Friday, August 12, 2016

Barabbas, A Closer Look, Part 2:

“Barabbas, A Closer Look, Part 2:”

Tonight, in preparing the necessary Parts 2 and 3 to last week's Discussion about Barabbas, I consulted both the Internet for support material, as well as a book that I have repeatedly used in preparing Bible Studies. It has never ceased to amaze me in terms of the variety of valuable and edifying topics,  the depth of profound insight, and it has been a veritable gold mine of unlimited riches.  I refer to The World's Bible Handbook, written by Robert Boyd. Barabbas presented for us an amazing picture of a guilty and convicted individual, who was deservedly facing punishment... capital punishment for his crimes. And instead of being nailed to the cross that was fashioned with him in mind, the man acting as Judge that morning, released the guilty prisoner without a scratch, and sent the prisoner to be executed Whom he repeatedly had declared innocent, and Whom he repeatedly declared as being worthy of no punishment.

Barabbas, whose name we know so well, symbolically and prophetically represented each one of us in that he deserved to be punished for his lawlessness, yet he was summarily released. He came down from that Judgment Platform without a scratch. That picture, however, goes from powerful to astounding when you realize that, in the original Hebrew, the name Barabbas “son of the father.” When you become aware of that fact, the spiritual significance of Barabbas' representing us increases exponentially. There is no way that it was a coincidence that the prisoner released had a name that was so profound with meaning.

But I am going to go in a direction even I did not expect in Part 2, tonight. There is profound spiritual symbolism in Jesus being the innocent Lamb of God was slain, and Barabbas as the "son of the father,・being unpunished and released. In spite of their deep and focused significance, they are, in the final analysis, an incomplete, one-dimensional, black and white picture. Tonight, I want to turn this point-and-shoot snapshot into a full-color, High-Definition, 3-Dimensional motion picture.    

Jesus certainly laid down His Life for us. I do not question that. I certainly do not disparage that. What I am saying is that, in addition to the vital importance and significance of Jesus' fulfillment of the spritual symbol of the sacrificial Lamb of God, that is just one facet of the many, many roles that Christ fills. Paul tells is in so many words, in 1 Corinthians 5:7: "... even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:" In the original Passover, those who obeyed God's Command through Moses to smear the blood of a sacrificed, unblemished lamb on their doorposts, were passed over. The Angel of Death harmed no one who was under the blood of that lamb. After that, every year a Passover lamb was slain in the observance of the Passover. And when each  lamb that was sacrificed shed its blood, it provided a commemorative meal for a family. The lamb's part in the observance was complete and over. However, when Jesus shed His blood, and died and was buried, His role in our lives... His role in our Salvation, and His role in our Eternity was not complete and over. He said in John 10:17: "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again."  Peter declared the continuation of Jesus ministry in his first sermon, to members of the very mob who called for Jesus to be crucified. We read beginning in Acts 2:22: "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
23   Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
24   Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it."

And then in verse 36: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." Yes! Jesus was crucified and died. But He is back!! Jesus declares in Revelation 1:18: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”

In the next chapter, there is an account of God, through Peter and John, healing a lame beggar outside the Temple. We read beginning in Acts 3:11: "And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering.
12   And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?
13   The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.
14   But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;
15   And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.
16   And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
17   And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.
18   But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
19   Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
20   And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:"  

Jesus was the Lamb slain from the Foundation of the World, and He died and was buried. But His Soul did not see corruption; He was raised from that tomb. He is alive. He has ascended to Heaven, and He has resumed His Glorious Place at the Right Hand of God.

What follows is that far more complete, multi-faceted picture of the Roles Jesus fills, today, based on the Names and Titles that highlight the Roles that Christ fills for us:

(This list is from "A List of 150 Titles," found at the website:
http://blog.adw.org/2012/05/150-titles-of-christ-from-the-scriptures/ )

Jesus is our Advocate – 1 John 2:1

Apostle and High Priest of our Confession – Hebrews 3:1

Author and Finisher of our Faith – Hebrews 12:2

Bridegroom – John 3:29

Captain of our Salvation – Hebrews 2:10

Deliverer – Romans 11:26

Faithful and True Witness – Revelation 1:5; 3:14

Firstborn among many brothers – Romans 8:29

Gate of the sheepfold – John 10:7

Good Shepherd – John 10:11; 14

Great Shepherd of the sheep – Hebrews 13:20

Head of the Church – Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22

High Priest – Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; 7:26

Holy Servant  – Acts 4:27

Image of God – 2 Corithinians 4:4; Colossians 1:15

Indescribable Gift – 2 Corinthians 9:15

Intercessor – Hebrews 7:25

King of Kings – Revelation 17:14; 19:16; 1 Timothy 6:15

Lamb of God – John 1:29

Leader and Savior – Acts 5:31

Light of the world – John 8:12

Lord both of the dead and the living – Romans 14:9

Lord of Peace – 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Mediator – 1 Timothy 2:5

Messiah – John 1:41; 4:25

Mighty God – Isaiah 9:6

Power and wisdom of God – 1 Corinthians 1:24

Power for salvation – Luke 1:69

Prince of Life – Acts 3:15

Prince of Peace – Isaiah 9:6

Ransom – 1 Timothy 2:6

Redeemer – Isaiah 59:20

Rescuer from this Present Evil Age – Galatians 1:4

Radiance of God’s Glory – Hebrews 1:3

Resurrection and Life – John 11:25

Ruler and Savior – Acts 5:31

Savior of the world – 1 John 4:14; John 4:42

Shepherd and Guardian of our souls – 1 Peter 2:25

Son of the Most High God – Mark 5:7

Spiritual Rock – 1 Corinthians 10:4

True Vine – John 15:1

The Way the Truth and the Life – John 14:6

Wisdom of God – 1 Corinthians 1:24

Wonderful Counselor – Isaiah 9:6

Word of God – Revelation 19:13

Word of Life – 1 John 1:1

Meditate on each of the above Names and Titles of Christ. Look up the references, and read the whole passage in the verses before and after the specific verses listed to get a better grasp of, and appreciation for, what each Name or Title signifies.  As you read each Name and Title, consider how each one represents how our Lord and Savior is, as important as it is, far and above so much more than being "The Lamb of God Who taketh away the sin of the world,"  as John the Baptist identified Him in John 1:29.

Consider: As enlightening as these Names and Titles are, Scripture goes into far more detail about what Jesus' continuing Ministry, and what He has been doing with, for, to and through His Church for the past 2,000 years since His resurrection and ascension back to the Throne of God. I based most, but not all, of the points that follow on what is found at the website:

https://realtruth.org/articles/071210-001-religion.html

Below is a greatly consolidated summary from that website which goes into far greater detail. You can go to it for a more thorough review of Jesus' continuing Ministry. As you read each facet of that Ministry, consider how each one of these facets goes so far beyond Jesus being that sacrificial Lamb of God.

Scripture tells us He is at the Right Hand of God. We read in Luke 22:66-69: “And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led Him into their council, saying, Are you the Christ? Tell us. And He said unto them, If I tell you, you will not believe: And if I also ask you, you will not answer Me, nor let Me go. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God."

On the night before His crucifixion, He prayed to His Heavenly Father in John 17:5: "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."

When Christ was raised from the dead, He was raised to the highest possible position of authority. After His resurrection, when He first appeared to His disciples behind those locked doors, He said in Matthew 28:18: "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth."  We also read in Ephesians 1:20: "...when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
21   Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
22   And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church."

Another one of Jesus' Roles today is that He is our High Priest. The writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 3:1-2, “Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; who was faithful to him that appointed Him.” We also read in Hebrews 4:14-15: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

What is the Jesus' Role as the High Priest? He makes intercession for us: Hebrews explains in Hebrews 7:25, "Wherefore He [Christ] is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them." In making those intercessions Christ takes upon Himself the additional Role of Mediator. Notice 1 Timothy 2:5: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." But let's see how this Intercession / Mediation works to our Eternal Benefit: Hebrews 8:6 tells us, "But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises."

What is that Better Covenant? Hebrews 10:16-21 answers that question: "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
17   And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
18   Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
19   ¶Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20   By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
21   And having an high priest over the house of God;"

Another of His Roles is that He Guides His Church. We read in Colossians 1:18-19: "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
19   For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;

The very next verse goes on to tell us that Jesus does so much more than that which has already been declared! Colossians 1:20: "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." In In addition to His Mediation and His Intercessions for us, Jesus also reconciles us to His Father, through His Blood.

When He was a man on earth, Jesus' earthly father Joseph taught Him carpentry, which included masonry and other building skills. He is still a builder even today, as He builds His Church: Peter writes in I Peter 5:7: "You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” In building that Church, Jesus adds specific members to perform and offer specific skills and functions to His Spiritual Body. We read in I Cor. 12:18-31, "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19   And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20   But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21   And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22   Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
23   And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24   For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
25   That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26   And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
27   ¶Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
28   And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
29   Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30   Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
31   But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

Jesus' death and resurrection are each separately vital to our Salvation. They each contribute in their own very special ways. Notice how the Apostle Paul highlighted how each plays a part in our Salvation. We read in Romans 5:10: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." Notice especially the last part: "...much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."

Besides reconciling us, and saving us, Jesus also sanctifies us:
We read in Hebrews 2:11: "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren."

Jesus is in Heaven right now, sitting at the Right Hand of God. But He is our soon-returning Savior and Lord and King. Upon His arrival, Jesus will seize control of the Governments of the earth, becoming King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Does it occur to any of you that Jesus' Title. "King of Kings and Lord of Lords"  includes us in that Title? We are the kings that He is King of, and we are the lords that He is the Lord of. But we will go into far greater detail regarding that, next week.

The Sacrificial Lamb of God was a foreshadow and symbolic picture of Jesus to be sure! But there is so much more that Jesus has done and is doing where our Salvation, redemption, reconciliation, sanctification and Eternity is concerned. I would have been remiss to not share it all with you.

Next week in Part 3, I will share with you all the things that we are, that Barabbas was not.

This concludes this Evening's Discussion, Barabbas, A Closer Look, Part 2"
The above was written and presented by Romans, "live" on Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Barabbas: A Closer Look

"Barabbas: A Closer Look" by Romans

We recently completed a review of the Gospel According to John. Since then, I watched, again, The Passion of the Christ, which I have not seen in years. And I watched that scene with Jesus and Barabbas standing before Pilate. Normally, when we get to that part of the Account of Jesus' trial before Pilate, we kick Barabbas to the curb, and forget about him as if he were nothing more than a meaningless and unnecessary footnote. After all, if Barabbas were never even born, or did not appear on that Judgment Platform at the same time that Jesus was being tried, the crowd would still have demanded of Pilate that Jesus should be crucified. But this time when I watched that scene, I realized that Barabbas was not a footnote in this flow of events at all. I realized, as I never saw it before, that Barabbas was a critically essential part of this story, and a significant symbol in God's Plan of Salvation.

Let's notice the flow of events from Matthew's Gospel:

Matthew 27:15    Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.
16    And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
17    Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?
18    For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.
19    When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
20    But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.
21    The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.
22    Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.
23    And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
24    When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
25    Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
26    ¶Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Instead of kicking Barabbas to the curb as many of us, including me have done,, let's stop and zoom in on his presence, [i]at that precise moment in history[/i], on that Judgment Platform with Jesus.

Was Barabbas guilty?

Notice the Scriptural notation regarding Barabbas: John 18:40 tells us, “Now Barabbas was a robber.” Notice: It did not merely say that he was charged with robbery. No... it said he "was a robber." Also consider: Clarke's Commentary says, “Barabbas was a robber - The later Syriac has in the margin that he was a chief robber, a captain of bandits, and it is probable that this was the case. He was not only a person who lived by plunder, but shed the blood of many of those whom he and his gang robbed, and rose up against the Roman government, as we learn from Luke 23:18: “And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas.  19 (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murd+er, was cast into prison.).”

And then in Mark 15:7, we read this: "And there was one named Barabbas... who had committed murder in the insurrection." Once, again, the text does not read that Barabbas was accused of murder, or was being tried for murder. Mark tells us that he "had committed murder in the insurrection."

What is an insurrection? It is a revolt... a rebellion. In this cultural setting, if Barabbas had been part of an insurrection, he would have been part of, or the leader of a gang in rebellion against the Roman occupation of Judea. Any murder that he committed would have been the murder of Roman soldiers as they were sent in to put down that rebellion. So, we see that Barabbas was the Roman equivalent of Public Enemy Number One. The Romans had quelled the insurrection, had arrested and apparently tried the rebels, and found them guilty.

So, yes, in answer to my question, Barabbas [i]was[/i] guilty. He stood before Pilate's Judgment Seat... and before a Judge who knew he was guilty. I believe it is quite likely that the Romans were planning for three prisoners to be crucified that morning. I believe that Barabbas was going to be one of those who were to be crucified.  

As I watched, "The Passion of the Christ," I paid particular attention to the Barabbas character on the screen. It was interesting how he was depicted in that movie. He was an unshaven, wild-eyed, disheveled, unkempt, snarling embodiment of the criminal element. But I looked at him in a new way, and from a perspective that I never have before. I will go into further detail about what prompted that new perspective a little later. But as I watched the proceedings, it finally penetrated my thick skull that here was a guilty individual, both fully expecting and deserving to die for his crimes. Instead, the unthinkable happened: Pilate released him.  

The Greek word for “released” is apoluo -- pronounced: ap-ol-OO'-o
it means "to free fully or pardon:"
Throughout the New Testament, apoluo is also translated as the words:  (let) depart, dismiss, forgive, let go, loose, send away, release, and set at liberty.

Jesus used this Greek word, "apoluo," in one of His Parables. In Matthew 18, Jesus is presenting the Parable of the servant who owed his master the equivalent of a gazillion dollars, as we would phrase it today. Ten thousand talents is an unimaginable sum. The servant begged his lord to not put him and his family in prison, but rather to give him the time to pay it back somehow, as if that were within the realm of possibility. [u]It was not.[/u] Then in verse 27, Jesus continued the flow of the Parable:

27 "Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed (apoluo) him, and forgave him the debt."

Just as that servant was loosed from his debt, Barabbas was also loosed... (Greek, apoluo) ... released... dismissed... freed fully.

Pilate had earlier brought to the attention of the mob, the custom he followed to release a prisoner at Passover Time, Barabbas would have been both scourged and crucified. Scourging was a brutal  flogging with whips that had bits of metal and bone embedded in the ends of the straps. After suffering the wounds inflicted by a scourging, many prisoners did not survive long enough to be crucified. Had he survived it, Barabbas would next be crucified and, as the Roman custom was, an inscription would have been nailed above him on his cross, naming both him and his crime. His would have read, "Barabbas, robber and murderer." But that inscription was never written. The mob who had been incited against Jesus called for Barabbas to be released, and for Jesus to be crucified. We read in John 19:19: “And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

Jesus took the place of Barabbas on that cross. Jesus took the punishment that Barabbas deserved. Jesus suffered the death penalty in the place of a man who deserved to die... a man who was, instead, released without so much as a scratch... Barabbas did not deserve to be released. Like one of the crucified prisoners whom we call "the Good Thief," who said in Luke 23:41, “... we receive the due reward of our deeds,” perhaps Barabbas also knew he brought that death sentence on himself, and was deserving of it. Barabbas did not ask the judge, Pilate, in this case, to release him. It was the Judge's idea to set in motion set in motion the events the yielded for him this utterly unmerited pardon. Unmerited pardon... Isn't that how we define, “Grace.” Isn't that what Barabbas received?

[i]Isn't that [b]exactly[/b] what we receive?[/i]

Don't we receive unmerited pardon because, as with Barabbas, Jesus took upon Himself the death penalty that each of us deserves? Jesus died... for our sins... for our rebellion... and  for our iniquity.

As Isaiah phrased it in Isaiah 53:5: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
 
But now I want to share with you why I paid attention to Barabbas as I never had formerly.
As I said earlier, even if Barabbas had not been standing before Pilate's Judgment Seat that morning, we would still have had a picture of the Lamb of God, laying down His Life, and taking away the sin of the world. Barabbas' presence there, however, painted for us such a perfect and more complete picture of Jesus' Divinely appointed, substitutionary role in the Plan of Salvation. We had, in that one scene, the Judge, in the person of Pilate, releasing the guilty prisoner, Barabbas... dismissing him with a full and complete pardon, and without a scratch. And then, in that same scene, the same Judge, who had repeatedly declared Jesus innocent, ordered Him to be executed.

And the reason I stopped to pay close attention to that scene in the movie, The Passion of The Christ, is because I had looked up the meaning of the name: “Barabbas.”

Does anyone know what his name means?

In Hebrew, the prefix "Bar" means "son of." Notice in these verses how that prefix is used:

Mark 10:46: "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."

Acts 4:36    And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,)

Barabbas means, “[i]son of the father[/i].” The innocent Jesus  literally took our place on the cross, receiving undeserved punishment for our sins, while Barabbas, symbolically taking our place, is released without punishment.

[b]Now think:[/b] Even if his name was Fred, the guilty Barabbas' being released, and Jesus taking his place on the cross, provided for us a complete picture of the mercy and unmerited pardon we have received. But think of how more clear and powerful it is for us that a man named, Barabbas, which means "son of the father," is in understanding what God has done for us.

Now, some of you may be saying, "Jesus is the Son of the Father. How can you be saying, 'Barabbas is the son of the father'?" That is correct. Jesus IS the Son of the Father. And He is "the only begotten Son of God" as we read in John 3:16. I am only pointing out that the name  Barabbas MEANS, "son of the father," providing a deeper significance to his being released unpunished, even though he was guilty. Jesus, again, is the "only begotten Son of the Father," but Scripture tells us in Hebrews 2:10    ¶For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." Are we not the sons who are spoken of in that preceding verse, released, receiving unmerited pardon, and ultimately brought to glory by and through our punishment being  paid in full by Jesus on the cross? Are we ever specifically called "sons of the father"? Not in a phrase, but yes, we are in several verses:

First, consider, Galatians 4:4    But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5    To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6    And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." Abba. There it is again. Abba. Father. Barabbas means, "son of the father." That is us!

Also, consider Romans 8:15: "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." There is Abba, again!

How about Hebrews 12:7: "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?"

Then there is 1 John 3:1: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God..."

But I don't want to overpower these references with any gender bias. We also read beginning in 2 Corinthians 6:16: "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17    Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
18    And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord
Almighty."

Sons of the Father? Yes. Daughters of the Father? Yes. Children of God? Yes!
Notice: Romans 8:16   The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

Barabbas, as I personally and incorrectly regarded him for so long, [i]was [b]not[/b] a footnote![/i]

Barabbas on that Judgment Platform, in rich spiritual symbolism, [i]was and is me![/i]

[i]And Barabbas was and is you![/i]

Barabbas, the son of the father, came down from that Judgment Platform, not dying for his crimes, his sins or his lawless rebellion, but, rather, was freed. And he came down without a scratch, an undeserving recipient of unearned, unmerited pardon.

I have known, or [i]I thought I knew[/i] the names and the flow events of the trial before Pilate for most of my life. I thought I understood what happened. But I didn't. It had been right there in plain view, right under my nose the whole time, but I never saw it until a few weeks ago. How did I miss, for decades, the clarity of how the release of Barabbas was the very picture of our own guilt going unpunished? And now, I can never think of or hear the name Barabbas, again... I can never read of Jesus' trial before Pilate without having a far deeper understanding of the things that took place at that trial, and how they provided such a sobering and powerful picture of the Plan of Salvation.

There is, however, yet another level of understanding that we need to examine where Barabbas is less than a perfect, spiritual symbol. He did not ask for a pardon, to be forgiven or to be freed from the death penalty that he deserved. His freedom was given him by Pilate without his asking for it. We are no more deserving of that free pardon, but we do and must ask for it. As Barabbas did not, we have to acknowledge our sins, acknowledge that we have brought on ourselves the penalty for our sins -- the death penalty. And we must ask to be forgiven. Our being forgiven by God is a beginning... it is NOT an end to the things we do in our relationship with God. It is not like signing on the dotted line of a lifetime membership. We do not sign and walk away, and never think about the terms of the contract we just signed. We must repent of our sins – do an about face – and walk away from our former sinful lifestyles, patterns, affections, mindset, and priorities. We must choose, daily, God's Way over our own former ways that conformed to and approved of the world's system of rebellion against God. And when we fail... when we fall back into a previous habit or tendency... God is there waiting to hear us confess that sin, and to forgive us. We read in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This we must do on a daily basis, perhaps multiple times per day. Backsliding into a former pattern of sin is not an option. In order to grow out of sin, the indwelling Holy Spirit helps us to win one sin battle after another, and put out one sin fire after another. It is a daily warfare that we must wage that Barabbas was not called upon to wage. Jesus said in Mark 13:13: “... he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Notice John 8:31: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;" Jesus said this to [b]BELIEVERS[/b] [i]not unbelievers![/i]

To the idea of thinking that just believing is enough, consider the sobering words that we find in James 2:19: "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." Does that sound like just believing is sufficient? In Mark 7:6, Jesus exposed and denounced His fellow Jews regarding their counterfeit worship, "Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."

Jesus also told us, "John 14:15: "If ye love me, keep my commandments." One of those Commandments to those whose sins are forgiven is that we forgive in kind: Notice beginning in Matthew 6:14, from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:  (15):  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
As we close, let's go back one last time to the Parable in Matthew 18 where the servant was loosed from a gazillion dollar debt to his lord. Once again, the word "loosed" was from the same Greek word "apoluo" that was translated "released" in regard to Pilate's handling the prisoner Barabbas. That servant in the Parable went out and refused to forgive the debt of a fellow servant who owed him some trivial $1.98 debt. Let's read how Jesus described the reaction of the lord who forgive that gazillion debt towards that unforgiving servant: And then notice carefully, Jesus' own summary which explains His whole reason for even speaking the Parable to begin with: We read beginning in Matthew 18:32: "Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:" Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? (34) And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. (35)   So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."

There is very little comment necessary, here. WE, each of us, have been forgiven of an insurmountable and unpayable debt by our loving Heavenly Father. Our sin debt was paid by Jesus for us, in the same way that He was nailed to the cross originally set aside for Barabbas. Barabbas was released without deserving that release, and pardoned without punishment. We, too, are loosed from our debts. We go to the Father and ask us to do us, and He DOES. But when we ask for and receive that forgiveness, He fully expects us to pass along that forgiveness to those who have wounded and offended us on so many different possible levels. And God expects us to show our debtors and offenders the same unmerited pardon that Pilate showed Barabbas. Mercy, kindness and forgiveness even when it was not asked for! The Apostle Paul phrased that mindset like this in Ephesians 4:30   And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (31)  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32)  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Like us, Barabbas, whose name meant "son of the father," was released. He came down from that Judgment Platform without a scratch... free to go. And we never hear from him, again.

We, too, have been forgiven. Pardoned. Loosed. Released. Barabbas was released, and disappeared into the crown, and into history. Unlike Barabbas, our release is not the end of the matter... that is just the beginning. As adopted sons of the Father. we do not simply walk away, and are never heard from again.

We are the lights of the world, and a city set on a hill (Matthew 5:14).
We are Ambassadors for Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

We are "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:" (1 Peter 2:9).

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).

We read of Jesus bringing "many sons unto glory." With that in mind, notice what Paul wrote in Romans 8:18-19: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God" (New American Standard Bible).

As members of the Family and Ruling Kingdom of God, after our release, [i]we do not[/i] disappear into any crowd, only to resume our former sinful and criminal pursuits. [i]We do not[/i] disappear into history and are never heard from again. [b]We have a future[/b] that goes far beyond our release from our having to pay the penalty for our own sins. God forgave us that He might give us the incomprehensible future He had Planned for us all along. To those who continue in Jesus' Words, and fight that good fight of faith, and finish the course, as Paul wrote in his final epistle in II Timothy 4:7, they will hear the incredible declaration quoted in Matthew 25:34: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Jesus made the astounding promise in Revelation 3:21: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”

Written by and originally delivered "live" on Thursday, July 21st, 2016.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

ROMANS 5:6-8 – BEAUTY THROUGH THE GOSPEL

Daily Devotional Bible Verse
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)
Have you ever seen a picture of a beautiful celebrity without makeup? They look average, normal or even down right awful. But when we see them on TV and in the movies they are larger than life and seemingly spotless. But the images we see are fabrications, the actors and actresses are painted with makeup and placed in ideal lighting situations. Sure, Leonardo DiCaprio is a good looking guy in any light, but a false beauty is created in the cinematic world.
Now, let’s see the Gospel picture for what it really is instead of altering and modifying reality as movies do. We are not saved because of what we’ve done, but in spite of it. We are not beautiful without Jesus, but hopelessly marred by sin. We are like celebrities with no makeup, no physical trainer, no personal chef or personal hygiene. But rather than let that truth sink into us, we can make up our own little movie where we are the hero (we never sin, never gossip, always read our Bible, and join all the ministries at church) and look perfect. Jesus turns into some sort of sidekick that wants to be our friend and help us. We must remember to no play the hero and put on the makeup. The only hero in this real life movie can and must be Jesus!
Even though we are sinful and rebellious God still loves us. This is the Gospel, that while we were still sinners Jesus died for us. When we understand this it helps us see the way things really are. King Jesus is eternally perfect and beautiful and we are not, but he loves us anyway and makes us like him. He started it and he’s going to finish it. When we understand the true Gospel instead of making up our own, we are free to love and worship Jesus as Savior instead of trying to play that role ourselves.


Remember, we are like a no makeup celebrity photo. We can paint ourselves pretty on the outside, but only Jesus makes us eternally beautiful.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

2 Timothy 3:16 – God Speaks Still

Daily Devotional Bible Verse
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV)
Have you ever felt like God has quit speaking? Maybe sermons are losing their impact, times of genuine worship in life are growing more scarce, and overall, you’re coasting on spiritual memories and past times? Whatever the reason, there are times in life in which we feel disconnected from God and alone.
If you feel this way, consider looking deeper into your Bible. The Bible was faithfully recorded by inspired men from all walks of life, who lived across three continents, and compiled the texts over a period of fifteen hundred years without ever contradicting one another. God spoke then through Scripture, and He is still speaking through it now.
When we neglect to meet God in the words He preserved for us, we lose our bearing in life and He seems distant. However, the wonderful truth is that God hasn’t moved and He is still speaking to us through the Bible. Remember; it’s not just a book with worn-out phrases, rather, it’s a treasure house of truth that’s living and active. The Bible is a fountain of living water and is intended to be our prime source of strength. Pick it up, dust it off, and draw near to the God who speaks still.
Approach Scripture with the understanding that God still speaks to us every time we read His words.

Monday, June 6, 2016

James 4:1-2 – Pridefulness In Quarrels

Daily Devotional Bible Verse
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. (James 4:1-2 ESV)
Unfortunately as Christians we aren’t perfect, yet. Because of this, we tend to fight and argue on a seemingly daily basis (many times stupid things). Those who don’t want anything to do with the church will bring this up and rub it in our face. They have a hard time seeing Jesus or the church as loving when the people who are a part of it don’t even get along.
We aren’t known by our love as Jesus said we should be (John 13:35).
We should each read James 4:1-2 humbly to see why we are fighting. The reason we fight is because of the warring passions inside of us. It is our desires that are causing the problems.
Instead of blaming somebody else for starting the fight, look inside yourself and see if it is you who is really the problem. It can be hard to admit our pridefulness. It isn’t easy for anyone.  If we do this more, we will stop worrying about ourselves so often and love each other more as true disciples of Jesus.
Examine your motive for a recent dispute with another Christian.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Ephesians 6:18-20 – Godly Obsession Needed

Daily Devotional Bible Verse
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:18-20, ESV)
Take a minute and think about these questions:
-Where is your cell phone?
-How many times have you looked at it today?
-How much time did you spend on it?
Now, think about this:
-Where is your Bible?
-How many times have you read it today?
-How much time did you spend reading it?
In our world today, life is full of distractions, like our phones. I would go so far to say that technology is an obsession. What would happen if Christians today were just as obsessed with the Bible and their relationship with the Lord? I find that many people who are not Christians are more well-read in the Bible than a lot of Christians. How are we supposed to be effective and educated disciples without knowing the Bible? The Bible is our own personal armor and arsenal in weapons of truth, faith, hope, and love. We cannot put God’s gift to us to good use without knowing what it says.
The world is obsessed with technology and other distractions. I am going to challenge you today to become focused. Become just as obsessed with with the Bible and with God. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Christians were as familiar with the Bible as the world is with their phones? What kind of boldness in ministering would that produce?
What obsessions are taking up your time today?

Friday, March 18, 2016

1 Timothy 2:7 – The Christian Consumer

Daily Devotional Bible Verse
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:7ESV)
Our lives today have become pretty easy. We don’t know what it means to wait for something anymore. If you want food, simply go to a fast food joint. If you want a new record, click a link on your computer instead of waiting in line at a record store. If you want to know what a friend is doing, text them instead of calling or check out their facebook/twitter page. We have became a people who consume food, entertainment, news, and so on.
Unfortunately we have brought this into the church as well. We go to church because we know we can consume a great worship experience. We don’t have to do anything on our part because the lights are set low, the music is excellently performed, and we don’t have to think about the Bible because we are told precisely what to believe. This can foster a consumerist mentality in the body of Christ.
The consumerist mentality not only deals with our experience at church, but our personal experience as we read the Bible individually. We have a study Bible which gives us the answer right away, or we are one click away from a Bible site to explain to us the meaning of a given text. Or even the daily devotion in the email every morning (yes we know). These are not bad resources, but can cause us to be dependent on them instead of God.
Paul is giving instructions to Timothy. Some of these instructions were hard to understand and Paul didn’t want Timothy to just depend on him. Instead, he knew Timothy should depend on God and the Holy Spirit that was dwelling in Him. We must be careful that we don’t become a simple consumer, but learn to think over what we have read and ask God to give us understanding. There tends to be much greater joy in God’s word when we think and pray over it than just read what others have said of it.
Do you put forth effort in the hard work of study and praise, or do you rely solely on others?