The Spanish conquistadors found their way to the top of the Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua. As they peered into the crater they thought they saw the glitter of gold in the cavern. When a monk was lowered over the side they soon found out that it wasn’t gold but molten rock they saw. The heat and smoke nearly killed the monk. They had never seen anything like it before and declared the place to be the mouth of hell. So in 1529 the monk had a cross placed on the top of the volcano. A replica of that cross can still be seen on the Masaya Volcano.
Of course that volcano was not the mouth of hell. But according to the scriptures hell is a real place of eternal separation from God. All of us are born in sin and bound for that place of torment. But God loved people so much that He is not willing that anyone should perish and end up separated from Him. So God placed a cross at the mouth of hell. On that cross He sent His only Son to the earth to suffer and die. When Jesus died He took the place of every person that has ever been born into this world: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). He died on the cross in our place. He suffered that we do not have to be separated from God.
During this Easter season we celebrate the death and the resurrection of God’s Son Jesus Christ. It is a jubilant time of hope and triumph. God loved us so much that He made a way that we can spend eternity with Him. He did it by sending His Son to die on the cross for you and me. Have you received the wonderful gift God made possible? Have you trusted Christ as your Savior? Embrace the cross at the mouth of hell.
My wife and I had the unique privilege of teaching a marriage seminar on the mission field of Nicaragua. We met together with a group of national pastors and enjoyed a precious time of ministry, sweet fellowship and some great Nicaraguan food. I had been able to visit one of the pastors and see his small church situated above a business. It was a simple building with a corrugated tin roof that rattled loudly when the wind blew. Later when Pastor Jose Luis and I were sitting around a table I showed him a picture of the church I pastor in the States. As he looked at the picture of the brick building surrounded by a huge parking lot and carefully landscaped shrubs, he said to me in Spanish: “beautiful church”. I immediately felt guilty. What business did I have of possibly discouraging this wonderful brother by showing him my comparatively wealthy church building? Then I thought about those two words he said, “beautiful church”.
What really makes a “beautiful church”? Is it the esthetical design of the facilities? Is it the color scheme, or the lighting? Does it have anything to do with comfortable pews, an excellent sound system or visual technology? I believe the real beauty of a church does not have anything to do with the building at all. A beautiful church is one where the beauty of Christ can be seen in the lives of God’s people. When the Lord Jesus does a work of grace in a person’s heart they are transformed. Eph. 5:27 describes the work that Christ is doing in us His church: “That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot of wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish”. A beautiful church is one where those transformed believers are focused on worshipping Christ, lifting Him up and praising His name.
Our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua reminded me that you don’t really need much to have a truly beautiful church. All we need is the beauty of Jesus in our hearts and the beauty of worship in our assembly.
Many years ago I was waiting for lunch outside the dining hall at a family camp. I noticed that birds had built a nest under the eaves of the building. The barn swallow nest had several pink skinned babies in it. Every time the mother appeared the babies raised their heads, opened their mouths and cried out. Weak, fragile and helpless those babies needed their mother for their survival. A friend of mine who happened to have a camera waited till the mother left and got a chair and focused his camera right over the nest and made a sound. Those tiny baby birds opened their mouths wide in anticipation of getting fed once again. My friend took his picture and had a perfect image of total dependence.
The child of God is totally dependent on his Heavenly Father for everything related to his life of faith. We are dependent totally on God for our salvation. Our sinful condition was terminal. We would have died and spent eternity separated from God forever. We were helpless to do anything about it. But God stepped in and gave us His Son who died on the cross to pay for our sin debt (Rom. 5:8). We are totally dependent on God for our spiritual growth. The process of growing to be like Jesus is not something we can do on our own. Phil. 1:6 tells us: “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”. We need the nourishment of the Word of God and the inworking power of the Spirit of God to accomplish the sanctification process. Our total dependence on God even extends to our service for the Lord. Jesus told His disciples in John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing”.
Those baby barn swallows grew up and flew away from the nest. The child of God should grow stronger and more active in service for the Lord. However, we will never get away from our total dependence on God.
I heard about a baby formula company who was trying to extend their market to a certain country in Africa. The company explained to the mothers the convenience and nutritional value of using the formula rather than breastfeeding. They offered reduced prices to get the mother’s started. However there were two problems with the company’s plan that began to endanger the infants. The first is that the water in that region was not pure. So the infants began to get sick as the formula was mixed with the impure water. The other problem was that when the formula began to run low the mothers watered it down to make it last longer. The babies began to be malnourished. Eventually the mothers went back to breastfeeding which gave their infants pure milk.
Peter describes the need for God’s people to feed on the pure milk of God’s Word. He tells us in 1 Peter 2:2: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby”. The only thing that will effect a healthy spiritual growth in the child of God is a steady diet on the pure undiluted Word of God. We dare not try to replace God’s Word for any kind of substitute. We need to read and study and meditate on the scriptures every day. This steady diet of pure milk will develop our spiritual muscles and we will become strong believers. Just as those mothers in Africa learned the danger of watering down the formula we need to be careful not to dilute the full strength of God’s Word. If we do we will find that we also will become malnourished.
No matter how hard they try, no baby formula can replicate the immunities that are contained in mother’s milk. These immunities protect the infant until they can develop their own immunities. God’s Word can give us a protection from all the false teachings that may come our way. As we feed on the scriptures we protect ourselves from so many lies of the devil that come at us.
Don’t settle for substitutes, insist on the pure milk of the Word.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation