Guess How Much I Love You – Psalm 103:10-12, 17-18

“He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us…But from eternity to eternity the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear Him, and His righteousness toward the grandchildren of those who keep His covenant, who remember to observe His precepts” (Psalm 103:10-12, 17-18, HCSB).

In a popular children’s bedtime story by Sam McBratney, father and son rabbits use ever-greater exaggerated measures to quantify how much they love each other until the baby rabbit falls asleep.

“I love you right up to the moon–and back,” the father rabbit whispers as the baby rabbit dozes off.

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Death Defeated – Exodus 12:41-42

“In fact, it was on the last day of the 430th year that all the Lord’s forces left the land. On this night the Lord kept his promise to bring his people out of the land of Egypt. So this night belongs to him, and it must be commemorated every year by all the Israelites, from generation to generation.” (Exodus 12:41-42, NLT).

The Passover was the major festival associated with the Exodus and the formative event of the Jewish religion.

The Passover was so-named because it memorialized God saving the Israelites from the death of the firstborn by marking their doorways with the blood of the Passover lamb: “For the Lord will pass through the land to strike down the Egyptians. But when he sees the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe, the Lord will pass over your home. He will not permit his death angel to enter your house and strike you down” (Exodus 12:23, NLT).

Why did the Passover require the Israelites to apply blood to their doorposts when they were not required to perform such a ritual to escape harm in any of the other preceding nine plagues?

The Passover commemorated deliverance from death, not political independence.

As with all people, Israel’s main enemy was not bondage to Egypt, but bondage to death.

So, God could not simply exempt his people from this plague as he had preserved them from the other plagues.

Death reigned in the world because of sin, and because of God’s justice, sin could not be ignored; it had to be punished or atoned for.

Because blood represented life, it alone was acceptable for the forgiveness of sins. Thus, Passover demonstrated that deliverance from death was only by means of a substitutionary blood sacrifice, the Passover lamb, that took the place of the firstborn son of every family of Israel.

It is significant that Jesus’ death and resurrection were associated with the Passover season.

The Passover symbolized the reality that Jesus Christ gave his life as “a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45) and became “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Through His sacrifice, sin and death were once and for all fully and finally defeated.

Now, God’s judgment passes over those to whom the blood of Christ is applied.

Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered— to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing. (Revelation 5:12, NLT)

Rock My World! – Matthew 27:50-53

“Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many” (Matthew 27:50-53, HCSB)

The death and resurrection of Jesus literally rocked the world in and around Jerusalem at the time these historical events occurred.

Jesus’s death and resurrection were of such cosmic proportions that nature didn’t know how to react.

God became human and was put to death by the humanity He created. When Jesus died, the earth quaked and rocks were split so that even tombs that held the bodies of dead people were opened.

But the full magnitude of the events occurred after Jesus was resurrected–like a tsunami caused by an earthquake at the bottom of the ocean.

When Jesus was resurrected, many of the saints in the vicinity of Jerusalem were raised from the dead and came out of the tombs that had been opened and actually entered the city.

When the One who was the resurrection and life was resurrected, it seemed that death and the grave could no longer contain the dead bodies of those who would one day also be resurrected!

Jesus’s victory over death guaranteed that God would also resurrect His people.

And Jesus can still rock your world today!

Catastrophic changes will occur in your life when by Christ’s death on the cross, God forgives your sinfulness, and then by the power of Christ’s resurrection, He transforms your old sinful life into a new life of righteousness and obedience to Him.

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die —ever” (John 11:25-26, HCSB).

Don’t Go To Hell – Matthew 5:27-30

“You have heard the commandment that says, You must not commit adultery. But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:27-30, NLT)

The Greek word for hell, gehenna, originally referred to a valley outside Jerusalem where some of the kings of Judah worshiped idols and performed human sacrifice by fire (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31; 32:35). The site was eventually destroyed by King Josiah (2 Kings 23:10).

In the New Testament, gehenna refers to the place of eternal punishment by God.

In this and other related verses Jesus uses hyperbole to reinforce the the potential consequences of sin. It’s like Jesus is saying that the possibility of going to hell is of eternal significance, so do whatever it takes to avoid it–don’t go to hell!

The graphic images described by Jesus–gouging out your eye or cutting off your arm–call for radical separation from sin.

But what makes one sin more egregious than another, however, is really just a matter of degree, because all forms of sin and misbehavior are a result of the condition of the heart. Murder is the result of uncontrolled anger; adultery results from unrestrained lust.

So it is not murder but anger, not adultery but lust that violates God’s righteous standard.

It’s what is on the inside of a person that is integral to one’s spiritual formation and one’s eternal destination.

Our eternal lives are a matter of the heart and so the real issue with Jesus is not what kind of person you are, but what kind of person you are becoming.

And, according to Jesus, the condition of your heart has eternal consequences. Jesus doesn’t want you to go to hell!

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.” (Matthew 7:13, NLT)

The Biggest Sinner – I Timothy 1:15

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” There is a popular television show called The Biggest Loser in which contestants compete to see who can lose the most weight in a certain period of time. The Apostle Paul says that he could not imagine anyone being a bigger sinner than himself, possibly because of his previous persecution of the church. Because Paul was a big sinner, when God saved him all of Paul’s sin was forgiven, which allowed him to serve as an example of the extent of God’s grace: “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (vs. 16). Because of the Holy Spirit’s powerful conviction of sin, most people who have received the saving grace of God are predisposed to think of themselves as the biggest sinner. If, like Paul and like me, you are a big sinner that has been saved by God’s grace, then remember that Jesus wants you to be an example of His grace so that others might believe in Him for eternal life.