Does “Everyone” Include Satan?

July 21, 2017 at 10:01 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: We were telling our children that God loves everyone, but then they asked, “Does God love the devil?” What should I tell them?

Answer: First of all, you are correct in telling them that God loves everyone “in the world” (John 3:16). Of course, we also need to let our children know that God loves in greater ways than we do, and that God is so much greater than, and different from us, that it is possible for Him to harmonize His will and His feelings in ways that are not possible for us. In other words, God’s feelings are perfectly controlled, and are more holy than ours, so it is possible for Him to love His enemies (Romans 5:8) and hate His enemies (Psalm 5:5, 11:5) at the same time.

When it comes to the devil (and the angels for that matter), the Bible does not give us specific information on God’s “feelings” about them. He created them, and the angels obey Him, which must please Him, and He is love (I John 4:8), so it is possible that He loves them, but the Bible never really emphasizes that, as far as I know. Satan and his demons, on the other hand, disobeyed Him, and He cast them out, and He has not devised a plan of redemption for them the way that He has for us fallen human beings, so it is probably reasonable to say that God does not love them in the same way that He loves us (if He loves them at all).

What I would emphasize to children is that the devil made a horrible choice in trying to make himself equal to God (Isaiah 14:12-14) and he paid for it. Still, he does not want to be forgiven. He hated God first without a cause, and that will never change. Our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, committed the same sin: disobedience and self-idolatry (and, sadly, we still do it too, every day). But the fact that God was still willing to die for us, and forgive us, shows how great His love for us truly is. Meanwhile, no matter what His feelings toward Satan are, because He loves us, He will one day imprison Satan forever and ever in order to protect us from him (Revelation 20:3-10).

Moving toward the Immovable

July 19, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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We use the word “move” not only to describe a physical action involving going from one area to another, but also to describe something that stirs an emotional reaction in us. “That song was beautiful. It really moved me.” Or, “I was moved to tears at the sight of my newborn daughter.” In the Bible, however, the word “moved” is sometimes combined with a negative prefix to describe something which can not be shaken loose, or something that is unassailable or someone that is unchangeable in his convictions or determination. The Kingdom of God is an especially pertinent example.

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

Hebrews 12:28

No kingdom will ever supplant or replace the Kingdom of God. He shall reign and rule forever. Those of us who – in Christ alone – are subjects and heirs of this Kingdom have access to the grace of God, and, therefore, the power to likewise be unmovable in our service to God.

However, we must remember that a King Who rules a Kingdom which can not be moved is a mighty and awe-inspiringly powerful King, so our service to Him must never be cavalier or casual. He is worthy to be loved, yes, but He is also infinitely worthy to be reverenced and feared.

For our God is a consuming fire.

Hebrews 12:29

Moses moved toward the bush which burned with fire but was NOT consumed. We have the amazing opportunity to move toward the fire which WILL consume all those who would pass it by in indifference or unfaithfulness. Even as we are moved with terror at His blazing majesty, we are invited to move nearer and nearer. This is a King in Whom safety is found not by fleeing away, but by drawing closer and closer in the grace of His Holy Prince, Jesus.

What about Those Who Haven’t Heard?

July 14, 2017 at 9:36 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: If there’s an isolated community/tribe that has little to no contact with the outside world, and have never heard of the Lord, how are they judged on Judgment Day?

Answer: Let’s start by thinking about the reason for God’s judgment in general. For what is He judging anyone and everyone? As noted in the Children’s Bible Catechism, specifically questions 6,7, and 8, and the Bible verses that answer them, people are judged for sinning against God.

So how can people be guilty of sinning against a God about Whom they’ve never heard, and by breaking laws they did not know existed? The answer is found in Romans Chapter 1, starting in Verse 18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;”

Everyone in the world knows that there is a God. They may not know His name, but His external creation and their own inner consciences reveal that He exists and that some things are “right” and some things are “wrong.” Sinful people have access to this truth, but “hold it unrighteousness,” which means they try to suppress it or hold it down by pretending it isn’t really there.

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

Romans 1:19

This attempt to suppress whatever revelation of truth that a person has received is, in itself, also a sin, which means that no one has a valid “excuse” for rejecting God and His revelation of Himself and His “wrath” against sin:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Romans 1:20

Those of us who live in America often think of rejecting Christ as the sin which would condemn us on Judgment Day, and it would definitely be one of the sins (probably the worst) for which we would be judged. But rejecting Christ is not the only sin which will merit judgment on Judgment Day. Those who die apart from Christ will also be judged for lying and stealing and immoral thoughts and immoral actions and covetousness and idolatry and many, many more sins. Romans 3:23 tells us that everyone does these things, but Romans 1 tells us that the people who do them KNOW that they are wrong even if they don’t have immediate access to a Bible or the name of Jesus.

One reason why it is so important to try to get missionaries and the Gospel to remote people groups – from the Inuit people in the Arctic, to villages in Togo, West Africa, and everywhere else – is so that they can hear the Truth that Christ is their only hope for forgiveness. A heart that has been “darkened” (Romans 1:21) needs special “illumination” from the Word of God.

Blind Beggar Boldly Beats Bandwagoners

July 12, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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In Mark Chapter 10 we have been identifying some paradoxical ideas that Jesus used in His teaching:

1. Two shall be one.
2. Adults shall be as little children.

3. The first shall be last.
4. Servants shall be rulers.

A fifth paradox found in Chapter 10 is: Beggars shall be rich.

And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

Mark 10:46-48

When you read about “Blind Bartimaeus” there is a tendency to cheer for him that way you would for the underdog in a sports movie like Rocky or Rudy, except in Bartimaeus’s case even the crowd was against him. Yet, despite all the odds, he wouldn’t give up.

And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.

Mark 10:49

Of course, once he did attract Jesus’s favorable attention, the crowd DID start to cheer for him. People are fickle – God is faithful.

All five of these paradoxes help to show how Jesus the Servant was paradoxically the greatest King of all, and that He truly deserves OUR service.

Know Your Limits

July 10, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment
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Having used the example of foregoing the right to be paid for ministry in I Corinthians Chapter 9, the Apostle Paul then returned to the question concerning eating meat offered to idols and attending feasts or services in idolatrous temples.

There is an emphasis on the word “all” in I Corinthians 10.

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

I Corinthians 10:1

The statement, “I would not that ye should be ignorant” is similar to the the expression, “Know ye not..?” that is so common throughout I Corinthians, and here it expresses the same idea. The Holy Spirit through Paul was referencing the narrative account of Exodus, where God’s people had passed through the parted Red Sea, and were guided by the cloud-by-day/pillar-of-fire-by-night. These were very obvious reminders of the presence of God with them.

And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

I Corinthians 10:2

They not only had immediate reminders of God’s presence, but they had his mediated reminder in the person of the mediator Moses.

And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

I Corinthians 10:3

For the Israelites in the wilderness, their “spiritual meat” was manna. It was spiritual in the sense that it came supernaturally, but also in that it was a spiritual reminder of God and His Spirit.

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

I Corinthians 10:4

There is much confusion among the commentators about this verse, with some thinking that an actual rock followed the Israelites around, but I think the better view is that the verse is teaching that the pre-incarnate Christ was with them spiritually, and that He was their provider of living water as well as physical water.

But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

I Corinthians 10:5

This verse deviates from the pattern by saying “many” instead of “all,” but we know that all but two (Joshua and Caleb) of that generation that left Egypt were overthrown in the wilderness. Being a “Know” is really about being a believer, but belief is something that is unsafe to take for granted. We need to demonstrate our knowledge and belief with action.

The Old Testament stories are true historical events, but they were also designed by God as types and learning tools. There are a number of things that we need to learn from the wilderness wandering of our spiritual forbears:

1. Be careful about lusting.

Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

I Corinthians 10:6

We were made by God to have strong desires, but our tendency is to forget that God gave us those desires to yearn for Him and to glorify Him. Instead, we usurp them and aim them at that which is evil.

2. Remember that you must not become involved again with idolatry.

Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

I Corinthians 10:7

This is a reference to Exodus 32. All the Know-Nots are idolators in some sense, and our own hearts, apart from Christ, are idol factories.

Nor does idolatry tend to remain dormant in hearts. Just as true worship of God expresses itself in outward actions, so false worship of anything other than God tends to express itself in manifestations of sinful behavior.

3. Do not fornicate.

Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

I Corinthians 10:8

This is a reference to Numbers 25. The people joined themselves to Baal, the worship of which involved the prostitution of virgins. The temple of Venus in Corinth was also a place where fornication was deemed a method of worship.

4. Do not tempt Christ.

Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

I Corinthians 10:9

This is a reference to Numbers 21. The idea of tempting Christ, in the context, only makes sense if He is truly God (which He is), and it is something that we are prone to do when we hear His Word but fail to obey it. I hope that you find reading the Bible and listening to sound Biblical preaching and teaching enjoyable, but you also need to know that it is dangerous.

5. Do not get involved in murmuring (grumbling and complaining).

Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

I Corinthians 10:10

This is a reference to the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 14. Murmuring is a danger for overconfident Knows. We must not be overconfident in our “Know-Ness.”

Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

I Corinthians 10:11-12

These things weren’t just recorded for our knowledge. They were recorded to keep us from being overconfident. Temptation will always be present, but there is always a way to escape.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

I Corinthians 10:13

Fellowship with the Lord is safe and it keeps us safe.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

I Corinthians 10:16-17

The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is an important time of memorializing our fellowship with Him. If you are married, you still have fellowship with your spouse when you are doing other things, and even when you are physically apart from each other, but the relationship will suffer if you do not spend concentrated periods of time and attentiveness together.

What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?

I Corinthians 10:19

Meat sold in the market was okay for the Corinthian Christians to purchase and eat, even knowing the possibility that it had originally been used in some type of pagan ceremony. Likewise, they were not required to give their pagan hosts the third degree about where the food had come from if they were invited over for a meal.

However, it was still very important that they flee from any actual idolatry, because the worship of some idols is demonic.

But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

I Corinthians 10:20-21

Idolatry is still idolatry, even when it is more particularly classified as syncretism, as was illustrated by the case of the golden calf.

Paul had taken great care to answer the Corinthians’ question about how they should deal with their dietary choices as they related to their consciences. He came to the conclusion that they were under no obligation to inquire too closely concerning the questionable source of hospitality offered by others, but when the thing offered is important to others, it must become important to us. So, if the host considers the meal idolatrous worship, then the Christians must not partake, or, if others perceive that you are participating in idolatry, it would be better not to participate.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof:

I Corinthians 10:23-28

Lift up Your Eyes

July 6, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Biblical Eyesight | Leave a comment
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It is easy for us to get into the habit of using our eyes – even our spiritual eyes – to focus only on the things in our immediate surroundings, or things lying directly in our paths, and to forget to look at the big picture. An even worse habit, though, is to become so inwardly focused that we see ourselves as the center of the universe, and begin to think that everything and everyone with whom we come into contact is there for our use, amusement, or service.

The sovereign Lord, however, the Designer of our eyes, our surroundings, and our circumstances, wants us to be on the lookout not only for what affects us personally, but for what is going on outside our immediate sphere of influence, and especially for what HE is doing for His Own Glory and the accomplishment of His Divine purposes.

In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, God’s people had become so self-centered, and so distracted by idols and worldly (and sinful!) pursuits, that, by the time God’s judgment had come into view, it was too late – and even then they had to be shaken by God’s specific instruction to look up and see it!

Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?

Jeremiah 13:20

When our eyes become satisfied with mundane and frivolous things – things that pale in comparison with the great and beautiful things that God originally designed them to behold and rejoice over – then we will find ourselves depressed and downcast. For the flock of God in Jeremiah’s day, judgment came via invaders from the north. By the time they became visible it was too late. In our day, we must keep our focus on Jesus, His Word, His people, and His work, so that the lifting up of our eyes will bring visions of victory rather than defeat, destruction, and captivity.

The Offensiveness of Talking about Sin and the Gospel

June 30, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | Leave a comment
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Pagan: You are a cruel #$@&%*! for telling your children that they are sinners. If the Bible says that God is love, and He made us pure, then aren’t we born of love and light, and made to show love, not fear?

Christian: The fact that we all come into this world with a sin nature is proven by both the Bible (Psalm 51:5), experience, and plain common sense. Jesus Himself is the Light of the World and He is condemned and rejected because human beings love darkness more than light (John 3:19). We are born physically alive, but spiritually dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). Think logically and critically for a minute. Do parents have to teach little children to deceive and lie and be selfish? No, of course not. In fact, loving parents spend much time trying to teach their children to be kind and honest and loving and generous. Pure children of light and love wouldn’t need such training or correction. Presumably, you think that people SHOULD be loving and show love. But what was your first reaction when you saw a viewpoint you strongly disagreed with? To be loving and accepting and tolerant? To be “pure” light? Nope. It was to call names and blurt out profanity. We can pat ourselves on the back and boast about how loving we are, but until we come humbly to God, trust in Christ, and receive a new spiritual heart, we are simply incapable of pleasing our Creator. Our default setting is evil, and we are condemned by our thoughts, deeds, and attitudes. That’s why we need a Savior who can give us His righteousness that allows us to be accepted by a holy God Who hates sin. See John 3:17-21. Nobody likes to be called sinful or evil, but the Truth is what sets us free.

Pagan: It is my opinion that babies are born clean. It is the world – we grown people with our silly stuff – who put upon them our foolishness, our pride, our prejudices…. Shame on us!

Christian: Hardly anyone personally likes to think of himself as a sinner. And most people share the opinion that babies are born without any guilt until some mean or thoughtless grownup corrupts them. The problem with that is, our opinions never outweigh Scripture, which is God’s explicit revelation of the Truth. The Bible says that the wicked go astray directly from the womb (Psalm 58:3). It says that not a single one of us is “good” or righteous (Romans 3:10-12). It says that our hearts are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). This can be tough to hear because it hurts our pride. But if we can’t admit that we are sinners, we won’t really see our need for a Savior. Jesus didn’t suffer and die for basically good people. He died for the wicked and the self-righteous and the people who would rather not think that God might want to punish them for lying and cheating and stealing and being covetous and a bunch of other stuff we give ourselves a pass on every day (see Exodus 20). And no one likes to be confronted about sin, but only those who can admit the truth about themselves will be forgiven when they believe the Truth about Jesus (Mark 1:15) and call upon Him to save them (Romans 6:23; 10:13). God doesn’t see our sin as silly stuff. He sent His Son to be murdered by vicious blood-thirsty liars in order to rescue those who will be humble enough to admit that we don’t deserve that kind of love.

Pagan: The Bible doesn’t prove a thing. Try science.

Christian: You make it sound like you think those things are at odds with each other. They are not. Science is just knowledge which is gathered and tested. The Bible provides the only logical explanation in the whole world for why there is even such a discipline as “science.” Without the God of the Bible, things like gravity and logic and time and thoughts could not exist or ever be expected to behave consistently according to the “laws” that only a divine Creator could have made them to follow. Therefore, the Bible does indeed “prove a thing.” It proves everything (Colossians 2:3).

Pagan: I am so sorry for all who believe this sinner stuff. You are so much more than what you have been told that you are. You have you been lied to by religion and government. The concept of sin is profitable. All we need to do is love one another, and stop destroying our planet by doing things like killing the bees. Without the bees, we are all goners.

Christian: You say that you are sorry for all who believe this “sinner stuff.” But then you go on to list a number of things you think are wrong. Do you see the contradiction in this? Why speak loudly against hurting the environment or exploitation of the masses or any of the causes you are against? Who’s to say that those things are wrong? If you reject the notion of sin and sinners, then those people are just exercising their preferences and you have no basis for placing your preference to be free from manipulation and control above their preference to control and manipulate you. But I don’t think you’ve really thought this through. It’s just easier to classify others as evil and not to think about our own sin. We think, “If we really stand-up against the government or the industrialists or the bee-killers or the religious oppressors, then maybe God won’t notice that we have told lies, or committed adultery, or stolen, or blasphemed His name, or dishonored our parents, or failed to love our neighbor, or to worship Him the way He deserves.” But that won’t work. Hebrews 9:27 says we are all going to see God one day (sooner than we think!) And He is going to judge each of us individually, and He’s not grading on a curve and giving us a pass just because there are some people out there that you think are worse than you. When we stand there before His throne it will be one of two ways: with our sin or with His Son. If you are with His Son, He will welcome you as His child. If you are there with your sins unforgiven, then He will do what is right and good and cast you away for all eternity. It’s sobering and frightening to consider, but that is the absolute most LOVING thing you could hear because it’s true.

For he [God] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us [humble repentant sinners], who [Jesus] knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him [Jesus].

II Corinthians 5:21 (bracketed words added)

 

God’s Wrath: Attribute or Reaction?

June 28, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: The Bible makes it clear that God does get angry. Is the anger of God something that resides in him by nature, or is His anger only a provoked response to the existence of sin or evil?

Answer: I am not aware of a Bible verse that indicates that God’s anger is merely a provoked response, although I believe if we took a poll of Bible commentators, that would be the majority view. Let’s start out by affirming what the Bible does affirm, though: God is love (I John 4:8). Also:

The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 7:-7-8

These verses do show that the attribute of love is something inherent in God’s divine character, but they do not rule out the possibility that wrath is one of God’s divine attributes, also inherent to His character or nature. Love and wrath existing in the same being are not logically contradictory, and, while it is true that the Bible does portray God’s wrath as being EXPRESSED against sin or evil, the Bible does not state that the entrance of sin and evil into the world CREATED God’s wrath or provoked something which did not exist in Him before. I believe the Bible teaches that all human emotions were originally given to man as a part of the God’s Imago Dei creation, so that they existed in God before being communicated to His creatures, but that the entrance of sin into the world warped these emotions in us, so that they are often expressed sinfully by us. If God had chosen not to allow sin to enter His creation, His attribute of wrath/anger would have still existed, only it would be expressed by us as righteous indignation or “holy wrath,” rather than as the loss of control or temper. For example, the serpent’s twisting of God’s words should have (and could have) made Adam and Eve angry and wrathful toward the serpent, and that anger would not have been sinful. It would have been an obedient and worshipful expression of God’s wrath. In fact, one reason why God allowed such a thing as sin in the first place might have been to show His righteous wrath, thereby demonstrating the glory of the full spectrum of His attributes for all eternity.

The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Proverbs 16:4

Blessing the Food?

June 26, 2017 at 9:43 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: Before we eat, we ask the Lord to “bless this food.” Why do we do that? What does it mean to “bless” the food?

Answer: Not everybody prays that way. Sometimes people just thank God for the food, but, yes, asking God to bless the food “we are about to receive” or asking Him to “bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies” are very common pre-meal prayers. Sometimes, we even call it “saying the blessing” or “saying grace” instead of “praying” before we eat.

I suppose if we ask God to “bless the food” we are asking Him to make it good for us, or to put it to work in the strengthening and health of our bodies. Sometimes, we are asking Him to “bless” it in a way that would supernaturally make it taste better! I once saw a video where a Christian comedian was joking about asking the Lord to “bless this food” before eating a Cheeto. He said, “Lord, miraculously change this Cheeto into a carrot as it travels down my esophagus…” Pretty funny, since it does seem a little hypocritical to ask the Lord to bless our own unhealthy eating choices, although we should certainly be grateful for everything that He provides for us. It is very important to think about what we are saying when we pray, rather than praying out of habit or repeating something vain and meaningless (Matthew 6:7), so good question!

Role Reversal Ransom

June 22, 2017 at 11:02 am | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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The Gospel of Mark stresses the Lord Jesus’s role as the greatest Servant of all time. We know He came to seek and to save (Luke 19:10). We know He came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8). We know He came to give life, and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10). But we must never forget that He also came to minister.

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Mark 10:45

Any good servant knows he must serve faithfully, fervently, and fondly. However, there comes a time when ordinary servants reach the end of their ability. What earthly servant could sell himself to buy back His master, for is the master not inherently more valuable than the servant? What captor would release a master in exchange for a lowly servant? Here is where we stand amazed at the majesty and intense love of the Master of Glory.

The Lord Jesus came to rescue captives – not merely by paying a ransom, not merely by risking danger in a reckless rescue mission – but by giving Himself as the Ransom to set His Own servants free. Are you free today from death, from sin, from the grave, from Satan, from hell, from the very wrath of the Righteous God Himself? If you are, then do your best to celebrate the Master Who gave His life as ransom to redeem rebellious, hateful, sinful, and helpless servants.

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