Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fulfilled Promises

It used to bother me that when we come to the Lord’s Table we only get these tiny pieces of bread and this tiny thimble full of wine. I realize that this is, in part, because there are so many of us and it would put us in the poor house if we were to have a huge feast every week. But then I noticed that God loves to give glimpses and hints of what the future holds, instead of giving the promised blessing all at once. For example, God let Adam live in the garden for a short time, then, because of sin, booted him out. But we know what glory will be like because of that short preview of what we will one day receive. God sent Abraham to the promised land, but didn’t allow him or his family to live there for over 400 years. And when Israel was finally allowed to live in the land, even that was only a hint of what God had in store for his people.

The book of Hebrews tells us that the Jews had to sacrifice an animal every year; this showed that the sacrifices were only temporary. The atonement made by the blood of bulls and goats was not sufficient to cover the sins of the people for more than a year. Consequently, the writer tells us, the annual Day of Atonement pointed forward to a day in the future, when someone would come and permanently take away the sins of the people. Jesus, the perfect lamb, offered by the perfect high priest, was that someone. And because He was the perfect sacrifice, He only needed to die once. In Him our sin is taken away forever. But until the actual fulfillment of the promise came, the people only got glimpses of what was coming.

I Marvel

I marvel that thou shouldst become incarnate,
      be crucified, dead, and buried.
The sepulchre calls forth my adoring wonder,
      for it is empty and thou art risen;
      the four-fold gospel attests it,
      the living witnesses prove it,
      my heart's experience knows it.
Give me to die with thee that I may rise to new life,
      for I wish to be as dead and buried
to sin, to selfishness, to the world;
      that I might not hear the voice of the charmer,
and might be delivered from his lusts.
O Lord, there is much ill about me — crucify it,
      much flesh within me — mortify it.
Purge me from selfishness, the fear of man, the love of approbation,
      the shame of being thought old-fashioned,
      the desire to be cultivated or modem.
Let me reckon my old life dead because of crucifixion,
      and never feed it as a living thing.
Grant me to stand with my dying Saviour,
            to be content to be rejected,
            to be willing to take up unpopular truths,
      and to hold fast despised teachings until death.
Help me to be resolute and Christ-contained.
Never let me wander from the path of obedience to thy will.
Strengthen me for the battles ahead.
Give me courage for all the trials, and grace for all the joys.
Help me to be a holy, happy person,
      free from every wrong desire,
      from everything contrary to thy mind.
Grant me more and more of the resurrection life:
      may it rule me,
      may I walk in its power, and be strengthened through its influence.
The Valley of Vision, p. 94.

We Live a New Life

There seems to be a bit of confusion about how the death and resurrection of Jesus affects us, and how we are to live as a result.

Hebrews tell us that Jesus was a high priest according to the order of Melchizadek, and that therefore he was an eternal high priest, representing men to God and God to men. The author to the Hebrews goes on to say that Jesus was also the Lamb of God, sent to be the sacrifice for the sins of mankind. So the great high priest offered the perfect sacrifice for sin.

The Old Testament tells us that when the sacrifice was offered up for the sins of the people, the priest placed his hands on the head of the animal, thus symbolizing its being the representative of men. This is what being a sacrifice means. The animal took the guilt and shame of the people and in its death atoned for the sins of the people.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Resurrection of Jesus Secured his Redemption

As I hope you understood on Friday evening, the death of Jesus, by itself is meaningless. Left alone, if Jesus had died and had been buried and left in the grave, we would still be in our sins. Our philosophy should be, eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15: 19, 32).

But as Paul goes on to say, Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. It was impossible for him to be held in the grave by death (Acts 2:24). And that changes everything.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (1 Cor. 15:3-8).

The Last Adam

The first Adam was created and almost immediately sinned against God and died. But it was not simply Adam who died. His name means man and not only did Adam sin and die, but also everyone who lived after him sinned and died (1 Cor. 15:22). This is because of what the Bible calls covenantal relations. Every man, woman, and child is related to one another through Adam, our leader, and our head according to the flesh.

After God confronted Adam with his sin, he promised that a man would one day come who would crush the head of the serpent. This is understood to be the first promise related to our salvation. Adam sinned and died, God promised that a solution to that death would be coming someday in the future.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Christ Died for Our Sins

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures
1 Corinthians 15:3

Monday, April 18, 2011

Slaves to the One You Obey

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Romans 6:15-16 ESV

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Absentee Fathers Pt. 2

Last time, we were talking about absentee Fathers. The answer is not in education, even education about the Gospel. The answer to the problem is related to the definition of the problem. The problem of absentee fathers is a problem of the heart. It is not a brain problem. Men with plenty of smarts are abdicating their responsibilities in their families. The problem is that men have dead hearts. The core of their being is in the grip of sin. They are not doing what they ought to do because even though they may want to do the right thing, sin has control of them and they are not able. They are, as the Bible says, dead in their trespasses and sins. Therefore, the only real answer is that they need to get a new, clean heart. Fortunately—no, gloriously—God loves dead people and wants to give new hearts to those who ask him.

It Was Fitting

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Hebrews 2:10

Absentee Fathers Pt. 1

Have you ever thought about the problem of fathers who don’t do what God has given them to do? When you think about it, this is a huge problem. This is true not only for the family, but for all the areas of life that the family touches on and relates to. I wonder what would change in our culture and society if fathers loved their sons and daughters and taught them how to live in a way that honored God and his standards. I’m pretty sure abortion rates would plummet. AIDS and other STDs would fade into history. Sodomy would slide back into the shadows. Many of the other social ills we face would go the way of the dodo. Divorce rates would diminish as men and women loved one another the way the Bible tells us. Husbands would have time to love their wives. Fathers would stop frustrating their children and causing them to stumble over their bad example. Sons would learn to treat the women like sisters. Girls would learn to respect the right men in their lives and to honor the rest, as God has established.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ordinary Human Suffering

Religion has castrated itself by accepting the belief that there are mental illnesses and these illnesses are biological and that they are set apart from ordinary human suffering.
Peter Breggin, Talking Back to Prozac.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Out of Step with the Gospel

But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (Gal 2:14 ESV)

There is an “in step” with and an “out of step” with regard to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul was cognizant of the difference, and Peter at least for a season, had lost sight of the rhythm, the beat, the tempo of the Gospel. Many would have us believe that all we need to do to walk with God is to sign on the line, or come to church, or sing the right songs in the right way. Some even hold people to a theological or liturgical standard and say that is where the Gospel “step” is found.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Love, A Compelling Power

Where love is the compelling power, there is no sense of strain or conflict or bondage in doing what is right; the man or woman who is compelled by Jesus’ love and empowered by his Spirit does the will of God from the heart. For (as Paul would say from experience) “where the Spirit of the Lord is, the heart is free.”
F.F. Bruce, The Apostle of the Heart Set Free, p. 21.

Life and Death

“You made up your mind to follow a Master who himself had relinquished all rights, all equality with the Father, and his own will as well. You were called not to be served, but to serve, and you can’t serve two masters…These kingdoms are the alternatives…it is a life and death choice."
Elizabeth Elliott in Christian Herald Magazine

Serve Selflessly

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick Mt. 14:13-14

Jesus just found out that John the Baptist has been killed. After hearing the news he got in a boat and withdrew to be alone. The text doesn’t tell us why he went off to be alone, only that he got into a boat and retreated to be by himself for a little while. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine the circumstances. John was Jesus’ cousin. He was a good friend, and a great prophet of God. John had baptized Jesus and launched his ministry. While Jesus never sinned, grieving is not sinful. Whenever someone we love and have spent a lot of time with is taken from us, there is always an emotional reaction. We call this reaction, grief. It is the emotions reaction to loss. And the loss of John must have impacted our Lord in a meaningful way. As a result, he went off to be alone with his Father, to pray and to pour out his heart to God.