Holy Week Devotionals


Daily Devotional for Monday, March 21, 2016

 “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21.

 

I would like to share the different doctrines or understandings of the Atonement in the days leading up to Good Friday and Easter. Atonement literally means “to make at one” or at-one- ment” These Atonement doctrines were developed to answer three questions. Why did Jesus die on the cross? What did his death accomplish? What real difference does the cross make in our lives, our world, and our relationship with God? Throughout the history of Christianity, the church has attempted to answer these questions with these different doctrines of atonement. As I share these different doctrines with you in the coming days, I would be interested in hearing from any of you, which ones do you agree with or find helpful in your faith journey, and which ones do you find yourself unable to affirm.

The first doctrine or understanding of the atonement is commonly called the Moral Influence doctrine. First articulated by a 12th century theologian named Peter Abelard who lived in Brittany a province of France. Abelard taught that the cross was the greatest example of God’s love in all of human history. If we are called to love as God has loved us, then the cross is an example for us to follow. The key scriptural support for this doctrine is found in 1 Peter 2:21, which is printed at the top of the devotional. The key affirmation of this doctrine is that Jesus died on the cross to show us the way to live. According to the “moral-influence” doctrine of the Atonement, Christ gave his life to show us the way to live and to have abundant life. We are called to follow Jesus’ example by living a cross-shaped life.

Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice, his very life, on the cross as a sign of his great love for us. Jesus spoke these words to his disciples in the Upper Room the night before his death. “This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:13-14). The key question that the Moral Influence doctrine raises for disciples of Jesus Christ in every generation is this, “Are we willing to follow Christ’s example and obey his commandment to love another just as much as Christ loved each one of us?”


Daily Devotional for Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Read Ephesians 1:7-12

Today, I want to share the second doctrine or understanding of the atonement. These Atonement doctrines were developed to answer three questions. Why did Jesus die on the cross? What did his death accomplish? What real difference does the cross make in our lives, our world, and our relationship with God? The second doctrine or understanding of the atonement is commonly called the Redemption doctrine of atonement. The Bible is full of redeeming actions in the history of the people of Israel and in the history of all people.

The key affirmation of the redemption doctrine of atonement is that Jesus died on the cross to redeem us from bondage to sin and death. He gave his life to set right our relationship with God. Through the work of Christ on the cross, God has redeemed His people, and placed His seal of the Holy Spirit upon them guaranteeing our future redemption. Through God’s grace we are now blessed with all the spiritual blessings that God intended for us since before creation. We are called to be the present witness of the same redemptive love that was revealed at the cross and that will be fulfilled at the end of time.  


 Daily Devotional for Wednesday, March 23, 2016

 Read Isaiah Chapters 52 and 53 and John 19:17-30

Today, I want to share the third doctrine or understanding of the atonement. These Atonement doctrines were developed to answer three questions. Why did Jesus die on the cross? What did his death accomplish? What real difference does the cross make in our lives, our world, and our relationship with God? The fourth doctrine or understanding is the substitutionary/salvation atonement. Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins and to accomplish our salvation. God‘s love compelled him to send his son to take the punishment and guilt deserved by all of us, and allow us to be saved through the forgiveness of God.

Throughout the Bible we learn that the wages of sin is death. Christ endures death and the punishment we deserve for our sin dies in our place to save us. When Jesus Christ died on the cross first he was taking the punishment for our sins and second he provided a pathway for us to be saved. In this substitutionary/salvation atonement, Jesus Christ took that all what was ours, all the sin, guilt, condemnation, wrath, judgment, punishment, rejection by God, separation from God, and death. He took it all. We should imagine ourselves in the place of Jesus on the cross, bearing all that pain and agony for us.   The key question that is raised by the substitutionary/salvation atonement doctrine is the following: What difference does it make in your life and faith to say that Jesus took your place? What are you doing in response to Christ’s sacrifice and the offer of God’s great grace?


Daily Devotional for Holy Thursday March 24, 2016                                              

Read 1 John 1:5-2:2

Today, on this Holy Thursday I want to share the fourth doctrine or understanding of the atonement. These Atonement doctrines were developed to answer three questions. Why did Jesus die on the cross? What did his death accomplish? What real difference does the cross make in our lives, our world, and our relationship with God? The fourth doctrine or understanding is The Blood Atonement doctrine. This doctrine is supported by the Old Testament theology of Blood Atonement. In the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, the stain of human sin was transferred form the people to the lamb that was sacrificed on the altar. The people were cleansed of their sins by the blood of the lamb.

This atonement doctrine has two key affirmations. The first affirmation is that we are unclean, because of sin. My favorite definition of sin is the following: Sin is anything that causes alienation between us and God, or between us and others. It is anything that separates us, cuts us off, and isolates us from holy living and loving relationships that model the holiness and love of God. This definition covers so much more than just a few lists from certain parts of the Bible. The second key affirmation is that Jesus took all our uncleanness, and like the lamb on the altar, he died so that we could be made clean.

The blood atonement doctrine emphasizes the sacrificial love of God revealed in the blood of Jesus on the cross, and its power to make us clean. Just like the words of that great old hymn state, “There is Power in the Blood.” Through his blood, we experience the power of divine love that gives us new life. The good news contained within the Blood Atonement doctrine is that Christ loved us so much that he gave himself to cleanse us of our sins. This is why when he instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion in the Upper Room he spoke these words, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”


Daily Devotional for Good Friday, March 25, 2016

Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Colossians 1:15-23

Today, on this Good Friday I want to share the fifth doctrine or understanding of the atonement. These Atonement doctrines were developed to answer three questions. Why did Jesus die on the cross? What did his death accomplish? What real difference does the cross make in our lives, our world, and our relationship with God? The fifth doctrine or understanding is the Reconciliation doctrine. Jesus died on the Cross to reconcile humankind with God the Father. Humankind is Humpty Dumpty and because of the sin of the first Adam, we fell off the wall big time. Because sin came into the world through the fall of Adam now there are broken lives, broken promises, broken relationships, broken nations, broken hopes, broken dreams, and broken hearts all over the place.

We are all physical and spiritual descendants of Adam and so all of us have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. The real root cause of all the brokenness in our world is humankind’s self-centered arrogance and attempts to take over for God and play God ourselves. This is sin, this rebellion against God. What can fix our brokenness?

The grace of God is the glue. The utterly unmerited, undeserved, unearned love of God is the glue by which God is a work putting things back together again. God alone does the work of reconciliation. He does for us through Jesus Christ, what we could never do for ourselves. The only hope for putting things back together again is the reconciling love that God revealed at the cross. On that cross through his death, Christ took our sins, our rebellion, and our brokenness upon himself. This was done not only for us to be reconciled to God, but also for all of us to be reconciled to one another. Reconciliation is the establishment of peace where there once was hostility. God puts together a new way of living, thinking, acting, and being, filled with the resurrection power of the living Christ.


Daily Devotional for Saturday, March 26, 2016

Read Romans 7:14-8:17

Today, I want to share with you the sixth doctrine or understanding of the atonement. These Atonement doctrines were developed to answer three questions. Why did Jesus die on the cross? What did his death accomplish? What real difference does the cross make in our lives, our world, and our relationship with God? The sixth doctrine or understanding is the Liberation doctrine. We are condemned by the law, by through God’s grace we are freed. The theological word for this liberation is justification. Although previously found guilty, we are now declared righteous before the law. The key question we need to ask ourselves is the following: Are we still bound by our sins, or are we living as the free persons God created us to be?


Daily Devotional for Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016

Read Luke 24:1-9 and 1 Corinthians 15

Today, I want to share with you the seventh and final doctrine or understanding of the atonement. These Atonement doctrines were developed to answer three questions. Why did Jesus die on the cross? What did his death accomplish? What real difference does the cross make in our lives, our world, and our relationship with God? The seventh doctrine or understanding is the Resurrection doctrine. The key affirmation it makes is that Jesus died on the cross to defeat death and win the ultimate victory over death. He died to give us the hope of eternal life. Paul writes about Christ’s resurrection, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? “Where, O death, is your sting?” Easter is not just another church holiday. Easter is the celebration of a great cosmic event. What difference does Easter make in the way you live your life today?

Rev. Rick Warren offers three effects of Easter and the Resurrection in our lives today. First, whatever has happened in the past can be forgiven. That's good news. In Colossians 2:14 the Apostle Paul wrote: "He has forgiven all our sins and canceled every debt we owe. Christ has done away with it by nailing it to the cross."

Second, our present problems can be managed. We all need a power greater than ourselves. We were never meant to live this life on your own power. Here is some more good news. In Ephesians 1:19-20 the Apostle Paul wrote: "How incredibly great is his power to help those who believe him, the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead." The same power that enabled Jesus to rise from death will help you rise above your problems. The same power God used at the Resurrection 2,000 years ago can be used in each of our lives right now. None of us knows what the future holds for us, but we can place all our trust in the one who holds the future, Almighty God.

This power also causes the third effect of Easter and the Resurrection, our futures are secure even in the face of death. The hope of the resurrection is found in these verses from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Have a Blessed Holy Week and A Happy Easter,

Pastor Sterling

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