Let us pray: Father, I ask that as we’re in this sacred time of Passover and Resurrection Sunday, enable us to understand in a new way just what it is that Jesus did for us by becoming our Lamb and the blood on our hearts’ doors. As the lamb’s blood saved the first-born of the Jews and delivered them from slavery and death, help us realize more deeply how Jesus’ holy blood delivers us from the slavery of sin and spiritual death.
We thank You Holy God for doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. We acknowledge that on our own we’re unworthy of your goodness; yet made worthy because of your deep love for us and Jesus monumental sacrifice. We become presentable to You as we acknowledge and receive that holy ransom for ourselves.
As You etch all the wonder of this sacred time on our hearts, enable us to not only understand more deeply but to shine the light of that tremendous blessing to others who still live in the slavery of sin and the bondage of eternal death. We come boldly before your throne and ask this because Jesus’ precious blood gives us this privilege. Thank You Holy God, that Jesus empowers us to come to you in his eternal Name. Amen.
Remembering Jesus’ Sufferings
very time I take the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, I stop and think a few moments about what Jesus Christ, Son of God, sacrificed so that I might know Him. I remember his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, and I think about the scourging and how agonizing that felt on his naked back as repeatedly flesh was torn from bone. I reflect on how Jesus shed his blood for me until none was left. Considering that nothing had ever separated Jesus from his Father since eternity began, I know I can’t imagine the horror of taking my sin upon Himself so that they were divided for a time. Probably that was the worst of Jesus’ agony.
Then I thank my Lord Jesus. And my Father, God Almighty, that they were willing to suffer all this for me. What a tremendous debt I owe, one I can never pay no matter what I do or how I try to serve. So, with a grateful heart of love, I again say Thank You.
Consider with me a moment the things Jesus endured. In the Garden even his disciples couldn’t stay awake to pray with Him. Think of how comforting it is to have a loved one with us when we’re grieving, but his closest friends couldn’t stay awake to pray. Jesus’ prayers to be spared the horrors of the cross were agonizing, causing Him to sweat drops of blood. Reading the Scriptures of those prayers breaks my heart. Knowing what the near future held, Jesus so wanted to avoid the unimaginable torment He would endure, yet He wanted more to follow his Father’s will and surrendered to it.
After his arrest, the soldiers pulled out his beard, mocked and spit on him, putting a crown of thorns on his head. Finally, they scourged Jesus with a whip braided with pieces of iron so that it efficiently pulled the skin from the bones. That continued 39 times because more would kill a person, and many died before reaching that number.
After all this Jesus carried the armpiece of the cross on that broken back until He could no longer, and another had to carry it. As crude nails hammered into his wrist and feet, pain must have been unbearable, yet Jesus didn’t cry out or curse his torturers. Hanging on a cross would eventually suffocate a person, so they naturally used their feet to try to lift themselves up to catch a breath, all the time rubbing that bruised and opened flesh against the splintering upright log of the cross. Arms also rubbed against the splinters in the armpiece, causing even more pain. Yet most people took a couple of days to die, which is why soldiers broke the legs of prisoners, so that they couldn’t lift themselves up to breathe any more. The Son of God did not have his legs broken because He had already accomplished his task of paying for the sin of all people of all time, including you and me. But the soldier had to get his revenge and put his sword into Jesus’ side. That’s when he realized Who was on that cross.
Do you wonder why I thank Jesus and Father God when I take the Communion? How could I not?
How Did I Come to Know Jesus?
I grew up in church so heard about Jesus all my life at church as well as at home. One Easter Sunday the preacher talked about the two thieves who died beside Jesus, and even though I was a child, I understood that I had committed things against God too. I hadn’t known Jesus as my Savior but did that morning. I felt a joy in my heart that I hadn’t known previously, and Jesus became a Reality to me. I knew that whenever I died, I’d go to heaven and spend eternity there, seeing Jesus and Father God face to face.
I could pray and believe God would answer my prayers, growing very close to the Lord. Later I lost that closeness and although I continued going to church, I didn’t pray or read my Bible very much – until I got so hungry for more of God and searched for Him. Then I surrendered my will and asked Jesus to once again be my Lord as well as my Savior. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, which is different from being sealed with the Spirit when I first accepted Jesus. I felt a joy unlike anything I’d ever previously known, like I was walking on a cloud. One morning when I woke our children to get ready for school, one of our daughters said to me, “How can you be so happy so early in the morning?” I told her, “How could I not be, after spending an hour with God?”
The Many Blessings
While the Bible promises enough benefits of knowing Jesus to fill a book, I’m only including a few here. In John 16:7, 13-15 Jesus promises that when He goes away (when He ascends to heaven), he will send Someone else, calling Him the Comforter, the Helper, the Spirit of truth. He will guide us and tell us things to come. The Spirit won’t speak on his own authority but only what He hears, always glorifying Jesus, who then glorifies the Father. In other parts of the New Testament we learn much more about the working of the Holy Spirit and all the benefits He brings to believers.
The first blessing I noticed immediately after this infilling was not being lonely when I was by myself and our home no longer needed music or TV until my family returned. I was shy and didn’t have many friends. We’d moved often, and I wasn’t sure how to make small talk with people I didn’t know well. Therefore, I watched soap operas because they went wherever we did. I was addicted to them. The first three days after I was baptized with the Spirit different things caused me to be gone during the time my favorite shows were on TV. On the fourth day I was home and didn’t even think about the shows when it was time. I was too busy singing. Jesus had immediately taken away my need for relationship with people other than my family; my addiction. I’m not saying this would happen always, just that I’m thankful it happened to me.
A great blessing from Jesus is the peace He gives. No longer did I struggle and feel restless, not knowing exactly what was wrong. That’s what I’d felt, plus an unhappiness I couldn’t explain. Now I had an inner serenity or well-being that had been missing. I’d been miserable because Jesus was no longer my Lord, and the Holy Spirit used that to draw me back to Him. I understood in a new way that my sins were forgiven so I didn’t have that guilt hanging over my head, beating me up about something I’m powerless to change. I felt at rest; my soul was calm as well as my spirit. Now whenever I’m missing this peace and calm, I run to my Father and ask Him to show me the problem.
A deep love fills believers with knowing we’re worthwhile, not because of who we are or what we’ve done but simply because we were worth so much to our Father that Jesus died for us so that we can be God’s child forever. Think of that! If I’d been the only person in the world, Jesus still would have suffered and died for me. That’s amazing! The same is true for you!
The next difference I noticed was a prayer language that wasn’t in English; indeed, my spirit communicated with the Holy Spirit, bypassing my human mind. He gave me ideas for prayer that I’d never have considered. I knew people I’d never met needed food or Bibles, for instance, and prayed for them. He brought prayers to mind of people I knew, though I didn’t know why they needed prayer. One friend came to mind several times and each time I talked with her soon afterward; she or her family needed prayer about a specific problem. Afterwards whenever someone’s name came to mind, I’d stop and pray for them, knowing there was a need. Without knowing what that need was, I prayed in my prayer language because it was given by God for such times (see Romans 8:26-27).
Sometimes when I’m praying by myself or with a group about a subject, I’ll ask something that seems off the central focus that others are praying, but I’ve learned that it’s needed even if I don’t understand all the details. It used to embarrass me when I was with others and this happened because they’d been praying about a certain part of the subject, and I’d interject something from a different angle. But I learned that’s what the Holy Spirit led me to pray so it was ok, nothing so off the wall at all.
Found in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, the gifts of the Spirit become available to us. God gives these so that we can fulfill the purpose He planned for us before we were ever born. These gifts aren’t meant so we gain a name for ourselves; indeed, I think the people who are most gifted must be very humble people, or at least started out that way. We can’t set a goal of obtaining a spiritual gift and we don’t get to choose which gift we desire. However, we should learn to mature in the use of the gifts. We start as children and make mistakes along the way, but with practice we grow in the use and it blesses others more as we grow.
Talents and spiritual gifts can be related but are not the same thing. Talents are natural abilities we’re born with, which also must grow. Anyone can have them, but they usually follow in a family line. Spiritual gifts are only had by people who allow the Holy Spirit to lead their lives and are given by the Spirit of God, as He desires.
Believers also receive the Fruit of the Spirit. Found in Galatians 5:22-23, these are love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The verse goes on to say that there’s no law against these. Indeed, we can’t imagine people complaining when we demonstrate the fruit, especially towards them. However, we also must grow in living steadily in the fruit through our daily lives.
Another blessing of Jesus is sometimes just saying or emailing exactly what another person needs to hear. We don’t plan anything in particular; it just comes out and is the perfect encouragement or advice. Our Father knows what they need even when we don’t, but He’s glad to use us to bless others. And it’s a great blessing to us when they say, “That’s just what I needed today.” It gives us reassurance that we did hear Him correctly.
I write a blog (dailyGod.net) and it’s another place the Holy Spirit gives me ideas of what to say. I start writing and it simply flows, but if I suddenly find difficulty, I stop and don’t try to force myself to find words. I realize either I’ve misunderstood or it’s not the correct time to finish that piece. I have an internet friend who daily blogs prayers based on Bible verses. She told me she’s a scribe because she doesn’t have to sit and research what she writes: she reads the Bible in her customary order and God gives her the prayer to go with it. That’s the way I write. I don’t sit with an outline and follow all the rules for filling out the details, although I do start with a subject in mind. But even the direction of that may get changed mid-course; I simply write as I believe God leads me.
God speaks to us. He has many ways of doing this and knows exactly how to let us know what He desires. Often it’s through Scripture, but it may be through music or a sermon; sometimes friends say a word or nature gives us God’s thought for that day. My blog contains a section I call “Nature-inspired Thoughts” with many posts that nature stimulated. Occasionally, we’ll simply know we’re supposed to do something, and it settles deep in our heart. If we’re listening, we’ll know when God communicates.
What are other blessings of being a child of God? John, the beloved disciple, tells us many of these blessings in the three letters he writes the churches. 1 John 1:9 tells us about confession. We confess our sins when we first believe in Christ, but we do sin afterwards and sometimes unknowingly. For instance, we may hurt a person’s feelings by saying something and not realize that we’ve offended them. Sometimes we do something that doesn’t please God; although the action itself isn’t bad, He has a better purpose for us. 1 John 1:9 tells us that when we confess what we’ve done wrong that God will even forgive us those things we don’t realize.
God perfects his love in us (1 John 2:5). He first teaches us to love and forgive ourselves so that we’re able to love and forgive others. We’re told to love our neighbor as ourselves; but if we don’t love ourselves, that’s impossible. This love doesn’t make us feel more important than others; it gives us an appreciation of who God created us to be. We realize we’re not perfect but also not condemned because of that. When I as an adult made Jesus my Lord and not simply my Savior, I repeatedly berated myself for the years I’d not been the person God called me to be. One day Holy Spirit said to me, “If God forgives you, are you better than He is that you can’t forgive yourself?” That made me realize I’d been putting myself higher than God by not forgiving myself when I knew He had forgiven me. I immediately forgave myself and learned to love myself in the way God intended.
God’s perfecting his love in us often causes pain because the way He accomplishes this is when we need to love someone who is difficult to love, and we’ve all known those people. The reason it’s difficult is because they have hurt us, and we must forgive them, even if we choose not to be around them. Those memories return so we forgive them again each time we remember, until we’re finally able to allow the Lord to take that pain from our hearts.
True forgiveness towards another demonstrates God’s forgiveness of us, blessing us as we learn it. Years ago, I was hurt by a friend, and each time I thought of what she’d done, I mentally saw a billboard with her name on it. Finally, I asked the Lord to help me to forgive, and I then imagined her face and saw her as the usually kind person she was. Another time someone else hurt me repeatedly and the pain went much deeper. I prayed about forgiving this person because about the time I’d think I’d forgiven them, something else happened to reopen that wound. Holy Spirit reminded me of Romans 8:5 (NLT) God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. When I realized the significance of that single verse, I knew I had to forgive this person because they had not hurt me as deeply as I’d hurt God before I became a Christ-follower, even though I didn’t realize at the time what I was doing.
The Bible tells us to test the spirits to see if something is really from God (1 John 4:1). For years people have gone to fortune tellers or read horoscopes. These are not from God and if we know the Word, we don’t need to ask. But often things aren’t so obvious. Someone on TV may say something and claim it comes from God, but it doesn’t sound like that to us. We “test” the spirit behind that by asking, “Does it conform to the Bible? Does it deny either Jesus’ humanity or his holiness?” If it doesn’t meet these tests, then it’s not from God.
We need wisdom and discernment, so James 1:5 tells us to ask God without doubting and He will give us the knowledge we need. This means if we’re wondering if the person we want to marry is the right one, we can ask. If we’re looking at a new job, a move to a new city or whatever else we need, we can expect our Father to give us the wisdom about whether this is the best thing for us. Because of his great love, He will always guide us to the best for his future purpose in our lives.
Ephesians 1:3 tells us that God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing we’ll ever need. What a great benefit this is! And chapter 2, verse 6 reminds us that God raised us from the dead when He raised Jesus, and we now spiritually sit in heavenly realms because that’s where Christ sits, and we’re united with Him.
Another great benefit of knowing Jesus is that we may boldly approach the throne of God, the Lord Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Hebrews 4:16 tells us this so that we can receive the grace and mercy we need. We go humbly, never demanding, but we also go confidently because God looks at us through the blood of Jesus and loves us mightily.
Although it would probably take a book to list all the goodness we receive when we know Jesus, the last one I’d like to mention is healing. We are assured of this in several places in the Bible, so I’ll only mention two, and both are connected directly with our forgiveness of sin. I confess I don’t understand why we don’t see this more often. I’ve prayed for healing and others have prayed for me, but still I’m not healed. That doesn’t keep me from believing the Word of God, however. Because the Word connects forgiveness and healing, I know I’m forgiven; therefore, I know I’m healed and simply waiting for the manifestation of it. A New Testament scripture is 1 Peter 2:24 (NKJV): [Jesus] who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. As far as God is concerned, we were healed at the same time we were forgiven when Jesus died on the cross!
The Old Testament tells the same message in Psalm 103:1-5 (NKJV): Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless His holy name! (2) Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: (3) Who forgives all your iniquities [sins] and heals all your diseases, (4) Who redeems your life from destruction. Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, (5) Who satisfied your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Let us open our hearts and our minds to receive all that Jesus sacrificed so much to give us. During this Passover, let us pass over from old ways of thinking and enter new realms of realization about our blessings from Jesus. This Resurrection Sunday let us resurrect into living on a higher spiritual plane.