The Finish

"It is finished!" Jesus - John 19:30

My athletic career reads like a Greek tragedy. In my youth, I was a sprinter in high school and college. "I can't put in what God left out," so said the old coach, in the movie, "Chariots of Fire." Sad, but so true. Still, I did learn that no race lasts forever. There is always a finish line. Good to know.

As I have aged, my races have moved from dashes to marathons. The swift completion of a race is rarely my goal. My mission is to finish. In my mature years, I have traded fast and furious for alive and well.

Don't get me wrong. I have only run one marathon. Well, in a way, I ran two in one day. It was my first and my last. Sorry, runners joke. Since that time I have limited myself to half-marathons, and turned my idea of running into a form of power walking. Somewhere around five miles, I am looking for a finish line. What I once could run in one day, I walk in a week. BUT I finish. Remember? My mission is to finish, alive and well.

Most of us remember the two racers in Aesop's fable, the turtle and the rabbit. The rabbit was considered a safe bet to win the race between the two. He was obviously faster, and the turtle was obviously outmatched. The turtle crosses the finish line first, by just pacing himself and staying in the race to the very end. The point of the story? Great potential, ability or time can be squandered and wasted. Those who make the best use of their talents and time will finish ahead of those who don't. This only happens...EVERY TIME.

Still, the words of Jesus say so much more. His statement, though profound in a spiritual sense, was not an unusual one in the Greek influenced culture of his day. This very same phrase was found on a piece of parchment, in the desert sands of that region. Across the face of a scrap of paper that had once been a bill handed to a an ancient customer, was the Greek phrase, "tetelstai", or "PAID IN FULL."

Jesus was saying the debt had been paid. There is nothing left to be done. Nothing more is owed. He has finished His work, and completed the transaction He was sent to accomplish on earth.

Years ago there was a simple chorus that put it in word and song for a generation of young believers. It never gets old to me.

"He paid a debt, He did not owe.
I owed a debt, I could not pay.
I needed Someone, to wash my sins away.
And now I sing a brand new song,
Amazing Grace, all day long,
Christ Jesus paid a debt
That I could never pay."

What Jesus did on Calvary has been debated in schools of theology, placed on greeting cards, and paraded in pageants across the stages of churches and movie screens every year, between Christmas and Easter. Many times Christ's message and His mission get lost in all the theological minutiae, and the pancake makeup and imagery. He died on a cross for you and your sins.

Sin separated you from God. There is really nothing original about sin. It is really, well, just stupid. There isn't much originality in it. Every generation thinks they invented it, just because they discovered their love for it.

God sent Jesus into this world, to die on a cross, before there was a threat of same-sex marriage amendments, SCOTUS dismissals of DOMA, and a host of other culturally corrosive expressions of sin. There is nothing new under the sun, and certainly, there has never been anything done in the dark that God hasn't seen. Dim light doesn't dim His vision.

Faced with the unbridled license of a morally unrestrained culture, prayerless people run around with their shock face in freeze position, breathlessly shouting, "I can't believe it!" Prayer enables you to see the face of God, through the eyes of Jesus. God isn't shocked. He's angry, but He isn't surprised. Prayerless people are always surprised at what they are capable of doing. God isn't. He knows you better than you know yourself, and He loves you anyway. Don't stay away from that kind of love. Pray your way towards it.

God isn't some benevolent, benign dispenser of blessings to wayward nations being run into the ground by wandering sheep. In our culture, "God Bless America" usually follows, a stirring rendition of "I'm Proud to Be an American." If you listen carefully you can almost hear angels gagging in Heaven, as they say to each other, "You have got to be kidding."

God takes sin seriously. Take another look at this passage in John. If it doesn't give you a picture of God's view of the depravity and the consequences of sin, not many things ever will.

For visual imagery, you might try watching Mel Gibson's movie portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus, "The Passion of the Christ." Even then, you can't catch the aroma of death. Idea. Take your I-Pad to a slaughter house and watch it there, or to one of Planned Parenthood's abortion mills. Dr. Gosnell's "House of Horrors" has been closed, but others like it are still open for business, and running at top speed. Oops. There's that shock face again.

The message of Jesus in the face of a culture riding a fast horse to hell is, "I died for you. Now. Dismount." There is no Plan B. There is no more compassionate alternative available to rid your life of the debt of sin that separates you from right standing with God. Ignoring your debt doesn't make it go away. It only increases the distance between you and God.

Don't get me wrong. The greatness of the distance is not the issue. The slightest separation from the perfection of Holy God is calamitous to a person's right standing with Him. To be forgiven a debt must be based upon a willingness to admit one is owed. Confession of sin, as small as it may be, is the act of a repentant person that opens the doors to Heaven, through the blood of Jesus Christ.

These last words of Jesus on the cross, opened up a new life for those who believed. Don't take my word for it. Read what John said,

"These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." John 20:31

Prayer is the key that opens up the door of Heaven, by accepting Christ's finished work on the cross. Prayer was an essential part of the life of Jesus, and it should hold similar significance in the lives of those who say they believe in Him. It was the indelible mark of His intimacy with His Father.

By praying, Jesus never let anything come between Him and His Father's will for His life. Prayer empowered Jesus to transform MY will into THY will. It will do the same for you. The work of Jesus is finished on the cross, but He isn't finished with you yet. Are you so close to God that prayer couldn't get you any closer? Yeah. Me neither.