Christianity 201

February 14, 2013

Set Apart

“Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the LORD today…” —Exodus 32:29

Today, as yesterday, we begin with Dr. Charles Price, pastor of Peoples Church in Toronto.  Though Charles was never my pastor, this was the church I grew up in, at a time when it was Canada’s only megachurch.  This was titled, On Being Set Apart.

To be holy does not mean to be perfect, but to be ‘set apart’. That is the meaning of the word. It does not equal being perfect.

In my wedding service, I said to my bride as part of my vows: “Forsaking all others, I take you only unto me.” What I meant was, “I’ll never look at a girl again the way I look at you. I’ll never develop a relationship with another woman in the way that I have a relationship with you.” I had become ‘set apart’ exclusively to her. I was entering into a ‘holy’ relationship with her, one in which we are set apart exclusively to each other. That did not make me a perfect husband overnight!! (I think that took a week!) No, I will never be a perfect husband, and that was not the expectation on my wedding day (certainly not my wife’s!), nor was it the meaning of setting myself apart to her. I am repeatedly needing to say ‘I am sorry’. We are always learning new things about each other, and the journey of growth will never end – ‘till death do us part’.

Being called to be ‘holy’ is to be set apart to Christ, and involves no expectation of perfection – for that is neither offered nor promised to us in this life. Rather, in our frailty and the everyday fumbling of our lives to walk in harmony with the Lord Jesus, there is a fundamental attitude that says, “I am set apart to the Lord Jesus”. That is what it means to be holy.

The alternative to holiness is that we are available to anything that happens to attract our attention at the time. To be available to whatever is convenient, comfortable and compatible with our own selfishness is to live an unholy life. We are called to holiness, called to live in step with Jesus, called to unite our interests with His and our agendas with His. As Peter wrote, ‘In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord’ (1 Peter 3:15).

~Charles Price

I never really thought in terms of holiness meaning being “set apart” until I got deep into the lyrics of the Brian Doerksen song, Refiner’s Fire.

I choose to be Holy
Set apart for you, my master
Ready to do your will.

A few years ago here, I wrote about being separated from the world, and compared it to how the Amish people live among us, but are very much set apart from the rest of the world. In the world but not of it.

Our key verses in that devotional were Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (TNIV)

1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)

and because for some of us, this will involve a transformation, II Cor 5: 17:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (NLT)

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! (The Message)

Let me end by reiterating a line from Charles Price, above.

Being called to be ‘holy’ is to be set apart to Christ, and involves no expectation of perfection – for that is neither offered nor promised to us in this life. Rather, in our frailty and the everyday fumbling of our lives to walk in harmony with the Lord Jesus, there is a fundamental attitude that says, “I am set apart to the Lord Jesus”. That is what it means to be holy.

February 13, 2013

“Before Abraham Was Born, I Am”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” —John 8:58

Today we look at the “I am” passage in John 8.  To Jesus’ hearers, the statement would be reminiscent of these words in Exodus 13:

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,    the name you shall call me    from generation to generation.

Dr. Charles Price, pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto, Canada wrote on this recently:

It is no wonder many people in Jesus’ day had difficulty with him. Statements like this were so outlandish and ridiculous to the human ear, and blasphemous to the Jewish ear.

Of course, anyone can make bizarre claims, so the question is: Are the claims of Jesus true or false? If the claims are false, they are false for one of two reasons. Either because He knew they were false – which would make Him bad, or He didn’t know they were false, which would make Him mad. If, however, they were true, He was God. These are the only three options open to us, if the record of His words is true. It is not an option to say He was merely a ‘good man’, for a good man who was not divine, would not make the statements Jesus made about ‘coming from above’, or being in existence before Abraham!

If Jesus was a bad man, deliberately deceiving people, then He is the biggest confidence trickster in history. Today there are almost two billion people who claim, in some measure, an allegiance to Jesus Christ. If He was mad, He would join the ranks of many mad men in history, like Rasputin for instance, but for whom time would confirm their insanity.

From the logic of the situation alone, Jesus’ claims to be pre-existent and sent from His Father carry strong claim to be true. One of the things He said was that He would be crucified and then rise again after three days. That happened exactly as He said it would.

Don’t make the mistake of saying that in some way Jesus became the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead. No, He was eternally the Son of God, but, “He was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.” It is His resurrection from the dead – the fulfillment of one of His naturally impossible claims – which declares and affirms who He is, the Son of God.

And that is why the gospel is much more than the teaching of Jesus. It’s about the person of Jesus Himself – the One who is alive!

Matthew Henry writes:

…[H]e does not say, I was, but I am, for he is the first and the last, immutably the same (Rev. 1:8); thus he was not only before Abraham, but before all worlds, John 1:1; Prov. 8:23As Mediator. He was the appointed Messiah, long before Abraham; the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), the channel of conveyance of light, life, and love from God to man. This supposes his divine nature, that he is the same in himself from eternity (Heb. 13:8), and that he is the same to man ever since the fall; he was made of God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, to Adam, and Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Shem, and all the patriarchs that lived and died by faith in him before Abraham was born.

Abraham was the root of the Jewish nation, the rock out of which they were hewn. If Christ was before Abraham, his doctrine and religion were no novelty, but were, in the substance of them, prior to Judaism, and ought to take place of it.

This verse is central to the deity of Christ, and because of this you need to exercise extreme caution and discernment when encountering opinions about its interpretation online, especially if you don’t know the author or organization behind a particular blog or website.  Many of the websites claim that the passage was understood differently than we read it today, because they don’t teach the absolute deity of Jesus.

To that, I would simply suggest that one turn to John 10, and see what the reaction was to one of Jesus’ other statements about his divinity:

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

The “oneness” Jesus claimed is not something rooted in mysticism. He was claiming equality with God, and his words were understood by his hearers to mean that he was claiming equality with God.

May 25, 2010

Charles Price on Moral Law

Moral law is determined by the character of God, which is the moral absolute of the universe and which God revealed in practical terms when He gave the Ten Commandments.    In today’s world, they may seem outdated, restrictive, unreasonable and even irrelevant but we need to recognize that they derive from the unchanging character of God.   Perhaps it is because they are humanly impossible to keep that they are perceived with such skepticism and negativity, but that is exactly the point.   They are impossible to fallen people, but not God whose nature they are. …It is the indwelling Spirit of God who, alone, can reproduce and express the moral character of God within us.

Charles Price writing in Our Journey
devotional for 6/29/10