by Pastor Mark Downey

If we do not truly rejoice in God, for what He is in Himself, and that because of all the perfections which are eternally resident in Him, then how dwelleth the love of God in us? Each of us needs to be most prayerfully on his guard against devising an image of God in our thoughts which is patterned after our own evil inclinations. Of old the Lord complained, "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself" Ps. 50:21.

"If Thou, LORD, shouldest mark [impute] iniquities, 0 Lord, who shall stand?" Ps. 130:3. We might ask ourselves this question for it is written, "The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment" Ps.1:5. Three out of four believers do not stand in the 'Parable of the Sower' (Luke 8:4-14) because of different grounds representing the heart or soul of people who come under the hearing of the Word. 75% of the ground is unfruitful and they remain so because the Holy Spirit did not cultivate them prior to hearing the Word.

Those represented by the wayside hear the Gospel, but it does not pass further than their ears. Those whose hearts are represented by the rock also remain unchanged, because their hearts remain as hard as a rock, and the seed of the Word of God does not take root in their hearts. And then there is a ground that is already infested with seeds from thorny weeds. Then the thorns spring up and they choke the seed of the Gospel. They bear no fruit that is pleasing to God. All three remain as barren as before the seed of the gospel was sown. The reason for this is that we are all born into this world without righteousness, "As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one" Romans 3:10.

If we find a few people who do seek after the God of the Bible, then God must have performed a miracle in their hearts, because nothing of this sort will come out of their own heart. God must have given them a new heart. It must mean that God has mercy on some and God has given them a new heart as a free gift. We read, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). This free gift of eternal life comes through what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for whomsoever God wants to bestow this free gift.

What did Christ do? Well, we know that the Lord Jesus Christ went to the Cross. What did He do there? "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ died an atoning death for us, when we were still in rebellion against God. He did that because He loved us.

Who is us? It is the 25%, the small fraction of Israelites who believe on the Lord Jesus. "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work" Romans 11:5-6

Grace is an entirely unmerited divine assistance given to man. If it cannot be merited by anything we do, or by anything we intend to do, then God must make the choice on whom He wants to bestow this grace. That is why this group of people is called "the election of grace". If salvation is in any way dependent on something we do, then salvation is no more by grace, but it is by works. Otherwise work is no more work. If salvation depended on our choosing to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, then salvation is by works. If God foreknew that we would choose to serve the Lord Jesus, and God would bestow His favor only upon those of whom He foreknew that they would choose to accept Christ, then salvation is by works, and Christ did not have to come to die on a Cross. Then God would have designed another salvation program; otherwise work is no more work. What a glorious realization that God is doing all the work of salvation, and God receives 100% of the credit. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" Romans 8:1. He paid the penalty for our sins, and He paid the full price.

This is what people have heard, but if they're standing in thorny ground, they will still try to serve two masters. "Whosoever doth not bear his Cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" Luke 14:27. But of course, the people represented by the thorny ground did not hear that. They hear only those things that they want to hear.

Jesus became a stone of stumbling for the leaders of the jews who insisted on a salvation by works. The jews believed, and they still do, that they could become right with God through obeying the Law. Therefore Christ became a stumbling stone for the jews, and Christ became a stumbling stone for many who are not jews, who also believe that we must do something to get right with God. The grace of God is really offensive to some people. They think all they have to do is follow the ceremonial law.

"But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed" Romans 9:31-33. Here is the plain truth about the conflict between the jews and Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is a Stone of Stumbling and a Rock of Offense to the jews. Jews hold on to a salvation based on doing the works of the law, whereas God says: "Whosoever believeth on Christ shall not be ashamed". All those who stumble at the doctrine of Christ crucified, all those who cannot believe that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died only for His elect sheep find Christ a Stone of Stumbling and a Rock of Offense, because they are offended at God's plan of salvation by grace alone.

The true Jesus died on the Cross at Calvary and His shed blood, that is his physical death, did indeed atone for all the sins of His people. His sacrifice was a once and for all substitutionary sacrifice that requires no repetition and no supplementary act on the part of man in order for it to become effective. His physical death is sufficient to cover every sin-past, present and future-of all those whom God gave to Him. The Lord Jesus Christ became our sin-bearer, and qualified to be our substitute before the throne of Justice, and qualified to be our sin-offering to atone for our sins, because He was the Lamb that God had provided for us for this purpose.

"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross" (Colossians 2:14).

"...but now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebrews 9:26).

"...we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all" (Hebrews 10:10).

"For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14).

"...unto Him (Jesus) who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Revelation 1:5).

All these Scriptures testify to the fact of the all-sufficiency and all-efficiency of Jesus' once and for all sacrifice for His sheep on the Cross. There is only one Savior and if one does not abide in His doctrine, if one does not believe in the only Gospel which reveals the righteousness of Christ, without which no one can be saved, then one is without God and without hope: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God..." II John 9.

To suggest that Christ's atonement was incomplete and must be completed by us doing a work, such as submitting ourselves to ritual, ceremony or observance, is an insult to Christ, and is an insult to God Almighty. When God says that Christ has done all the work, and has completed the task fully on the Cross without our presence, and without our approval, then who are we to protest this statement from God in the Bible, and to design our own plan of salvation whereby we must also do some work for our salvation.

"Purge out therefore the old leaven… For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" I Cor. 5:7. The last Passover as prescribed in the Old Testament is what we recognize as the 'Last Supper' with Christ and His disciples. The old feasts were designed to show us how God fulfills His promises. Today, we remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with the instructions for communion i.e. "This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes" (I Cor. 11:25-26). The fact that a sacrificial lamb on the night of "The Last Supper" is not mentioned in the New Testament narrative is significant. Paul rebukes the Corinthians for their carnal observance of remembrance as not being the Lord's Supper, but their own: "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper" (I Cor. 11:20).

John called Him, "The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" John 1:29. In Revelation 7:14 the saints, "Washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Do not let the symbolism of our divine cleansing be confused with the blood of animals, for we no longer sacrifice through ordinances. What Light of Jesus Christ hath communion with the dark practices of jewish traditions? "For the glory of God did lighten it [the Kingdom of God], and the Lamb is the light thereof" Rev. 21:23.

Prophetically, Daniel declares the feast days as something that was to stop the moment Christ died on the cross. "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate" (Daniel 9:27). The temple veil ripped completely in two and Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30).

All that is coming from keeping the feast days is a faith that learns how to embrace the "old leaven" of the Pharisee's. All the world knows, "they" do indeed proclaim with boldness that Messiah has not yet come. But, the ungodly shall not stand. The elders of the synagogue set up false witnesses which said, "This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law; For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs of Moses delivered us" (Acts 6:13-14). Well guess what? The Lord made true His Word in 70 AD and little lambs without blemish were no longer sacrificed on Passover in that place ever again. We should learn from history… His story.