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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

Two weeks ago, Don Carson was at my church as our guest speaker for our Fall Family Conference. I was overheard, at one point, referring to his messages as the theological equivalent of a foot-rub.” Indeed it was. Dr. Carson gave us a three-part lecture called “Making Sense of Suffering” which was as enjoyable as his book, “How Long O’ Lord” in which he originally compiled his source material. As always, listeners of all levels were challenged and encouraged.

During the third session, Carson touched on something that intersected with some things I have been thinking about lately: the importance of the Trinity to the atonement and the hypostatic union of Christ. By the “hypostatic union” I am referring to the doctrine that Jesus Christ was both fully human and fully God (Col 1:19, 2:9, Php 2:7, John 1:14, Heb 2:17). It has been a controversial issue in church history as various heresies have involved stripping Him completely of one or the other. The Aryan heresy sought to strip Him of His divinity, for example, and the Gnostic heresy sought to deny His humanity. It is an important issue because the nature of His atoning work on the cross demands that He posses both natures fully.

This issue, intersecting with the importance of God being triune, was placed on the table by Dr. Carson when he brought up the difference between “expiation” and “propitiation”. I think that some got a bit lost at this point, but here is where Carson doesn’t mind putting some theological cookies on the higher shelves. It was entirely pertinent to his discussion of suffering. Let me lay out a few definitions to clear things up, if necessary:

  • Expiation has sin as its object. The goal of expiation is to render justice upon sinners. Sinners sin and God punishes sin. The sin is expiated, punished. God cancels sin, He expiates it.
  • Propitiation has the favor of God as its object. Its aim is to make God favorable toward sinners. Expiation stops short of this. Where expiation goes out from God toward sin, propitiation goes toward God.

To illustrate the importance of this, Carson presented the case of C.H. Dodd, a liberal theologian who argued that God’s act upon Jesus on the cross had to have been expiation because His favorable mood, being propitious toward sinners, was evident in John 3:16. God was already propitious, Dodd said, therefore He have His Son. For God to propitiate Himself was nonsense. You don’t make an offering to yourself, after all.

Dodd was missing a few things, though. First, He missed the fact that as God is holy, he must be angry at sin because the sin has not yet been punished. Before the cross, God must be propitiated. He must be made favorable.

Second, Dodd was likely overlooking Christ’s dual nature. Liberal scholars of his ilk had a problem with Christ’s divinity. But it is Christ’s divinity AND humanity, WITHIN the triune Godhead, that makes sense out of propitiation. Why is this? Because propitiation requires that two parties be involved: the guilty party and the offended party. Because Christ took on human flesh and lived a perfect life, He could stand in as humanity’s representative (Rom 8:3). Because Christ was God, he was able not only to withstand the Father’s judgment against sin, but raise Himself from the dead (John 10:17-18). Propitiation is a closed loop between the guilty and offended parties. Christ’s dual natures allowed humanity to be brought into that loop. As both Father and Son are God, God is in fact making HIMSELF propitious.

Nuclear testing was restricted to underground testing after 1963 due to obvious harmful effects on the ocean and upper atmosphere where the tests had taken place up until then. What would it be like standing inside an underground testing facility at ground zero. I imagine it might be a bit like God’s wrath. The strongest, most “righteous” man on earth would be instantly reduced to ashes. Scripture says that the wages of sin is death (Rom 3:23, 6:23). If this is the case, how do we get man out of the room alive? He must also be God. He must be Christ.

This dynamic of the Trinity was brought to my attention be a book I read this summer called “Pierced for Our Transgressions” by Jeffery, Ovey & Sach. More can be said about the particluar need for a sinless substitute, but for now it somply blows my mind that in Christ, humanity is brought into this circuit of propitiation such that God can mevel His righteous judgment on humanity and yet humanity can survive.

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I’d like to take a moment in reflection of today’s events in my family. I have a 2 1/2 year-old son, Caleb, who took a trip to the emergency room today. He took an unseen fall in his bedroom and bloodied himself a bit. Four stitches and and some serious parental sweat later, you’d barely be able to tell that he was hurt if you watched him play. The emergency room was pretty traumatic for him, and it was for me too as the designated comforter during the suturing. Before and after he was his normal sefl, though.

That said, I’m pretty impressed with the skill of the medical staff that helped him. The the things medical science can do routinely amaze me. It makes me think of what God said as He watched we humans work away at the tower of Babel.

“The LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” (Genesis 11:6)

The capacity of the human mind is astounding, even as a pitiful reflection of God’s unsearchable knowledge. That the power of the human mind is so aptly seen in medical science bears reflection on the role of Jesus Christ as our Great Physician. Doctors can do so much to heal the body, but they cannot heal the soul. Only God can forgive sin, and He has done so in the person of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ:

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:16-17)

In a month or so i will get a hefty bill for our little visit. No matter: it’s a small price to pay for the well-being of my son. The Great Physician charges nothing (Eph 2:8-9), though, save for the acknowledgment of those who are sick that ther are indeed sick. Jesus puts it another way here:

And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. (John 9:39-41)

Today I praised God in prayer with my wife and children that God heals the soul, and that we need only come to him in our need. I praise God that today’s drama was more stress than danger. More than that I praise God that the real danger of sin (Rom 6:23) has been dealt with at the cross through the finished work of His Son.

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I had the chance to hear a friend of mine preach for the first time last night at my church. He has served as a pastor for many years in other churches, tough I have only known him for the last two years or so. He preached in John 15 and I have to say it was a real teat. Our care groups recently finished going through the “I Am” statements in John, and for me the exercise was a baptism in John’s writing. In the way that Paul is legal and linear in his writing, John is intimate and vertical, so to speak. The following verse is what my friend spent the most time on and certainly what impacted me the most:

“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

What a mind blowing statement this is. The God preached by the Pharisees was harsh and fear-inspiring. The god worshiped by the pagans were fickle and untrustworthy. But the Father, as “explained” (John 1:18 ) by Jesus Christ was personable, knowable, and approachable. More than this, in Christ the Son, God was your friend.

Now i mean to say that this is more than could be expected or asked. Certainly God, as Christ explains Him, is good, loving, kind, generous, just and everything you could hope for in a King. It would be more than adequate to be allowed to be a servant. This is the feeling that Peter put across to Christ earlier in John 13 when he objected to Christ washing his feet, insisting that he himself wash Christ’s feet. Peter was obviously missing the point here, but it was not such a bad thing to want to serve Christ. After all, Martha washed Jesus’ feet with expensive oil and her hair (John 12:2-4).

Certainly service is part of the picture. Christ pointed to His sacrificial death on the cross just two verses prior (15:13). But because of His death we are brought nearer than simply servants, we are called “friends”. To illustrate this Christ points to His disclosure of His most personal plans. How incredible is this?

Ever see someone famous and balk at asking for an autograph? Imagine that celebrity came to you (John 15:16) and didn’t give you an autograph at all, but rather invited you to his home for dinner. Or, as my preaching friend illustrated, does a five-star general ever show up at the door of a private’s home and invite him to view his war room? Does the president of the company you work for have you named in his will?

Being called “friend” by the God revealed to us in Scripture is absolutely wild. Don’t pass over how radical an idea that is. And don’t forget to revel in it, too…friends!

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“Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.” (John 13:36-38)

Ever gotten a spiritual “strawberry” on your chin? Ever charged out of church ready to conquer the forces of Hell, only to fall on your face midweek? Ever ridden a wave of enthusiasm right into a reef of your own foolishness? I sure have.

Good news for schleps like us: Jesus is supremely patient. Jesus knows that our enthusiasm often outstrips our maturity. have a look at Peter. Often ready to jump in with both feet, Peter is pushed back by his Teacher on many occasions. He even garnered to “Satan” gloss once (Matt 16:23). And yet, his hubris goes unchecked.

A few weeks back, I was having a great conversation with my wife about the anguish of unconquered sin. Our spirits really smart when we fall into transgression that we are familiar with. Repeated offense of the same kind really shines a light on our hearts. Beyond guilt, it brings feelings of shame, doubt, and grief. We are very familiar with the greatness of the price paid for us (Rom 5:6), and it tears us up to see that we’re squandering the great cost of the Savior’s blood.

Peter felt this too. Luke 22:61 tells us that upon Peter’s third denial of Jesus, that He made eye contact with Peter. I can’t imagine how great Peter’s sorrow must have been.

But again, this is meant to bring us some encouragement. In the context of Jesus’ grounding of Peter in John 13, let’s highlight a few heartening observations:

  1. Jesus checks Peter but doesn’t reject Him.
  2. Jesus want to be with Peter. Jesus goes on the explain in John 14 that He must go ahead of the disciples, to the Father, to prepare their way to the Father. In this, Jesus is making it possible to Peter to follow Him, just not yet. Jesus is only telling Peter that he isn’t yet ready, not that he can’t come.
  3. Jesus, by going to His Father, is going to trigger blessings that will overcome Peter’s weakness. Particularly Jesus tells us that His going is to drive them into prayer (14:13), make the capable of “greater works” (14:12), give them peace (14:27) and send the Holy Spirit (14:26).
  4. Jesus underlines the importance of the fact that, like all other believers, Peter will eventually succeed because of his spiritual union with Christ through the coming Holy Spirit (John 15).

You know, the mark of self-righteousness is eagerness to punish. When we sin, there are often many people ready to scorn us and put the “Matthew 18” screws to us. It’s a mistake to think that Jesus regards our sin in this way. Yes, it is absolutely true that God hates our sin, and Jesus shows this by sternly putting Peter in his place. Yet, Jesus ultimate goal is that we glorify God on earth as He did when HE was here, Himself (John 13:31-35). that His response to our sin is serious, and yet gentle, is proof of this.

Let us proceed with a greater love of Christ. Let us be strengthened by a disdain of our sin, and yet be unvanquished by its emergence. let us show mercy to fellow sinners, and yet call them to accountability. Let us confes our sin, and appeal to Christ for the power to overcome it.

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During our sermon today, we were looking at the numerous supernatural effects of Christ’s death on the cross in Matthew 27. Chief among them, to me, is the fact that dead saints rose from the grave to testify to the power of His death in raising the dead:

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” (Matt 27:50-53)

I think that this is one of the most overlooked facts in all of the Bible. What shape were the dead in? Where did they go? I’m not sure about that, but of all the other things surrounding His crucifixion and death like darkness at midday and the earthquake, this one must have freaked people out the most.

More than that, it was a testimony to the world that Christ’s death would be followed by resurrection and the He would rise in three days as the first fruits from the dead (1 Cor 15:20). This day in world history, in this region was a real shocker. We see from the response of Jesus’ executing superintendent, the Roman Centurion, the conclusion that Jesus was the Son of God was both intended and undeniable (Matt 27:54).

Jesus did not die quietly.

We are tempted to remember the death of Jesus as a protracted period of silence marked by shame and cowardice on the part of His disciples. We are tempted to think of Jesus enemies toasting their success, and those who loved Him walking around with their heads down, dejected and unsure of the future. Rather, the activity of those sleeping in Him was a testimony of victory.

When we read of Christ’s most noisy victory, we need to understand how personal it is; our own futures are sealed in His death and resurrection. Indeed, the future of all creation and eternity is sealed as well:

“But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:23-28)

There’s something worth getting excited about! Go out and make some noise of your own!

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As a salesman, I listen to a lot of radio. It’s the only thing I can do in the car without going crazy (besides work, anyway). Mostly I tune in to sport talk. I know way more about hockey and baseball than I want to. Occasionally an issue comes up that bring the topic of ethics and morality into sports talk. I get some of this from the other stations I tune in to as well. Inevitably the participants go round and round about whatever there is, and ultimately they leave the question unresolved, whatever that question is.

This week I heard a lot of comment, drawing from the Virginia Tech massacre. In the immediate wake of the killings, many people began to blame the university for failing to shut down the campus after the first two murders. People questioned the level of campus securty after bomb threats the week before. People questioned the motivation of the shooter. Now we see that the shooter had a very troubled past, and had even been detained for mental health purposes. Shouldn’t this have been preventable at many levels?

Rightly many hosts commented, this is the price we pay for living in the nation with the most freedom in the world. There is just no way to stop this kind of thing from happening again. Too many people, too many guns, too many places packed with people. So what do we do?

As with 9/11, mirrored in the current season of “24,” the security we desire comes at a great cost of freedom. We are willing to pay this price in the short term, but we lose patience quickly, especially when our own freedom is curtailed, so we try our best to find balance.

The problem is unresolved.

The great equation of crime vs. free society cannot be balanced because on of the most important elements of the equation is being ignored. It is like the proverbial “elephant” in the room. It is the nature of man.

In a word: “sin”

The true nature of man is clearly presented in the Bible:

“as it is written,
“THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”
“THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,”
“THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”;
“WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”;
“THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD,
DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,
AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.”
“THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”
(Romans 3:10-18)

Because nobody will acknowledge that man is fallen, sinful, selfish, nobody can come up with a solution. If man is good, he simply needs to be shown the right way and he will correct himself. this is the assumption of psychology, and really it is the assumption of pretty well the whole human race. The assumption would indicate that the race is spiraling in on utopia. If human nature is good, then eventually we will get to where we want to be.

But sin takes advantage of liberty. It rears its murderous head and forces us to be increasingly violent in order to control it. As the Judeo-Christian background of this county loses sway on the people’s conscience, everything that has been brooding inside us for two centuries is coming out with alarming results. The only way we can be protected from each other’s sin is isolation. It’s that bad.

This is why Christians, with respect to the efforts of human government (which God installs as a force to curtail sin, Rom 13:4), look forward to the time where this wrestling match between human conscience and human nature will end:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

Jesus Christ will return to put an end to sin, and ultimately put an end to death (Rev 21:4). We live on earth as strangers in a strange land (1 Pet 1:1). by God grace we can have sanity because we know hw things fit together, not being subjected to futile thinking like the unsaved. Acknowledge the elephant, and the equation adds up.

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King Jesus the Deliberate

Lately, it seems as though every time I get the opportunity to study the life of Jesus, I end up even more impressed with Him than before. Mind you that I’ve looked at the gospels my fair share of time and been pretty much unmoved. I admit this to my shame. But lately this hasn’t been the case.

John MacArthur taught the Prodigal Son last year at the Shepherd’s conference. He digested a two month or so series into one night, and he nailed it. I’d often been uncertain about the true meaning of this parable, but now I will always remember. How incredible it was. Jesus taught about the nature of God, the nature of sinners, and the nature of the legalistic Pharisees with one beautiful, yet complex story.

My own pastor was going through Matt. 22 and I was again impressed with Jesus’ ability to fend of every attempt to trip Him up. He showed Himself to be the seat of Truth, sovereign and unshakable.

The other night I listened to a teaching of Matt. 14, famous for the feeding of the 5,000 and the account of Jesus walking on water, and Peter’s failure to do so. One thing that stood out to me was how deliberate Jesus was.

We should never take a single word in Scripture for granted, as easy as that is. One word we all tend to overlook as at the beginning; as in the FIRST word. In the NAS the first word is “immediately.” “Immediately looks back to the previous account in which the disciples do not anticipate Jesus’ ability to feed the 5,000. After this miracle, they still don’t reach the right conclusion. They should not have been surprised. they should have thought of it first, instead of obeying Jesus’ request. But they didn’t.

So right away (“Immediately”) Jesus tells them to get into a boat and put out to sea. Why did I never read this and simply ask, “Huh? Why did he do that? That seems strange.” Further, He then goes up the mountain to pray. Again, I don’t know why I never asked ‘Why?” before. What’s more, he left them there for at least 9 hours, during the middle of a raging storm!

Now, the angle every single preacher always takes with this is that “We should all be trying to step out of the boat like Peter!” It’s always made out to be about “stepping out in faith” whatever that means. I think that is a superficial reading of this passage. This account is not about trusting God when He asks us to take risks. Sure you can derive that lesson, but what is the primary purpose? Something else is going on here.

Jesus is deliberate. Noting their failure at the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus drives the point home to them that as the Messiah, He is the Son of God. He is Sovereign over the fish and bread, and He is sovereign over the waves. The disciples did not get that they were walking with God in human flesh. The whole gospel message would be meaningless if the foundational messengers did get this crucial truth. And boy did they get it. the worshipped Him, calling Him the “Son of God.”

Jesus accomplished this by designing a trial for this very purpose. He wasted no time. He primed them for learning by putting them is a situation which begged for explanation. He heightened their readiness to learn through the length of the ordeal, and then without even having to state His point the point was made.

That’s pretty incredible.

The smallest bits of Scripture are indeed often the critical part of interpreting correctly. As I study Jesus more, I see how deeply the Gospels are permeated with meaning. And the more I understand Jesus, the more I am compelled to humble myself and obey Him.

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