Monday, April 24, 2017

The Day of the Lord - Temple

Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy was attacked by one of their white tigers in the middle of a performance in Las Vegas in 2003. Investigators found no reason the 7-year-old tiger grabbed him by the head and neck and drug him off stage. What made this so startling was the animal was nearly a pet but suddenly exhibited a wild streak they didn’t expect.

Since the beginning of time, people have tried to tame the wildness out of animals only to find without notice, they can act according to a nature that cannot be tamed. Roy’s tiger had been trained but not tamed.

The purpose of training an animal is to get some sense of control over what he does and doesn’t do. Trained, he’s manageable. Untrained, he’s unpredictable.

One of the reasons God was so disgusted with idol worship was how it often carried over into their worship of Him. They lumped all gods into one category and treated them the same.

What they were trying to do was take wild gods, tame them, then train them to work according to their benefit. How do you train a god? By giving that god what you suppose it wants in order to get what you want from that god.

·         We need rain. Appease the rain god.
·         We need sunshine. Appease the sun god.
·         We need our crops to grow. Appease the earth god.
·         We need our animals to reproduce. Appease the fertility god.
·         We need our sins forgiven. Appease Jehovah God.

Sometimes this appeasement was a dance or a festival. Other times is was a sacrifice. Sometimes is was throwing your child into the fire.

You can hear God’s frustration through Samuel: Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king." (1 Sam 15:22-23)

You treat me like a god not like God!

Isaiah had a moment of discovery when he realized this. Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." (Isa 6:5) Because of the influence of his godless society, he was suddenly aware he was treating God as an idol.

The land has also been filled with idols; they worship the work of their hands, that which their fingers have made. (Isa 2:8)

Why did they make them? The maker has some measure of control over what he has made. They fashioned a god like they wanted that god to be. They were doing the same with God.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man's hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; they have eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but they cannot hear; they have noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but they cannot feel; they have feet, but they cannot walk; they cannot make a sound with their throat. Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them. (Ps 115:4-8)

God knows we become like whatever we worship. Gospel According to Archie Bunker: in the beginning, Archie created God in his image.

This is who I want God to be. This is what I want God to do. This is how I want God to respond. If God doesn’t do these things, I reject Him. You’ll hear that in our society’s attitude toward God. If God is like that, I don’t want that kind of God. How could a loving God…That attitude fills the church.

Wanting also God to be like we want so we can have some measure of control over Him.

You’ll hear it in the prayers. 98% are telling God what He should do, how He should do it, what our expectations are. It’s as though we think we have tamed God to respond to our commands.

We’re still dealing with a wild God, who cannot be tamed, but this wild God is good. He is not a God you appease but a God you: love, trust and obey.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

It is this wildness of God that should cause us fear in dealing with Him. Simply because we know He does what He chooses to do according to a wisdom and insight we cannot even imagine. Of course we should feel inferior, small and helpless. But when we get small, He gets enormous. When we see our weaknesses, He shows us His strength.

Read His prophets. They saw God as He was. They knew their own boundaries—He was God not them. They keyed in on His expectations, His objectives. They knew what He could do. And the more they learned of Him, the greater He became, His power became unlimited, His knowledge all-encompassing, His purposes permeated every aspect of life. Where could you go from His presence? How could you question His will? What plan of Yours, O God, can be thwarted?

So whenever God used one of His prophets to announce His intentions, they did so with such confidence that it wasn’t as though it was coming, but had already come in their minds. They would tell what was happening as though it had already happened.
So whenever a prophet announced something like the Day of the Lord, you can understand why the people were afraid. It reminded them, God is untamable.

The Day of the Lord was beyond their control or influence. Like a hurricane coming in, they’d just have to hunker down and ride it out. They couldn’t stop it or adjust it to suit them. They simply were to endure God’s Day of the Lord.

But the birth of Jesus was a Day of the Lord

Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. (Mal 3:1)

…Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. (Mal 4:1-5)

Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. (Matt 11:11-14)

Malachi saw the appearance of an Elijah-like person coming 400 years in the future that would usher in a Day of the Lord event, which he called: the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.

Why? If you collect all of Jesus’ life up to His death you have a Great and Terrible Day.

A Day of the Lord was a day of change or implementation or finality, ending one era and opening up another. It was a transition out of something old into something new. Things were not going to be the same after the Day of the Lord.

Remember: hidden within the Day of Lord with respect to Jesus, was the end of Sacrifice and beginning of a direct relationship with God. The symbol of that end was the tearing of the veil in the Temple. If the veil is torn, the use of the Temple is stopped.

But, if that way of doing worship was all you knew and all you wanted, you sewed it back up, you kept going. Right? No harm, no foul.

But if God was done with the use of the Temple, and still the people wouldn’t stop, it was going to have to come down. Jesus had already told them so, but just so they would understand, when you don’t listen to the messenger, God has to demonstrate His intentions in another way.

There is a Jewish document called the Jerusalem Talmud that says: Forty years before the destruction of the Temple the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open.

Forty years before the siege against Jerusalem that ended with the Temple being destroyed was 67 – 70 A.D. Which bumps up against that Great and Terrible Day of the Lord when Jesus died and the Temple veil was torn. The day God was done with the old sacrificial system and moving on. Since they wouldn’t see it, God had to show them He was done?

According to the Jerusalem Talmud:
1.       The center lamp of the menorah in the Temple which represented the presence of God that never went out, according to Jewish teaching since the days of Aaron, was now going out. The priest would light the lamps each morning (they were not candles). He would find each day that the center lamp would still be burning. Now it was out. They noted that.
2.      A crimson thread woven into the veil itself had always turned white on the Day of Atonement. Representing that our sins though red like scarlet would be white as snow. It no longer changed. They noted that.
3.      When the priests would cast lots for the goat to carry off the sins of the people, the lot always came up in the right hand, now it came up in the left. They noted that.
4.      Then, on that day, it was documented that the gates of the Temple opened by themselves. Interesting. Perhaps God was leaving the building. They noted that as well.

When you want God to act a certain way, you treat Him like an idol. You serve Him in order to get what you want from Him. You narrow the scope of His influence. You place Him in a box and put boundaries around Him. He can only act according to your desire. But He is wild. He can tear down one system to raise up another without asking our permission or requesting our help.

The old system needed The Temple. The new system had a different temple in mind. From here on out, that new temple would be God’s connecting point with His people.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Cor 6:19)

How was He going to do this? He had another day planned that would qualify as The Great and Awesome Day of the Lord. Next week we’ll see what that day was.

TAKEAWAYS:
  1. The ways and thoughts of God are far beyond our ways and thoughts.
  2. Because He has the perspective of being God, superior in understanding, knowledge, insight, He always knows and does what is best.
  3. It is not in our best interest to think we can force God to fit into some manageable container we can control.
  4. He is not an idol that can be tamed; He is wild and unpredictable but good.

Monday, April 17, 2017

HEAVEN'S VIEW OF EASTER -- The Veil

On November 9, 1989, an announcement was made that the 30 year old Berlin Wall would be opening soon. Overwhelmed with anticipated freedom, instead of waiting, the people flooded through gates and climbed over the walls as guards, who only days before would have shot anyone attempting to get out of East Germany, stood and watched. Family, friends and people simply wanting to escape from the prison of communism were now free.

The wall that had been built by East Germany, not to keep the West Berliners in but to keep the East Berliners out, was now breeched. The barrier was broken down. The way opened, never to be closed again.

barrier is a physical structure that blocks or impedes something. Like a concrete wall, an Iron Curtain, or even a veil.

In ancient days, Moses was told to build a tent structure where sacrifices would be made and ceremonies carried out that would connect the Jews with God Himself. The tent would have two compartments with unique functions. The first compartment – called the Holy Place - would be used daily in servicing the Temple. But the second room – the Holy of Holies - was only to be used one day a year, on the Day of Atonement, when the High Priest could go inside and apply sacrificial blood to a piece of furniture called the Mercy Seat, which was over the Ark of the Covenant.

To keep anyone from seeing into that chamber and to create a barrier separating man from God, a huge and heavy curtain was hung to divide the rooms. That curtain was called the Veil.

You shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen; it shall be made with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman. You shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, their hooks also being of gold, on four sockets of silver. You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the Ark of the Covenant there within the veil; and the veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the holy of holies. You shall put the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant in the holy of holies. (Ex 26:31-34)

When the Temple that was built to replace Moses’ tent structure, the ceiling was raised to 60 feet high. So in Jesus’ day, that veil was now 30’ wide and 60’ tall. And more than an inch thick.
The Veil wasn’t designed to keep God in, but to keep man out. Only the High Priest, once a year, after he had been ceremonially cleansed could go inside.

There he would meet with God in behalf of the people. Nobody else got in.

This veil was literal and posed a physical barrier, but it also had a deeply spiritual message of the separation of Holy God from sinful man.

Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. (Isa 59:2)

Why? The rules of approaching a Holy God have never changed. Who may ascend to the hill of the Lord, who may come into His presence? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.

The Jewish High Priest had to be ceremonially cleansed for that one time per year moment. How on earth could a regular person ever hope to have access to God?

Now comes the Easter story: Two Parts
The cross: But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isa 53:5-6)

Jesus, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Col 2:14)

My iniquities – my actions in disregard to who God is – my unrighteousness caused this separation to fall on Him. He then took it away.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21)

Righteous was the key. Jesus cleared out what separated us, then qualified us to come into God’s presence. Jesus makes us right with God.

No person can remove that barrier of sin that separates us from God. Fortunately we don’t have to. He did. And then gave us access to God.

The working of God was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. (Eph 3:11-12)

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our access by faith into this grace in which we stand… (Rom 5:1-2)

But what about that veil? We’re told in an almost incidental manner – Oh by the way – that veil was torn in two from top to bottom. No other details, just the veil was torn from top to bottom. What seems to be insignificant to the story probably holds one of the most important messages within that Story.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all record it. Here’s Mark: And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Mark 15:37f)

Because of the height of the veil and its thickness, it’s clear no human could have done this. It would have taken super-human strength to pull it apart and, remember, it was torn from top to bottom, not bottom to top. Only God could have done this.

Which then begs the question: why? God wanted a literal demonstration of the barrier being torn apart. A visual of the separation being removed.

Think of what that would say to the Jewish people who had been told all their lives only the priest can approach God? And now, God is wanting to embrace them Himself.

My mother-in-law had a strange habit of reading her mail, tearing it in half and throwing it in the trash. I thought if she was tearing it so nobody could get her information out of it, anyone could put the pieces back together again. Years later when I saw my wife doing the same thing and her sister doing the same thing I had to know if this was some genetic abnormality that might be passed on to our kids. They said it just meant they were done with it and moving on.

When you’re done with something, you don’t keep doing it. If you pay off your mortgage, you don’t keep paying. If you complete your car loan, you don’t keep sending in payments.

When Jesus died, the penalty for sin was now paid in full. The old system was no longer necessary. The debt was paid. God was done with it and moving on.

What had kept us separated from God was the price of sin. The price was paid. The cross bridged the gap. Access to God is now available.

Paul explained it this way: you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who broke down the barrier of the dividing wall…for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. (Eph 2:12-14, 18)

Peter said: For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; (1 Pet 3:18)

Before the Berlin Wall came down, many of the people trapped on the communist side lost hope of ever being released, ever having access to freedom, friends and family on the other side—destined to live imprisoned to an empty existence. Some in desperation tried to cross the wall. Hundreds of people gave up their lives trying to escape. Why? Tired of their old life, wanting freedom, hoping for a better life. Wanting access but kept running into that barrier—that wall.

Then, the wall opened up and they rushed inside.

The veil has been torn and access to God is now available, still many haven’t rushed inside yet. Why is that? Man-made barriers:

            Sin – how could I be forgiven for all I’ve done.
            Anger – you have no idea what I’ve been through.
            Doubt – I’ve been disappointed by so many people, so many times, I’m afraid to
 trust any more.
            Fear – I don’t want to get messed up any worse than I already am.
            Hurt – I’ve got a lot of baggage.
            Religion – They told me to just be good enough and do what’s expected and I’ll be
alright.

The torn Veil destroyed the power of any and all obstacles that might keep us from God.

But we still have the resurrection sides of the Easter Story. Apparently, God wanted to show us one more symbol. A stone can be a barrier. When Jesus was placed in the tomb a huge stone was rolled in front of the entrance. On Easter Sunday, the stone was rolled away.  Why? Not to let Jesus out, but to let us in and see He’s risen. If we know He’s alive He can bring life to us. He can do everything He promised because He is alive to perform His work in us who believe.

TAKEAWAYS:
            1. God loves you.
            2. Jesus died so you could have access to a personal relationship with God.
            3. He is waiting for you to tell Him you want this new life.
            4. Everything God promised is now available because the veil has been torn and

                        the stone has been rolled away.

Monday, April 10, 2017

HEAVEN'S VIEW OF EASTER - Finished!

People have always had a fascination with the last words of those dying. Perhaps the person had lived such an important life, we expect some life-changing statement that will give us wisdom or something of value to cling to.
·         Murderer James W. Rodgers was put in front of a firing squad in Utah and asked if he had a last request. He replied, “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.”
·         Marie Antoinette to her executioner whose foot she had just stepped on going to the guillotine; “Pardon me, sir, I did not do it on purpose.”
·         W.C. Fields was reading the Bible in his deathbed: When asked why? He said: “I’m looking for loopholes.”
·         Voltaire was asked by a priest to renounce Satan. “Now’s not the time to be making new enemies.”
·         Augustus Caesar, first Roman emperor, said to his friends gathered around him, "Have I played the part well? Then applaud me as I exit."
·         Leonardo da Vinci, had a moment of regret. "I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have."
·         Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, said to his wife, "You are wonderful."
·         Beethoven, who was totally deaf for much of his life said: "I will hear in heaven"
·         Jimmy Stewart said, “I’m going to be with Gloria now.”
·         Edgar Allen Poe, “Lord help my soul.”
·         Blues singer Bessie Smit said, “I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord.”

Jesus said: It is Finished!
Finished indicates concluding a plan or fulfilling an obligation.
·         Like signing a peace treaty at the end of a war.
·         Like paying off a debt.
·         Like ending a career.

Last week we talked about Jesus hanging on the cross as the apex of a plan that originated before creation. He was the answer to a question left hanging since Adam and Eve brought sin into the world—Can God restore man to unbroken, holy and blameless fellowship? 

For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—(Col 1:19-22) That’s what He intended. That’s what He did—He finished redemption’s plan.

But there was a second aspect to what He had finished. Finished also has the idea of completing something and by that completion making something else obsolete. Like completing a new highway and making the old highway unnecessary. Like completing a new bridge that makes the old one useless because it has been disconnected from the roadway.

What did Jesus complete? The Sacrificial System of the Law. Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. (Matt 5:17) Fulfill-complete, finish.

Why couldn’t He just announce: the old system is over – let the new system begin. The Sacrificial System hadn’t finished what it was designed to do. It held the promise of something to come. It had a purpose yet to be fulfilled.

If why you do something is fulfilled then to continue doing it is useless. Once you find what you’re looking for, you don’t keep looking for it.

Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jer 31:31-33)

The sacrificial system was the framework around a picture God would reveal later. The idea was the frame would draw them to the picture.

The word for sacrifice meant “to draw near.” Sacrifice was a practice through which people might draw near to God and as a result God would draw near to them.

You can understand God’s anger when people just went through the motions of sacrifice without the purpose of sacrifice.

Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. (1 Sam 15:22) Sacrifice without obedience is just the killing of another innocent lamb.

Obey – same word as hear – shema – expectation is: if you hear you will obey – you will not disconnect who you are from what you do.

Jesus said: If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (Jn 14:15)

This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. (Matt 15:8)

A successful sacrifice has both method and motive—right sacrifice and right attitude. It connects the hand and heart.

Like David said: to ascend the hill of the Lord you need clean hands/pure heart

Not only did God have requirements for those offering and accomplishing the sacrifice, but since sacrifice was to draw people into the presence of a holy God, God had specific requirements for the lamb itself.

Don’t just grab a sick or dying lamb. Don’t get a messed us lamb. Don’t say, “Well, they’re just gonna kill it anyway so what’s the difference?”

A lamb was to be selected that fit a very specific criteria: it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. (Lev 22:21)

Why? This is holy business. A sacrifice is a substitute being offered to a holy God instead of or in behalf of the person making the offering. In other words, the things being done to the lamb should be being done to the person offering the lamb. The person is guilty before God. The price of sin is death. But instead of the person dying, the lamb is being punished in place of the one who offered the sacrifice.

Anyone could present a lamb for the burnt offering but that lamb represented more than just the family or person making the offering. It was part of a daily obligation that the priests were required to make twice a day.

If the people didn’t provide a lamb, one from the Migdol Eder, outside of Bethlehem, would be supplied.

It’s called the Tamid sacrifice. Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one year old lambs each day, continuously. The one lamb you shall offer in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight…It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. (Ex 29:38-42)

It happened on schedule twice a day, every day. Even on the Sabbath. In fact, the priests were given special permission to work on the Sabbath to perform this sacrifice because it was so important. It maintained daily forgiveness and connected the people with the covenant with God.

The Tamid sacrifices were done every day at 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Now here’s where things get interesting.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all three tell us: It was the third hour [9], when they crucified Jesus. And when the sixth hour [noon] had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour [3]. And at the ninth hour [3], Jesus cried with a loud voice… and breathed his last. (Mark 15:33-37)

Matthew and Mark mention Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Luke wrote that Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”

But John, who seemed to be right there at the cross, heard Jesus say, “It is finished!”

Again, what was finished? The suffering, the life, the payment for the redemption of those who believe, the culmination of the plan of God begun before the foundation of the world. What if Jesus was also closing the door to the sacrificial system?

He began and finished redemption’s plan. He began and ended the sacrificial system.

It’s really interesting to note that while Jesus was dying on the cross, at the same time of the Tamid sacrifice, the Jews were in the Temple praying for the very thing He was on the cross accomplishing. The hours of prayer coincided with the Tamid sacrifices. They recited the Eighteen Blessings:

15. Cause the shoot of David to shoot forth quickly, and raise up his horn by your salvation. For we wait on your salvation all the day. Blessed are you, Lord, who causes the horn of salvation to shoot forth. [The Hebrew word for salvation is the word yeshua. Yeshua is the Hebrew name of Jesus.]

Why did the angel insist that Mary and Joseph name the baby Jesus? Because the name was who He was – God’s salvation. They were praying for God’s Messiah by name.

And on the cross He became in practice who He always was: God made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin [a lamb, perfect, spotless, unblemished and undefiled] to be sin on our behalf [the sacrifice that fulfilled the exchange—Him paying the price for our sin], so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21)

Only the righteous may enter into unbroken, holy and blameless fellowship with Him. His sacrifice made that possible.

He did it! It is finished! He closed the book on the Old Covenant and opened up to us the New. He has now restored the way to fellowship with God. The Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world. Don’t you always love it when a good plan comes together.

TAKEAWAYS:
  1.      The plan of redemption was established before the world was formed.
  2.     For that plan to work, there needed to be a sacrificial system in place.
  3.    When Jesus died, His death accomplished multiple goals.
  4.    One goal was to end the sacrificial system by fulfilling what it represented.
  5.   The main goal was to provide the way into unbroken, holy and blameless fellowship with God.


Monday, April 3, 2017

HEAVEN'S VIEW OF EASTER - The Reason

What’s the starting point for a building? Ground Breaking? Clearing land? Laying the foundation? Drawing up blueprints?

When we sat down with our architect to discuss our new building, the first thing he asked was: what will it be used for? The starting point for a building isn’t the ground breaking, clearing land, laying the foundation…it’s not even the day the architect takes up his pen to begin to draw. The building began when we prayed and sensed God wanted us to expand our ministry potential. I see that potential every day.

What’s the starting point for Easter?
Palm Sunday? When Jesus was arrested? When He was crucified? At His resurrection? What if the purpose for Easter was an integral part of creation itself?

Before God spoke a word of creation, He had a purpose. Out of that purpose came the details of creation. And that purpose was an expression of who He was.

Being a God whose name is glorious, when people spoke of God they described characteristics worthy of an amazing, Almighty God. Loving, merciful, just, caring, intentional, powerful, present, knowing, sovereign, true, righteous, faithful, good. But the characteristic that He most uses of Himself is HOLY.

Holy means: set apart, separated, sanctified. It makes you think of the word whole, complete. What He is, He is completely. It included His person, presence, or purposes.
            Person: He is holy, holy, holy. None is holier than He is.
            Place: Wherever God is, is Holy. A Heaven, A people, a room, a life.
            Purpose: What He does flows out of Who He is. Holiness is the context out of
 which He does what He does.

In Genesis 1, after each section of creation, He framed that moment with the words: it was good—meaning it matched His design in an excellent way.

But after He created mankind He said it was very good—most excellent, making mankind the high-point of His creation, meaning we were the reason He created the world in the first place.

Good—It matched His design. What was that design? Then God said, "Let Us make man [plural-mankind] in Our image, according to Our likeness; God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen 1:26-27)

Did “Out of His own image” mean man would look like God looked? How about that which characterized God would characterized man?

They said of Jesus: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:14) He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature… (Heb 1:3) Jesus showed the likeness of God—reflecting that which characterized God.

But Jesus was also the prototype of what the people of God were to look like. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; (Rom 8:29)

Predestined – we are intended to, were designed to - reflect that same holiness, just as Jesus did.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. (Eph 1:3-4)

There you go. There is God’s plan. He wanted a holy and blameless people who would live in unbroken fellowship with Him. He created a whole world for this purpose.

Somewhat funny: Satan thought he could foul up God’s plan by tempting Eve. But Satan can’t do anything that stops God’s purpose being completed.

From a book: Ultimate Intention, DeVern Fromke wrote: One morning I went to the back door to call our three-year-old son. I planned for him to go with me to town on an errand. As I opened the back door to call him, I saw him—but what a predicament he was in! The little fellow had been playing in the garden and had fallen in the mud. So as I called him it was now with a two-fold purpose: there was the overshadowing purpose—taking him to town with me, but there was also the incidental need of “washing up” which must be incorporated into the purpose. I must first minister some cleansing so that my purpose could be fulfilled.

The dad didn’t run out to Home Depot and get material to quickly build a bathroom so he could clean up his son. It was already in place. Though the son got sidetracked, the dad’s goal remained the same and the means to that goal was already in place.

What’s the goal? Unbroken fellowship with us.
The challenge: sin. The solution: Easter. All in the same plan.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

Author arch├ęgos – Architect – one who designed the plan of faith
Perfecter – one who completes the plan of faith, brings it to its completion
Jesus has always been both—the designer and the provider—which means God’s plan included 

Easter even before there was a person who needed saving.
It wasn’t an afterthought, a secondary plan to fix a problem man created, or a moment in Jesus’ life that got out of control, or a plot by the Jews to get rid of Jesus.

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."  (Jn 10:11, 17-18)

So, now, it makes sense when Jesus said: 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matt 25:34)

A real relationship with God has been prepared for us since before time itself, waiting for us to claim it by faith.

He predestined us [pre-determined within the purpose He set before creation] to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will [unbroken fellowship], according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to a plan suitable to the fullness of the times [as seeing a plan scheduled for its appropriate time], that is, the summing up of all things in Christ [I am the way], things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance [a registered guarantee of the promises of God], having been predestined according to His purpose [predetermined that this was the plan] who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory [to make His name glorious]. (Eph 1:5-12)

Could Jesus’ death have been prevented? No. To prevent Jesus’ death you would have had to go back beyond creation and change the whole plan.

TAKEAWAYS:
  1. God planned for Easter when He was formulating the idea of creating the world.
  2. He knew man was going to mess up and need a Savior so He placed within His plan the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
  3. You and I were included within that plan: wanting unbroken fellowship with God and needing a Savior to make it possible.
  4.  Had we been the only people alive at the time of Jesus’ death, though we would have been the ones to crucify Him, He still would have died for us.



Had I been the only person alive at the time of Jesus’ death, though I would have been the one to crucify Him, He still would have died for me!