Crossroads Connection for the Week of October 21
 
 
Article #1
 

Are You Right with God?

By Skip Heitzig

Today I want to look at the issue of all issues: How can a person be right with God? How can a man or woman, marred by the fall of Adam and with an inborn sin nature, ever be reconciled to a holy God?

This is exactly what Job asked in chapter 9 of his book: "How can a man be righteous before God? If one wished to contend with Him, he could not answer Him one time out of a thousand. God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered?" (vv. 2-4). In other words, "I'm in touch with my fallen nature. I know I'm not perfect. How can a man be right with God?"

From a divine perspective, we don't have what it takes to pull it off (see Psalm 14:3; 130:3; Romans 3:23, etc.). People try to fix the problem by being good, religious, or sincere, but none of those approaches work. There's a gap between us and God.

This is where Jesus Christ steps in and provides the answer: He bridges the gap and secures our pardon—and you can have deep and lasting peace because of it. So how does it work?

First of all, we're made righteous by Jesus' act on the cross, not by our acts. God "made Him who knew no sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, God put all the wrath of sin on Jesus at the cross so that we could bear Jesus' righteousness. That's the great exchange of the gospel.

Second, our righteousness is declared, not earned. Romans 3 says that we're justified by faith, not works (see v. 28). You don't earn righteousness; it's free. Justification is when God imputes the righteousness of Jesus Christ to you, declares you to be righteous, and treats you as if you never sinned.

Third, religion will frustrate you, but righteousness brings peace. "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). Religions have been invented to try to reach God, but they only bring frustration. The gospel, on the other hand, is God reaching down to reconcile with man through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and it produces peace.

So how can a man be righteous before God? He can't on his own. But he can enjoy the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to him. So if you're in Christ, quit trying to be religious; instead, enjoy the peace Christ brings. Rather than trusting in human achievement, let your trust be found fully in His divine accomplishment on the cross.

Copyright © 2018 by Connection Communications

 

 

 

Article #2 

Lost and Found

By George Young

Scripture Reading: Luke 15:11-32

While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20

In one of my earliest memories, I remember being a frightened little boy sitting in a police car. With the two-way radio crackling and the roof-light flashing, we drew up to police headquarters near a sprawling park in Queens, New York City. I had wandered from my family’s picnic on one of the park’s long paths through the woods. Mom and Dad had searched for me frantically, imagining the dangers to their child in a city of 8 million strangers. My heart leaped: there they were! Hugs and kisses and endearing words followed, and effusive thanks to the officer, and immense relief.

Jesus told a story about a wandering, lost son. The heart-wrenching agony of the father in that story would have been greater even than my parents endured when I was lost as a child. The son in Jesus’ story was full-grown, and by asking for his share of the inheritance, he was telling his dad that he wished he were dead. The father could have gotten angry and disowned the son, but instead, with compassion like that of God the Father, he kept the door open and waited for his son to return to his senses.

Could there be anything more powerful than God’s love for us? The gospel is not just some philosophical exercise but a heart-wrenching, real-life drama that brings us to tears of gratitude. It moves us to turn back and follow Jesus, to live as our loving Father calls us to.

Lord, thank you for your amazing love and for seeking us when we have wandered. Guide us to be faithful. In Jesus, Amen.


 

 

Article #3
 

Seeing Backward

"O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed" (Ps 30:7).

It is often difficult to recognize the hand of God when we are in the midst of adversity. We often feel God has hidden His face from us. When the Lord takes us through deep valleys, there will be fruit from the deep valley that we cannot see. You must press into Him with all you have during this time.

God uses the deep valley to frame our lives to create a change in our nature, not just a change in habits. The depth and width of our valley is often an indicator of the level of calling and influence we will have on others in the future. Our adversity is not just for us, but others who will be in our future path of influence. This is not very comforting when you are in the middle of the valley, but know this is a truth in the Kingdom.

It is often years later when we discover the wisdom of God and why He intentionally led us through the dark valley. Life is often lived forward, but understood backward. It is not until we are down the road and we stand on the mountain looking back at through valley that we can appreciate the terrain God has allowed us to scale and the spiritual deposits He has made in our life while we were there. "He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light" (Job 12:22). When you begin to realize this, you sit back and breathe a sigh of relief because you know that God was in control all along. It didn't seem like it at the time, but He was.

Do you find yourself in the valley? Now is the time to fully trust Him to guide you to higher ground.

 



 
Article #4
 

When Your Heart Isn’t Trustworthy
Suzie Eller
SUZIE ELLER

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 (NIV)

Trust your heart.

Devotion Graphic

That’s the advice we often receive, whether falling in love or making a weighty decision. It’s what people say when we’re struggling with a big emotion.

The problem with that advice is that our hearts aren’t always trustworthy.

  • My heart may respond to short-term emotion and fail to weigh the long-term impact.
  • My heart may give me permission to do what I want, but fail to consider the hearts of those around me.
  • My heart might even lie to me to get what it wants.

Not too long ago, I was discouraged. It started when we received unexpected news that was hard and hurtful. I’m naturally optimistic, but this was challenging. I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t make it better.

Days passed, and discouragement pecked at me. These were the messages resounding in my heart:

You have a reason to be discouraged, so just go with it.

There’s no way this will get better.

This is too hard even for God.

In today’s key verse, the psalmist Asaph recognizes he is both weak and strong. In his own power, he is a mess. Yet he’s not alone. He’s united to a powerful God and all the goodness this relationship brings to him.

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).

Yes, I was in a battle of discouragement, but my heart and my being aren’t tied to circumstances or emotions alone.

As a believer, my heart is attached to my relationship with an omnipresent, all-knowing, all-powerful Heavenly Father.

That means my heart is attached to truth, wisdom, strength, healing and so much more. It demands that the messages filtering through my heart must first pass through my faith.

It was OK for me to acknowledge my heart might not be trustworthy at the moment.

That isn’t weak. That’s strong.

It’s confessing we need more than emotion to fuel our well-being or direct our path. It’s saying we choose a stronger foundation than a temporary emotion or a temporary situation.

Trust your heart.

No. Not right now.

However, we can trust that God is aware of unexpected news. We can trust He is present. We can trust that God redeems what is lost or broken. We can trust He will never forsake us nor abandon us.

As we do so, we trust in God with all our heart, our soul, our being.

When we place our trust in Him rather than our fickle hearts, He anchors it. Trust doesn’t fix a momentary circumstance, but it grounds us to an eternal, unmovable source of strength.

Heavenly Father, I hold up my heart to You. I don’t want it to rule me. It does not have permission to lead me away from Your best. As I place my trust in You, my heart will follow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Truth For Today

Psalm 31:24, “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” (NIV)

Ezekiel 36:26a, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.” (NIV)


 

 
 Article #5
 

Meditate and Memorize

Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.

Psalm 119:11

There are around one thousand quotes, references, and allusions to the Old Testament in the New Testament. When New Testament writers wrote their Gospels and letters, they might have had Old Testament scrolls with which to check their quotations and references. But what about when Jesus and the apostles quoted the Old Testament “on the fly”—during the course of their ministry? In those cases they were quoting from memory, not from a scroll. They took the Old Covenant admonition seriously to know God’s Word by heart.

Such was the case when Jesus responded to Satan’s three temptations in the wilderness—He quoted three verses from Deuteronomy from memory (Matthew 4:1-11). If we are going to defeat Satan’s lies and temptations with the truth of God, we must store up the Word of God in our heart like the psalmist—“that [we] might not sin against [God].”

While in the midst of temptation is not the time to begin your search for Scriptures. Begin today to be prepared—to commit God’s Word to memory. (Psalm 119:11 is a good place to begin.)

Meditate on the word in the Word.

John Owen


 

 
A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion

A medical explanation of what Jesusendured on the day He died
by Dr. C. Truman Davis

Severalyears ago I became interested in the physical aspects of the passion, orsuffering, of Jesus Christ when I read an account of the crucifixion in JimBishop's book, The Day Christ Died. I suddenly realized that I had taken thecrucifixion more or less for granted all these years - that I had grown callousto its horror by a too-easy familiarity with the grim details. It finally occurredto me that, as a physician, I did not even know the actual immediate cause ofChrist's death. The gospel writers do not help much on this point. Sincecrucifixion and scourging were so common during their lifetimes, theyundoubtedly considered a detailed description superfluous. For that reason wehave only the concise words of the evangelists: "Pilate, having scourgedJesus, delivered Him to them to be crucified ... and they crucified Him."

Despitethe gospel accounts' silence on the details of Christ's crucifixion, many havelooked into this subject in the past. In my personal study of the event from amedical viewpoint, I am indebted especially to Dr. Pierre Barbet, a Frenchsurgeon who did exhaustive historical and experimental research and wroteextensively on the topic.

Anattempt to examine the infinite psychic and spiritual suffering of theIncarnate1 God in atonement2 for the sins of fallen man is beyond the scope ofthis article. However, the physiological and anatomical aspects of our Lord'spassion we can examine in some detail. What did the body of Jesus of Nazarethactually endure during those hours of torture?

Gethsemane

Thephysical passion of Christ began in Gethsemane. Of the many aspects of Hisinitial suffering, the one which is of particular physiological interest is thebloody sweat. Interestingly enough, the physician, St. Luke, is the onlyevangelist to mention this occurrence. He says, "And being in an agony, heprayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down uponthe ground" (Luke 22:44 KJV).

Everyattempt imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away thephenomenon of bloody sweat, apparently under the mistaken impression that itsimply does not occur. A great deal of effort could be saved by consulting themedical literature. Though very rare, the phenomenon of hematidrosis, or bloodysweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress, tiny capillaries inthe sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This process alone couldhave produced marked weakness and possible shock.

AlthoughJesus' betrayal and arrest are important portions of the passion story, thenext event in the account which is significant from a medical perspective isHis trial before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the High Priest. Here the firstphysical trauma was inflicted. A soldier struck Jesus across the face forremaining silent when questioned by Caiaphas. The palace guards thenblindfolded Him, mockingly taunted Him to identify them as each passed by, spaton Him, and struck Him in the face.

BeforePilate

Inthe early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and worn out from asleepless night, Jesus was taken across Jerusalem to the Praetorium of theFortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, PontiusPilate. We are familiar with Pilate's action in attempting to shiftresponsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparentlysuffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned toPilate. It was then, in response to the outcry of the mob, that Pilate orderedBarabbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.

Preparationsfor Jesus' scourging were carried out at Caesar's orders. The prisoner wasstripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. The Romanlegionnaire stepped forward with the flagrum, or flagellum, in his hand. Thiswas a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two smallballs of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip was brought downwith full force again and again across Jesus' shoulders, back, and legs. Atfirst the weighted thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blowscontinued, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first anoozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally spurtingarterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.

Thesmall balls of lead first produced large deep bruises that were broken open bysubsequent blows. Finally, the skin of the back was hanging in long ribbons,and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. Whenit was determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner was near death,the beating was finally stopped.

Mockery

Thehalf-fainting Jesus was then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement,wet with his own blood. The Roman soldiers saw a great joke in this provincialJew claiming to be a king. They threw a robe across His shoulders and placed astick in His hand for a scepter. They still needed a crown to make theirtravesty complete. Small flexible branches covered with long thorns, commonlyused for kindling fires in the charcoal braziers in the courtyard, were plaitedinto the shape of a crude crown. The crown was pressed into his scalp and againthere was copious bleeding as the thorns pierced the very vascular tissue.After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers took the stickfrom His hand and struck Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper intoHis scalp. Finally, they tired of their sadistic sport and tore the robe fromHis back. The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serumin the wounds, and its removal, just as in the careless removal of a surgicalbandage, caused excruciating pain. The wounds again began to bleed.

Golgotha

Indeference to Jewish custom, the Romans apparently returned His garments. Theheavy patibulum3 of the cross was tied across His shoulders. The procession ofthe condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiersheaded by a centurion began its slow journey along the route which we knowtoday as the Via Dolorosa.

Inspite of Jesus' efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam,together with the shock produced by copious loss of blood, was too much. Hestumbled and fell. The rough wood of the beam gouged into the lacerated skinand muscles of the shoulders. He tried to rise, but human muscles had beenpushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to proceed with the crucifixion,selected a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry thecross. Jesus followed, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat ofshock. The 650-yard journey from the Fortress Antonia to Golgotha was finallycompleted. The prisoner was again stripped of His clothing except for a loincloth which was allowed the Jews.

Thecrucifixion began. Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic,pain-reliving mixture. He refused the drink. Simon was ordered to place the patibulumon the ground, and Jesus was quickly thrown backward, with His shouldersagainst the wood. The legionnaire felt for the depression at the front of thewrist. He drove a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deepinto the wood. Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action,being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion andmovement. The patibulum was then lifted into place at the top of the stipes4,and the titulus5 reading "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" wasnailed into place.

Theleft foot was pressed backward against the right foot. With both feet extended,toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the kneesmoderately flexed. The victim was now crucified.

On the Cross

AsJesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists,excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode inthe brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve,large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himselfupward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nailthrough His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through thenerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet.

Atthis point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves ofcramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbingpain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging bythe arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzedand the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable toact. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus foughtto raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbondioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the crampspartially subsided.

The LastWords

Spasmodically,He was able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven shortsentences that are recorded.

Thefirst - looking down at the Romansoldiers throwing dice6 for His seamless garment: "Father, forgive themfor they do not know what they do."

Thesecond - to the penitent thief7:"Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise."

Thethird - looking down at Mary Hismother, He said: "Woman, behold your son." Then turning to theterrified, grief-stricken adolescent John , the beloved apostle, He said:"Behold your mother."8

Thefourth cry is from the beginning ofPsalm 22: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

Hesuffered hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps,intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as tissue was torn from Hislacerated back from His movement up and down against the rough timbers of thecross. Then another agony began: a deep crushing pain in the chest as thepericardium, the sac surrounding the heart, slowly filled with serum and beganto compress the heart.

Theprophecy in Psalm 22:14 was being fulfilled: "I am poured out like water,and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax; it is melted in themidst of my bowels."

Theend was rapidly approaching. The loss of tissue fluids had reached a criticallevel; the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish bloodto the tissues, and the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to inhalesmall gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues sent their flood of stimulito the brain. Jesus gasped His fifthcry: "I thirst." Again we read in the prophetic psalm: "Mystrength is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thouhas brought me into the dust of death" (Psalm 22:15 KJV).

Asponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine that was the staple drink of theRoman legionnaires, was lifted to Jesus' lips. His body was now in extremis,and He could feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. Thisrealization brought forth His sixthword, possibly little more than a tortured whisper: "It is finished."His mission of atonement9 had been completed. Finally, He could allow His bodyto die. With one last surge of strength, He once again pressed His torn feetagainst the nail, straightened His legs, took a deeper breath, and uttered His seventh and last cry: "Father,into Your hands I commit My spirit."

Death

Thecommon method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of thebones of the leg. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; the tensioncould not be relieved from the muscles of the chest, and rapid suffocationoccurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiersapproached Jesus, they saw that this was unnecessary.

Apparently,to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs,upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, "Andimmediately there came out blood and water." Thus there was an escape ofwatery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interiorof the heart. This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died,not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due toshock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.

Resurrection

Inthese events, we have seen a glimpse of the epitome of evil that man canexhibit toward his fellowman and toward God. This is an ugly sight and islikely to leave us despondent and depressed.

Butthe crucifixion was not the end of the story. How grateful we can be that wehave a sequel: a glimpse of the infinite mercy of God toward man--the gift ofatonement, the miracle of the resurrection, and the expectation of Eastermorning.

1Incarnate
2 Atonement
3 Horizontal portion of the cross
4 Vertical portion of the cross
5 Small sign stating the victim's crime
6 Gambling
7 The one who felt remorse for his sins and asked Jesus to help him.
8 As Jesus was dying, He gave his trusted friend responsibility for the care ofHis mother.
9 Taking our place by suffering the death penalty for our sin.

Dr.C. Truman Davis is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College ofMedicine. He is a practicing ophthalmologist, a pastor, and author of a bookabout medicine and the Bible.

Editors'note: If Jesus had remained dead, Christianity would be nothing but an emptypromise. But three days after His death, He rose again from the dead. This isthe miracle of resurrection, which is what Christians celebrate at Easter. Tolearn more about the resurrection, read John chapters 20 and 21.