"To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins." (Acts 26:18)
All too often we consider forgiveness a mysterious and spiritual transaction that, once accomplished, is a past event that has little to do with our subsequent lives.
It is certainly true that there is a historical point in our earthly lives where the forgiveness of Christ was granted--even though He was "slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).
Christ has subdued, cleansed, and forgotten our sins: "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?... he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:18-19). "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins" (Isaiah 43:25). "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins" (Isaiah 44:22).
Christ has replaced our sins with His holiness: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new…. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21).
Christ has given us victory over sin: Since all of the above (and more) is true and active in the lives of all believers, there should be an obvious exhilaration that enables us to confidently stand against whatever "fiery darts" the enemy may throw at us. We are clearly told that "sin shall not have dominion over |us|" (Romans 6:14). And since Jesus already dealt with the "offence" of sin on the cross, we can "reign in life" by Him (Romans 5:17). HMM III
"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)
When Christ suffered on the cross for our sins, His entire body suffered. A vicious crown of thorns was pressed into His brow and then "they smote him on the head" and "spit upon him" (Mark 15:17, 19). He already was weak and battered from Pilate's dreaded scourging with the infamous Roman cat-o'-nine-tails (John 19:1).
Cruel spikes were driven into His hands and nails into His feet, suspending His pain-racked body from the cross (Psalm 22:16). The word "stripes" in our text actually appears in the singular. Christ on the cross was one big stripe, or wound. Finally, He died (v. 33) and "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34).
Indeed, He was bearing our sins in every last part of His body on the tree! The enormity of the necessary payment provides a partial measure of the enormity of our sins in the sight of a holy God. "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment" (Isaiah 1:5-6). "Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: . . . Their feet are swift to shed blood: . . . There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:13, 15, 18).
But He bore all the sins of our body, and therefore we, in God's sight, are dead to sins and alive to righteousness. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33). HMM
There are rewards on earth and there are rewards in heaven. The Bible promises "crowns" to those who are faithful in their service to our King. For instance, there is the "crown of life": "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12). What trial are you facing today?
Some will receive the "soul-winner's crown:" "What is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy" (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). Who will be in heaven because of you?
You might receive the "crown of righteousness:" "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Are you keeping the faith today?
For Christian leaders there is the "crown of glory:" "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away" (1 Peter 5:2-4). Who is closer to Jesus because of you?
The crowns of heaven remind us that what we do today bears eternal significance. You've perhaps heard about the corrupt building contractor who built a house for a wealthy friend, cutting corners and using inferior materials wherever he could. When he finished the house, his friend gave him the keys and said, "It's yours."
There's a story about a business tycoon who made a fortune in money and fame, but gave little of himself or his wealth to God. When he died, Peter showed him to his home in heaven-a small shack. He protested loudly, but Peter shrugged his shoulders and explained, "I did the best I could with what you sent me."
What will you send heaven today?
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