The Hour of Darkness – It is Finished

paid in full

I would like to begin with a story.

Many years ago, I taught in Campbell River.   Enrolling students from other countries was just getting started and our school had several Koreans in attendance.  We did not have separate English Language Learning streams in those days so these E S L students were thrown in to regular classes, all taught in English.

I got to know one such student quite well.  I spent many hours helping him after school.  Other teachers did as well.  He recorded his classes and spent hours and hours every night playing them back, translating vocabulary into Korean so he could understand and learn it.  On top of that, his personality and his cultural drive to honor his parent’s financial investment caused him to be extremely dissatisfied if he did not achieve high grades. (really high grades).

I returned to Kenya and he went on to graduate from grade 12.  He finished.  But then it was university and he struggled to find a really good school.  He went to UBC Okanagan and I remember meeting him once while I was on home assignment.  He was struggling with the work load, struggling with his English and struggling with achieving the highest possible grades.    He was at the campus from early morning till late at night.  He wasn’t eating properly, he wasn’t exercising, his church attendance dropped off.    But he finished.  

By now I was back in Canada and we connected again.  Now he wanted to go to into architecture, a highly competitive field.  Again, the struggle, even doubting if this was the right path because it was so hard.  The other day he contacted me and asked me to edit one of his final proposals for a building to promote true multi-culturalism.  It looks like soon he will finish.

Of course, next will be applying for jobs, maybe getting married and I am afraid the struggle for next to perfect performance will continue. 

FINISHED BUT NEVER FINISHED.

Let us read the latter portions of John 19 together.    It is a portion of the Bible normally studied on Good Friday but as we have been going through THE STORY (hold it up) we have reached this point today.

So, the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,

“They divided my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.”[a]

So this is what the soldiers did.

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[b] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST movie was released in February 2004. It grossed over $611 million while only costing $30 million and many people were highly impacted.   I am going to read one review of the movie.

The writer/director was Mel Gibson.  The movie was his depiction of the last hours of the life of Jesus. It’s Gibson’s personal, spiritual statement about the view that the suffering Jesus endured at the end of his life demonstrated his divinity and his sacrifice.

This movie is the prayer of a gifted filmmaker, but it’s also a narrow and harrowing perspective on a story that, no matter what your faith, is bigger than any attempt to portray it on film.  Gibson said that everyone who worked on this film, whether, Christian, Muslim or Atheist were deeply affected and changed. As a movie, it’s a respectful and reverent treatment of a story that has probably been more influential than any other in the history of the world.

This morning we are going to just focus on three little words in English which is one word in Greek.  It is finished. Te tell is sty. It is finished !  Te tell is sty!  I am praying that this time will again deeply affect us.  We will come away with a greater conviction of the divinity and incredible sacrificial love of Jesus FOR US and be spurred to respond to it.

The question we are going to consider is:  What did Jesus mean when he said “It is Finished”?  Te tell is sty ?

 Matthew Henry, who lived over 300 years ago wrote one of the greatest devotional commentaries on record. He lists 8 things that were finished or completed when Jesus cried out “It is finished.”

1. The malice of his enemies was finished. By nailing him to the cross, they had done their worst. There was nothing more they could do to the Son of God.

2. The sufferings ordained by God were finished. Often, during his ministry, Jesus spoke of “the work” he was sent to do and of the “hour” of trouble that was coming. He once spoke of a “baptism” of suffering he must undergo. All those things were ordained by God.   But those sufferings were now at an end.

3. All the Old Testament types and prophecies were fulfilled. Matthew Henry lists a number of examples—He had been given vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21), he had been sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12), his hands and feet had been pierced (Psalm 22:16), his garments had been divided (Psalm 22:18), and his side was pierced (Zechariah 12:10). There are many other prophesies surrounding his death. All those had been or very soon would be fulfilled.

4. The ceremonial law was abolished. As Romans 10:4 puts it, Christ is “the end of the law.” It finds its completion and fulfillment in him. Therefore, all the Old Testament rules concerning animal sacrifices are set aside. And the rules and regulations concerning the priesthood are out of date since the Greater Priest has now laid down his life for his people. Those laws pointed to the cross. But once Jesus died, they were no longer needed.  

5. The price of sin was paid in full. Recall the words of John the Baptist when he saw Jesus? He called him “The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) That “taking away” of sin was accomplished by the death of our Lord.

6. His physical sufferings were at an end. “The storm is over, the worst is past; all his pains and agonies are at an end.

7. His life was now finished. When Jesus cried out “It is finished,” he had only a few seconds to live. All that he had come to do had been fully accomplished. His life and his mission came to an end at exactly the same moment.

Before we mention the final and most significant meaning behind Jesus saying It is finished! it would be helpful to expand the meaning of the Greek word Te Tell is sty!

It comes from the verb teleo, which means “to bring to an end, to complete, to accomplish.” It represents the successful end to a particular course of action.   You would use it when you climb to the peak of a tall mountain or you make the final payment on your mortgage or cross the finish line of your first marathon. Not just “I survived.” Rather “I did exactly what I set out to do.”

I’m sure we all have some parts of our lives that we feel are successfully completed. However, all of us also have areas in our lives that are  unfinished and may remain unfinished when we die.    

—the half-read book – books in my case – you should see the pile on my table
—the letter started but never sent
—how about the abandoned diet
—or the phone calls never returned 

But it can be much more serious than these
—the job we quit in a fit of anger
—the wrecked marriage
—the bills never paid
—the promises never kept

There is a trail of unfinished projects and unfulfilled dreams behind us all.   Jesus was the one person in history never left behind any unfinished business.   He is the only person who could come to the end of his life and say—with absolute and total truthfulness—”I have finished everything I set out to do.”

But there’s more. Tetelestai is in the perfect tense in Greek. That’s important because the perfect tense refers to an action which has been completed in the past with results continuing into the present. It’s not the simple past tense which looks back to an event and says, “This happened.” Rather the perfect tense means   “This happened and it is still in effect today.”

Jesus’ cry of “It is finished,” meant “It was finished in the past, it is still finished in the present, and it will remain finished in the future.”

He did not say, “I am finished,” for that would imply that he died defeated and exhausted. Rather, he cried out “It is finished,” meaning “I successfully completed the work I came to do.” It is the Savior’s final cry of victory, with no unfinished business behind.  

Finally, let me add one more piece of the meaning of Te tell is sty

It means everything listed above, but it especially applies to the price paid for the sins of the world.  Historians discovered this verb was used in the first and second centuries in the sense of “fulfilling” or “paying” a debt and often appeared in receipts. “It is finished” (Tetelestai) could be interpreted as “Paid in full.”

“Paid in full” means that once a thing is paid for, you never have to pay for it again.

So, with this full definition of I will share the last thing Matthew Henry said were finished when Jesus died.

8-The work of redemption was now complete.      

Man’s redemption (buying back from the enemy) was completed.

  1. the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.

“God’s plans for the redemption of his world”

  • the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.

So, let me put this all together in the context of our sermon series.

When Jesus said It is finished, He was saying he had accomplished everything He set out to do.  He was saying It was finished in the past, it is still finished in the present, and it will remain finished in the future.”  And he was saying that the work of saving mankind from sin and buying them back    was complete.  Paid in full.

If you have been with us throughout the last year you will be aware that we have gone on a journey through the whole Bible, Story by Story.

Way back at the beginning we learned about the creation of the world and the creation of man and woman made in the image of God.

God placed them in a beautiful garden and came down to live with them – to walk in the quiet of the afternoon together. 

Unfortunately, the man and woman chose their own way, rather than following the good plans of their creator.  This is called sin which is defined by the author of the Story as a preoccupation with selfishness.  Selfishness over otherness.  A disregard for God and a disregard for others in our lives.

This broke the possibility of mankind living together with God and set a chain of events in place in which mankind became separated from God and each successive person inherited the stain or virus of sin from their original ancestors.  Due to that, mankind lost the ability to have fellowship with their creator.  Due to God’s great love for mankind He set in motion an upper story in order to some day restore the ability for men to once again come into His presence.  While He was working out all things in this grand redemptive (saving or buying back) plan in the upper story, the conditions on the earth (the lower story) were tragic and got worse and worse the farther away from the original intent of God.

God chose a people (Israelites) and established rules of conduct (10 Commandments) in order to preserve them and help them be a witness to all nations.  They failed to obey them.  He chose to be their God but they cried out for human kings which he granted but very few of them followed after Him.  He sent prophets to warn and hopefully cause His people to return to Him but the people did not listen or respect the prophets or God. He performed miracles of deliverance to prove his love to his people.  When the conditions on the earth became so bad, judgement came upon people to get their attention always with the promise and reality of deliverance.

And He helped people to make a written record of His commandments for mankind and a history of his dealings with them.  (The Torah or Old Testament as we call it now).  And throughout the whole written record there were foreshadows of the Upper Story plan to redeem mankind and make a way for men to be able to fellowship directly with God again.

When Jesus said It is finished Te Tell is Sty he was saying that the upper story and lower story had intersected (come together) and the plan of God to bring back mankind back into fellowship was completed.  Through Jesus’ sacrificial death people have the opportunity to walk once more in the garden with God.

Application  1: The way is open for you to connect with God.  You don’t have to earn it like my friend constantly does.  Jesus accomplished it all. The finished work of Christ. All you have to do it accept it.  You can’t earn it – you would be foolish to try.  You can’t add to – it is finished.  Let me put it very simply. If Jesus paid it all, you don’t have to. If you try to pay for your salvation, it means you don’t think he paid it all. There is no middle ground between those two propositions.

Since Jesus Christ paid in full, the only thing you can do is accept it or reject it

Application #2:  No sin is too great to keep you from God.  Name any sin – the price has been paid in full.  What sin is keeping you from God today? Is it anger? Is it lust? Is it a hard heart of unbelief? Is it alcohol abuse? Is it an uncontrollable temper? Is it cheating? Is it stealing? Is it adultery? Is it abortion? Is it pride? Is it greed?

Let me tell you the best news you’ve ever heard. It doesn’t matter what “your” sin is. It doesn’t matter how many sins you’ve piled up in your life. It doesn’t matter how guilty you think you are. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been doing this week. It doesn’t matter how bad you’ve been. It doesn’t matter how many skeletons rattle around in your closet.  When we accept the sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross all of our sins have been stamped by God with one word—Tetelestai—Paid in full.

Along with that we do not have to pretend anymore.  I don’t have to wear a mask and try to appear to be someone I am not.  Application #3:    There is no place for discrimination or pride.  Each person in the auditorium has the same spiritual problem and the same spiritual solution.  There is no place for otherness.  Galatians 3:28 makes is very clear.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Don’t Read This

Once again, don’t read this if you don’t want to know how bad things are in our city. Don’t read this if you don’t want to admit how hard things are just to be human in this environment. Don’t read this if you think you are the only one struggling with sexual temptation.

The British apologist C. S. Lewis, stated that “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is…You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it not by lying down. A man who gives into the temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.“

If you’ve ever stood on the deck of a BC ferry and walked into the wind there are times when you could almost be blown overboard. Those resting inside have little idea how challenging it is to stand or walk for those on the outside.

In my best dreams as a pastor I would like to imagine that all followers of Jesus are safe inside the ship and that the winds are wreaking their havoc on those who deliberately refuse to come inside and get away from all the images on television, in the theatres, on the computers, in the magazines, in the malls, in the bookstores, in their classrooms, in their workspaces, in their community centers, in their doctor’s offices, on the billboards, on their tablets, on their phones and in their own imaginations.

The carnage on our society is deadly. How can prayer impact the direction and consequences we are seeing unleashed around us as Romans 1 promised?

Huge percentages of youth, young adults, married men and women, and even seniors are confessing in groups designed for believers that they are enslaved by pornography, masturbation, sexual fantasies and addictions, pre-marital and extra-marital sexual encounters, inappropriate thoughts, attractions, lusts or desires.

An enemy is working hard to cripple the church from being an effective witness. How can we stand up under this onslaught? As someone said to me today, you can’t keep playing with this fire and not get burned. Are we facing a wildfire that has gotten out of control?

Last week we had three policemen join Cathy Peters in meeting with daycare workers from several of our daycares throughout Vancouver. We hosted this important event to highlight how child sex trafficking is rampant in our own communities. We’re going to share this same information with parents in the next little while but there is serious concern that parents won’t believe that their son or daughter could be at risk.

 

 

More on this in the next blogs.

It is said of Billy Graham, in memory of his passing, that he took sin seriously in guarding his own exposure to temptations or compromising situations, but he also took redemption seriously when it came to the sins of others. Perhaps as you ponder what is going on around you it might be a good time to take both of these things into consideration as we deal with ourselves and others. What is God asking of you as you work to become a wounded healer in our broken world?

Distinguishing God from nature

We live in an age where many seem to worship the creation more than the Creator. The lines between stewardship of creation and worship of creation are blurring. This probably shouldn’t surprise us as the signs of this shift are evident in our culture.

We have people who create havoc over how cows and chickens are slaughtered but who ignore the slaughter of babies in the womb even when the child’s organs are being harvested and sold to keep other humans healthy and whole. We have people who flaunt abhorrent sexual practices as a right while ignoring the sex trafficking, bondage, abuse and oppression that such lifestyles often nurture.

In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul says that God designs creation in such a way that his character can’t be misunderstood by those who search for him. Those who suppress the truth of his power and divine nature have no excuse. When people shift from worshiping the Creator to worshipping the creation God gives them up to their own foolish thinking. One of the first evidences is that they compromise their God-oriented sexuality. “They exchange the truth of God for a lie.”

Once this step is taken the slide continues into “every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (NIV)

Paul finishes by saying that the most amazing thing is that they not only do these things but they approve of others who do them. Ever notice how our society celebrates openly those who do these things? If not celebrates, at least tolerates willingly to avoid being labeled.

That’s not how we would usually expect God to express his wrath when we go our own way – to let us have the consequences of our own choices and to let us explore the depths of our own sin nature.

All along, God wants us to see that there is nothing but Him who can satisfy the deepest desires of our heart. There is nothing but the way he designed life which will meet the deepest needs of our soul. By allowing us to follow the options we choose we are meant to see that this option won’t meet our expectations for soul-satisfaction. Tasting the fruit of our soul’s destruction, brought on by wrong choices, is meant to prod us back to him and the way he designed for us.

Yes, care for creation – pick up that trash, grow those trees, steward the fish and birds and whales – but realize that you do this to remind others of how good and how gracious the Creator is in providing everything we need for life and godliness.

Start where you are

The great British author (Oxford and Cambridge professor), C.S. Lewis once said that “you can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

C.S. Lewis started his professional career as an atheist. He ended his life as a follower of Jesus. He was actually raised as an Anglican and embraced atheism in his teens. Few people remember why he returned to a true faith in 1929. One man made the difference. The man was George Macdonald – a writer of fantasy. C.S. Lewis was fascinated by the “quality of cheerfulness” which convinced him that righteousness was not a dull thing.

C.S. Lewis absorbed all he could learn from his spiritual teacher and then started producing classics which young believers still thrive on. Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, The Abolition of Man, The Allegory of Love and The Discarded Image take people into deep thought on the Christian Faith.

Lewis is better known by some of us for his Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, and the Great Divorce. Others served to probe deeply into our human soul and to free our minds to consider the truths of our relationship with God.

My focus today is on the importance of mentoring. I was approached after our Sunday service by one of our new believers who rightly said, “Isn’t there someone I can meet with regularly to grow spiritually? I don’t want to just keep all my learning to Sundays. I want to ask questions and understand and expand what I know.”

Perhaps there are others, like C.S. Lewis, waiting for a friend, mentor, teacher, to come alongside them and show them the great things of God in creative and gracious ways. I encourage you to consider passing on what you know to someone younger in the faith. The ideal is that you are learning from someone more mature in the faith while at the same time you are passing on what you know to someone younger in the faith. This vital intergenerational sharing of the good news brings vitality to the body of Christ.

C.S. Lewis was wounded fighting the Germans in 1918. He married Joy Gresham (a converted American) while she was facing the challenges of cancer. He died on the same day as President John F. Kennedy. Not much of this is remembered. It is his writings from a place of deep faith which set him apart. And it is his forgotten mentor which wooed him into the deep faith that made a difference for so many others.

What keeps you from stepping into the role of learning or teaching? Who can you look to in the body of Christ as someone you can connect with?

Is there room for doubt in our faith?

Have you tried to share your faith lately with an unbeliever? What was that like? Did you know how to respond to the questions you were being asked, the doubts that were being expressed, the pushback you were being given?

Peter, Jesus’ lead disciple, had this to say in I Peter 3:15, 16. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

We don’t expect ourselves to embrace things we don’t believe are true and we surely don’t expect others to embrace things they don’t believe are true. Few are won by being argued into the kingdom. Most are intrigued by seeing the real expression and trust in Jesus when our life is anything but good. “How do you have hope now?” they want to know.

The time for effective witness doesn’t start when we’re confronted by an unbeliever with their haunting questions. They time for witness comes when we speak to our own heart first about what we really believe about Jesus, His word, His church, His world. If you’ve grown up in a ‘Christian’ environment, surrounded only by supportive relationships, it can be a shock to be mocked by skeptics.

The age of entitlement and privilege is over for most followers of Jesus in Canada. It is time to look seriously at what Scripture is teaching us on how to live in a world whose values are not aligned with God’s. This is especially true for students and young professionals.

Winfried Corduan, in his book Reasonable Faith (pp. 16-17), says

“There should come a period in our lives, as we mature in our faith, when we need to confront our inherited belief system and ask ourselves whether it has really become ours. The developmental psychologist James W. Fowler sees a personal re-examination of beliefs as necessary for full maturity. Through most of our adolescent years we are very peer-oriented in all of our life’s decisions. We respond to groups and easily pick up the group’s beliefs as our own. This is why evangelism on the high school levels needs to be socially oriented. Many times during the period we recommit ourselves to our family’s values. However, in late adolescence or early young adulthood, we ought to escape from the peer-oriented mode; we need to decide whether we can really claim ownership in everything we have taken on as beliefs. In most cases, this process involves raising questions about the truth of these beliefs.

“This re-examination does not mean tearing down everything so that it can be rebuilt. It may simply be a matter of making sure all of the nails are holding and applying a little more glue here and there. Unless a person is willing to go through such a process, his or her faith may always be suffering from a lack of conviction.”

So, how has this worked out in your life and faith? How strong are your convictions and where did they come from? Do you have confidence in sharing what you believe with someone still filled with doubt? Are you first living out your faith so that someone would even ask you about your faith?