions is an example of mercy as we seek to help spread the message of God’s saving grace. But whether extending kindness and generosity towards needy friends, strangers, neighbors, co-workers, or other believers who fall on difficulty, we show mercy as we meet needs and offer aid without thought of reciprocation. In all instances, merciful acts evidence that we understand the undeserved kindness God extends.

Apply It.

Read and internalize Matthew 25:35-45. Grasp the significance Jesus places on showing mercy to the undeserving and down-and-out. Who in your life could use some mercy, some help, or just a friend? Pray that God might raise your “spiritual antenna” to help you sense opportunities to serve. He’ll provide you the power to act in those situations.


[i] Lenski, R.C. H. Interpretation of St. Matthews Gospel (Augsburg, 1964), 191.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1     

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!


“All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:10-14).

The Bible is filled with blessings. We like to focus on these positive affirmations of God’s goodness towards His children. The Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12) come quickly to mind as an example of God’s graciousness towards His people. But the Bible is also filled with curses and there is a curse motif that threads its way through God’s word. Although we prefer to think of God as totally beneficent we must know that He is as fully capable of cursing people as He is blessing them. The Old Testament prophets (and Jesus as well) remind us of this fact. We do well to understand this because, in the end, it is a propitiational curse from God that most blesses us.

We see God’s curse on sinful man early on in history. After Adam’s fall God pronounces curses on the Serpent, the earth itself, and God’s anathema included pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:14-18). The most significant consequence of man’s fall was his banishment from the garden and God’s presence. Later He struck a covenant with man that qualified his relationship with God. It was based upon obedience to the law of the Old Covenant. When man obeyed the law (covenant) he was blessed in every aspect of his life (see Deuteronomy 28:1-6). When he disobeyed he was cursed in a similar manner (see Deuteronomy 28:15-19). Hence the law, and man’s inability to keep it, became his greatest curse. A holy God demanded perfect obedience to His covenant we are incapable of such perfection.

In other words, the keeping of the law is only satisfactory to God if it is kept completely (James 2:10) and continually. That is why Paul says we are cursed by attempting to satisfy God’s righteous demands by obeying the law (v. 10) because such a pursuit will result only in failure (see Romans 3:9-20). We are only justified by faith and a life that is based upon faith. But faith in what? Christ’s redemption from the curse by His substitutionary atonement for our sin (our inability to keep all of the law all of the time). And He did this by becoming a curse and by absorbing our curse – the judgment and wrath of a holy God against sin and sinners. In this sense Jesus satisfied His Father’s demands. Paul sums it up this way: “Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:3-4).

How did he do this? By hanging on the cursed tree – the cross of Calvary. Therein lays the blessing! Jesus became the curse for us as He absorbed the rightful judgment, wrath, and curse of God against sin. This is why Isaiah 53 says He was “stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted” (v. 4).and that “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering (v. 10). Christ’s experience of being forsaken by His Father while He hung upon the cross reminds us of His being the object of God’s anger and taking on the curse of God against sin (see Matthew 27:46).

In other words, as strange and incomprehensible as it may seem to us, it pleased God to bruise His son for those whose righteousness would be by faith in Jesus alone (v. 11). It was the plan and purpose of God to pour out His wrath upon the spotless (completely righteous) Lamb of God, Jesus, so that His chosen would experience redemption from the curse of their sin, the curse of the law. So Jesus became cursed so that we might be infinitely blessed. This is the grace that is imparted and imputed to His children and His children alone through faith. All others remain under the curse and condemnation of the law. That is why Paul boldly proclaims that he “resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). And that is why we should join in the chorus, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12).

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