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The Wednesday Word: Barabbas and the Gospel

December 5, 2018 6 comments

And so Pilate, … released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, … to be crucified (Mark 15:6-15).

Pilate freed Barabbas, the felon, and sent Jesus to the cross.

Pilate, as you remember, had no love for Barabbas, but wanted to save Jesus. So, he hit on the idea of offering the people a choice between the two men. It was customary to free a prisoner at the time of the Feast of Passover; so, Pilate asked the crowd, “Which of the two do you want me to release?” (Matthew 27:21-22).

He was astonished when the people enthusiastically called out, “Barabbas!”

Who was Barabbas?

To the Romans, Barabbas was a terrorist who had committed murder during a rebellion (Mark 15:7). John adds that Barabbas was also a robber (John 18:40).

The name Barabbas is interesting. It means “son of the father.” Some suggest that it means son of a Rabbi. If so, Barabbas was a preacher’s kid! … and so was John Wesley Hardin…one of the most notorious killers of the Wild West.

Barabbas had been condemned to die. He was a rebel against the law, a robber and a murderer. And now the outraged law had apprehended him and he’s on Death Row.

BTW,…everyone reading this who has not come to Christ as a hell-deserving sinner looking for mercy is sitting on death row. You are not on probation but under damnation.

Suddenly, people were calling his name, “Barabbas! Barabbas!” The next thing he heard was a crowd yelling, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Perhaps, he thinks it’s a lynch mob. He’s terrified. Then, he hears the prison door slowly opening and a bewildered guard said, “Barabbas! There’s a man named Jesus who is going to die in your place. He is going to be nailed to your cross. You are free to go.

As Barabbas emerged from the jail, the crowd was surging toward Calvary. And legend has it that Barabbas followed them. Think of it, he hears the hammer and knows that the blows that are fastening Jesus to the cross were meant for him. He knows that, quite literally, he, Barabbas, is the one who should be executed.

Barabbas, as he looked at Jesus on the cross, must have received a clear understanding of the Gospel. He must have thought,

“That man took my place.

I am the one who should have died.

I am the condemned murderer.

That man did nothing wrong.

He is dying instead of me.”

Barabbas sees Christ upon his cross. After that, he had no need to go to seminary to understand the Doctrine of Substitution.

Barabbas knew that he was a guilty, worthless wretch, under the condemnation of the law.

Barabbas saw the meaning of the cross. Jesus was actually dying in his place. Barabbas would have known that he had done nothing whatever to deserve Christ dying in his place. He knew that Christ’s death for Him was an act of pure, undeserved grace.

Because of the cross, Barabbas was free from the penalty of the Law. Suppose a soldier had recognized Barabbas and tried to arrest him. He legally could not have done it! Barabbas was a free man. The substitute had died in his place.

All Barabbas would have needed to say was ‘Jesus has died for me.’ Likewise, when the Law points its condemning finger and says we’re guilty…we point toward Jesus and say…He died for me….and I am free!

Remember this, if sin speaks louder in our conscience than Christ, it is because we have taken our eyes off the Gospel.

To be frank, I’ve never liked Barabbas. I wanted the crowd to yell,

“Release Jesus!”

“Crucify Barabbas!”

But instead, they roared for the opposite.

Barabbas, a villain, was set free and Jesus took his place. I hate that.

But, when I look inside myself I realize I am Barabbas. I’m in the same shoes. And you are Barabbas, too. We’re the guilty ones. We’re the scoundrels, but we go free because Jesus died in our place.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

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The Wednesday Word – No, No, No, No! (Pt 4)

November 28, 2018 2 comments

No Authority but the Word of God.

“The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

The scriptures of the Old and New Testaments principally teach what we are to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of us. Simply speaking, we do not accept doctrines and practices which cannot be established in the Word of God.

Would that some Charismatic preachers I’ve heard held to this maxim. Their practices are simply nuts. I have searched in vain to discover the scriptural authority for their ghoulish habit of lying on graves thus soaking up the anointing of dead ministers. That and any number of weird non-biblical practices such as angel dust, honey angels, soakings and the like must be rejected. Why? They are not authorized by the Scriptures.

There is no authority but the Word of God.

Not only so but the Scriptures and not even the creeds, are the sole and sufficient rule of faith and duty. Creeds must always bow in submission to the Scripture.

In addition, every ecclesiastical pronouncement that comes from the Bishop of Rome must be weighed against the teaching of the Bible.

If I can make a statement here without being accused of hate speech, the Roman Catholic Communion officially holds to ‘scripture + tradition’ as the basis of authority for faith and practice. Indeed, they go farther than that for, since the infallibility decree of 1870, they hold that the final seat of authority in all matters of faith is the Pope (when he speaks ex-cathedra). He incorrectly claims to be the source of authority for faith and practice.

(Believers, however, on this point, side with Martin Luther who refused to be moved unless it could be shown that his teaching was contrary to the Bible. He boldly declared, “Here I take my stand; I can do no other; so help me God.)”

But, so what about Dr. Luther? Our Master, the Lord Jesus, proclaimed the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, for He said; “The scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35). He also declared that “Heaven and earth shall pass away—but My Words shall not pass away!” (Luke 21:33). Indeed, Jesus and the New Testament writers quote from the Old Testament some 295 times. They believed in the authority of the Word.

In spite of this, many who claim to be followers of Christ side with the spirit of the age and approve gay marriage, abortion, and the likes. Baffling!

They could learn from Paul when he asks: “For what saith the scripture?” (Romans 4:3). Or be instructed by the Bereans who tested all things by Scripture (Acts 17:11).

As Believers, we hold to the authority of the Bible. It is clear, authoritative, and final. There is no need for some external source of authority whether Popes, creeds or worldly standards to explain everything. The litmus test is solely and only “What saith the Scriptures?” We have the Bible, we have the Holy Spirit, and we are as well able to understand the message of the Book as any who have lived from the demise of the apostles to this hour.

There is no authority but the Word of God.

The Bible is the Christian’s standard for his rule of life. Its truth never changes. The law of the Lord is perfect (Psalm 19:7). We cannot hold this truth too firmly.

In refuting the errors of the Sadducees, Jesus said, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew I2:29). He also warned the Pharisees in Mark 7:13 that they were making the word of God of none effect through their tradition.

There is no authority but the Word of God.

In Proverbs 30:5-6 we read,

“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add not unto his words, lest he reprove you, and you be found a liar.”

But contemporary society thinks it knows better than the Scriptures. With each passing year, modern thinking gets more and more out of step with the Bible. And some Christians buy into this and make excuses for the poor antiquated Book. But we daren’t offer excuses for the Bible. It says what it says. It refuses to be tamed. Unlike us, the Bible won’t compromise. God says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, … For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

To those who pick and choose which Bible passages they want to believe, I would ask, have you been justified by faith?

You say, “Yes.”

But, by what authority do you say that?

“On the authority of the Word of God,” you reply.

But how do you know that the scriptures are authoritative? You reject much of what the word says about sin and immorality.

“Yes but the Bible is out of step on those matters,” you say.

How then do you know that it is accurate in matters of your salvation? Isn’t it time to stop picking and choosing which scriptures you want to believe?

As believers, we simply learn to rest on God’s unchanging word. God said it, that settled it. I believed it, that settled me!

There is no authority but the Word of God.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

The Wednesday Word – No, No, No, No! (PT 3)

November 21, 2018 4 comments

No Confessional but the Throne of Grace

Hebrews 4:16; “Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

With respect, none of us need go into a kind of cubbyhole to tell our sins to a man who claims the power to give us absolution. Our sins are against God, not man (Psalm 51:4). It is, therefore, to God and God alone we must look for ongoing cleansing.

Once more, in this, we see the majesty and wisdom of the Gospel. For it is in the Gospel, we encounter our priest, the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ. As a human, He is able to sympathize with us in every way (Hebrews 4:15). As God, no one can stand in His way.

In Christ, we have the surpassingly excellent and all-powerful priest. To confess our failings we go, not to an inferior earthly priest (so-called) who claims to represent God, but to the Lord Jesus, the God-man Himself. When we come to the Throne of Grace, we arrive at the true confessional. It is there, at that throne, we meet the true priest, the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is seated on a throne, for, after all, that is the rightful place for a King. “It is called a throne, because of the glory and majesty of God manifested here” (Robert Traill).

But why is it called the Throne of Grace and not the Throne of Law? Why is it not called the Throne of Holiness, the Throne of Justice, or even the Throne of Righteousness? The answer is both simple and profound. It is because salvation is entirely by Grace. And yes, righteous, law-keeping, justice and holiness are all involved with salvation, but these have been fully provided by the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are saved utterly by Grace.

Again, as the Puritan, Robert Traill, observes; “Till men get a sight of God in Christ, they cannot tell what the grace of God is. Search heaven and earth, you can never get a view of God’s grace, till you come to this throne.”

Our High Priest, the Lord Jesus, is the perfect embodiment of grace. As our priest, he exhausted and obliterated the Old Testament sacrifices and priesthood. By His priestly work, He brought in salvation. Away with these poor, pretend priests who insist we must go to them else we are not forgiven.

Forgiveness, redemption justification, propitiation grace and mercy are freely found in Christ Alone!

So, let’s say it again, there is now, therefore, no Confessional but the Throne of Grace.

This confessional is constructed with Grace and scattered over with Mercy.

This confessional is built upon grace.

Every utterance to His people is one of grace.

From this confessional, grace is dispensed.

From this throne, flow the purposes of grace.

Not only is every part of this throne made of grace but also every part is joined by grace.

The cornerstone is grace.

The capstone is grace.

It is ornamented and covered by grace.

From there alone we receive the grace which cleanses sins

From there, the blood of the Finished Work absolves and frees us.

From there, we receive grace to help in time of need.

Trembling, fearful sinners need not be afraid of coming to Him. They will not be struck down. They will not be scolded. This throne is the home of our Great High Priest and no one seeking mercy and forgiveness ever perished at His feet.

He is the Gracious One!

Away, therefore, with these men who feign the qualification and gifting to bring us to God.

Away with their confessionals made of wood.

We reject them in favor of the Confessional made of pure Grace.

“Behold the throne of grace,

The promise calls us near,

There Jesus shows a smiling face

And waits to answer prayer.”

John Newton

There is no confessional but the Throne of Grace!

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

The Wednesday Word – No, No, No, No! (Pt 2)

November 14, 2018 Leave a comment

No Sacrifice but Calvary

“Now once in the end of the world has He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Hebrews 9:26.

What Christ purposed to do on the cross, He did: He put away sin. In other words, He annulled and canceled it. What other sacrifice, offered by a priest, could do that?

Our priest, the Lord Jesus has done His work ‘once’ (Greek ‘hapax’ … literally, once for all time). There is now, therefore, no other sacrifice needed for sin. Christ has ‘once’ put sin away by the sacrifice of Himself.

That is why there is No sacrifice but Calvary.

One of the great reasons why Christ came was to put away the sins of His people. He did not leave things to chance in the hope that a few sins would be put away and someone would perhaps be saved. No! What He came to accomplish He accomplished. That is why He boldly declared from the cross, ‘It is Finished.’

No part of His assigned work was left undone. At the cross, He sacrificed Himself for His people. He bought and paid for us with blood. By the sacrifice of Himself, He put away sin. Let’s say it again, there is now no further sacrifice needed to put away sin. No amount of beating ourselves with guilt is needed! He has put away the sin of His people forever.

His sacrifice at Calvary did not merely help us put away sin: it put away our entire catalog of sin once for all time. As Spurgeon says, “There was one death, one sacrifice, one atonement, and all the work of man’s redemption was forever accomplished so that we can sing—

“Love’s redeeming work is done;

Fought the fight, the battle won.”

Christ’s sacrifice is rooted in the doctrine of His deity He was able to put away our sin because He was the God/Man. If He had been merely a sinless man and not God manifest in the flesh, he could not have made an effective sacrifice and accomplished our redemption. In God’s eyes, no mere human could pay the penalty for the sins of a seemingly uncountable number of people. However, all objections to the vicarious sacrifice of Christ disappear before the majestic identity of the God/Man.

Because of the Lord Jesus, no other sacrifice is needed. He’s remarkable! It is beyond me to understand why our dear friends, the Roman Catholics, allow their priests to continually offer up Christ as a bloodless sacrifice (the Mass). Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary requires neither renewal nor repetition.

May all the Lord’s people come to realize that our exhausting striving to become right with God is unnecessary. Redemption has already been accomplished. There is no more need to whip ourselves into frenzied attempts to keep the Law to gain acceptance with God. The sacrifice has been completed and we receive its benefits by faith alone.

Again, Spurgeon has some stern yet wise words on this matter. He says; “Our Lord has once for all made an atonement, and all attempts to tamper with His finished work is treason such as shall be answered for in the court of heaven. “

Worth thinking about!

‘Come and see the victories of the cross.

Christ’s wounds are your healings,

His agonies your rest,

His conflicts your conquests,

His groans your songs,

His pains your ease,

His shame your glory,

His death your life,

His sufferings your salvation.’

(adapted from Matthew Henry)

Our sin has been put away.

There is no sacrifice but Calvary.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

The Wednesday Word – No, No, No, No! (Pt 1)

No Priest but Christ

Hebrews 7:25

“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them”.

A man in Southern India once asked a missionary to make him a promise. He explained how that, every day, he prayed for his own soul and asked the missionary if, when he, the Indian, died, the missionary would continue this practice for him. When the missionary asked why he would need to do that, the man replied that he was full of doubt and anxiety. He thought that, if this missionary would just pray for him every day, then surely God would let him into heaven and forgive his sins. How sad! This poor man felt he needed someone to intercede for him. He needed a priest … a go-between. And yes, the truth is the dear man did need a priest, an intercessor. But the only mediator who is effective in this business of salvation is the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the God/Man … God in human flesh. He alone can bring us to the Father and bring the Father to us. Relying, for eternal life on anyone or anything other than Christ is to fail to grasp the Gospel. The belief the dear Indian man held was in actual fact unbelief. It is sad to say that there are still so many looking to multiplied mediators other than Christ

I once attended the funeral of a dear Roman Catholic lady and during the funeral service, all kinds of mediators were presented to the Father for His consideration. God was asked to consider the good works of the deceased. That’s one mediator. Then deceased ‘holy saints’ were called upon to add their intercession. That’s a host more mediators. Finally, the Virgin Mary was asked for her prayers and intercession. These dear people did not seem to realize there is no mediator but the Lord Jesus Christ. Only Christ is qualified and powerful enough to bring us to Glory.

There is no pledge of Salvation without a proper priest and the priest we need died for us. But a dead priest is of no use to anyone. That’s why the one true priest did not remain dead, He is alive. He rose from the dead and now ever-lives to apply the entire benefits of His finished work to us. That is why so many religious people have no assurance of salvation. They are looking to sinful, sacrificing priests to get them into heaven. These dear ones cannot say with any confidence that, “Yes, I am a Christian. Christ died for me, He cleansed my sins. He took them away. He was buried. He rose from the dead for me. He is my priest, He is my righteousness and I will be with Him forever.

“Hands off, ye priests! Ye are too feeble for such weights as ours. Our sins are too stupendous for your puny strength. But the Lord comes with his own right hand of majesty, puts away our sins and lifts them on to Christ, and Christ comes and flings them into his sepulcher, and they are gone and buried forever:” Spurgeon

Some say that present-day priests are substitutes for Christ. But this is an awful attack on the Lord Jesus. Why? It’s simple, He needs no substitute. We need no other priest to represent us before God than the Lord Jesus. There are no special religious orders of men or women in any land who can present us to the Father. We have but one priest and He lives forever. If any man calls himself a priest (other than in the sense that all the redeemed are non-mediatorial priests), he takes too much honour upon himself. He is no mediator of salvation. He is an intruder who claims a priesthood which does not belong to him.

Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls; for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30.) Christ has never said and will never say to any sinner, “Go to the priest and he will give you rest.” But he has said, “Come to me.” There is no Priest but Christ.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

The Wednesday Word: Is Jesus Enough for our Reward? Part 2

October 31, 2018 2 comments

All believers are headed for glory and our reward. But what exactly will that be?

Let’s ask ourselves, what do we want it to be? Do we want the reward of a big mansion or a castle in glory? Or, would Jesus be enough?

Do we want Him?
Do we love Him?

Can we say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Psalm 73:25).

Is Jesus enough?

Every believer, when our work has been examined at the Judgment throne, will receive a reward. So, let’s say for example, that our work passes through the Judgment with flying colours and we go on to our reward, what do we want it to be? Do we want literal crowns and mansions? They may be there. But so what?

I am persuaded that our greatest reward is Him, the Lord Jesus.

Consider the Levites of the Old Testament, they got no inheritance in the land, but they were given Him (Deuteronomy 10:9;18:1-2). The Lord was their inheritance and they had the privilege of ministering to Him.

They got the best deal in Israel!

The Lord is our reward. He told Abraham, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). Isaiah 40:10 tells us; “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him.”

Is He enough for our reward or do we want more?

I love what the hymn writer wrote about this; he said;

Finish then thy new creation:
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

We will cast our crowns before Him for He is enough. What a sublime thought!

So what exactly will Heaven and life there be like? We don’t know for eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9). But this much we do know; in Heaven, we not only encounter Jesus but we also encounter Heaven in Jesus

He is the Light of Heaven.
He is the Bread of Heaven.
He is the Delight of Heaven.
He is the Glory of Heaven.
He is the Joy of Heaven.
He is the Reward of Heaven.
His presence there makes Heaven into Heaven. If He left, it would no longer be Heaven! Jesus is the centre of Heaven, Jesus Himself is heaven and heaven is Jesus.

Jesus is enough.
And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com 

The Wednesday Word: Is Jesus enough for your Reward? Part 1

We often think that Jesus must have had it reasonably easy. Apart from having to go through the few hours of the cross, He had a pretty agreeable time of it —-didn’t He? After all, there He was walking about the place as ‘God incognito’; the all-powerful one cleverly disguised as a man. How hard could that be?

So just how difficult could His life have been? Was His 33 years here a relatively good and pleasant experience?

Actually, humanly speaking, it was not. In some ways, it was pretty awful!

Let’s look for example at His early life. I’m sure you have often heard it said that we know almost nothing of those years, but this is not strictly the case. We know, for example, that by age 12 He knew His will was set apart to do that of His Father (Luke 2:49). But is there any more information available about those early days?

Yes, there is. Take for example the Psalms. Many of them contain the prayers of Jesus. They may have been spoken and cried prophetically by others, nevertheless, many of them were the expressions of Christ’s heart. Part of Psalm 69, for instance, prophetically gives us insight into what it was going to be like for Jesus growing up in Nazareth and it was ghastly! Verse 7 reads,

“Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.”

Many think this is a direct reference to the rejection He would get from some people because of the Virgin Birth. Consider this, when He was born, He was born to a virgin. Joseph was not His Father, God was! He was the Son of God, not the Son of Joseph! Can you imagine bearing that stigma? “God is your Father? —a likely story!” From His earliest days, He always carried the stigma of being bastard-born. This may be no big deal today, but in those days, it was pretty dreadful. Not all of His day despised bastards, but many did.

Someone has said, “God made the countryside, man made the cities, but the Devil made the small towns.” That’s more truth than poetry. I grew up in a small village in Northern Ireland and can testify that it seemed as though everyone knew everyone else’s business. I knew who many the children were who were born out of wedlock. We all knew! So, I can well believe that the ‘upstanding’ parents of Nazareth warned their children, “Don’t have anything to do with that Jesus one, he’s from bad stock. Joseph didn’t marry his mother till after he was born.”

Then we read,

“I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children” (Psalm 69:8).

The truth is this, His brothers and sisters didn’t like Him. He was always going on about that ‘God stuff.’ And besides that, they knew He was different and yes, they’d heard the stories and yes they’d heard that there was a claim that God was His real Father. They didn’t much care for Him. Rejection started within His own house. He was a stranger and an alien in His own home. It was, in fact, not till after the resurrection that any of them became His followers.

So, what was He like to be around? We get the answer in the next verse, verse 9; “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.”

The reason I bring all that up is to emphasize that that kind of suffering is all in the past. For Him, earthly life with all its rejections and shunning has gone forever, He has entered His well-earned rest. He has gone

From humiliation to glorification;

From degradation to exaltation;

From the curse to the crown;

From the place of horror to the place of honour;

From the gruesome tree to the glorious throne;

From receiving wrath to receiving worship.

As His follower, life may be tough right now. You love Him and have taken a stand for Him and it has brought you nothing but trouble. But don’t lose heart, your reward is yet to come. Do not become weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9). As Paul says, our light affliction is but for a moment. Fix your eyes upon Jesus for there’s an eternal weight of glory just up ahead (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

We will continue this thought next time (DV)

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles Mckee

www.milesmckee.com