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Holy Week Devotion - Pastor Rex Howe

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Because He Lives, Jesus Sent the Holy Spirit.

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:7–11). 

The context leading up to this passage speaks of the anticipated persecution that his disciples would face following his departure. Three times in the above passage, Jesus referenced his departure. Each time, Jesus emphasized the advantage of his departure — the coming of the Helper, the Holy Spirit. The word advantage refers to what is helpful, beneficial, profitable, useful, or better. The term Helper (Greek paraklete, cf. Jn. 14:16, 26; 15:26) described an advocate or better yet an intercessor, and so we learn what kind of Helper Jesus promised to send—an indwelling Intercessor for his disciples as they faced persecution. Think about it this way, the same Prayer Warrior Helper who accompanied Jesus on his way to the cross has been sent by the resurrected Christ to dwell in the believer. Pending persecution prompted the promise of the Paraklete.

After Jesus explained the benefit of the coming Intercessor, he revealed another function of the Holy Spirit’s anticipated advent—convicting the world. Convict meant to “bring a person to the point of recognizing wrongdoing.” Some related meanings included scrutinize, examine carefully, or “express strong disapproval of someone’s action.” Jesus taught that the Spirit would convict the world in three areas: (1) concerning the sin of unbelief in Christ, (2) concerning the righteousness of Christ, and (3) concerning the judgment of the evil one by the work of Christ. The Spirit testifies that Jesus has disarmed and defeated the ruler of this world — “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). The verb judged expressed a heavenly perspective. The Spirit convicts the world that the work of Christ has brought knowledge of the devil’s future doom into the present. The world system that he has built has been sentenced.

Therefore, the reason that Jesus anticipated persecution for his disciples comes into clear view. The local church is the present base of operations from which the Holy Spirit continues and advances this ministry of conviction in the world. What does this mean? Well, the Spirit must scrutinize and expose the world, but it doesn’t always welcome such a ministry, as even our Lord himself experienced. The Spirit has been commissioned with conviction concerning Christ, and the church is his vessel through which he makes his appeal to the world to be reconciled to God through Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5). 

Take heart. The grace of God is at work through the Spirit’s work of conviction. This conviction has the power to direct a sinner out of the world and onto the path toward faith and repentance. Remember, it is to our advantage that Christ has ascended and that the Spirit has descended. For as we faithfully yield to the Spirit’s ministry of conviction in the world, we also experience his help, his intercession. While Christ too is an intercessor for us to the Father (1 Jn. 2:1), the Holy Spirit indwells, groans along with us in our weaknesses, and aims in all seasons and difficulties to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:26–29). As you think of the resurrection of Christ this week, remember and give thanks that “Because He Lives,” Jesus sent the Spirit to help us and to convict the world through us.

Other Scriptures about the Sending of the Holy Spirit: Luke 24:45–49; John 14:25–31; 15:26–27; 16:7–15; Acts 1:5–8; 2:29–35; 1 Corinthians 2:9–13; 2 Corinthians 3; Ephesians 1:13–14; 1 John 2:18–27

Posted by Rex Howe

For Us and for Our Salvation: What Did Jesus Do on the Cross?

Ornaments and Flowers
A Christmas tree isn’t a Christmas tree without ornaments. Some ornaments are nostalgic; some are beautiful; some are quite modestly made by the hands of children; others are exquisite, expensive -- having been crafted with a maturity of skill. God chose to decorate the grass with wildflowers. Isn’t that wonderful for us? Have you ever written a love letter? I’m afraid it’s maybe been a while for many of us. We’re so used to writing contracts, emails, submitting another online form, or writing another manuscript. Do you remember what it’s like to write a real love letter?

I’ve heard a number of preachers and authors refer to the Bible as God’s love letter to his people. I first heard “Prof” (i.e., Dr. Howard Hendricks) say this in his famous video series and book entitled, Living by the Book. And you know what? Prof was right, at least from one angle. How do I know? The language. If you remember writing those love letters, you also remember searching and straining for just the right words to describe your significant other’s beauty (inside and out) and to describe the intensity of your love. When the Holy Spirit inspired the New Testament writers, he met them in the search and strain to explain and describe the work of Christ for us.

One such word grouping is the hilas vocabulary. There are two nouns and one verb. These words are used a total of six times in the New Testament. Their function attempts to describe and explain to us the meaning or the happening or the effect of the cross of Jesus Christ. As you can see already, it is hard to find just the right English word to describe this word family. Every believer confesses faith in the death of Christ on the cross; that is, they believe in the event, that he died. However, believers are in different places of understanding with regard to what his death means for their salvation. You see, there is the event, and there is the meaning of the event. The hilas words give us the Spirit-through-the-apostles description of the meaning of the cross. They answer, “What is it? What was accomplished?”

Two for One
Who doesn’t love a “Buy-One-Get-One” deal?! Nothing beats two for the price of one when it comes to the consumer side of retail. Sometimes this happens in language too. If you’ve had the privilege to learn a second language, you know that sometimes you encounter words in one language that cannot be translated by only one word in the other language. The transfer isn’t quite that simple. Such is the case with the hilas words. Each of the three contains (at least) a double meaning.

First, John used hilasmos in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10. The term means an act of appeasement or expiation necessitated by sin and an instrument for appeasing or expiating (viz., a sin-offering). In essence, an appeasement is a satisfaction of a requirement, and an expiation is the removal of the obstacle that has prevented making amends. In the first verse, John writes that “[Jesus] is hilasmos concerning our sins, not only concerning ours but also concerning the whole world’s.” So, Jesus is both the act and the instrument who both appeased God and expiated sin. In the second verse, we read, “In this is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son—a hilasmon—concerning our sins.” Here, we discover, as in Romans 5:8, that God sent Jesus, the act and instrument of God’s appeasement and our expiation, to demonstrate his love.

Second, Paul and the writer to the Hebrews used hilasterion in Romans 3:25 and Hebrews 9:5. This term carries with it all the trappings of the former term but gives more color to the word family. Hilasterion carries the concrete meaning of a means, gift, or a place to secure appeasement and/or expiation. In Romans 3:25, Paul wrote, “[Jesus] whom God set forth a hilasterion through faith in his blood as a demonstration of his righteousness because of his deliberate overlooking of previously committed sins.” That is to say, that God always purposed Jesus to be the means, gift, and/or place by, in, and/or where he planned to appease his requirement and expiate the impediment of sin for forgiveness. Hebrews 9:5 helps us narrow down what the Spirit is trying to tell about Jesus. His death is the place wherein we find God’s appeasement and our expiation, because this verse uses hilasterion to describe the mercy seat above the ark where the cherubim overshadowed. In other words, Jesus has become the new mercy seat.

Lastly, Luke and the writer of Hebrews use the verb hilaskomai, which means to cause a deity to be inclined toward grace, favor or to eliminate impediments that alienate a deity. Therefore, it is an action that causes an opportunity for appeasement, expiation, and therefore conciliation. In Luke 18:13, we find a lowly tax collector who knows his inability to appease God and his inability to remove impediments that have alienated him from God. He knows his unworthiness to receive grace, favor, and conciliation from God. On his own, he has no act, no instrument, no means, no gift, and no place for appeasement and expiation. So, he cries, “God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!” He recognizes that God must act from within his own merciful character to provide an act, an instrument, a means, a gift, and a place of appeasement and expiation. This is the cry of the person who truly understands the love letter of Calvary.

The final reference to the verb in Hebrews 2:17 deserves its own paragraph. Here, Jesus acts to make appeasement and expiation. This verse focuses on his incarnation and temptation, which qualified him as a merciful and faithful high priest to hiloskomai. In 4:14–16, the writer returns to stack Jesus’ qualifying resume evermore. In 6:19–20, we read of the qualified Jesus entering behind the curtain. In 7:24–25, we discover that the intercession of Jesus’ priesthood behind the curtain is eternal and “without a successor.” Finally, 7:27 states the identity of the sacrifice—Jesus offered himself once for all. This is how the writer to the Hebrews understood Christ to hilaskomai. Chapters 8–9 detail the temple and covenant in which Jesus ministers: his temple is a heavenly one (the original, not made with human hands), and his covenant is new. In 9:11–28, the writer pulls it all together—the entirety of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ’s position, work, place, and sacrifice to cause appeasement and expiation.

Worship for Holy Week
Thus, what did Jesus do on the cross? He became and accomplished everything that was needed and required concerning sin both for the appeasement of God and for the expiation of sinners. He became and accomplished as the act, the instrument, the means, the gift, the place, the priest, and the sacrifice. As you worship God during Holy Week, I invite you to believe in the cross but also to believe about the cross. How does it feel to cry out like the lowly tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am” and to hear back, “It is finished”?!

As relationships move from dating to engagement to marriage to accumulating anniversaries, the love letters should continue, but the letters also must come alive in the forms of knowing, becoming, and acting. We are not Jesus. He is unique. Christ alone is the appeasement and the expiation. Yet, the Christian life is an imitation of Christ by the Spirit. I believe what you know and believe about the cross impacts your imitation. How may God be calling you to act instrumentally as a means, a gift, or a place that he purposes to use to draw someone to the cross where a person can find the appeasement and expiation of Jesus Christ? Is your home or church a place, like a “mini-mercy seat,” where sinners can come and find clear direction to Jesus, the Mercy Seat? Do you remove impediments or create impediments for sinners to find mercy from God in Jesus? Are the ministries in which you’re involved existing and functioning in ways that grab the attention of sinners with the kind of mercy that leads to the cross?

As you invite others to hear the gospel on Easter, decorate Jesus for them with what you know to be true about the cross. Sinners seeking mercy will find him and his cross “a wondrous beauty.”

Posted by Rex Howe with 2 Comments