By Will Graham, Cove Executive Director (and grandson of Billy Graham)
Often as we think about the sacrifice of Jesus, we tend to focus on the unbearable physical pain He endured. We’re told that He was hit, flogged nearly to the point of death, and had a crown of thorns driven into His scalp. He was made to carry His own cross. Nails were punched through His hands and feet before He was hoisted into the air to suffocate in one of the most inhumane and cruel forms of capital punishment ever devised.
My friends, it’s hard to not focus on the pain He endured for us. But, as we look at this Easter, I want you to consider another way Jesus was made to suffer in the moments before His crucifixion. Consider the emotional pain Christ endured as those who were closest to Him turned their backs.
Jesus personally chose 12 disciples whom He poured himself into. These men were almost His earthly family, surrounding Him, learning from Him, and serving in His ministry. They were what we may refer to as Jesus’ “inner circle.”
Jesus loved them, and yet He knew – long before they did, in fact – that a couple of these men would publicly betray Him.
Judas, of course, is the one that comes instantly to mind. After all, it was his betrayal of Jesus that ultimately led to the crucifixion. We’re told in Luke 22 that “Satan entered into Judas…” (ESV). John 13:2 says “the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him” (ESV). Judas went to the chief priests and officers, accepted a payment from them and then actively plotted how to betray Jesus into their hands when there wouldn’t be a crowd around Him.
Judas’ treachery was the ultimate betrayal, directly resulting in a sham trial and the agony of the cross. But I wonder if the second betrayal might not have hurt just as much as the first.
Along with James and John, Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends whom He chose to be a witness to key moments in Jesus’ earthly ministry. For instance, Peter was there for Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain and at Gethsemane on the eve of Christ’s sacrifice.
Peter’s denial of Jesus – which, according to Mark, Jesus foretold prior to leaving for Gethsemane – must have stung deeply. As Jesus was being beaten and ridiculed (Mark 14:65), Peter was busy distancing himself from Christ (Mark 14:66-72). Three times people approached Peter to ask him if he was associated with Jesus, and three times Peter denied Him, even going so far as to “…invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know this man of whom you speak.’” (Mark 14:71, ESV).
At a time when Jesus was being accused and beaten, His friends turned their backs on Him. What emotional pain this must have caused, even as Jesus knew it was coming and understood that it had to be!
Maybe you’re reading this, and it sounds a little too familiar. Maybe you have friends or family members who have turned their backs on you, or perhaps – like Judas – they were instrumental in causing the suffering you are now enduring. Maybe you’re struggling through pain and despair, and the people you thought you could depend on have disappeared. Maybe you’ve been hurt by others in the church. Bodily pain hurts physically, but emotional pain slices directly to your soul.
My friends, I’m here to tell you that people will let you down. People will turn their backs on you and cause you pain. But here’s the key – Jesus was forsaken, betrayed and crucified, but He conquered all of that! People are imperfect, but Christ is risen and will not let you down!
The Bible tells us not to put our faith into men or princes. Instead, this Easter place your eternity in the One Who endured scorn, pain, and – yes – betrayal from His friends, so that you may have a hope that extends far beyond the pitfalls and pains of this world.
Click here to share the Gospel this Easter season using Billy Graham’s program, The Cross.
Gary Thomas will be at The Cove on November 10-12, teaching on the most famous sermon in history, the Sermon on the Mount.
Read on as Gary gives us a look into understanding Jesus’ words and putting them into action.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25, NIV).
By Gary Thomas
Just 60 miles from where Jesus spoke these words, men were busily rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. What a sight it must have been, and how it carried the hopes of so many Jews—their former glory restored! Yet Jesus didn’t seem to be all that impressed, even prophesying that the magnificent temple, as stable as it seemed, would soon be toppled.
And He was right.
We mustn’t miss this context if we want to understand Jesus’ words here. He’s not really comparing building our life on a stable foundation as much as He is telling us, His followers, to build our lives around a new foundation—Himself! “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
The startling aspect of this statement is that God’s new work would not be built around a temple (which sounded like heresy to the Pharisees) and would not rely on a religious code or a religious system. God’s plan for the world would be based entirely on the surest foundation any faith could ever rest upon—the very words of God Himself, given to us in Jesus. The same voice that spoke the earth into existence, by His words would also speak a church into existence.
There is a second phrase that Jesus utters that we also need to take into consideration: “and puts them into practice.”
Merely hearing the words of Jesus does not give us a solid foundation. Merely reading His words, or listening to a preacher proclaim Jesus’ words, won’t set our lives on solid ground. It’s only when we put His words into practice that our foundation becomes sure.
In modern terms, we could put it like this: Is our character growing as fast as our library of Christian books? Are our hearts as full of love as our iPods are of our favorite sermons? Do we tune in to the Holy Spirit’s guidance as eagerly as we tune in to “The Message” on satellite radio? Are we in prayer more often than we are in church? Are we applying, living out, practicing what we hear? What truths are we familiar with in our heads, but know that we are not living out in our lives? That’s the very point, Jesus is saying, at which our foundation is threatened.
A friend of mine needed to repaint his house. When he started to scrape away the paint, he noticed some troubling signs and brought in a specialist who confirmed his worst fears: termites. He didn’t need to just repaint his house; in a very real way, he needed to rebuild it. Before he scraped away the paint, his house looked like it was in great shape. It was sitting right between two other houses, neither of which had termites, and you couldn’t have told that his was any different. But the weather that wore away his paint also revealed the rot within.
It’s the same way with our lives, Jesus says. You can stand by two church attenders and watch them listen to the same sermon or raise their hands during the same song in worship. Both can eat from the same communion bread and put checks into the same offering plate, but their foundation is not revealed in church—it’s revealed when the rain comes down and winds are unleashed.
I know a man who went to Bible college, married a Christian woman and was at church at least 50 weekends a year. He even thought about entering the ministry, perhaps upon retirement. The man had heard a lot of Jesus’ words and had even written papers about them. But he became a bit shaky in his faith when he began regularly skipping church to play golf. At first it was just once a month, then twice a month, then three times a month.
He started using Scripture as a point of argument instead of as a call to obedience. He began drinking more and worshipping less, and gloried in the idea that the “freedom” of the Gospel allowed him to use coarse language. Then the man was diagnosed with cancer, and he eventually decided that he couldn’t believe in a God who would allow such a faithful servant to become so sick, and he hasn’t been back to church since. In fact, he would consider himself an enemy of the church.
I know a second man who recently had a minor stroke. He was talking to his son when, all of the sudden, he could no longer speak. He survived the stroke and instead of losing the faith, his faith deepened. He realized how little time he might have left and dedicated himself anew to serving God. He drew several spiritual lessons from the ordeal and wrote a paper about it that lifted my soul to new inspiration. And he is more zealous now, after the stroke, than he was before.
Two storms. One house stands, one falls. They both heard the words of Christ, they both even studied Jesus’ words, but only one kept practicing what Jesus said.
We have to remember that the passage recorded in Matthew 7 comes near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest sermon ever preached. Jesus didn’t speak it to elicit admiration, foster inspiration or to impress us. Jesus said this sermon isn’t just to be read or merely memorized. It’s to be obeyed.
Daily, faithful obedience to God’s Word shapes our heart, transforms our will, molds our character as surely as a daily jog strengthens our heart and a thrice weekly bout in the gym brings forth muscles. No one session seems to make much difference, but faithfulness, over time, produces amazing results, in such a way that when the storms hit—and they will—we’ll be prepared. We’ll see “spiritual muscles” we never even knew were there. In other words, daily, faithful obedience in the little things prepares us to face the big things.
If we want a firm foundation, it’s not enough to just listen to Jesus. We must choose to obey. We must practice putting the words of Jesus Christ into action.
Click here for more information or to register for Gary Thomas’ seminar on November 10-12, titled Snapshots From the Greatest Sermon Ever Preached.
What does it mean to be Jesus’ disciple today? Dr. John Munro, native of Scotland and Senior Pastor of Calvary Church in Charlotte, invites you to join him for a time of instruction and renewal at The Cove in Asheville, NC, where you can explore what the Great Commission means to YOU today.
Join Dr. John Munro for his seminar titled Being and Making Disciples at the Cove on August 3-5, 2012. For more information or to register call 1-800-950-2092 or visit our website by clicking here.
By Joy Allmond
On April 19, women from all over the region will descend on the quiet, peaceful grounds of The Cove, in Asheville, NC.
During this one-day seminar, they will hear from Bible teacher and author Lisa Harper, who will bring truth from the gospels and lessons from recent life experiences to convey the liberating power of a relationship with Jesus.
Stumbling Into Grace is the title of Harper’s most recent book. Over the past few years, she has gone through a series of challenges and disappointments—including the death of a parent, the loss of a friendship and a health scare. She explained that this book (and this Cove seminar) is the result of a hybrid of her journals and what the Lord was showing her through her study of Scripture through those times.
“We tend to not talk about certain things in ‘sanitized’ church settings. I’ve experienced a ton of loss over years. And, there are so many things, like what I’ve faced and what others face that can’t be tied up with a neat application bow,” she said.
“It is so cool that the emotions that every woman faces runs parallel with what Jesus said in the gospels. So, during my own healing time, it was a natural for me to write this message because of what Jesus was teaching me.”
Harper is passionate about helping other women discover that they don’t need to “have it all together” for Jesus to love them. As she quoted Brennan Manning, “Jesus loves us as we are, not as we should be.”
She wants them to see that Jesus is more accessible though failures, disappointments and hurts. As she puts it, “There is sanctity in scars.”
She wants others to understand that Jesus is the hero of the Bible, not us. She wants women not to glory in sin, but glory in the redemption of Jesus.
During her day at The Cove, one of the passages she will explore with the guests is the story of the man at Bethesda—a paralytic who had been visiting for 38 years, in hope of healing.
“Jesus asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ Well, he’s a paralytic, so of course he wants to get well. He acknowledges that he can’t drag himself to the water. Then, Jesus tells him get up and walk, she recalled. “Like this man, I want us to recognize that life is hard, but we were made for more than this. Jesus came to restore.”
As for her day at The Cove with the women who join her, she wants to see them begin to understand God’s delight in them, and for healing to take place.
“There are woman bound by shame and by a lack of real intimacy with Jesus. I pray that this day will be a turning point in a new direction for them.”
Ladies, there is still time to plan on joining Lisa! Click here for more details!