Christianity 201

April 18, 2015

Being Assured and Giving Others Assurance of Salvation

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I chose this to run today simply because we don’t hear enough these days on this topic, the assurance of our salvation. The author is Paul Steele at the blog Paul’s Ponderings whose writing first appeared here four years ago, and you can click the title below to read this at source.

How can I have assurance of my salvation?

This is a common question many Christians have. I think it stems from the reality that we are saved by grace through our faith. In the minds of most people (for many years this described me as well), being “saved by grace through faith” feels like salvation was out of our hands. This means salvation is a gift from God, and we receive this great and wonderful gift through our belief.

The problem with viewing salvation this way is that there is no tangible standard for us to know that we have truly received the gift of salvation. If it was based on what we did, at least we could keep a score card on our behavior so we could know if we were living up to the right standard.

Without a tangible standard, many people rely on a subjective experience to tell them that they are saved. The problem with this is that over time the feeling of the experience fades, and we are left with the same question: Am I saved?

Life is going to take us through a series of ups and downs. In one moment we feel like we are close to God and that our salvation is secure, but the next moment we wonder if God has abandoned us. If we are going to rely on a subjective experience as evidence for our salvation, then we are going to constantly doubt our salvation. What we need is an objective standard to tell us that we are saved, and thus give us confidence of our salvation.

The way I moved away from the constant roller coaster of doubt and certainty of my salvation was to focus on God. Our salvation begins and ends with God and His grace, and therefore I can know I am saved because of God. The apostle Paul wrote,

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6; NLT)

We can trust God to save us and mold us into the people He wants us to be.

Why can we have this confidence? This confidence comes from the fact God is a Covenant Keeper and we are in a covenant relationship with Him. Deuteronomy 7:9 says,

“Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” (NLT)

Being in a covenant relationship with God gives us assurance of our salvation. How do we know if we are in a covenant relationship with God? We enter into a covenant relationship with God through faith and repentance as expressed through baptism (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-8). The New Testament is clear on the importance of baptism, and baptism is always connected to the ideas of faith and repentance. That means without faith and repentance (trusting in God and declaring your loyalty to Him alone) baptism is meaningless. Baptism is the means of entering into a covenant with God when it is accompanied by faith and repentance.

The guarantee God gives us that we are in a covenant relationship with Him is the Holy Spirit. The sign that the Jews were in a covenant relationship with God was circumcision, but through Jesus that has changed. The apostle Paul wrote;

“And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.” (Ephesians 1;13; NLT)

The Holy Spirit circumcises our hearts and sets us apart as God’s people.

If we break the terms of the covenant, these terms are summarized in the two great commandments of loving God and loving people, God promises to forgives us (1 John 1:9). He also gave us a way to renew our covenant with Him: Communion. We enter into the covenant by being united with Jesus, the covenant sacrifice. In communion we affirm our intention to be part of God’s covenant by consuming the body and blood of the covenant sacrifice (Luke 22:19-20).

The objective standard of being in a covenant relationship with God should give us assurance of the salvation that we have.

Another way we can be certain of our salvation is through life change. We can’t follow Jesus and be guided by the Holy Spirit without our life being changed. As we reflect on our lives we should be able to see that there is a change that has happened.

The book of 1 John was written to help us to be confident about our salvation:

“I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13; NLT).

One of the common themes through the book is the love that we have for each other. For instance 1 John 3:14 says;

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.” (NLT)

If we want to know whether or not we are saved, then the evidence is going to be seen in the love we show to other people.

Can we be confident that we are saved? Yes, we can live with confidence, knowing that God has saved us. This confidence doesn’t come from a subjective experience that may fade over time. Rather, it comes from the objective standard of God’s faithfulness. We can know we are saved because God keeps His covenant. Our hope for the future can be a confident hope because it is founded on the covenant faithfulness of God, and that is the firmest foundation we can have for our faith.

Check out more of Paul’s writing at Paul’s Ponderings.

April 17, 2015

Reminder Ministry

Today’s writer is a long-time acquaintance of Thinking Out Loud and C201. Years ago, I ran a profile/interview with Kevin Sanders aka Kuya Kevin, a guy from Alabama who found himself doing youth ministry in The Philippines. He’s now married and back in the U.S. and still blogging at KevinSanders.org

To read today’s article at source — where we’ve also poached a picture of Kevin preaching — click the title below.

The Ministry of Reminding

“I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. . .  “ -Romans 15:14-15

KevinSRCOne of the greatest joys I had in the Philippines was teaching the Scriptures to students who had never really studied them before.  I’d hand out copies of the New Testament and tell them the page number where they could find the passage we would study.  It was the first time many of them had experienced a simple, verse-by-verse discussion of God’s word with someone willing to answer their questions.

The same goes for my preaching ministry: I had to be careful about assuming my listeners knew anything about the text I would be sharing.  This was particularly true in some of the evangelistic preaching opportunities God gave me.

There was something extremely refreshing about doing ministry in this kind of setting.  What an amazing privilege!

This is not to say that Filipinos are Biblically illiterate –- there are thousands of faithful believers there who diligently study the Bible.  But my ministry was focused more on those who were new to the faith.

My ministry took an ironic turn here in the States.  I’ve had the privilege of preaching (short-term) in three churches.  All three congregations were of an older demographic: the average attendee had probably been listening to sermons since before I was born.

“What can I share that they haven’t already heard many times before?”  I asked myself this question as I embarked on this new season of ministry.

God taught me something very important: I don’t have to teach/preach anything “new.”   I’m not saying God lead me to “recycle” old sermon outlines from C.H. Spurgeon.  Preaching, after all, is applying the timeless truths of Scripture to our modern context.  But I realized that preaching is a ministry of reminding for many of us who have had already learned the basics doctrines of the faith.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m always learning new things when I prepare for (or listen to) sermons.  But I’ve let go of the need to hear “I’ve never heard anything like that before” when I preach. I’m just as content to know I have reminded my listeners of things we need to hear over and over again.  Here are a few examples that quickly come to mind:

  • It’s not about us.
  • We can trust God.
  • Life is fleeting.
  • God expects obedience.
  • We are forgiven in Christ.

The list goes on and on, but you get the idea.  We need to constantly hear the gospel preached because we are a forgetful people.  I’m thankful for the ministry of reminding–both as a preacher and hearer of God’s word.

April 16, 2015

Today’s Word: Can You Say Christocentricity?

I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings
Phil 3:10 (NIV)

For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus.
2 Cor. 4:5 (HCSB)

So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
1 Cor. 1:2 (NLT)

Christ means everything to me in this life, and when I die I’ll have even more.
Phil 1:21 (GW)

For it is in closest union with Him that we live and move and have our being…
Acts 17:48a (Weymouth)

He must increase, but I must decrease
John 3:30 (var.)

By their blogs ye shall know them.

If you read someone’s blog over a period of time you should start to see an emerging pattern of the values they hold to be important. But a year after starting Christianity 201, I discovered that I had never used a word here which actually ranks high in my list of spiritual priorities.

The word is: Christocentric.

It’s a preacher word, to be sure, and I’m not a preacher; but I believe strongly in Christ-centered preaching, Christ-centered worship songs, and Christ-centered fellowship.

That very day, I got to test my commitment to that ideal.

It was a simple discussions with a man who is a member of a Christian denomination that many of my friends would say doesn’t represent “the real thing.” We talked about various things, and many spiritual practices and doctrines were mentioned that could have easily hijacked the discussion, or prove to be red herrings that would have simply consumed much time and yielded nothing productive.

So I kept coming back to the things Jesus said and the things Jesus taught. That’s actually not easy for me because I’m a sucker for all those other debate subjects. I love a good argument. There. I said it.

But it wasn’t the time or place. It was a time to focus on Jesus, and draw the conversation back to Jesus every time it threatened to go off in a different direction. I even explained my strategy out loud a few times; something to this effect: No one will be won to Christ by clever argument or reasoned persuasion or skillful rhetoric; but rather, they will be compelled to follow only when they have looked directly into the face of Jesus and been won by His love.

It was the best conversation of this type I’ve had; and I think the feeling was mutual, especially inasmuch as we ran 90 minutes. He was in 70’s and I probably should have offered him a chair, but he was as caught up in the discussion as I was.

…So again, today’s word is “Christocentric” meaning Christ-focused. Take this word and make it yours.

What do you think about the Messiah?
Matthew 22:42 NIV

What do you think about the Christ?
Matthew 22:42 NET

April 15, 2015

Setting the Bar High

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NIV Matt 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We like to pay return visits to people who have appeared here before. Several years ago we linked to the writing of Bill Muehlenberg at the blog Culture Watch. Today we drop in him again. What appears below is about half of the original article, so click the title to see it all now, or click the link at the end to continue reading; the balance of the article looks at a biography of Thomas Whitefield.

Time to Raise the Bar

In much of life, and certainly in the Christian life, we need to be inspired, challenged and given a vision of something better, grander and more worthwhile. This is obviously true in the sporting world where the phrase “raise the bar” comes into play.

raise the bar 1Whether it is the pole vaulter or the high jumper, the bar is raised so that an even greater sporting accomplishment can be attempted. And all great athletes crave this: they don’t want to settle for second best, or that which is easily obtainable.

They press on for the best, and in this case, the highest. They are not interested in the ordinary, but want to be the very best in their sport, and raise the bar even higher. They want to lead the way and set the standard. Life is meant to be like that, especially the Christian life.

Indeed, with Jesus Christ as our ultimate standard, and his command that we be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48), every single Christian has the bar set as high as it can go. But sadly most Christians don’t even consider this standard, and don’t care about raising their own bar.

They are far too satisfied with a nominal, mediocre life. They look at other nominal, mediocre Christians and think that this is the way the Christian life is. They simply compare themselves with one another and never get a vision of something better, something greater, something more pleasing to God.

These folks need to raise the bar. There are various ways we can do this, but one way which helped me very early on in my Christian life was to read biographies, autobiographies and stories of great men and women of God. As a new Christian I regularly went to the church library or to Christian bookstores, and read heaps of these sort of books.

And guess what? They sure set the bar high. I was spoiled for the ordinary after reading about a Hudson Taylor or a C. T. Studd or an Adoniram Judson or a William Carey. Stories of more recent men of God such as Jim Elliot, the martyred missionary, or his widow, Elizabeth Elliot, also were part of my diet back then.

And what about those Christians who endured horrific suffering at the hands of the godless communists such as Haralan Popov (Tortured for His Faith) or Richard Wurmbrand (Tortured for Christ)? Or the remarkable exploits of Brother Andrew (God’s Smuggler)? Their soul-stirring stories also inspired me greatly.

As I say, they spoiled me for life, and left me forever greatly discontented with the ordinary, the nominal, the so-so. I have always had a passion to move on and grow in Christ because of reading these amazing stories and learning about these incredible men and women of God…

continue reading here(continue at the paragraph above the book picture)

April 14, 2015

Head for the Hills

Psalm 121 – The Voice

A song for those journeying to worship.

I look up at the vast size of the mountains—
    from where will my help come in times of trouble?
The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains
    will send the help I need.

He holds you firmly in place;
He will not let you fall.
    He who keeps you will never take His eyes off you and never drift off to sleep.
What a relief! The One who watches over Israel
    never leaves for rest or sleep.

 The Eternal keeps you safe,
    so close to Him that His shadow is a cooling shade to you.
Neither bright light of sun
    nor dim light of moon will harm you.

The Eternal will keep you safe
    from all of life’s evils,
From your first breath to the last breath you breathe,
    from this day and forever.

Today’s post is from Jon Foster, a pastor in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada.

Higher Than the Hills

God can do anything, anytime, anywhere, and in any way. There’s just nothing he can’t do. Do you believe it? In Luke 1:37, the angel Gabriel was commissioned to take that message to Mary, the soon-to-be mother of Jesus. He keenly assured her that “with God nothing is impossible.” She was not too small, weak, or insignificant to benefit from the personal touch of God on her life. Later, in his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul made it clear to his readers that they too were beneficiaries of the same divine power. Speaking of God, he wrote: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

To put limits on what God can do is simply wrong. Yet we do this more often than we’d like to admit. There are times when we feel tempted to “throw in the towel” saying, “It’s hopeless! I’ve tried and tried but this is a no-win situation.” But giving up without intently looking to God for help is just another way of saying, “This is impossible… even for you, Lord.” Ouch! …and we wonder why we’re not making progress. Simply put, God can’t help us overcome obstacles that we are unwilling to face with faith.

I like to think of God as the great “Picture Changer.” He specializes in transforming what seems hopeless to us into pictures of promise and blessing. But sometimes He allows us to reach the end of our rope because it’s often only when we’re there, hanging on for dear life, that we get desperate enough to invite Him to come and take control. And when He comes, He comes not as a mere tinkerer, but one who has the power to completely alter the landscape of our lives according to His good purpose.

In Psalm 121, the psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from?” In the old days, a person fleeing for his life would often escape to higher ground; they would, as the saying goes, “head for the hills!” There were logistical (and tactical) reasons for this. Not only could “the hills” provide suitable hiding places — they also gave you a better chance of spotting your adversary before he saw you! The benefit of higher ground is even more obvious when the imminent danger is from rising floodwater. But in the very next verse we learn that the psalmist’s confidence ultimately was not in mere physical or logistical advantage. No, he had his eyes much higher than the hills! In verse 2 he declares, “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). The help he was looking for is the same kind of help we all need in order to be the kind of spiritual overcomers the Bible says we can be.

In these modern times (and in this part of the world), it’s easy for us to take for granted that “help is on its way.” We have developed structures and systems to ensure our well-being and, to a large degree, we have put our trust in them. But true spiritual help will not come from these “hills.” True spiritual help comes only “from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

At the beginning of a new year it’s appropriate to acknowledge our ultimate source of help and strength. We don’t know what the year will bring but we do know that there will be both challenges and blessings. And we know that we serve a God with whom “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Take some time to affirm your trust in God. Let him know that you are serious about walking with Him, abiding in Him, and being fruitful for Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you that with you, all things are possible. Thank you for making me your child and giving me new life in Christ Jesus. Thank you for your promise to be with me each and every day and to provide the strength and help required to overcome every obstacle. Help me to walk closely with you so that others may see enough of you in my life to inspire them to put their trust in you. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

April 13, 2015

If You’re a Christ-Follower, It’s Impossible to ‘Join’ a Church

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Jim Thomber writes at the other Thinking Out Loud blog. Click the link below to read this at source, and then click around his site for other great articles.

One Body Many MembersWhy It Is Impossible To Join A Church

“In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” – Romans 12:5

 

After reading this passage in Romans, I’m starting to question the whole idea of church membership. How can I join a church, that is, a local assembly of believers, when I already belong to the Church, the one Body of Christ?

Like you, I live in a town with many churches. Large and small, independent and mainline, the body of Christ is widely represented. However, my understanding of Romans 12:5 tells me there is only one Church in my city; we just happen to meet in different locations.

So the question is: “How can I join a particular assembly of believers and become a member of their church when I already belong to all the others?” My gifts and my life are not my own. I belong to the body of Christ, not just to the assembly that gathers under the banner of my particular denomination. Even though I am an ordained minister of a large denomination, I don’t limit myself or my fellowship solely to this organization. Furthermore, I don’t exist to promote my denomination; rather, my denomination exists to give me what I need to do the work in the “white and ready to harvest” field of the world. In other words, my denomination exists to help me promote Jesus. I don’t exist to promote my denomination.

I’m starting to think that becoming a member of a local church is like saying my arm can choose to join my shoulder. When we see ourselves as only a member of one local church, we limit our gifts and talents to that one part of the body at the exclusion of all the others. But this doesn’t make sense. For instance, if I stub my big toe, my entire body walks differently until the toe is healed. However, if a local church goes through a split or a painful episode with its pastor, none of the other churches seem to be affected. The most we can offer our hurting brethren is a quick, “Oh, I’ll pray for you.” Rarely are we given permission to be part of the healing process. I think this tells us that in most cities the churches do not see themselves as part of the same body, where each member belongs to all the others. Instead, we act as disjointed members, eyeing one another as competitive stepchildren of the same parent, vying for attention and a larger share of the inheritance.

If we see ourselves as just members of one particular church, we are mostly in competition with other churches in town. However, when we ARE the Church, we then find the other churches are companions along the way. I want to learn to work in conjunction and connection with the rest of the Body. I pray you do too. “Lord, hear our prayer.”

Yes, I understand the argument for church membership, for the need to have order in the organization. This is why I submit to my denominational authorities, pastor a church, and teach a class for new members. Still, the body of Christ is NOT an organization; it is a living organism. What I do in my fellowship should have a reverberating effect upon the rest of the Body in my town. But for the most part it doesn’t, and I’m not sure where the problem lies. Maybe it’s with me.

Therefore, I’ve decided to feel free to be myself with whatever group of Christians I happen to be hanging around with. I’ve noticed that if my finger scratches my ear, it doesn’t have to become an ear to be an effective itch reliever. Likewise, I’m going to worship wherever I find myself, associate with whomever I chose, and be an honest ambassador of Christ wherever God leads me. By thinking this way, I won’t have to join any particular group in order be a part of the Body of Christ. I already am.

April 12, 2015

The Law is Not a Substitute for Moral Judgment

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2 Cor 4:1 NIV Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

read the full chapter at this link

Today we pay a return visit to Mark Love, Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry and Director of the Resource Center for Missional Leadership at Rochester College, Rochester Hills, MI; who writes at the blog Dei-Liberations. Click the title below to read at source.

Appealing to the conscience of everyone

I’m not a philosopher or psychologist, so my functional anthropology lacks the precision and care that it deserves. But I’ve often been fascinated by what Paul means by the term “conscience.” It appears in the 2 Cor 4 text that I’ve been writing these meditations on. But the notion of the conscience also features prominently in the Pastorals (1,2 Tim, Titus). (I know this makes any claims about Paul dubious, since authorship of the Pastorals is highly disputed. While I’m open to someone else writing under Paul’s name, I’m more convinced that Paul wrote the Pastorals than Ephesians or Colossians).

In 1 Timothy, Paul urges Timothy to distinguish himself from those who would be teachers of the law. While the law is good, it’s usefulness is primarily for the disobedient, “for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral,” etc. You get the picture. The problem by insisting on the law is that it “shipwrecks” faith and good conscience. It is contrary to “sound doctrine,” literally “healthy words,” which build a capacity in those of faith for faithful judgment.

Now in my faith tradition, we flipped Paul’s notions of sound doctrine to be the black and white things (like the law), which could not be veered from without straying from the faith. For Paul, those who insist on breaking life down into black and white are the ones who shipwreck their faith. The faithful are those whose imaginations are funded with “healthy words” from which faithful judgments can be made. The place where these judgments occur Paul calls the conscience.

I think for Paul, the conscience is like a muscle that can be developed or trained for God. Using the law as a substitute for moral judgement is like always riding a bike with training wheels. It can get you only so far with God and you’ll never really know what riding a bike is like.

Faith depends on the capacity of the conscience to make godly judgments in the innumerable situations we will find ourselves in. To foreclose on this capacity with appeals like “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” is to put faith at risk. Though Paul doesn’t say it this way in 1 Tim, I think he would say that this is the place where the Spirit can influence us, change us, guide us. In fact, I wonder if this is what he means in Romans by a “renewing of the mind” which allows the believer to “discern what the will of God is, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

So, when Paul says in 2 Cor 4 that he “appeals to the conscience of everyone,” I think he might have two things in mind. First, unlike the tradition of Sophistry valued by the Corinthians, Paul makes his appeal to something other than people’s affections. He is not trying to secure his audience by flattering or entertaining them. Second, he is trying to build a capacity within them for discernment, for making judgments, for exercising a Christian imagination which will be open to the Spirit in all circumstances. He does not spoon feed his listeners principles for godly living. Instead, he funds their imagination with the gospel so that they can live faithfully in the wildly improvisational art of life.

April 11, 2015

Surrender Entails Pain

A year ago we introduced you to Jennifer, one of the writers at the devotional blog Get Along With God. Choosing a selection for today wasn’t easy; there were many to choose from. Click the title below, then click on ‘home’ to visit other articles at the site.

Our Pain Belongs to God

I was reading Jeremiah when I was struck by the following passage.

Your words were found, and I ate them.
Your words became a delight to me
and the joy of my heart,
for I am called by Your name,
Yahweh God of Hosts.
I never sat with the band of revelers,
and I did not celebrate with them.
Because Your hand was on me, I sat alone,
for You filled me with indignation.
Why has my pain become unending,
my wound incurable,
refusing to be healed?
You truly have become like a mirage to me—
water that is not reliable.

Jeremiah 15:16-18 HCSB

There’s a great deal going on here, but I was pierced by two things in particular. First, Jeremiah is telling the Lord just how much joy he’s had in being His. Yahweh is a delight to Jeremiah’s heart. Second, Jeremiah is in great pain because he took God’s side. So why isn’t God taking his side by healing him? Jeremiah didn’t forsake God when he was wounded, but he absolutely took his pain and doubt and anger and bewilderment straight to the One he loved. Why? Because our pain belongs to God.

If our pain belongs to God, why am I always talking?

I once took great satisfaction in sharing not only my pain, but in broadcasting the pain and injustice I’d encountered or learned from the news as well. I even attempted to make it entertaining. There was nothing benign about this either. The spirit behind it was a malevolent hatred of God.

I can see so clearly now that I used my pain and the pain of others to campaign against God. “God is NOT good. Look what He did to me! Look what He’s done to the world!” My tales of woe were an underhanded, cowardly blame-game that invited the listener to pity me in my pain and tried to inflame them with righteous indignation at the uncaring God who let it all happen. Was I really wounded? Yes, but my desire to be free of the pain was not stronger than my anger at being hurt in the first place. I wanted to fight God far more than I wanted to be healed by Him.

Because I have seen so clearly just how vile and septic my hatred and blame of God was, I am very aware when I share my pain with others. I realize that, in fact, I share very little of it any more, but until I read Jeremiah, I didn’t know why exactly. I was beginning to wonder if I was trying to parent myself and keep myself from backsliding into old habits. Instead the Spirit showed me a picture, in Jeremiah, of how God wants us to deal with our pain.

Our pain belongs to God when we do.

Jeremiah gave God and God alone his burgeoning doubt and frustration and suffering. He took his hurt directly to God, and God responded to Jeremiah’s cry with the solution to his pain. Jeremiah belonged to God, and so did his pain. Jesus in Gethsemane is another picture of this. Gethsemane isn’t just about surrender; it’s a picture of what surrender entails: pain. Jesus was in the last stretch of His race, and He begged the Father to spare Him the unspeakable agony that dawn would bring. He brought the anguish of His heart directly to God. And the Father DID respond. Jesus wasn’t spared Calvary, but when the soldiers came for Him, He’d been given the grace to meet them.

I don’t belong to myself anymore—I belong to Jesus. So my pain belongs to God, too. The pain that I share with other people now is usually the tip of the iceberg, because the hidden bulk is for God alone. I reserve the highest of my love and joy for Him, and the lowest and most agonizing pain is His, too. The deepest recesses of my heart and the wildest bliss and exhilaration of my spirit are the most intimate parts of me. And I want to give them to my Lord.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Psalm 51:17 KJV

April 10, 2015

How Christ Kept All Ten Commandments

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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ten_commandmentsToday’s re-blogged item is a little different. First, you’ll need to click the individual links for the scripture verses. Second, there is a related article, linked in the first sentence, which follows a similar format in reference to Adam. I would encourage you to read both if you have time. The writer is Mark Jones, and this appeared at Reformation 21. You’re encouraged to click the link below to read this at its source.

Christ Kept the 10 Commandments

Adam broke the ten commandments in the Garden. But Christ kept the ten commandments in the “wilderness,” under far more intense circumstances than what was originally required of Adam.

He kept the first commandment. He brought glory to God the Father while he was on earth (Jn. 17:4). He feared, believed, and trusted his Father (Heb. 2:13; 5:7; Lk. 4:1-12). Christ was zealous for the Father’s glory (Jn. 2:17) and thanked his Father constantly (Jn. 11:41). He yielded complete obedience to him in all things (Jn. 10:17; 15:10).

He kept the second commandment. No one ever worshipped like Christ did (Lk. 4:16). He read, preached, prayed, and sung God’s word with a pure heart (Ps. 24:3-4). He condemned false worship (Jn. 4:22; Matt. 15:9). Moreover, the one who is the visible image of God did not need to make unlawful images of God.

He kept the third commandment. As God’s image-bearer (Col. 1:15), he perfectly revealed the Father (Jn. 14:9). He only spoke the words the Father gave to him (Jn. 12:49). In other words, he did not ever take God’s name in vain, but only spoke the truth about the Father and brought glory to the Father by living in a manner conducive with who he is (the Son of God).

He kept the fourth commandment. “And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day…” (Lk. 4:16). He did works of piety, mercy and necessity on the Sabbath (e.g. Mk. 2:23-28). In addition, the Lord of the Sabbath secured our eternal Sabbath rest through his death on the cross, resting in the grave on the Sabbath, and resurrection on the Lord’s day.

He kept the fifth commandment. He always did the things that were pleasing to his heavenly Father (Jn. 8:29). On the cross, even as he was dying, he took care of his mother (Jn. 19:27). He also kept the laws of the land (Mk. 12:17; Matt. 17:24-27).

He kept the sixth commandment. Jesus preserved life. He did so both physically and spiritually. He saved sinners from their sins (Jn. 5:40). He also healed many people (Matt. 4:23). He was meek, gentle, kind, and peaceable while on earth (e.g., Matt. 11:29). His life was a life of mercy and compassion (e.g., Lk. 18:35-43).

He kept the seventh commandment. Christ, the husband, laid down his life for his bride (Eph. 5:22-33). While I have no doubt that he would have found certain women attractive, he would never have crossed the appropriate boundaries regarding male-female interactions, and his thoughts would have always been pure regarding those of the opposite sex (cf. 1 Tim. 5:2).

He kept the eighth commandment. Christ gave freely (Jn. 2:1-11). He opposed robbery (Jn. 2:13-17). John 2 has in view, among other things, Christ keeping the eighth commandment. The one who was rich became poor so that we, in our poverty, might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).

He kept the ninth commandment. He always spoke the truth (Jn. 8:45-47) because he only spoke the words the Father had given to him (Jn. 12:49). He stood for the truth because he is the Truth (Jn. 1:14, 17; 14:6). He did not flatter (Matt. 23) or speak the truth unseasonably or conceal the truth (Matt. 26:64).

He kept the tenth commandment. The one who owns heaven and earth is the one who also said: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk. 9:58). The one who could have easily supplied his every need and desire only received that which came from the Father’s hand (Lk. 4:1-12). He did not covet that which was not rightly his, but through patient endurance received his inheritance through the cross.

In Reformed circles we must in our preaching do a better job of explaining how Christ perfectly kept the law. It is one thing to say over and over again, “Jesus kept the law perfectly for us [as a covenant of works] so that we could be saved”; but it is another thing to explain precisely how he kept the law and what was involved in his law-keeping. Hearing about Christ’s active obedience, and God’s gratuitous imputation of that active obedience to us through faith, should never be reduced to mere pithy statements.
Pastor Mark Jones is so thankful for the active obedience of Christ to the ten commandments. 

April 9, 2015

Weep For Yourselves

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Today I want to again highlight the writing of pastor, author and Bible translator Christopher R. Smith at the blog Good Question. He follows a Q&A format with links to the passage under consideration, but today we’ll show the text in full, then the article begins with the title below which you can click as a means of looking around the rest of the blog. (Note: This article appeared originally on March 31st, pre-Easter.)

Luke 23 (NIV) :26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then

“‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
    and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ 

31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”


Why did Jesus tell the women of Jerusalem, “Weep for yourselves, not for me,” when he was going to the cross?

Q. This morning I was reading Luke and was confused about Jesus’ response to the women who were following him, wailing and lamenting, as he walked towards his crucifixion. His remarks seem hard to understand at first glance and harsh. The women seem to be doing a very human and appropriate thing, that is, mourning the mistreatment of the Son of God. I see myself doing exactly the same thing. Yet he turns to them and says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and your children.” That’s confusing enough, but then he goes on to say, “Blessed are the childless women.”  His words seem very out of context with the events that are taking place.

I believe that even here, on his way to the cross, Jesus is looking ahead to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 at the end of the first Jewish-Roman War, and he is expressing his pity and compassion for the victims of that impending conflict.

This is actually the third place in the gospel of Luke where Jesus does this.  The first time is when he approaches Jerusalem on this final visit and sees the city in the distance. He weeps over it and says, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

In other words, by rejecting the understanding of the kingdom of God that Jesus brought, and by following other leaders into a political and military revolt, the Jewish people would put themselves on a collision course with Rome that within a generation would have this tragic result.

Then, when Jesus and his disciples are touring the temple, he predicts that it will be destroyed, so that “not one stone will be left on another.”  When his disciples ask when this will happen, he describes the destruction of the city in more detail. (This is in the so-called Olivet Discourse, a long speech that also looks farther ahead, at its end, to Jesus’ Second Coming ).  Once again Jesus expresses his compassion for the innocent people who will suffer: “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land.”  This is a second reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in the Jewish-Roman war, in which Jesus recognizes the suffering it will bring to innocent people.

The statement Jesus makes to the women of the Jerusalem as he is walking towards his crucifixion is a third such reference.  The suffering will be so terrible, we discover, that people will consider women fortunate who have not had children who will have to go through it.

And so it’s not that reflecting on Jesus’ sufferings and expressing sorrow over them is a bad thing to do. It was appropriate for those women, and it is still appropriate for us today.  But Jesus knew that terrible sufferings also awaited them, so he both warned them and expressed compassion for their impending fate.

Showing concern for others’ sufferings, even as he was about to be crucified, demonstrates our Savior’s heart of selfless compassion for others.  And so I believe he is honored in this Lenten season not only when we meditate on his sufferings, even weeping over them as these women did (and as countless believers have done in the centuries since), but also when we show the same compassion for the suffering of the innocent that he did.

April 8, 2015

Praise in the Middle of Chaos

Regular Wednesday contributor Clarke Dixon returns next week.

Today we feature, for the second time, the writing of Nate Stevens who appears regularly at the ChristianDevotions.us site.

Praise between the Chaos

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.Psalm 57:5 NIV

Worshipping God is an uplifting experience – but it does not necessarily mean everything in life is perfect. Sometimes it’s simply a willful act of praising God in spite of my present circumstances.

The early Sunday morning sunlight cast a heavenly glow through the windows of my church sanctuary. Our voices blended in the sweetest harmony as we praised Almighty God with the chorus, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens…” Peaceful smiles gradually erased the cares reflected on faces; hands that hung aimlessly, slowly raised heavenward. We all enjoyed the celestial moment as our hearts joined in divine worship.

I fondly recalled that worship experience during this morning’s devotional reading in Psalm 57. Verse five brought back the pleasant memories and a quiet sense of peace swept over me. Then I noticed verses six and seven.

“I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. They spread a net for my feet—I was bowed down in distress.” How about these frightening bookends for your praise?

David wrote this Psalm while running for his life from King Saul. The harsh wilderness was his home. He was a wanted man hiding in a deep, dark, damp cave. Traitorous, unstable, lying men threatened his life. The answers to his prayers did not come. Yet in the midst of it all, David paused to give his praise to God. I cannot help but believe it strengthened him for the struggles that lay ahead.

Life can be overwhelming. Fear grips our souls. Sadness and disappointment etch their marks on our hearts. Confusion and doubt ravage our minds while weariness and illness drain our bodies. But when we stop the chaotic circus long enough to lift our heartfelt praise to God, we express our gratefulness and reliance on Him while also allowing a little bit of heaven to shine into our lives.

If you are struggling today in a sea of overwhelming circumstances and your prayers for relief seem to bounce unanswered off heaven’s door, pause for a moment of praise. The words or songs of praise may initially get caught in your throat, but force them out. Recall God’s blessings in your life and all of the promises in His Word.

Sing with me, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens…”

April 7, 2015

Loving the Unloveable

We linked to Garrett Kell before at Thinking Out Loud, but I believe this is the first time here at C201. He is a Baptist pastor in Alexandria, VA. There are many good articles to see, be sure to look around after clicking the title below:

Loving Christians Who Are Tough To Love

“Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:21

After love for God, the most basic mark of the Christian is love for other Christians (Matthew 22:36-40). But love for our fellow blood-bought brothers and sisters isn’t always easy.

As a pastor friend of mine used to say:

To live above with saints we love; Ah that will be glory,
To live below with saints we know; Well, that’s another story.

Just because someone is a Christian, doesn’t mean they are easy to love. Sanctification is a slow process (sometimes really slow) that doesn’t transform our personality quirks, theological peculiarities, and sinful tendencies over night.

Love requires patience—and perspective.

Help from Heaven

Having an eye toward eternity helps our hearts to love even the most difficult of believers.

John Newton captures what I mean in a letter he wrote to another pastor who was about to write a letter to a fellow Christian he strongly disagreed with. Here’s a portion of his advice,

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him…you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.”

The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself.

In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

You can read the letter in its entirety here.

Remembering Empowers Love

Let’s consider three reflections from this letter to help us love our “tough to love” brothers and sisters in Christ.

1. Remember how God has loved you.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

God serves fresh grace to our hearts when we recall the ways He has loved us. It would do you (and others) well if you take a moment to consider how Jesus has loved you.

Think of His persistence in pursuing you, even in spite of your resistance to His pursuit.

Reflect on how many transgressions He has blotted from your account with His own blood.

Consider specific ways He has shown you compassion despite of your defiance.

God has been kind to you. His heart has been tender toward you. If you are in Christ, He has forgiven your debt in full. Shouldn’t your love for others be affected by His love for you?

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11

2. Remember that we will soon be with them in eternity. 

There will be a day when all God’s children will stand together before His throne of grace. On that day, all disputes will be forgotten and all irritations will be abolished. Why allow those quarrels to steal love from your brother on this day?

I’m not in any way suggesting that all disputes are small or all disagreements are insignificant. There are weighty things in this life, some which are very difficult to endure. But what I am suggesting is that all of our relationships must be guided and guarded by the fact that one day we will stand alongside our fellow Christians before the Savior who died for them.

That kind of perspective helps us to extend love to those who are not so easy to love. Perspective grants us patience and compassion. Let the sourness of a relationship today be overcome by the sweetness of that everlasting day to which you are traveling together. Ask the Lord to help you see others in light of the love you will share together in the eternal dwelling Christ is preparing for you (John 14:1-2).

3. Remember that you aren’t so easy to love either. 

Spurgeon rightly reminds us “if you cannot bear with your imperfect brother, take it for certain that you are very imperfect yourself.” Our inability to love others perfectly is a faithful reminder that we don’t have it all together either.

Humility about our own lovability serves as a gracious help in extending love to others. What sinful patterns do you have a tough time fighting against? When have you said hurtful words? Where do you still have room to grow in spiritual maturity? How do you think those shortcomings affect those around you?

I’ve found that when I’m concerned with confessing my own sins before the Lord, I’m less irritated with the sins of others. Regularly confessing your sins to God keeps you downwind of yourself and helps you to remember that you’re probably just as as tough to love as the next person.

 

Though no relationship will be perfect on this side of eternity, I am convinced that the more our hearts are set on heaven, and the more that we are sobered by our own need for a Savior, the more our love for others will reflect the love of Christ—including those who are tough to love.

April 6, 2015

Now is the Time

As the post-resurrection narrative continues, Jesus reveals himself to his disciples and is seen by many, some of whom the Apostle Paul, writing years later, notes are still living, just in case anyone wants the story corroborated. Then follows the ascension.

But for the rest of us, the post-resurrection period means a return to something I call regular church. Even the more liturgical churches often refer to the Sundays after Pentecost as ordinary time. Where does this leave us?

Joel 3:14 Multitudes, multitudes
    in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near
    in the valley of decision.

I believe it leaves many — multitudes in fact — faced with a decision. What are they going to do now, having once again been confronted with a day that celebrates that in history one man, and only one man, predicted his death and resurrection and then… resurrected?

We who are part of the church sometimes speak in terms of the gospel imperative. This means simply that the answer needed; the response needed; is needed now. Sometimes when I was very young my parents would ask me to do a particular chore and I would want to put it off until later, or even indefinitely. My father would very firmly say, “Now!”

How I hated those words.

But that is the essence of the gospel.

II Cor 6:2b I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

Joshua 24:15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

I have had a lifelong love affair with Christian books and music which only lately I’ve been able to explain to people by way of an analogy.

img 040615Imagine it’s a very hot summer day and you are sitting on a dock at the edge of a very cool, refreshing lake. Your discomfort will disappear if you just get into the water, but you sit hesitating on the hot deck boards, not sure if you want to go in or not.

Finally a friend runs down and simply pushes you off the dock. With a splash, you are suddenly cooled and refreshed.

Like so many, I often struggled with Bible reading and scripture study. I needed someone to push me of the dock, so to speak, into the text, and that’s what Christian authors and Christian musicians did for me way back when, and continue to do today. Their books and songs propel me into the text, and into passages in the text I might not ever have considered.

Okay, so what’s that got to do with the imperative of the gospel we’re discussing today?

Your friends, co-workers, extended family, neighbors and fellow-students need to immerse themselves in the refreshing waters of God’s truth, and make that decision to cross the line of faith. You are the person to give them a nudge off the dock. You have been put in their lives to help them take next steps.

Don’t be afraid. The water isn’t over their heads. They just need an extra push, and that can be your way of explaining it: “Would you like to take the next step in becoming a follower of Jesus?”

Studies show that many people in our churches are simply trying to discern next steps; they are waiting for someone to tell them what to do next.

…Continue reading:

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 5, 2015

His Resurrection Is Their Resurrection Is Our Resurrection

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:36 pm
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HeHasRisen_lg

Effrem Smith wrote this with Easter in view, but also in terms of a theme very important to him, social justice and reconciliation. Readers here know the primary implications of Christ’s resurrection, but the impact of his rising from the dead is like a river that spreads out its tributaries in so many different ways; like a branch which spreads out leaves in so many different directions.

There are simply so many transformative things that are taking place in our world today because Christ is risen from the dead. The lens through which he views this in this article in no way minimizes Christ’s triumph over sin and death.

Let’s take a step beyond atonement: What are the implications of the resurrection in your community? In your life? How does the risen Christ make a difference in neighborhoods, families, schools and workplaces?

 

When The Poor Rise With Christ

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that he raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”

1 Corinthians 15:12-17 (NASB)

For too many of the poor, marginalized, outcast, and demonized, every day is like Good Friday. They live surrounded by death, judgement, and prejudice. When Christ hung on the cross and freely gave His life He was surrounded by death, judgement, and prejudice as well. As He hung on the cross, he looked with a forgiving spirit upon those who mocked Him and cheered His suffering. He hung on the cross as all of the sins of humanity hung on his shoulders. The good news is that this is not how this part of the story concluded. Christ endured Good Friday and came out of the grave on Resurrection Day. He rose indeed.

What about the poor, marginalized, outcast, and demonized? Is there a Resurrection Day for them? Now, I realize that through the new covenant established in Christ, that all who accept Him as Lord and Savior rise with Him into Kingdom citizenship and eternity. But, I focus more deeply on the least of these in order to lift up a significant part of the mission of Christ when He walked the earth. Many times when Jesus was declaring and demonstrating the Kingdom of God, He did so among the least of those around Him. There were times when he broke social and religious customs in order to bring mobility, sight, life, dignity, and liberation to Samaritans, Canaanites, women, children, and the poor. Even as He hung on the cross, he engaged a thief and empowered him to rise into new eternal possibilities.

I am grieved as I go into this weekend focused on death and resurrection because I have witnessed so many examples of the poor, marginalized, and rejected being so shamed and demonized in our world. There are even examples of Christians who, judge, patronize, shame, and mock the least of these in our society. Instead of seeing the lowly as just as much made in the image of God as the privileged, we as Christians sometimes join in with Satan’s plan and labeling by seeing only the thug, gangsta, hoe, criminal, enemy, and demon in a person. Christ was able to look at a woman caught in adultery, a scandalous Samaritan, a man plagued by a legion of demons, a girl left for dead, and a thief and see something else.

I also have great hope that when the Church sees the least of these thru the eyes of Christ a new movement will rise up. It is then that we will experience a whole new understanding of the dead rising with the risen Savior.

April 4, 2015

The Story of Joseph Prefigures The Story of Jesus

I hope some of you have some extra time this weekend to click through and explore the rest of the series from which we’re excerpting a reading today. At ABC Religion and Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Company) throughout Holy Week, renowned theologian Oliver O’Donovan has been exploring Jesus’s “journey into a far country” by reading it alongside the story of Joseph’s search for his brothers. It is both theology of the highest order, and a thrilling modern example of a more ancient Christian interpretative practice. To see earlier and subsequent entries click the title below. For reasons of scheduling, this is the one from Good Friday, but there should be a new one on the site by the time you read this.

In Search of Judgment: Meditations for Holy Week

Good Friday

“And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here. For God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:5)

This week, I have been laying the story of Jesus’s passion alongside the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis. Each of these two stories culminates with a trial and a judgment. The parties have to reach a decision on what the other is to them, and what they are to be to the other.

We usually think of a judgment as taking the form, “A was in the right, B was in the wrong.” The “A” and the “B” are fixed entities, the parties to the controversy whose identity was determined from the beginning, and all the judgment defines is the moral relation in which this A and this B are to stand to one another.

But when God is on trial, “being in the right” means simply “being known as God.” For God is rightness, goodness, justice, and the manifestation of his rightness and his justice over against our wrongness and injustice is – quite simply – a theophany, the manifestation of himself as God, before whom we fall and worship.

Jesus is man judged by God and God judged by man. God will render his judgment on the Second Adam on Easter morning; but he will not wait till then to elicit the judgment of man. Already, as Jesus commends his soul to his Father, the truth is wrung out of the bystanding soldier: “Surely this was the Son of God!”

Joseph’s judgment, too, takes the simple form of making himself known. “I am your brother, Joseph!” That is the moment to which everything has been building. That is the resolution of the question that they had been asking.

The reason this is a judgment is that without what had happened in the trial, this self-revelation was not possible. Until that climactic moment, it remained in doubt whether the brothers could know Joseph – know him as the brother he really was; whether they could be delivered from that other role that they had played towards him – that of the betraying friend.

The whole drama of the story turned on this: that it was impossible for the brothers first of all to learn who the Egyptian stranger was, and then to make up their minds whether and how greatly they had wronged him. That way they could never have known him at all – not, that is, in fraternity, which is an openness to the truth about oneself. If they are to know him, they must know him as the wronged brother; they must reach a judgment in his favour against themselves.

What has happened in the trial that has made this conclusion possible? First, Joseph has drawn his youngest brother, Benjamin, into the role he had occupied himself, that of an innocent victim, wrongly accused. But then Judah – not the most attractive of the brothers by a long shot, but by that complicated family reckoning, the senior brother and spokesman for them all – has stepped forward to take the responsibility, to assume the role of the wrongly accused himself, freely, rather than let Benjamin bear it. And with this step the whole bar to restored fraternity is lifted, for the brothers are now prepared to go where Joseph has been before them. They are prepared to embrace the role that they once all too readily thrust on him.

Are we to say, then, that Judah reconciled the house of Israel, rather than Joseph? No, for it was Joseph who went before. Judah follows on, like a kind of echo to his younger brother’s cry. Joseph provided the impulse. Never absent from their thoughts, he is alluded to at every twist and turn of the story, even while he standing there, unrecognized. Joseph’s sufferings have made a way for them to embrace suffering for one another. And there is more: for Judah does not need to live through his sacrifice right to the bitter end, for Joseph has lived through it before him. And Joseph is there.

The week before Jesus suffered, we are told, he was at dinner with Mary and Martha and Lazarus. And Mary, in a gesture of extravagant love, poured out the costly ointment which was, in effect, their life’s savings, upon the head and feet of the one who had brought her brother back from the dead. Jesus saw it as a sign that the moment for his sacrifice had come – it was the anointing for his burial. He had prepared those who would take responsibility in sacrificing their own life-resources, whatever they might be, for others, just as he was to take responsibility in sacrificing his life for all.

What is offered to us this Good Friday is to enter into the role that Jesus bore when he died. Nothing can replace that role; it is the role in which he went before, as Joseph went before his brothers. “We may not know, we cannot tell …,” as the hymn goes. We are his fraternity, and part of what he had to bear was bearing it alone, without us.

But we can open ourselves to it we can be formed by it, we can show ourselves ready to bear the burden after him for his brothers and sisters. We can, as St. Paul puts it, “become like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10). And that is what following Jesus, bearing the cross, means in daily experience. In that way we can know what it means to say, “With his stripes we are healed.”

Shall we offer ourselves, then, as Judah offered himself as an echo of Joseph’s suffering? Shall we offer ourselves to be a living echo of what Jesus bore, resonating down the centuries. If so, St, Paul says, we shall “know him and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10).

 

 

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