Wednesday, April 25, 2018


The man of God goes into the ground but the Word of God continue.-A.W. Tozer
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of pastor, he desires a noble task.-1 Timothy 3:1

This July, I will have been in Winston-Salem longer than I was in Seminary or in Ghana, Africa preparing to be a Pastor. I am amazed at how fast time flies.

When I first arrived at Stanleyville I would ask people in the church how they came to be a part of FBC Stanleyville and how they came to know the Lord. Typically, the story would revolve around “the Pastor” coming to visit. I would never know what Pastor they were revering to just that it was “the Pastor”. I quickly learned that “Pastor” was a term of endearment and something I should strive after.

A.W. Tozer has a famous quote in which he says, “the man of God goes into the ground but the Word of God continues.” Tozer wanted to emphasize the importance of the Bible continuing and not a Pastors legacy. As a Pastor I am nothing more than a tool in the hands of the Master Craftman (Jesus) to use as He sees fit and when He is done with me to just throw me back into the tool bag and use someone else.

The longer I stay in Winston Salem and interact with members of the community the more my name is forgotten and the term Pastor replaces the name. Allow me to explain:

The workers at the local Starbucks I frequent to get my delicious brown nectar affectionately write Pastor on my coffee cup due to the fact that I visited one of them when he was in the hospital and prayed with him. The prayer in the hospital has led to a few conversations with Starbucks employees about the Gospel and the claims of Christ.

Visiting church members in the hospital and when I leave having them shake my hand and say, “thank you Pastor for coming to pray with me.” Last week, a doctor stopped me and said “thank you Pastor for praying and shepherding your people.”

Students calling in the wee hours of the morning because they have a burning question or a struggle and they need prayer or just someone to listen saying thank you Pastor as they hang up.

Going to Walmart and having to constantly have my head on a shrivel and hearing people say, “hey Pastor.”

Sporting events, concerts and club events that students have and hearing them tell their friends, “oh, that crazy guy screaming in the stands is my Pastor.”

Finally, visiting an adult male in his home and being there as he prays to receive Christ with his children playing in the living room and knowing that one day the testimony of those children will be, “the Pastor came by and shared the Gospel with my dad and our lives were never the same.”

I love being a Pastor. I pray that when God is through with me at FBC Stanleyville that my name is forgotten but God’s Word which I labored to teach the people will be remembered.

 As far as I am concerned there is no greater calling, there is no greater profession than that of being a Pastor and I am eternally grateful God chose me to do it and FBC Stanleyville called me to be one of their Pastors.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Tough Question: Why Did Jesus Make So Much Wine?:

The miracles of Jesus certainly provoke awe and reverence, but they also prompt questions. One such scene is Jesus’s first public miracle at the wedding at Cana (John 2). In this passage, Jesus was at a wedding, and the hosts ran out of wine. After some discussion with his mother, Mary, Jesus astonishes everyone by turning the purification water into wine.

The question I want to consider is, Why did Jesus make so much wine?

John includes details that let us know that Jesus made a lot of wine. In verse 6 we read, “there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.” Jesus, wanting to ensure they were full, instructs the servants to fill up what was lacking in the jars to the brim (v.7).

Then, in verse 8, Jesus instructs them to “draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” The people were amazed. The purification buckets had turned into vintage wine bottles. With the astonishment that attends a surprise party, they celebrate together declaring, This is the good stuff!

How much wine did Jesus make? Six stone jars with 20 to 30 gallons of wine in them total 120 to 180 gallons. Jesus made nearly 1,000 bottles of wine! By all accounts, this is a lot of wine for a wedding of this size.

Furthermore, John tells us this was his first sign in Galilee, and it manifested his glory. This fact prods us along with our question, Why so much wine?

In the Bible wine is a sign of God’s blessing (Ps. 104:15; Prov. 3:10). The widespread abuse of wine does not dilute the biblical testimony that wine in the Bible is primarily positive.

But, there’s more than this.

In many cases, an abundance of wine demonstrates the abundance of God’s blessings. Two passages are particularly helpful here. The first is in Genesis 49 when Jacob is blessing his sons. Jacob comes to Judah and announces that from Judah there will come a very important king (Gen. 49:8-10).


Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk. (Gen. 49:11-12)

These verses are all about abundance. Instead of a drought, there are so many grapes that you can tie your colt up to the best vine. And, one’s clothes could be washed in wine. The blessings are overflowing when this king, the son of Judah comes.

The second passage is in Amos 9. Looking back to the glory days of King David the prophet looks ahead to a time when another son of Judah would come. This anointed would usher in the days of unparalleled, exuberant blessings. His rule will bring about the obedience of the nations and the security of his people.

“In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the LORD who does this. “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the LORD your God.

Amos paints a picture to communicate the blessings of God. The mountains shall drip of sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with it. This passage describes the overflowing abundance of God’s blessings upon his people. Amos, like others (Joel 3:18), promises this day will come.

There in the hours celebrating the new life together of a man and woman whom history has forgotten, is a more excellent celebration: the new life given by God in the new creation. The flowing new wine shows the abundant blessing of Christ and his bride the church.

Then years later, another son of Judah, a son of David would come. He goes to a wedding and manifests his glory through a sign. His first sign uncorks and announces the day of God’s abundant blessings. The prophet, priest, and king of the new creation has arrived. There in the hours of celebrating the new life together of a man and woman whom history has forgotten, is a more excellent celebration: the new life given by God in the new creation. The flowing new wine shows the abundant blessing of Christ and his bride the church.

There’s more to be said about this passage, but certainly not less than this: Jesus made so much wine to show the long-promised age has arrived and the blessings that accompany his kingdom are overflowing.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Prayer For Stanleyville:

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Oh, Lord, by the truth of your Word, and the power of your Spirit and the ministry of your body, build men and women at FBC Stanleyville
Who don’t love the world more than God,
Who don’t care if they make much money,
Who don’t care if they own a house,
Who don’t care if they have a new car or two cars,
Who don’t need recent styles,
Who don’t care if they get famous,
Who don’t miss steak or fance fare,
Who don’t expect that life should be comfortable and easy,
Who don’t feed their minds on TV each night,
Who don’t measure truth with their finger in the wind,
Who don’t get paralyzed by others’ disapproval,
Who don’t return evil for evil
Who don’t hold grudges,
Who don’t gossip,
Who don’t twist the truth,
Who don’t brag of boast,
Who don’t whine or use body language to get pity,
Who don’t criticize more than praise,
Who don’t hang out in cliques,
Who don’t eat too much or exercise too little;
Who are ablaze for God
Who are utterly God-besotted,
Who are filled with the Holy Spirit,
Who stirve to know the height and depth of Christ’s love,
Who are crucified to the world and dead to sin,
Who are purified by the Word and addicted to righteousness,
Who are mighty in memorizing and using the Scriptures,
Who keep the Lord’s Day holy and refreshing,
Who are broken by the consciousness of sin,
Who are thrilled by the wonder of free grace,
Who are stunned into humble silence by the riches of God’s glory
Who are persevering constantly in prayer,
Who are ruthless in self-denial,
Who are fearless in public witness to Christ’s lordship,
Who are able to unmask error and blow away doctrinal haze,
Who are tough in standing for the truth,
Who are tender in touching hurting people,
Who are passionate about reaching the people who have no church,
Who are pro-life for the sake of babies and 
Moms and dads and the glory of God,
Who are keepers of all their promises, including marriage vows, 
Who are content with what they have and trusting the promises of God, 
Who are patient and kind and meek when life is hard.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April Parent Newsletter 2018:

For Parents On The Go:

  1. Wednesday, April 18th. Reynolds Tobacco Company will be coming to CREW to give a talk on the importance of staying Tobacco and Drug Free. Reynolds will be paying the church $1,000 to give the talk. ALL students are highly encouraged to attend.
  2. Lock-Out at Celebration Station, Friday, April 20th from 7pm-7am Saturday, April 21st. Cost: $30. Join us for a night of bumper boats, bumper cars, batting cages, all you can eat pizza and arcades.
  3. Graduate Senior Breakfast: Families join us Saturday, May 5th as we celebrate and honor our graduates. 
  4. The Journey Camp in Toccoa, Georgia. June 18-22. Cost $150. We are still accepting students. 
Dear Parents:

Let’s talk about fun. It’s pretty much impossible to stay in youth ministry for more than a few weeks without having at least some willingness to have fun. Even the most serious and Bible-focused youth leader needs to add fun as a value.

God is the inventor of fun. God is the one who designed the sensation of the tickle. God created our mouths to involuntarily turn up into a smile. One might even say, with some theological accuracy, that God invented the “accidentally blowing Mountain Dew through your nostrils when caught off guard by something hilarious” response.

We often unintentionally teach a heresy about fun, that it’s all good and well, but isn’t actually spiritual. It’s our non-formal curriculum when we say things like, “Ok, we played that game, and it was fun; but now it’s time to get serious and turn to the Word of God.”

Fun is one of the last words most people would use to describe Christ-followers. It’s probably fair to say that fun would be a weak ministry value if it were your only ministry value; but let’s all stop apologizing, and add fun, with theological conviction, to the description of the vibe we desire in our youth ministries.

I just have to believe that Jesus and his boys laughed their heads off at times, especially after Andrew snorted and shot goat’s milk out of his nose.

There’s no question that having fun is a high value to teenagers. We’re called as missionaries, to bring a contextualized gospel to the world of teens. And since fun isn’t a value that’s in any way antithetical to the gospel, let’s at least start with the assumption that it’s morally neutral, effectively used for good or evil, capable of being experienced in a way that aligns with or diminishes God’s intent for our lives.

Of course, there are plenty of ways that fun can be destructive. All of those lesser-funs are a bastardization of fun, resulting in the diminishment of a human God so desperately loves.

But when we don’t embrace fun as a value, teenagers subconsciously think, “This place doesn’t line up with what is normal and valuable to me; so this place isn’t a good fit for me.”

We can’t hope to play a role in connecting teenagers with the love of Jesus unless we first engage them. You don’t shape a teen’s life simply by being in the same room.

Great engagement comes in lots of forms:

offering genuine belonging
asking questions
connecting with various senses.

But fun is at the least one of those engagement tools in our kit. Attempted fun or forced fun can be massively lame; so there’s clearly a fine line to walk here. But fun can provide an avenue for engagement when even the most proactive conversational approach simply falls flat in a pile of good intent.

You know you have teenagers who are naturally defensive to connecting with you or your program. That’s particularly true if they’re visitors, or for some other reason, don’t feel a sense of connection and identification with the group.

But fun—particularly laughter—unfolds the arms, relaxes the tensed muscles, and helps a defensive posture melt away (even if only momentarily). This really is a physical issue—defensiveness is a mindset with an accompanying muscle tightening. Fun, even when it’s only observed, can cause a mindset change that naturally results in forgetting to hold the previously clenched muscle state.

One can certainly have fun when they’re alone. But the best fun is usually a shared experience. That sort of concurrent fun amplifies the fun for all involved, and plants seeds of community.

Because, really, when you boil it down, community begins, and is sustained by, shared experiences. Allow fun to be a regular aspect of that communal life. A word of caution community building fun must be inclusive; carefully guard against exclusive fun that leaves some out.

A major part of any community (and the identity formation that comes with it) is shared memories. Those communal remembrances are major fodder for sustained “life together.”

Of course, it’s great if some of those memories are of tender times, or times of overcoming adversity, or of an intense shared experience of God. But shared memories of fun can fill in the gaps to create full portfolio of stories worth retelling, stories that say something about who we are together.

I suppose this reality is complimentary to the “fun can foster community” reality previously discussed. But here’s an important reality: in our current context, youth culture has splintered into hundreds or thousands of cultures (this is new in the last decade or two, by the way). That means that every youth ministry is a multi-cultural youth ministry (unless your youth group is three home-schoolers from the same family).

One of our greatest goals in youth ministry should be the creation of a new Kingdom culture that supersedes the many cultures represented in the population of your youth ministry. I’ve found three things that act as kerosene on the fire of decreasing cultural differences: serving together, worshipping together, and having fun together. We tend to elevate the first two over the latter, as they seem “more spiritual.”

But remember where we began this exploration: fun is a God thing.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

33 Verses To Remind Us-Not To Fear:

Fear. One of the enemy’s most popular weapons that he uses against us. Worry, anxiety, fear…can overwhelm us with a thick shadow of darkness, controlling our every move and decision.

So much crazy going on around us today - wars, conflicts, persecution, violence, crime, natural disasters, terrorism, economic uncertainty, unemployment, divisions, disease, death. We fear for our children’s future, we fear for our families, we fear for our financial future, we fear for our safety. The list goes on…long. There actually is a lot we could potentially worry about.

Yet reality tells us that so much of what we spend our time worrying about never even happens. Living under the weight of the "what if's" is a hard place to dwell.

If you struggle with fear and worry may I encourage you to read words- of life - of truth. Soaking them in, over and over, praying them out loud. Until they become so familiar, they replace the other things in your mind that you battle against. There’s nothing magical about words and verses, but there is power through them, because they’re God’s words.

Change happened. Anxious thoughts began to diminish. Worry let go of its constant grip. And though fear is sometimes still there, it no longer wields control, holding me back, paralyzing me in its grasp.

His words are “life” words, soothing to our soul, calming to our spirits, giving power to our days. 

It’s not always easy, and it often comes down to a choice:

Choosing not to allow fear and anxiety to control your life.
Choosing to guard your heart.
Choosing to focus your mind on what is truth in the midst of uncertain times.

We might still feel afraid, but we can believe that God is with us. We may not be in control, but we can trust the One who is. We may not know the future, but we can know the God who does.

33 Verses to Remind Us - We Do Not Have to Fear:

1.  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

2.  “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3

3.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

4.  “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” John 14:27

5.  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

6.  “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

7.  “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” Psalm 94:19

8.  “But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

9.  “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

10. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

11. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

12. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

13. “Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time.  Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

14. “Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” Isaiah 35:4

15. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:22-26

16. “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

17. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22

18. “Immediately he spoke to them and said, 'Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'” Mark 6:50

19. “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

20. “'For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,' declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 41:13-14

21. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

22. “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?  The Lord is with me; he is my helper.” Psalm 118:6-7

23. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” Proverbs 29:25

24. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:39-40

25. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:7

26. “But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.” 1 Peter 3:14

27. “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.  He freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

28. “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” Deuteronomy 3:22

29. “Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.'” Revelation 1:17

30. “Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” Mark 5:36

31. “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38-39

32. “The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Zephaniah 3:17

33. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”…He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.  You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you…For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways…“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him…” from Psalm 91:1-16

Be assured, He is with you in whatever you face, in the turmoil and struggles, amidst the anxious thoughts and the worries of life. He is there, strengthening, helping, and He holds you in His hands.

God is greater. He gives us the power to live courageously, boldly, fearlessly in this life, when many things that surround us would tell us to be afraid. His truth whispers strong and sure to the deepest core of our spirits.

“Do not fear.”

All of that stuff on your mind? Give it to Him – again. Replace those fearful thoughts with His words of truth. And sleep in peace tonight. He knows what concerns you, He’s got you covered.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Sheer Sinfulness of Sin:

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Sometimes it does us good to consider the sheer sinfulness of our sin. Sometimes it does us good to consider what our sin has cost. Perhaps these words from Isaac Ambrose will challenge you as they did me.

When I but think of those bleeding veins, bruised shoulders, scourged sides, furrowed back, harrowed temples, nailed hands and feet, and then consider that my sins were the cause of all, methinks I should need no more arguments for self-abhorring!

Christians, would not your hearts rise against him that should kill your father, mother, brother, wife, husband,—dearest relations in all the world? Oh, then, how should your hearts and souls rise against sin! Surely your sin it was that murdered Christ, that killed him, who is instead of all relations, who is a thousand, thousand times dearer to you than father, mother, husband, child, or whomsoever. One thought of this should, methinks, be enough to make you say, as Job did, ‘I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Oh, what is that cross on the back of Christ? My sins. Oh, what is that thorny crown on the head of Christ? My sins. Oh, what is the nail in the right hand and that other in the left hand of Christ? My sins. Oh, what is that spear in the side of Christ? My sins. What are those nails and wounds in the feet of Christ? My sins. With a spiritual eye I see no other engine tormenting Christ, no other Pilate, Herod, Annas, Caiaphas, condemning Christ, no other soldiers, officers, Jews or Gentiles doing execution on Christ, but only sin. Oh, my sins, my sins, my sins!

These words from Joseph Hart seem fitting:

Many woes had Christ endured,
Many sore temptations met,
Patient, and to pains inured:
But the sorest trial yet
Was to be sustain’d in thee,
Gloomy, sad Gethsemane !

Came at length the dreadful night:
Vengeance, with its iron rod,
Stood, and with collected might
Bruised the harmless Lamb of God:
See, my soul, thy Saviour see
Prostrate in Gethsemane !

There my God bore all my guilt:
This, through grace, can be believed;
But the horrors which he felt
Are too vast to be conceived:
None can penetrate through thee,
Doleful, dark Gethsemane !

Sins against a holy God,
Sins against his righteous laws,
Sins against his love, his blood,
Sins against his name and cause,—
Sins immense as is the seal
Hide me, O Gethsemane !

Here’s my claim, and here alone;
None a Saviour more can need :
Deeds of righteousness I’ve none;
No,-not one good work to plead:
Not a glimpse of hope for me,
Only in Gethsemane.

Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
One almighty God of love,
Hymn’d by all the heavenly host
In thy shining courts above,
We adore thee, gracious Three,—
Bless thee for Gethsemane.

Monday, March 19, 2018

6 Things Jesus Accomplished By His Death:

Here’s a very brief summary of the six core things Christ accomplished in his death.

1. Expiation

Expiation means the removal of our sin and guilt. Christ’s death removes — expiates — our sin and guilt. The guilt of our sin was taken away from us and placed on Christ, who discharged it by his death.

Thus, in John 1:29, John the Baptist calls Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus takes away, that is, expiates, our sins. Likewise, Isaiah 53:6 says, “The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him,” and Hebrews 9:26 says “He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

2. Propitiation

Whereas expiation refers to the removal of our sins, propitiation refers to the removal of God’s wrath.

By dying in our place for our sins, Christ removed the wrath of God that we justly deserved. In fact, it goes even further: a propitiation is not simply a sacrifice that removes wrath, but a sacrifice that removes wrath and turns it into favor. (Note: a propitiation does not turn wrath into love — God already loved us fully, which is the reason he sent Christ to die; it turns his wrath into favor so that his love may realize its purpose of doing good to us every day, in all things, forever, without sacrificing his justice and holiness.)

Several passages speak of Christ’s death as a propitiation for our sins. Romans 3:25-26 says that God “displayed [Christ] publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration of his righteousness at the present time, that he might be just and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.”

Likewise, Hebrews 2:17 says that Christ made “propitiation for the sins of the people” and 1 John 4:10 says “in this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

3. Reconciliation

Whereas expiation refers to the removal of our sins, and propitiation refers to the removal of God’s wrath, reconciliation refers to the removal of our alienation from God.

Because of our sins, we were alienated — separated — from God. Christ’s death removed this alienation and thus reconciled us to God. We see this, for example, in Romans 5:10-11: “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

4. Redemption

Our sins had put us in captivity from which we need to be delivered. The price that is paid to deliver someone from captivity is called a “ransom.” To say that Christ’s death accomplished redemption for us means that it accomplished deliverance from our captivity through the payment of a price.

There are three things we had to be released from: the curse of the law, the guilt of sin, and the power of sin. Christ redeemed us from each of these.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13-14).

Christ redeemed us from the guilt of our sin. We are “justified as a gift by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

Christ redeemed us from the power of sin: “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your fathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Note that we are not simply redeemed from the guilt of sin; to be redeemed from the power of sin means that our slavery to sin is broken. We are now free to live to righteousness. Our redemption from the power of sin is thus the basis of our ability to live holy lives: “You have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

5. Defeat of the Powers of Darkness

Christ’s death was a defeat of the power of Satan. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 3:15). Satan’s only weapon that can ultimately hurt people is unforgiven sin. Christ took this weapon away from him for all who would believe, defeating him and all the powers of darkness in his death by, as the verse right before this says, “having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).

6. And he Did All of This By Dying As Our Substitute

The reality of substitution is at the heart of the atonement. Christ accomplished all of the above benefits for us by dying in our place — that is, by dying instead of us. We deserved to die, and he took our sin upon him and paid the penalty himself.

This is what it means that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20). As Isaiah says, “he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities . . . the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him” (Isaiah 53:5-6).

You see the reality of substitution underlying all of the benefits discussed above, as the means by which Christ accomplished them. For example, substitution is the means by which we were ransomed: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Christ’s death was a ransom for us — that is, instead of us. Likewise, Paul writes that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

Substitution is the means by which we were reconciled: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). It is the means of expiation: “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). And by dying in our place, taking the penalty for our sins upon himself, Christ’s death is also the means of propitiation.

To close: Two implications. First, this is very humbling.

Second, “Greater love has no one than this, than he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).