The Incomparable ChristThe Word of Confidence
Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So often we find ourselves chafing against second causes. You know what I mean by that? The person, the circumstance, the event, the thing that wrecked my life, so we think. But if your life is in God’s hands, ultimately you’re safe, you’re secure, and you will be blessed.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, April 1, 2015.
As Nancy continues in the series "The Incomparable Christ," we’ve been focusing on the last seven words of Jesus.
Nancy: Over these last several weeks, as I’ve been mediating on the seven words of Christ on the cross, I’ve been touched not only by what He said but by thinking about what He didn’t say. Have you ever thought about that? We’ve looked at the words He said, but think about what we haven’t seen.
- not one word of bitterness or anger
- no complaining or murmuring
- not one word of profanity
- not one unkind word
- not one unnecessary word
Christ’s words on the cross were few, and every one of them was God-directed, meaningful, purposeful, and significant, and every one of those words shows us an aspect of the gospel and has an implication for our lives.
There’s a book that’s been released by Trevin Wax called Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope. He talks about the implications of these words. Let me read to you what he says:
Because Jesus was filled with horror and cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" we are filled with wonder and cry, "My God, my God, why have you accepted me?"
Because Jesus cried, "Father, forgive!" the taunts we hurled at Him at the cross are transformed into praise for His generous mercy.
Because Jesus said, "I thirst," we can drink from the fountain of living water and never thirst again.
Because Jesus said, "Woman, behold your son" and felt the pain of separation from His earthly family, we can experience the blessing of being united with a heavenly family.
Because Jesus cried, "It is finished!" our new life can begin.
Because Jesus committed His spirit into the Father’s hands, God commits His Spirit into our hearts.
Each of these words have implications, not only for the redeeming work of Christ on the cross at that moment, but for the ongoing work of the gospel and the cross of Christ in our lives as those who have come to faith in Christ.
So today we come to that final of the seven words. I’m reading from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 23. If you have your Bible, turn with me to that passage. I want to begin at verse 44.
It was now about the sixth hour, [what time was that? 12:00 noon] and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, [3:00 in the afternoon] while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, "Certainly this man was innocent!" (vv. 44–47).
Let me read to you just a parallel account of that verse in Mark’s gospel—keep your finger in Luke there—but Mark’s version says:
And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (15:39).
He saw His innocence, but He also saw that He was the Son of God. His claim to deity was vindicated.
As I see the centurion’s response to the way Jesus suffered and died there on the cross, I’m reminded that the world is watching those who claim to be God’s children. They watch how we live; they watch how we die. The way that we walk through those valleys . . . the valley of the shadow of death . . . the valleys in our lives, either validates or discredits our claims to faith.
As a result of the way Jesus died, this Roman soldier, this hardened Roman soldier who had probably seen thousands of executions, perhaps participated in that many, he was so impressed, so moved, so stirred, he knew this Man was incomparable—there was no one like Him. He truly was who He claimed to be.
That makes me wonder if, in my hard moments, responding to pressure, responding to hardship, if those who are watching can say, “The way she’s responding in that difficult circumstance is validating her claim to be a follower of Christ”?
Well, verse 48 says:
And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.
A sign of mourning, grief. That’s a really different description than the one we have of the bloodthirsty mob that followed Jesus to Calvary six hours earlier, isn’t it? There’d been a change. Listen—the cross changes everything. Christ’s suffering and death on the cross changes everything.
And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things (v. 49).
Now, let me go back to verse 46 and see again this final of the seven words that Jesus said from the cross. Verse 46: “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.”
By this point Jesus had been on the cross for six hours, and the last three of those hours had been under cover of total darkness, not only physically, but spiritually as He had been separated from fellowship with His Father. During those three hours, He had endured an eternity of suffering.
As those hours came to a close, He had prayed: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Now as He comes to His very final moments of life on this earth, Jesus prays—not “My God,” but “Father”—Father. The cloud that had eclipsed His fellowship with His Father is beginning to dissipate, fellowship is being restored. He prays, “My Father,” as He had at the beginning of the cross experience. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
One writer says of this moment,
In the moment of utter dereliction, utter forsakenness, he yet committed his spirit to the Father whose love he trusted though he could not feel it.1
You ever been there? You ever had to trust God’s love when you couldn’t feel it? That’s when Jesus cried out . . . after having just said, “Why have You forsaken Me?” He now cries out, “My Father.” He trusts the love of God that He cannot see, He cannot feel. He prays, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” He commits His spirit into the hands of God.
Now, think about what Jesus had said to His disciples the night before, just after He had finished praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Matthew chapter 26, verse 45, He said, “The hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”
“Betrayed into the hands of sinners”—Jesus voluntarily allowed Himself to be placed into the hands of sinners—those who would torture Him, persecute Him, execute Him, put Him to death. But He knew that being in the hands of sinners was temporary, that ultimately, His life was not in sinners’ hands but in God’s hands.
What a reminder that our lives are not ultimately in the hands of people—even sinful or wicked people. Our lives are not in the hands of circumstances, even painful or difficult ones. And our lives are not in the hands of fate or chance. Our lives are in the hands of God. If we are children of God, then our lives are in His hands, and there is no safer place to be in all of creation than in the hands of God.
Remember what Jesus said in John chapter 10: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hands” (v. 28). If you’re in Christ, then Christ is in God; you’re in Christ’s hands; you are in God’s hands, and no one can ever snatch you from that place—that strong, safe, secure refuge.
So Jesus knew that ultimately His life was not in the hands of sinners but in the hands of God. Do you know that about your life? So often we find ourselves chafing against second causes. You know what I mean by that—the person, the circumstance, the event, the thing that wrecked my life, so we think.
And so we become bitter and resentful because we think, My life is in this person’s hands. This person wrecked my life—this parent, this partner, this boss, this employee, this son or daughter—this person. No. That person can’t wreck your life. That person may make your life really miserable for a while here on earth, but if your life is in God’s hands, ultimately you are safe, you are secure, and you will be blessed.
We’ve got to lift our eyes up above people and circumstances and remember that our lives are committed into His hands.
He said, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” That word commit means "to deposit, to commit for safe keeping." He was handing over His spirit to the one in whose presence He would be shortly. So when it comes to death, there is no paralyzing fear, no terror at the prospect of facing death.
Ecclesiastes 12 tells us that at the moment of our death the "dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (v. 7). That’s what happens at the point we take our last breath if we belong to Christ.
F.B. Meyer has written a book called Love to the Uttermost. Let me read to you what he says about these words: “I commit my spirit into your hands.” He said:
If the words, "It is finished" be taken as our Lord’s farewell to the world He was leaving, these words are surely His greeting to that [world] on whose confines He was standing. [The world where He was going—this was His greeting to that world.]
It seems as though the spirit of Christ was poising itself before it departed to the Father, and it saw before [it] no dismal abyss, no gulf of darkness, no footless chaos, but hands, even the hands of the Father—and to these He committed Himself.
Isn’t that a beautiful picture? “Into Your hands: I’m coming! I’m coming! Into Your hands, I commit My spirit. I deposit it there for safe keeping, and I know that You will keep it.”
Jesus’ prayer at this moment on the cross is actually a quote from the Old Testament psalms. Remember that Jesus died as He had lived—praying, forgiving, loving, sacrificing, trusting, meditating on and quoting Scripture.
It’s made me wonder, as I was doing this study: If I die as I have lived, how will I die? We can’t expect to have at our disposal these resources—the prayer and the Word of God—when it comes time to die, if we have not been faithfully using those resources throughout the course of our lives.
As I said, this prayer is a quote from the Old Testament psalms, to be precise, Psalm 31. In the immediate context, this is a psalm of David, who is in great trouble but puts his trust in God. As I read some selected verses from Psalm 31, I think you’ll see that this is seeing beyond King David to the greater David—Christ Jesus and His death on the cross. Psalm 31, beginning in verse 1:
In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
You take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.
For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
As they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, "You are my God."
My times are in your hand (vv. 1–8, 13–15).
Well, Luke 23, verse 46 goes on to say that: “Having said this [Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit—having said this] he breathed his last.”
In the parallel account in John chapter 19, it gives us one little detail you don’t find in the other gospels. It says: “He bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (v. 20).
Jesus did not die as a martyr. Jesus’ death was not an accident. He dismissed His spirit. He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. “He yielded up his spirit,” Matthew says (27:50). Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).
He died as a voluntary, volitional act of His will, in obedience to the will of the Father. He placed His life on the altar, willingly, and consciously gave it up as a sacrifice.
Hebrews 9 tells us He “offered himself without blemish to God” (v. 14). He gave Himself up.
Jesus’ life didn’t just gradually ebb away. In fact, we know that victims of crucifixions usually took much longer to die. But His life didn’t just gradually ebb away. As always, He was in control. He was not conquered by death. By His death, He conquered death. Big difference!
The words of the early Christian hymns say it this way: “It was not Death which approached Christ, but Christ Death: He died without death.” He stared death in the face, approached it.
Though His death, His dying process, was a violent and torturous one, at the end there was peace. Why? It was because of what we read in Psalm 31: “I trust in You, Oh, Lord. My times are in Your hand. My life is in Your hand.”
He died entrusting Himself and His future to God and to His care. He knew His life was safe and secure in the Father’s hands. He knew that physical death was not the end. He knew that His spirit was going to God. And He believed that He would be vindicated. He anticipated in these words the resurrection—that final seal that His death had been accepted as an acceptable sacrifice for the redemption of mankind.
The way that Jesus died impacts the way that we as His followers think about death.
Psalm 31:15: “Our times are in His hand.”
Psalm 139 tells us that, “Every one of our days was written in His book before we were even born.”
When I was twenty-two, I didn’t think a lot about death; but now I’m thinking more about death—partially because I have a lot of friends who have died—younger, older. I’ve been to a lot of funerals. There’s something about pondering death as you get older that makes you think about your own.
To think that every day of my life here on this earth was written in a book that God has before there was even one of those days lived. ”My times, my days are in His hand.” Every one of those days. He knows the day at which my spirit will go to be with Him.
So many believers since that day when Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” many, many over the course of time have died with the same or similar words on their lips. In fact, it was not many weeks later that Stephen, the first martyr died. Acts 7 tells the story:
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep (vv. 59–60).
Doesn’t that sound similar to the way that Jesus died? Many—John Huss, the great Czech reformer died with these words on his lips. Martin Luther died with these words on his lips. Something like these words: “Father, into Your hands, I commend my spirit.”
We can commit our spirits to His safe keeping. After this mortal body is six feet under, we can know that our spirits have gone to be with God because of what Jesus did there at Calvary.
Listen, I don’t need to tell you that death is certain—absolutely certain. The only question is when and how, but there’s no question about if. Death is certain—physical death. One day it’s going to be other people at my funeral—not me at other people’s funerals. My body will be in one of those boxes some day. So will yours.
And if you have never repented of your sin and placed your faith in Christ who died as a substitute in your place, then you can have no confidence about what happens after death—no peace. You can only have fear as you approach the day of your death. If your life has not been committed into the hand of God for safe keeping, you will one day be turned over to His hand for judgment.
It will be a hand of salvation or it will be a hand of judgment. There is no other option—not another one.
For those who die apart from Christ, as Hebrews 10 says: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (v. 31).
But a joyful, peaceful thing to have our hearts and lives committed into the hands of God, saying that we trust in Christ as our Savior.
We can say with the apostle Paul if we’ve trusted in Christ: “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12 NKJV). Committed to Him for safe keeping.
We can sing:
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.2
We’re not promised that our death will be easy or pain free. Jesus’ body was mangled; it was ravaged with pain on the cross, but His dying words assure us that our spirit will make it safely to the presence of God. His resurrection just three days later assures us that one day our earthly bodies will be raised and changed to a new glorified body like His, and so we will ever be with the Lord.
Thank You, Lord, for such great and precious promises. Thank You for the assurance that we have as Your children that our lives, our days, our times are in Your hands. Help us to live today as if we really had committed ourselves and all of our cares, our past, our present, our future—everything into Your wise, loving, gracious hands. We give You thanks, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been reminding you about the confidence you can have. When you die, you can know for sure where your final destiny will be.
That message is part of the series called "The Incomparable Christ." We’re focusing on Jesus during the Lenten season and up through the end of April. Listeners have expressed so much appreciation for this series and for Revive Our Hearts in general.
Here's Nancy to let you know about one of those listeners.
Nancy: We were excited to receive an email from a listener in New Zealand not long ago. Amanda listens to the Revive Our Hearts podcast there, and she wrote to say: “I was so encouraged about the episode about protecting our time with the Lord.” She wrapped up by saying, “Thank you so much for your challenging messages.”
Leslie: And Nancy, those challenging message are available to Amanda in New Zealand and listeners in your neighborhood thanks to listeners who believe in this ministry enough to support it financially.
When you provide a donation to Revive Our Hearts this week, we’ll send you the book that provided the outline for our current series. It’s The Incomparable Christ by Oswald Sanders. This is a special Revive Our Hearts edition of the book, and we’d like to send you one when you provide a gift of any size—one per household with your donation.
Ask for The Incomparable Christ when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
There were four miracles surrounding the death of Christ. Explore those tomorrow with Nancy. I hope you’ll be back for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
1Gerrit Scott Dawson. Jesus Ascended.
2"In Christ Alone." Stuart Townend.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.