Encouragement From The Word

No Greater Love

This Sunday marks the 100thanniversary since the declaration of the armistice, ending poppythe First World War.  It was deemed “the war to end all wars”, yet it certainly did not turn out to be so.  Along with one other significant global conflict, there have been regional, local, and various civil wars that have taken place around the world since that celebratory day in Compiègne, France, on November 11, 1918.

Remembrance Day, as we call it in Canada, is one of those days in the year where church and state comingle in an interesting yet often awkward way.  As Canada has grown more pluralistic, the presence of Christian clergy has been augmented by the presence of other religious leaders, and has often been diminished by restrictions placed on how pastors can speak at some Remembrance Day ceremonies.

The Scripture most often cited around Remembrance Day comes from Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 15.13:  “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (NLT).  Unfortunately, when it’s not given context, one can conclude that this was a passage about the valiance of war.  And while it is true that the valiant sacrifices made by those who laid down their lives in the cause of world peace and democracy are significant and not to be forgotten, this was not the context in which Jesus said those words.

Jesus was not talking about brave soldiers.  He was talking about himself.

John 15.13 isn’t about a war between nations; it’s about a war between humanity and God.

Sin separates us from God, and puts us at war with our Creator.  But Jesus came to pay the price for our sin, and make us right with God once again.  Indeed, as the Apostle Paul said, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations” (Ephesians 2.14-15a, NIV).

There will always be wars on earth, until Jesus comes again, or until the whole world knows his peace.  So let’s all commit to sharing Jesus’ peace with others, humbly and winsomely, so that war will be a thing of the past – between people and people, yes, and between people and God.

Let Remembrance Day be a reminder of our need for peace of all sorts, especially “God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4.7a, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

It is finished!

It is finished!” (John 19.30). Those were Jesus’ last words from the cross before he died. This is what we mark on Good Friday: not simply that Jesus died, that his human life was finished, but that Jesus’ atoning work that brings us salvation was finished right at the point when he breathed his last.

Because of this reality, I remain constantly amazed at how many people feel the need to deny that the work of salvation was finished on the cross. How do they deny it? By subscribing to the notion that they need to do good works to gain their salvation.

If you did a random survey on the street and asked people how they could get to heaven, a lot of people – even churched people – would reply by saying that you have to be good. You have to do nice things for people.

Unfortunately, these folks have put the cart before the horse. It’s important to do good, yes, but not so we can appease God; we do nice things to please God. Do you see the difference?

When we do good works as a way to thank God for his gift of salvation, we honour God with our actions, doing good in gratitude for having been set free from sin. But when we do good works in an attempt to curry God’s favour, it’s like saying that Jesus’ death wasn’t quite good enough to satisfy God.

Sounds crazy, put in those terms, doesn’t it? But it’s true: when we perform good works as a means of paying God back for sin, we’re telling God that his plan to have Jesus die in our place was insufficient.

What could be insufficient about taking the one who had no sin and placing our sin on him as a final sacrifice? How could any good deed I do come close to comparing with that?

On this Good Friday, let the words, “It is finished!” echo through your mind, and spill from your lips. Remember that on this day, our salvation was fully accomplished for us, and there’s nothing we can do to add to it.

But we can live for him, daily.