The Providence of God Over the Evil of Men (Mark 15:6-15) Part 2

Monday, March 30th, 2015
Sermon Series: Led to the Cross, Mark

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The Providence of God over the Evil of Men

Pilate’s failed attempts to release Jesus: the gospel of Mark 15:6 to 15–part 2

 

Some days never go right–do you remember this true story? He barely got up in time, rushed out the door, raced down to the subway station, and began to run so he wouldn’t miss his train. When he was almost to the train, he accidently bumped into a mysterious-looking man wearing a long coat. As he tried to collect himself, he remembered he was in New York–therefore, he checked to see if he still had his wallet. It was gone, and forgetting how late he was, he quickly pursued the man in the long coat, who was making his way to a train.

Just as he caught up to him, coat-man stepped onto a full train with his back to the door, and the doors began to close behind him. But just before they shut entirely, the man pursuing his wallet just managed to slip his arm through the doors and grab onto the thief’s long coat. Now that the doors were closed, the train began to move, and finding that he was not able to open the doors, the man began to bash the thief’s body over and over against the doors trying to get his wallet back.

As he moved along with the train, both men began to scream for help, but no one assisted. And as the train quickly began to accelerate, the man began to run with the train–all the while trying to get his wallet back by continually smashing the man with the long coat against the subway doors. Since he couldn’t pull the man off the train, as a last resort, he decided to rip his long coat off in hopes of recovering his wallet.

With one big final effort, he just managed to rip his coat off as the train entered a tunnel. Quickly he searched the coat, but didn’t find his wallet. Panting for breath, he ran to a phone to call his wife so she could put a hold on his credit cards. When she answered the phone, she recognized her husband through his breathing and said to him, “Now honey, before you panic–I want you to know you left your wallet at home!” Can you imagine what the coatless man was thinking?

But that should raise a question in the mind of the Christian . . . can anything really happen by accident? What about when you hear . . .

“Dr. Brown would like to discuss your x-rays, right away”, or . . .

“Honey, we’ve been on the wrong road for an hour”, or

“The boss wants to see you–no need to take your coat off”, or . . .

“This is Officer Franklin–we have your son down at the station”, or . . .

“It’s not a carburetor issue, ma’am–your whole engine is shot”, or

“Sweetie, that wasn’t leftover stew–that was Alpo.”

Are any of those things really accidents? Are you ever tempted to question God’s control? Like with Job’s boils, or David’s polygamy, or Abraham’s lying? How about the Lord’s choice of Samson to judge the Jews? Or the long period of time God let Saul harass David? Do you ever wonder about the trail of blood that followed Paul? And the extent to which the wicked get away with murder? Or why some babies are born healthy, and others not? Or the family of six, whose mother gets cancer? How about the number of religious charlatans that run free?

The question is, is God in control, or not? Many of us ask that same question, but we ask it in a different way. We ask ourselves, “Why am I still single, when others are happily married?” Or, “Why can others have children, and I can’t?” Or, “How come they have a boyfriend, and I don’t?” How about, “Why are others promoted, and I am not?” And, “Why do they have so much more than us?” What is the answer? It is found in the sovereignty of God.

God possesses total power and total autonomy as the master, ruler, possessor and owner of all. Listen to these verses. Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” And Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Psalm 115:3 declares, “Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever pleases him.”

Then surveying the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah says in Lamentations 3:37, “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?” And last, Romans 8:28 says, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God.” God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, and always as He pleases–and ALL He does is for His glory and our good. And nothing makes that more clear than our passage today.

It is Friday morning. In the Garden after an agony in prayer, Christ resolved to do His Father’s will and go to the cross. He is immediately arrested, and from around 2 am to 8 am, our Lord experiences two main trials, each with three phases to them.

1.  THE RELIGIOUS TRIAL

Phase 1  Annas was looking for a HANDLE to destroy Christ

Phase 2  Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin were seeking to CONDEMN Christ

Phase 3  The religious leaders settled on a plan to get Rome’s permission and gain the death penalty

Mark 15:1a, “Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation.”

2.  THE SECULAR TRIAL

Phase 4  Pilate was impressed with Christ, but indifferent

Mark 15:1b, “and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate. 2 Pilate questioned Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ And He answered him, ‘It is as you say.’ 3 The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly. 4 Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, ‘Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!’ 5 But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.”

Phase 5  Herod was curious, but shallow and cruel (in Luke 23), and now

Phase 6  Pilate seeks to release Christ before the mob, until it costs him

As I read Mark 15:6 to 15, see if you can discover what Pilate did to try to release Christ? “Now at the feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested. 7 The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. 8 The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. 9 Pilate answered them, saying, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ 10 For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Answering again, Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?’ 13 They shouted back, ‘Crucify Him!’ 14 But Pilate said to them, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify Him!’ 15 Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.”

You know Pontius Pilate–he was the fifth procurator of Samaria and Judea. Historians Philo and Josephus both write about Pilate, and in Caesarea where Pilate lived, archaeologists dug up a stone that had his name on it. Philo described Pilate as inflexible, merciless and obstinate. Pilate was a man who not only committed many acts of cruelty, but also exercised little common sense in handling the tensions between the Jews and their Roman conquerors.

Pilate often found himself in trouble with Caesar, because the Jews complained about Pilate to Caesar. Pilate feared very little, but he was afraid of the Jews reporting him to Caesar. One more bad report, and it might finish his career, or end his life. Pilate was known to bring banners, shields, and other Roman images into Jerusalem, which the Jews found extremely idolatrous and offensive, and they complained to Caesar about it.

Pilate once used the money of the Temple treasury to build an aqueduct to bring water into Jerusalem, which offended the Jewish leadership since Pilate was using religious money for a secular task, and they complained to Caesar about that. One infamous event occurred when the Jews were protesting Pilate’s actions. They were staging a hunger strike at his private residence in Caesarea. Weary of their complaints, Pilate infiltrated the crowd with undercover Roman troops carrying clubs, and when the warned protesters did not disperse, Pilate signaled his troops to begin bashing their skulls with clubs, and hundreds died. And they complained to Caesar about that.

But because the Jews no longer had the right to execute any prisoner, the religious leaders were forced to come to the hated Pilate to get permission. After all, as the governor from 26 to 36 AD, Pilate was responsible to command the military, collect taxes, and Pilate was also the judge on all matters related to Rome. So as military leader, administrative leader and judge, he was the only one who could give them permission to kill Christ.

But now as Pilate and Herod have both dealt with Christ, they both embrace Christ as an innocent man. Christ is not guilty–Christ should not be executed. So Pilate tries three major steps in order to convince the people to release Christ, which is now explained in Mark 15:6 to 15, and the other gospels. What does Pilate try? First, taking up most of our passage, he tries . . .

I.  CROWD DYNAMICS with Barabbas Verses 6 to 15a

As a Roman prefect, governor, or procurator (all of those terms work) Pilate knows how to politic. He knows how to work a crowd–he’s experienced in government, and knows how to move people, which leads to . . .

#1  PILATE’S plan to use crowd dynamics with Barabbas  Verses 6 to 10

Verses 6 to 8, “Now at the feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested. 7 The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. 8 The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them.”

What is going on here? Well, when an empire like Rome would conquer a nation like Israel, they’d sometimes allow, periodically, the release of a prisoner in order to fuel good will between the conquerors and the conquered. In a situation like this, along with murderers and bandits in jail, there’d be political patriots, protestors, and heroic men who’d be arrested for behavior resisting the authority of Rome. To be conciliatory, dictatorial governments like Rome might once a year or so release one of those zealots, a political prisoner, in order to maintain a sense of mercy, and to ease tensions.

Passover was the time for Pilate to do this. It’s a fitting time, since Passover is a remembrance of freedom from slavery in Egypt. So freeing a prisoner from jail is appropriate. It seems clear from verse 6 that Pilate did this every Passover. “Now at the feast he [Pilate] used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested.” The Greek verbs “release” and “request” both describe customary action. It was the custom of Pilate to release one prisoner at this season, and the people made it a practice to request a specific individual.

And verse 6, “any one prisoner whom they requested” indicates that the best part of the custom lay in the fact that the Jews themselves are given the privilege of selecting exactly which prisoner. It seems clear that Pilate is assuming the crowds will want Christ to be freed–why wouldn’t they? Christ did miracles, healed diseases, raised the dead, gave the crowds free food–even stopped the corruption in the Temple. And the people already hailed Christ as King on Monday.

Plus, Pilate isn’t getting anywhere with the religious leaders. They’re incorrigible, unjust, vicious, hypocritical liars. So Pilate will now turn to the crowds, the regular people, to pick Christ–as Pilate releases one prisoner to receive amnesty. But the man the crowd had in mind was actually Barabbas. Verse 7, “The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection.”

Barabbas was probably the one the Romans intended to crucify on the third cross, which was used by Christ. The other two thieves may have been a part of the same minor revolution. Barabbas was a thief, murderer, and revolutionary. Luke calls Barabbas a notable prisoner, meaning well-known to the population. We don’t know anything about his insurrection or murder. Barabbas was probably a zealot–a dagger-bearer who murdered a Roman collaborator in the midst of this minor rebellion. (There is no way the Romans would let him live if he killed a Roman soldier or a Roman citizen.)

These Jewish revolts were common, but it must have just happened, since the Romans never delayed crucifixion for long. Do you see what Barabbas represents? Barabbas was a grotesque form of the Messiah that Israel wanted. He was a leading zealot, a political activist who had taken to the bandit trail, becoming a man of action who would even murder to reach his goals. In the twisted minds of some, Barabbas was a patriot.

Our Lord Jesus, on the other hand, had disappointed the people with his inaction. He didn’t fit their picture of a Messiah at all. You already know they wanted a political deliverer from Rome, and not the God-man, who’d die in their place for their sin. But Pilate, who knows Christ is not guilty, is thinking, “This is the perfect opportunity to get out of this mess and release this ideal prisoner,” as verse 8 describes. “The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them.”

You noticed, “the crowd went up”–they went up the steps leading to Pilate’s elevated quarters in the Tower of Antonia. “Pilate–it’s Passover, time to release a prisoner to us” . . . perfect! Pilate will be able to convince them to release Jesus for sure. It’s now early morning and the city is waking up–and attracted by the public proceedings regarding Jesus, people have gathered into a crowd. Verse 8, now they want what they’re entitled to by precedent–they want their free prisoner, freed prisoner.

So Pilate pops his suggestion. In verse 9, “Pilate answered them, saying, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’” Ouch–do you hear the contempt in this suggestion, calling Christ “The King of the Jews”? Pilate hates the Jews! He is a man full of bitterness, guilt, hate and resentment. With disdain, Pilate exposes the Sanhedrin charge that Christ claimed to be a king in opposition to Caesar. This is the kind of king you have–this is YOUR king! Pilate’s king is the ruler of the known world, Caesar. Do you want your kind of king back?

Do you know what’s shocking here? Jesus is placed on the same level as a reckless thief and murdering revolutionary, as if both were condemned criminals. Pilate knows Jesus is innocent of all charges, so Pilate gives the people of Israel the ability to stop the corrupt Sanhedrin and have Jesus released. Yet the text also indicates that Pilate fully expects the people to say, “Yes, we want Jesus released.” He is a rabbi, a great teacher, a miracle worker, and a courageous crusader against corruption.

Pilate is aware every group making up the Sanhedrin was publically embarrassed by Christ as they tried to stump Him with their trick questions just two days previous. And Pilate knows what is motivating these hypocritical leaders to try to kill Christ. Verse 10, “For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.” Pilate thought this dilemma with Christ was in the bag.

Pilate knew the motive of the religious leaders, and I’m confident many people knew what was driving the Lord’s trial. The leaders were devoured by envy over Christ. Envy is the displeasure aroused by seeing someone else having what you do not want him to have. They hated His popularity, and were envious of His miracle working power. They were jealous of his incredible teaching and amazing wisdom. And they were eaten up with envy over the thousands who loved Christ and followed Him. They hated Monday when Jesus was hailed as their King and Messiah.

Watch out for envy in your life–when someone else is chosen, and you are overlooked . . . when another is given much, and you are given nothing . . . when a person is honored and thanked, and you are ignored. Do you know why you struggle with envy? Envy grabs hold when you forget you’re the worst sinner you know, that God is sovereign, your focus is on Earth not Heaven, and when your eyes are ingrown and not on Christ. Confess your sin and remember what Christ has given you, and tell Christ you will trust His wise, loving control. Do not let envy take root in your life.

Pilate knows about the Sanhedrin’s envy, and Ponty thinks he‘s found his way out of their demand to kill Christ. Pilate will pit the common people against their religious leaders, and get them to release Jesus as their preferred prisoner. But in the midst of thinking he’s got it wired, Pilate gets a note, demonstrating again the perfect timing of a sovereign God.

#2  The WIFE’S plan to warn her husband

This is amazing–Pilate has momentum in his favor, but suddenly he is delayed by a small event found in Matthew 27:19. “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.’” Pilate’s wife also affirms Christ’s innocence—“have nothing to do with that righteous Man.”

Non-Christian people in many cultures believe in dreams, and allow dreams to impact their choices and behavior. Some unbelievers are deadly serious about dreams. But this dream is not divine revelation, but a fear of Pilate’s wife transferred into a dream, just like the anxious dreams you suffer when you know you’re not ready for your TC theology final, or when you know the dreamboat you like is going to ask you out.

I believe the sovereignty of God brings about a delay when she says, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” The sovereignty of God prods her to make her concern known to Pilate–why? Simple . . . Matthew 27:20, “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death.”

Right at the exact point Pilate may actually convince the crowds to release Jesus, he receives a note from his wife. God is sovereign! While Pilate is taking time considering this concern of his wife, the Sanhedrin is moving into the crowd and stirring them up.

#3  The LEADERS’ plan to use CROWD Dynamics  Verses 11 to 15a

During this delay, the leaders had time to make their way into the crowds, resulting in a dramatic change.

First  The growing INEVITABILITY of crucifixion  Verses 11 to 14

Verses 11 to 14, “But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Answering again, Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?’ 13 They shouted back, ‘Crucify Him!’ 14 But Pilate said to them, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify Him!’”

What a reversal in a very short time–the religious leaders, motivated by envy and hate work the crowd in order to ask for Barabbas and call for Christ to be crucified. This is unthinkable—self-sacrificing Christ is to be killed, and a criminal, murderous thief is to be freed. Who did it? Mark tells us the chief priests, and Matthew tells us the elders made their way into the crowd and incited people to earthquake.

Verse 11 says they manipulated the crowd. “But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead.” Stirred up is to shake, provoke, to excite, to incite–the root comes from seismic, where we get seismograph, used to record the intensity and power of earthquakes.

How could it have happened? Have you considered this? Some say this was the harsh, Friday, Judean crowd, and not the Thursday Galileans who were fed, healed and loved by Christ. Others say they were direct, telling them Christ just this morning claimed to be God, the Messiah and the coming Judge. Others say they were subtle, reminding them Christ was hailed as the Messiah on Monday, but has done nothing to remove Rome.

The people may have been receptive because of the deep shock of seeing the one they expected to overthrow the Romans, and establish the messianic kingdom now standing before the Roman governor as a helpless prisoner. Disappointed in the Lord’s apparent failure to act as they had hoped, they turned fiercely against Jesus. If Jesus was such a helpless “King of the Jews,” they wanted nothing of Him. Barabbas at least had tried to do what they believed Jesus might have done, but refused to do.

We don’t know how, because the Bible doesn’t tell us. However, they effectively persuaded the crowd to ask Barabbas be freed, and Jesus be put to death. Later the apostles describe this event this way in Acts 3:13 to 15, “Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.”

Pilate was shocked. “When the governor asks them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’” they say, Barabbas. That’s unthinkable–what has Barabbas done for anybody? What good is Barabbas? Yet Luke 23:18 says, “They cried out all together”–they wanted Barabbas. Then the crowd adds, “saying, ‘Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!’” Let the guilty live, kill the sinless one–treat the guilty as innocent, and treat the innocent as guilty.

They’re so mad, they cry for innocent Christ to be crucified. Luke 23:20 says Pilate still wants to release Jesus at this point, so Pilate addresses the crowd in verse 12a, “Answering again, Pilate said to them”–see the second word in verse 12, “again,” showing Pilate’s further effort following this disappointing crowd vote. So wondering what to do, Pilate now tests the popular feeling of the crowd toward Jesus personally. What do I do with Him? In verse 12, “Answering again, Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?’”

First, Pilate’s question implies he was willing also to release Jesus, if that was their wish. Second, Pilate’s use of the phrase “King of the Jews” is probably used to move the crowd to make them not want a Roman ruler condemn the very one to whom they have given this title, King of the Jews. But again they’re fired up, and in verse 13, “They shouted back, ‘Crucify Him!’” The crowd is worked into a hysteria by the Sanhedrin.

It’s hard to understand, isn’t it? From Monday to now Friday . . . from “Hosanna the Kingdom is here” on Monday to “Crucify Him” on Friday. The crowd now joins Judas, Annas, Caiaphas, Herod and the Sanhedrin in their blasphemy. Since Pilate placed Jesus on the same level as Barabbas, the crowd demands that Jesus take his place. They’re calling for their God to be killed a horrible death. “Crucify Him!” Kill our Messiah—kill God the Son.

Pilate is still incredulous–verse 14, “But Pilate said to them, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’” Literally, “For what evil did He do?” Yet another declaration of the Lord’s pure innocence. Pilate has recognized the unjustness of their demand, and is seeking to reason with the agitated crowd. Pilate is inviting them to produce any evidence of any evil or injurious deed Jesus has done to justify their demand. But they respond, verse 14, “But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify Him!’”

The crowd is relentless. They shout all the more, “Crucify Him.” The crowd is louder and cries out fiercer, “Crucify Him.” The crowd actually commands Pilate to crucify Christ here. The only two commands in this passage are a call to crucify. The crowd knew the power of public pressure through clamor and shouting. Jesus is falsely accused by the Jews, and condemned by Pilate, for the very thing of which Barabbas was actually guilty.

It’s amazing to remember what day this is–it’s Passover, a day to honor God, to worship Him, to bring Him sacrifices to show their obedience, eat a meal in order to remember God’s deliverance and His mercy that delivered them from slavery. Yet what are they doing? The crowd is screaming for the death of the Son of God. So Pilate wilts under the pressure.

Second  The horrible POLITICAL decision of Pilate  Verse 15a

Pilate bows to the will of the crowd–read the first phrase of verse 15a, “Wishing to satisfy the crowd.” One commentator asks, “How’s that for an epitaph?” Pilate, who wished to satisfy the crowd–write THAT in stone over his life. It’s despicable. Over and over, Pilate has declared the innocence of Jesus, yet verse 15 says Pilate released Barabbas for them. Barabbas gets his chains removed, but Pilate hasn’t given up. First he tried crowd dynamics, but Pilate is not quite done. He tries two more ways to release Christ.

II.  PITY with scourging Verse 15b

Notice the phrase in verse 15b, “and after having Jesus scourged.” I believe Pilate hoped if Jesus were scourged, after seeing Christ torn to shreds, the crowd might relent of desiring His death. You know, shocked, they’d relent and say, “Oh, that’s enough!” John 19:1,4,5, “Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him. 4 Pilate . . . said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.’ 5 Jesus . . . came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold, the Man!’”

Scourging was accomplished with a whip (a flagellum) made up of a short, wooden handle with several leather thongs attached. Each thong was embedded with sharp pieces of metal or bone. The man to be scourged was tied to a post by the wrists high over his head, with his feet dangling and his body taut. Often there were two scourgers, one on each side of the victim, who took turns lashing him across the back.

Many would die. Muscles were lacerated, veins and arteries were torn open, and it was not uncommon for the kidneys, spleen, entrails and organs to be exposed to sight and torn. The Jews limited the number of strikes a person could receive to no more than thirty-nine–the Romans had no limit.

It was so bad that Isaiah said in 52:14 that the Lord’s appearance was so disfigured, it was beyond human recognition. And I believe Pilate desired it to be horrible enough to cause the crowd to say, “That’s enough.” But the very next verse in John, 19:6 says, “So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, ‘Crucify, crucify!’” Pity failed–so Pilate tries one more attempt.

III.  GUILT with washing his hands

Things are heating up, a riot is about to start, so Pilate tries guilt. Matthew 27:24, “When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.’” It’s your responsibility. His death is your fault, not mine.

But instead of being frightened by the horror of this statement, the crowd responds in Matthew 27:25, “And all the people said, ‘His blood shall be on us and on our children!’” The crowd wants blood. They’re in a riot, and in the midst of the screaming someone directs a statement right at Pilate to put an end to Pilate’s attempts to free Christ. In fact, this comment stops Pilate right in his tracks.

John 19:12, “As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, ‘If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.’” That’s it–Pilate can’t afford another complaint to Caesar. So what does Pilate do? Mark 15:15, the last phrase, “He handed Him over to be crucified.”

Barabbas had his chains removed and was released to the people. Jesus was handed over to a Roman centurion to supervise His crucifixion. The crowds chose Barabbas over Jesus. The people chose lawlessness instead of righteousness. The mob chose violence instead of love. The populous chose hatred instead of peace.

A  Are you confident God is in control over your life DETAILS

Standing right behind Pilate as he dealt with Christ was God the Father. Pilate is responsible for his sin, cowardice, and political choices, but it was God working out His sovereign plan for Christ to be crucified, and to die exactly at 3 pm when all the Passover lambs are killed. God’s control even extends to Pilate’s interruption with the note from his wife, giving the religious leaders time to sway the crowd.

God is sovereign over injustice, interruptions and little items. We are responsible for our sin, but God is sovereign over all. Acts 2:23, “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God [God is Sovereign], you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death [you are responsible].” Whatever you’re going through, your Savior is with you! Depend on Him, pray to Him, and trust His wisdom, His love and His control over every detail.

B  Do you have CONVICTIONS or just mere beliefs?

Pilate made five statements during this mock trial of “not guilty”–yet Pilate was not courageous enough to stand for truth in this sea of vengeance. Pilate was about to lose his position, possessions, and perhaps even his life. As a result, though Pilate believed Christ was innocent, and Pilate believed in justice, he compromised his beliefs and proved he was a man without convictions. Beliefs are what you hold, but convictions are what holds you.

Do you have any convictions–beliefs that cannot be broken? Is the Bible always right? Was Creation six literal 24-hour days? Is Jesus the only way of salvation? Is homosexuality always wrong? Do all Christians faithfully serve in a local church? Do all believers give sacrificially to the Lord’s work? Is each dad responsible to lead his family? Do all believers desperately need to be saturated in God’s Word daily? Is holiness an option, or a pursuit? To be holy is to be wholly God’s.

The subtle sellout today is we have beliefs–but they make no difference in how many live. We are hearers, but not doers. And if so, we’re not much different from Pilate unless we develop convictions.

C  Are you FOR or AGAINST Christ?

Jesus is not an option. Christ is not a way, He is the only way. Matthew 12:30, “He who is not with me is against me.” Mark 9:40, “For he who is not against us is for us.” Have you surrendered to Christ? Have you exchanged all that you are for all that He is? You are under God’s judgment unless you turn from your sin and place your faith in Him. Only God can make that possible. Have you cried out for mercy from the God you’ve sinned against? You contribute nothing to your salvation but the sin that made it necessary. Let’s pray.

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church – Murrieta.

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