Costly Mistakes and Christ’s Solution


The dead Christ.

Christ Crucified. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A costly mistake by the goalie at the end of their game against El Salvador cost the U.S. men’s soccer team the opportunity to play in the London Olympics. Because the Olympic team is made up of men under the age of 23, most of those on the team will never have an opportunity to play in the Olympics. One error—one mis-timed jump from the goalie—cost the entire team the chance to go for golden glory.

In a separate incident in Canada, a group of papermill workers received bills in the mail stating that they owed their former employer between $20,000 and $30,000 because of an accounting error by someone who administered their pension plans: a costly error indeed! What would you do if all of a sudden you owed someone $25,000?

Mistakes are often costly. What is true in the diurnal affairs of athletes and laborers is also true in the eternal affairs of every soul. Errors can be costly—even deadly. This past summer, a driver of a pickup truck made a costly mistake in operating his truck, causing the vehicle to veer off the main road, over the shoulder, and into a very large tree. The tragedy was compounded by the error of cramming 18 illegal immigrants into the truck before driving it into Texas. In all, about a dozen people died in that crash; several others were left in serious condition. Errors are costly.

How much more costly are those errors which affect the state of our eternal souls? The doctrinal error of disbelieving that Jesus is God the Son proves an eternally costly error for the unbelieving soul:

“He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

More to the point of grace, however, is the fact that God knows our weakness. He understands that we are but dust. We are earthen vessels. We all make serious mistakes. From ages past, God has made a way to cover not just sins but also mistakes. Our mistakes and our sins of ignorance are atoned for by Christ. God has shown this desire to forgive frail creatures throughout history. God has always offered His people an atoning work that is so complete it overs sins of omission and sins of commission. God’s atonement covers more than just the sins we knowingly committed; it also covers sins committed in ignorance.  God atones for every degree of sin.

Such mercy is indeed great. Ezekiel speaks of such a sacrifice in chapter 45. On God’s authority, the prophet says,

You are to do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who sins unintentionally or through ignorance; so you are to make atonement for the temple. Ezek 45:20. 

The sacrifices of the Old Testament all pointed to God’s provision for His people—a provision great enough to cover  for sins of which people were not even aware. The completion of the sacrificial system happened in Christ’s “once for all” sacrifice of Himself, and His was no less magnanimous than the Old Testament version.

The sacrifice of Christ for His people accomplished a complete redemption, forgiveness, and cleansing. Thank God!, Our forgiveness and cleansing is not contingent upon our remembering and reciting every sin.  This is significant because, like infants, we don’t really have a clue about the damage our sins have done.  None of us knows the depths of our own sins. Christ knows and yet cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

Making mistakes in our doctrines and beliefs may prove fatal, but getting doctrines right before God always proves to be life-giving, cool water for the thirsty soul.

Do You Believe in Miracles? (Part 2 of 3)


(Continued from Part 1)

From the earliest stages of the Old Testament, instructions were given for people by God concerning miracles and their proper functions.  In Deuteronomy 13:1-3, God’s people received a succinct, yet irrefutably clear, annunciation of the function of miracles.  There are two primary functions of the signs and wonders.

First, the signs and wonders acknowledge the presence of God.  Yet, the mere presence of the signs and wonders is not enough to affirm the presence of God at work. It is possible that signs and wonders might be performed by false prophets (as was the case with Pharaoh’s magicians in Egypt). Thus, a second function of the miracles was to affirm all that God taught and commanded.  Deuteronomy 13:1-3 orders Israel to test the prophet to see whether his signs and wonders are followed by leading the people astray from the one, true God.  If so, then the false prophet is to be executed for misleading the people by deceitfully performing signs and wonders only to lead God’s people to worship false gods.

Ironically, this Deuteronomy 13 passage is that which was used by the Pharisees against Jesus.  Their legalistic

Miracles christ pharisees

Christ and the Pharisees
(Public Domain)

interpretations of the Old Testament were too restrictive to realize that Christ was leading to the Father (John 14:6) and not away from him.  To the Pharisees, Jesus was performing signs and wonders, but he was also leading folks away from God.  Again, no one doubted whether Jesus was performing miracles.  No one doubted whether his miracles were supernatural either, but there was doubt among the unbelieving—and especially among the religious leaders—as to whether his miracles came from God.

This matter of Jesus’s signs and wonders brought the inevitable clash between Jesus and his accusers to its ultimate head.  The Pharisees, in accordance with Deuteronomy 13, demanded that Jesus perform a sign in order to test him (Luke 11:16).

Ostensibly, they were testing him in accord with the faithful practices outlined in Deuteronomy 13.  Yet, instead of affirming God’s presence from the works of Jesus, these leaders instead insisted that his signs and wonders were empowered by the devil (Luke 11:14ff).  Against their accusations, Jesus confirmed that his miracles represented nothing less than the dawning of the kingdom of God (Luke 11:20).

Undaunted, the Pharisees and others persisted in their unbelief—even ascribing Jesus’s miracles to Satan.  In this context, the unpardonable sin arises. It is a severe rebellion which will not answer the cry of the miracles of God.  How much more severe a crime is it to ascribe those miraculous outbursts of God’s good works to the evil one himself!  From the perspective of Jesus, the miracles speak loudly and clearly to the presence of God at work in the midst of his creation.

Lewis is correct, then, that the miracles write out quite legibly a testimony from God that He is at work in the midst of humankind.  Lewis had his skeptics to deal with, just as Jesus had his.  Some, like the Pharisees, would deny the source of the miracles.  Others—like the followers of the Scottish philosopher David Hume—would deny the very presence of miracles.  Still others—like King Herod—sought to see the miracles just for the sheer entertainment value, as though Jesus were nothing more than a spiritual magician (Mark 8:15).  For all these who fail to acknowledge the presence of the living God, the miracles stand as a testimony of their unbelief (see John 9:41).

Do You Believe in Miracles? (Part 1 of 3)


This article is part one of a three-part defense of miracles.

Against the backdrop of growing skepticism in Britain and the west, C. S. Lewis wrote an important little treatise in

Christ pharisees miracles

Christ and the Pharisees
(Public Domain)

defense of miracles.  As the progress of science became more and more intertwined with Darwin’s evolutionary schemes of human origin, philosophers and academics became less and less comfortable speaking about miracles.  Yet, Lewis stepped in and placed before the world a stunningly clear explanation and defense of miracles.  Lewis wrote, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”

The point Lewis made, of course, is the same one made by the psalmist nearly two thousand years before him: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2, ESV).  What the stars sing in the background, the miracles recite specifically.  God speaks plainly through creation, but not all people listen to what is being said.  So, God speaks even more plainly through miracles. But what do the miracles say?

The miracles say that God is at work among humankind.  In John 3, Nicodemus affirms what was commonly believed among the religious leaders of Jesus’s day.  The miracles of Jesus were a clear sign that he had come from God, for no one could do such miraculous signs, “unless God is with him” (John 3:2).  When Peter preached his great sermon at Pentecost, he, too, affirmed what Nicodemus knew—that Jesus was a man who was attested to by God with mighty works and wonders and signs (Acts 2:22).  Nicodemus, like both the Apostle Peter and C. S. Lewis who came after him, was convinced that miracles indicated the near presence of the living God.  The miracles of Jesus make plain that Jesus Christ himself came from God.

Jesus taught his disciples that miracles were designed to confirm his identity as the Son of God. After John the Baptist had been thrown into prison by Herod, he sent his own followers to Jesus in order to confirm that Jesus was in fact the Messiah sent to earth from Heaven.  One can understand John’s concern. He was, literally, about to lose his head for the cause of Christ. He needed to be sure that Jesus was, indeed, sent from God.

To confirm his own identity (and to put John the Baptist at ease), Jesus reported to John’s followers that they had already seen enough of his miracles to conclude that he was from God.  Luke reports that at the very same time the followers of John came to inquire of him, Jesus was healing diseases, casting out evil spirits, and giving sight to the blind (Luke 11:21).  Jesus told the followers of John to go back and report to their master all the miracles they had witnessed.  In short, Jesus appealed to his miracles as support for the presence of God in his ministry.

Jesus made clear that his miracles demonstrated the presence of God at work.  Yet, some viewed the signs and wonders of Jesus as evidence that he was a false prophet.  Though no one doubted whether or not Jesus was performing miracles, some—like the Pharisees—were certain that the miracles condemned his ministry rather than affirmed it in the eyes of God.  This condemnation sounds strange at first, but when one understands the Old Testament instruction on miracles, he can see what it was that caused the Pharisees to stumble in the matter of the signs and wonders of Jesus.