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Satan’s Empty Boxes

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

— 1 Peter 5:8

Have you ever done something sinful, something that seemed so exciting and promising at first, only to feel empty after actually doing it? When we pursue sin, we’ll always feel that way—left high and dry.

This empty sensation reminds me of a story told by the preacher Clovis Chappell. Once there was a Christmas party in an orphanage. Beneath the tree were all sorts of beautifully wrapped packages. With all the children gathered around him, Santa Claus passed out the gifts. As he did so, everyone excitedly opened his or her present, enthusiastically examining each new toy. Everyone, that is, except for one young man, the village idiot. With no package to open, he sat, crestfallen, in the corner. Upon realizing his bad fortune, everyone became quiet, and all the children stared at him. Just at that moment, Santa Claus reached behind the tree, pulled out the biggest box of them all, and handed it to the village idiot. The young man’s face lit up. Excitedly, he tore away the ribbons and wrapping paper and pulled off the lid only to find an empty box. As he stared despondently into it, all the children laughed.

Many of us have that same experience again and again in life. Life is filled with empty boxes, and we each take our turn at playing the idiot. “Give me the goods,” we say, and Satan hands us an empty box. What are these empty boxes? Sin. Satan says, “Oh, just one little lie” or “one little look” or “Everybody’s doing it.” But when we give in, we realize he has taken us again, promising the world but delivering nothing.

The Devil is the great illusionist, the great liar. He promises all manner of delights. He promises excitement, but in the end he clothes his victims in filthy rags, hunger, and misery. If these people decide to turn around and return to their Father’s house, Satan sends all the bloodhounds of Hell after them to overwhelm them with temptations and pull them down into the miry clay. How foolish is the man or woman who believes the promises of the Father of Lies. Every good gift comes down from above, not up from the pit with its hook that pulls you into the lake of fire.

Have you opened any empty boxes lately? If so, ask God to forgive you and show you how to pursue His righteousness. As you seek God, He’ll help you discover the excitement and abundance of living obediently in Him.

“We must not so much as taste of the devil’s broth,
lest at last he bring us to eat of his beef.”
Thomas Hall

A Sure Foundation

“… He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.”

— Mark 16:6

What does it take for you to believe something that seems out of the realm of possibility? Most of us need to see some hard evidence before we lend credibility to the incredible. This is also true when people hear of Christ’s resurrection. In fact, many people will develop all sorts of theories before believing that God incarnate rose from the grave.

Have you ever heard of the “Fraud Theory”? This theory asserts that Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead, but rather, the disciples stole His body from the grave and then proclaimed Him risen. But the Fraud Theory doesn’t mesh with the facts. For example, something happened to the disciples that changed them instantly from cowards to courageous men. The disciples credited this change with seeing the risen Christ, and despite numerous retellings, they never changed their story.

Dr. Principal Hill, a nineteenth-century theologian, put the Fraud Theory to rest when he said:

You must suppose that twelve men of mean birth, of no education . . . formed the noblest scheme which ever entered into the mind of man . . . You must suppose, also, that men guilty of blasphemy and falsehood, united in an attempt the best contrived, and which has in fact proved the most successful for making the world virtuous; that they formed this single enterprise without seeking any advantage to themselves . . . with the certain expectation of scorn and persecution; that although conscious of one another’s villainy, none of them ever thought of providing for his own security by disclosing the fraud, but that amidst sufferings the most grievous to flesh and blood they persevered in their conspiracy to cheat the world into piety, honesty and benevolence. Truly, they who can swallow such suppositions have no title to object to miracles.

How true that is. The Fraud Theory cannot stand against the evidence of the disciples’ passion and steadfastness for the cause of Christ. You and I can rest assured that Christ’s resurrection is no fraud. Christ has risen indeed.

“The resurrection of Jesus Christ and
Christianity stand or fall together.”
Josh Mcdowell

Man’s Greatest Fear

“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain . . . But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

— 1 Corinthians 15:14, 20

Are you afraid to die? If so, you’re not alone. That fear is quite natural. But Jesus has solved this problem, the most incredible problem humankind has ever faced, generation after generation. Death has endured since humanity’s fall, and people have asked, “If a person dies, will he or she rise again?” By rising from the dead Himself, Jesus gave us irrefutable evidence that the answer is “yes.”

But people have doubted the truth of Christ’s resurrection. Some of the most brilliant and skeptical minds of the last two thousand years have attempted to disprove it. But all those efforts have yielded nothing but the truth—that Christ rose from the dead. Let’s consider some of the facts that these skeptics have had to address. First, the Christian Church has endured and grown until it has become the largest organization on the planet today. That growth began in the first century, when the apostles began to preach that Jesus had risen from the dead. Next, to disprove the Resurrection, skeptics have had to explain the empty tomb; the broken Roman seal (if someone broke a Roman seal, he or she received the death penalty); and the Roman guards, who faced sure death if they left their posts or fell asleep on the job. Most important, skeptics have had to dispute Christ’s appearances after His resurrection. The people saw Him, heard Him, touched Him. He fixed breakfast for his disciples. He ate fish with them. He appeared to five hundred people at one time. Furthermore, the apostles were transformed. One day they huddled in an upper room fearing for their lives, but soon after that they boldly proclaimed Christ’s resurrection in public. And all except John died for what they proclaimed, sealing their testimony in their own blood.

For these reasons and many more, we have a sure foundation for our faith in Christ’s resurrection. Because we know the Resurrection really happened, we know Christ has conquered death, and we no longer need to fear it.

“. . . the evidence speaks for itself. It says very clearly—
Josh Mcdowell

Beneath The Cross Of Jesus

“And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.”

— John 19:17–18

Did you know that the Jews have built a bus stop at the foot of Golgotha? Bus after bus lines up there, waiting for passengers. When a bus leaves, it passes right by the mouth of the “skull.” Once I was standing near the bus stop with a church tour group, and I pointed out the features of the skull. As I did so, four or five people not associated with our group came to see what I was pointing at. They couldn’t figure it out. To them Golgotha meant absolutely nothing.

But it should mean something to all of us, because there all the ingredients came together for our salvation. The first ingredient is humankind’s sin. If people had never sinned, Christ wouldn’t have had to come to earth and die for us. The second ingredient is God’s justice. God must punish sin because His eyes are too pure to look upon it. If He didn’t punish it, He wouldn’t be God. Combining humankind’s sin with God’s justice always and inevitably produces Hell. Therefore, we need the third ingredient: the infinite, inexpressible unfathomable love of God. The Creator’s love for His creation compelled Him to die for the creature’s sin. How vast is the love God has for you and me, past our ever understanding it.

Someone once said to a minister, “There are hundreds of religions in the world, and they all have their own ideas. How do you know yours is right?” He replied. “No, there are only two religions in the world. They are either ‘do’ or ‘done.’ The other religions in the world teach that man will be saved by what he does: Do this and don’t do that. But Christianity is the only religion that teaches ‘It is done.’ It is finished.”

Which religion do you trust for everlasting life? Look toward Golgotha, where the three ingredients came together perfectly, providing for your salvation. There Christ proclaimed, “It is finished.” Thank God today for granting you eternal life because of what happened at the Place of the Skull.

“Beneath the cross of Jesus, I fain would take my stand,
A shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land,
A home within the wilderness, a rest along the way
From the burning of the noontide heat and the burden of the day.”
Frederick Maker

Christ Lifted Up

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”

— John 12:32

When you think of Jesus Christ lifted up on the cross, how do you want to respond? Christ’s crucifixion has a magnetic quality, drawing people to Him, and as long as we keep it centrally focused, people will continue to come to Christ. Some churches don’t understand this, attempting to attract people in other ways. Unitarians, who have denied and rejected the atonement of Christ and the deity of Christ, don’t have the power to attract people. One of their leaders in Birmingham, England, said that Unitarianism failed to “draw.” The English public will not attend their chapels. Though Unitarians seem bewildered by this, it’s no mystery. These churches don’t “draw” because they’ve thrown away the magnet.

We don’t need big signs or flashy worship services to attract people to Him. Christ’s humble sacrifice has more magnetic power than anything any church could concoct.

Let’s take a quick look at the immediate impact of the Crucifixion to catch a glimpse of its awesome power. At the cross, the centurion—who had nailed Christ’s hands and feet to the cross—saw darkness cover the sky, the sun cease to give light, the rocks quake, the earth tremble, and the tombs open. Upon witnessing all this, the centurion said, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). History tells us that this man went forth to follow Christ. A few weeks later three thousand more were drawn at Pentecost, then five thousand more, then multitudes of priests and elders and scribes were drawn, and then an exceeding great multitude were drawn, until finally the Roman Empire itself was overwhelmed by the magnetic power of Jesus Christ to draw men to Himself.

Why does the Crucifixion have so much drawing power? Consider the agony Christ endured. Hanging, a firing squad, electrocution, the gas chamber—the pain of all these forms of execution could never compare to the excruciating pain of crucifixion. Jesus submitted Himself to a slow death by suffocation that could have taken several days. The Crucifixion shows God’s incredible love for us, the love of a Father who would give His only Son to endure the penalty for the world’s sin.

Today, meditate on the Christ lifted up for your sake, and let the power of His crucifixion draw you nearer to Him in love and gratitude.

“It was not the character of Christ, not His justice, nor
His proclamations, nor His preaching, nor His teaching,
but rather it was his death that would draw men.”

Christ’s Bitter Cup

“He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’”

— Matthew 26:39

What was in the mysterious cup that appeared before Christ’s face there in the darkness of Gethsemane? First of all, the cup contained all the sin of the world. Imagine you’re visiting the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. You walk into a large, sealed room full of hundreds of vials containing diseases—cancer, AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea—every dangerous and foul disease known to man. You see a technician unstopping each vial, one by one, and pouring the contents into a large beaker. How would you react if the technician asked you to touch the beaker? And if the technician asked you to drink the contents, what terror would fill your soul? But all of that is nothing compared to the cup of sin which Jesus drank.

The second element in Jesus’ bitter cup was God’s abandonment. By drinking that foul cup, Christ became the arch-criminal of the universe, full of sin. God, whose holiness prevents Him from looking at any sin, turned His back on Christ, His Son, leaving Jesus abandoned and alone.

Third, since God must punish sin, He poured on Christ the great fiery cauldron of His wrath. More than that, Christ, rejected by humanity and abandoned by God, was then given over to the demons. He sank to the bottomless pit of Hell, where the demons fell on Him with fang and claw.

All of this was in the bitter cup. But the most important thing about this cup is that it wasn’t Christ’s cup at all. It was ours. The sin was ours. The abandonment, the fiery punishment, the demons should have been ours. But Christ drank the cup for us. And because He did, today the cup of Christ is one full of blessings—love, pardon, peace, and joy. This is the cup He now offers to you and me. Take and drink of the love and freedom you can now enjoy because of the sacrifice Christ has made.

“We may not know, we cannot tell what pains He had to bear.
We only know it was for us He hung and suffered there.”

The Trials Of Christ

“And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and elders were assembled . . . Jesus stood before the governor . . .”

— Matthew 26:57, 27:11

Have you ever had one of those days when it seemed as if everybody was ganging up on you? If so, then imagine what our Lord went through in the trials that lead to His crucifixion. Jesus had previously declared that He would be delivered into the hands of sinful men who would scourge and crucify Him. Now He had fallen into those cruel hands. The ordeal which would culminate in unspeakable horror for Him had now begun. The claw of the dragon was in His flesh. But Jesus mustered all His courage. He had come into the world to be the death of sin, and by that death He’d bring salvation to the world. Never before in any courtroom were the issues as momentous as when Christ stood trial. The eternal bliss or woe of countless people hung delicately in the balance.

Anyone who honestly examines Christ’s trials (both the Jewish and the Roman ones) must conclude that they were, in almost every one of their details, totally illegal—that Jesus Christ received nothing but injustice when He stood before the bar of human justice. We, who are so quick to demand our rights and to demand justice, may do well to fix our eyes upon the Son of God and how He fared when He stood before the bar of human justice, keeping in mind that one day we shall stand before the bar of God’s justice.

In another sense, though, Christ’s trial was perfectly legal. If we try to look at it from the divine perspective, we see it in a different light. Humans attempted to convict Jesus for His own sins, but He had none; therefore, they convicted Him illegally. But God convicted Jesus of real sins—our sins—which were imputed to Him. In the deepest and highest sense, God tried and condemned Jesus for us, making Christ’s punishment fit our crimes. How can we ever thank Jesus enough?

“It was in our place that He was tried, and it
was in our place that He was condemned.”

Christ Before The Supreme Court

“And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.’”

— John 11:49–50

Have you ever considered the irony of Christ’s encounter with Caiaphas, the high priest of the Jews? Christ, the true high priest of God, stood before Joseph Caiaphas, the false high priest of God. And though Caiaphas and Jesus had different motives, they agreed with each other. Caiaphas believed that, in the best interests of the people, one man should die so that the rest would live. Christ believed the same thing. Caiaphas, the false high priest, said, “Let it be Him.” And Jesus, the true high priest, said, “Let it be Me.”

The great contrast between Christ and Caiaphas was that while Christ came in obedience to His Father’s will, Caiaphas was motivated by expedience. Expedience comes from two Latin words meaning “to get your foot out of a trap.” Caiaphas tried to set a trap for Christ, but he fell into it himself. The false witnesses that he had arranged to testify against Christ had all contradicted one another, so he had no case against Jesus. In desperation, Caiaphas screamed at Christ, “Tell us if you are the Son of God.” He couldn’t have expected Christ to answer this, because Christ had remained silent up to this point and because this question was illegal. (Under Jewish law no one could force someone to testify against himself or herself.) When Jesus answered, “Yes, I am the Son of God,” Caiaphas shouted, “Blasphemy,” tore his robe at the neck, and declared Christ guilty.

Caiaphas exemplifies many people we can describe in three words: religious but lost. Caiaphas, a religious liberal, denied the great truths of the Bible. He didn’t believe in the Resurrection, the spirit, immortality, or angels. He supposed that his high position and his ritualistic practices would ensure his soul’s eternal well-being, but alas they did not. Instead, his eternal destiny relied on the Man who stood before him that day—the Christ, the Son of God.

“Jesus was silent in the face of His accusers precisely
because He was guilty. But the guilt He bore was not His
own. It was yours, and it was mine.”

Christ In The Hands Of The Police

“Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-inlaw of Caiaphas who was high priest that year.”

— John 18:12–13

Have you ever pondered all the indignities and injustices that Christ suffered on our behalf? When you do, you’ll appreciate even more the sacrifice Jesus made for you and me.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, after Christ had prayed, a mob came to arrest Him. About sixty-five men, brandishing torches, swords, and spears, came to take one man, Jesus Christ, away. Judas signaled to the mob which man was Jesus by kissing Jesus’ cheek. After rebuking Judas by saying, “Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” Jesus identified Himself to the men and allowed them to bind His hands and lead Him away. Though mightier than Samson, He didn’t use His power to break free.

First the mob led Him to Annas, the high priest, and then to Caiaphas, Annas’ son-inlaw. Both the Jews and the Romans tried Jesus, and both trials were farces. Scholars point out that, when trying Jesus, the Jews violated Jewish law thirty-five times, and the Romans violated Roman law thirteen times, making a total of forty-eight violations. Jewish law required that the people go to great lengths to find defense witnesses, but in Jesus’ case the judge found false witnesses and paid them to testify against Jesus. And when the Sanhedrin asked Jesus “whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God,” they forced Him to testify against Himself. The high priest declared Jesus guilty, and everyone began to spit on Him, tear His beard, and hit Him.

Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that the name of the high priest, Caiaphas, means rock. And Peter, Jesus’ disciple, was called Cephas, which also means rock. So we have Jesus at the trial caught between two rocks—one in the courtroom accusing Him and one in the courtyard denying Him. Caiaphas’ heart remained a rock, but Peter’s heart broke, and Christ forgave Him.

What a Savior we have. Our Creator submitted Himself to such humiliation at the hands of His own creation so that we might receive His forgiveness. Thank Jesus today for all He has done for you, especially for that day when He bore such degradation in our place.

“Christ was bound with the bands of your
own bondage that you might be made free.”

Christ Betrayed

“Now as they were eating, He said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’”

— Matthew 26:21

When you think of Judas Iscariot, what words come first to your mind? Perhaps “traitor”? “greedy”? “evil one”?

Judas has never been one of the more popular disciples. In the Middle Ages, people considered Judas more of a villain than we do today. We can probably attribute the medieval attitude to the way Dante portrayed Judas in his Inferno, a great classic that takes us on a tour of Hell. In the deepest part of Hell, the gigantic fiend, Satan, has a man in his jaws. Satan has already chewed off and eaten the bottom half of this man, yet as the teeth chomp and tear, the man continues to live. The man in Satan’s jaws is Judas Iscariot.

On the other end of the spectrum, some modern-day authors have portrayed Judas as a hero of sorts. But to determine Judas’ true character, we need look no further than the Bible. The Bible calls Judas a thief. Entrusted with the disciples’ money box, which contained money to help the poor and to meet Christ’s and the disciples’ daily needs, Judas regularly dipped into it for his own use. Jesus warned Judas a number of times, but Judas never straightened out his heart. Jesus said, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70).

Judas was a man consumed by greed, and his greed led to his destruction. Judas was also a hypocrite. He appeared a practical man of sound reputation, which is why the apostles chose him as their treasurer. But he just played the part of a responsible man. When Judas said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” he didn’t really care about the impoverished. He just wanted more money to steal.

Judas was a greedy, hypocritical person who met the fate he was due. Christ could have used him for good, but instead Judas frustrated the cause of Christ. We all sin; remember that Peter, like Judas, denied Christ. But, just as Christ forgave Peter and used him to spread the Good News, Christ will forgive us when we confess our sins. He’ll use us to further His cause to the ends of the earth.

Today, check the state of your heart. Are you harboring any greed or hypocrisy? If so, avoid Judas’ fate; don’t betray Christ because of such hurtful attitudes. Like Peter, confess your sin before Christ, then move forward to further His kingdom in all you do.

“It is a terrible thing, not when a man has some gold, but
when some gold has a man, and Judas was had by gold.”