Christianity 201

March 25, 2016

The Theme of the Day

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
  He was whipped so we could be healed.

Isaiah 53:5, NKJV and NLT

Note: The story in the opening section of this first appeared here at Christianity 201 five years ago.

Three Crosses

In the little town east of Toronto, Canada where we find ourselves, the local churches come together for a Good Friday service that has grown to the point where it’s now held in the ballroom of a local hotel, and even at that we have to split into multiple service times.

I never miss this event.

It’s distracting however that we all come together. The “Christian unity” theme tends to interfere. Sometimes, it’s apparently rather difficult for worship leaders to choose pieces that stay tightly focused on the theme of Good Friday, especially when most of our best worship choruses are based on the resurrection we will celebrate on Sunday.

So although absolutely nobody heard me, as the soloist was singing his second song after the message, I put my head in my hands and internally screamed out loud:

God, what are we supposed to be thinking of today?

And that’s when it hit me: Sin. We’re supposed to be thinking about our sin. Our propensity to sin. Our sin condition. Our individual sins. The sin that necessitated the cross. Yes, we should think about the price that was paid for our redemption, but we should also think in terms of how we must appear in contrast to a holy God; mindful of our sin nature

…Usually our Good Friday services are rather somber. I’ve always felt that was appropriate, but on Thursday, I drove home listening to a Christian radio station where the announcer was proposing that Good Friday can be just as celebratory as Easter Sunday. He said that we can be ecstatic about all that Christ accomplished there that day, and then quoted a hymn lyric:

My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more

For him this was a cause for rejoicing and I certainly sense the triumph and the power of that lyric. But not all callers agreed with him. One woman suggested something to the effect that we need to own our sin. I believe this is the perspective of most Christian writers down through the centuries: We need to remember the pain and suffering that Christ endured because of our trespasses. We recognize that this was the completion of God’s plan; that the crucifixion of Christ is the central element in the incarnation; that this is why Christ came; but we don’t minimize the agony of the cross even if our minds sometimes fast-forward to Resurrection Sunday.

It was our sin and guilt that put Him there.

That’s another song lyric, taken from the previous chapter in Isaiah to our opening verses,

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!

Isaiah 52:7 NASB

and one that is repeated in the New Testament:

14 How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? 15 And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord? The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news.

Romans 10:15 CEV

So also says a line from the classic worship chorus “Our God Reigns” reproduced in full below.

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him,
Who brings good news, good news;
Announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness.
Our God Reigns! Our God Reigns!

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

He had no stately form, He had no majesty
That we should be drawn to Him.
He was despised and we took no account of Him.
Yet now He reigns, with the Most High.

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

It was our sin and guilt that bruised and wounded Him.
It was our sin that brought Him down.
When we like sheep had gone astray our Shepherd came,
And on His shoulders He bore our shame.

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

Meek as a lamb, that’s led out to the slaughterhouse,
Dumb as a sheep, before it’s shearer;
His life ran down upon the ground like pouring rain,
That we might be born-again!

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

Out from the tomb He came with grace and majesty;
He is alive, He is alive!
God loves us so, see here His hands, His feet, His side;
And yes, we know, He is alive!

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!

I hesitated to post the last verse because again, it takes us into Easter Sunday when I feel we need to spend a few more moments with the women and friends who stayed at the cross. (Luke 23:49)

I do recognize however that the full message of the cross is God’s triumph over sin and death. So I couldn’t post the lyrics to Our God Reigns without posting the alternative set of lyrics from Isaiah which are also available. The first verse of both versions is the same. Here is a song that takes us more to the element of celebration that perhaps my radio announcer on Thursday was envisioning. In the end, both elements are part of the big story.

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him
Who brings good news, good news
Proclaiming peace, announcing news of happiness
Our God reigns, our God reigns

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

You watchmen lift your voices joyfully as one
Shout for your King, your King
See eye to eye the Lord restoring Zion
Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

Waste places of Jerusalem break forth with joy
We are redeemed, redeemed
The Lord has saved and comforted His people
Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

Ends of the earth, see the salvation of your God
Jesus is Lord, is Lord
Before the nations He has bared His holy arm
Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, our God reigns…


For more Easter-themed reading, check out Delivered From Death at Thinking Out Loud

August 8, 2015

The True Lord’s Prayers – Part One

This is the first of a three-part, original C201 devotional study.

It’s easy to see why some people insist on calling the prayer example that Jesus gives in The Sermon on the Mount “The Disciples Prayer” or “The Model Prayer.” Using that text from Matthew 6, I can’t picture Jesus asking the Father to forgive his trespasses, or lead him not into temptation, or be delivered from evil.

But there are a number of examples of what I would say are truly “The Lord’s Prayer.” One is Matthew 11:25-26

25At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. (paralleled in Luke 10:21)

This passage is more complex than what initially meets the eye. Some commentaries online linked this to predestination, but I especially like this short comment on a Yahoo forum:

In addition to having an open mind one must have the proper motive in studying God’s Word. Certain Jews of Jesus’ day were quite studious and yet Jesus said to them: “You are searching the Scriptures, because you think that by means of them you will have everlasting life.” There is nothing wrong with desiring everlasting life. It is a proper hope, but if the gaining of it is our sole motive in “searching the Scriptures,” then we are not going to gain the knowledge that leads to everlasting life. Just after his above statement Jesus pointed to the proper motivation that those Jewish people lacked: “I well know that you do not have the love of God in you.” (John 5:39, 42) We must love God in order to receive this personal gift of accurate knowledge.

Something else that is essential to receiving this priceless gift from God is referred to in the psalm: “He will cause the meek ones to walk in his judicial decision, and he will teach the meek ones his way.” (Ps. 25:9) So, a person who is proud and haughty cannot expect to get this knowledge until he changes his attitude. We need to “become as young children,” with open, teachable minds and hearts, to understand God’s Word. (Matt. 18:3) This helps us to appreciate why many men who have made an analytical study of the Bible still may not understand such basic things as God’s purpose for this earth. They may know the original Bible languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, but often they have let their knowledge ‘puff them up.’ It is as Jesus said: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes.” (Matt. 11:25) The proper viewpoint in regard to any knowledge we may have is expressed by Paul under inspiration: “If anyone thinks he has acquired knowledge of something, he does not yet know it just as he ought to know it.” (1 Cor. 8:2) Humility and reliance on God’s help through his spirit are essential to gaining accurate knowledge of the Bible.—1 Cor. 8:1; Jas. 1:5.

Another “Lord’s Prayer” is John 12-27-28

27“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour ‘? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28“Father, glorify Your name.”

The first part of verse 28 is definitely Father-focused, but one could argue that the preceding verse, 27, is a hypothetical prayer. But it becomes a real prayer in Matthew 26: 39:

39And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.

Verses of this nature have been used to illustrate various themes, including the bravery of the incarnate Christ in facing his destiny of dying, to a discussion of the dynamics of the doctrine of the trinity.

At the website JesusCentral.com we read,

We cannot know specifically if Jesus was afraid to die. We do know that, as God, He knew what was going to happen to Him. He knew He’d suffer a painful death and that He`d also be resurrected after. But, since Jesus was also a man (God chose to become a man), then He could have experienced similar thoughts and feelings to those we would feel in this situation.

Since Jesus knew the future, it is unlikely He would have been afraid of death itself because He knew He would go to be with His Father in Heaven. But, more likely, He could have apprehended the pain (especially since His death would be one of the most painful deaths a human being could go through).  He probably felt the same kind of fears that we all feel when confronted with the thought of pain…

The central theme in both of these examples is that Jesus is communing with the Father in terms of the master plan of which he is now the central figure. The first prayer talks about the revelation of the plan to us, the second the manner in which the plan was to be carried out.

He commiserates with the Father even as he is in the middle of the drama.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at two more types of “Lord’s Prayers” that are more specifically about us. Feel free to leave comments on today’s as we only scratched the surface.

January 4, 2015

Contrasts of the Cross

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Ephesians 5:2 NLT

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;
2 Cor. 5:14 NASB

God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.
 2 Cor: 5:21 NET

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
 John 15:13 NIV

 

I tried to find this online or some other information about it, but was unsuccessful. My beloved wife agreed to type this out manually. The copy we have attributes it to T. G. Low. As you study this, you might think of some key scriptures that come to mind beyond the four we’ve started with above.

Contrasts of the Cross

Contrasts of the Cross

We see the son of God, who created all things, hanging between the heaven and the earth which he created;

We see a man who loved the whole world, but was hated by his own people;

We see the light of the world, but he is dying in total darkness;

We see the Messiah, or the Christ, the anointed of God, wearing a crown of thorns;

We see the king of Kings and the Lord of Lords as a common criminal;

We see the healer of the sick the lame, the deaf and the blind suffering Himself in deepest agony;

We see the one who is served by millions of angels dying all alone;

We see the one who saved others with infinite power now weak in his own body;

We see the only person who lived without sin hanging between two thieves;

We see hands and feet that only brought blessing nailed to an old rugged cross;

We see He who set men free as a prisoner himself;

We see the king of the Jews treated by the Romans as a slave;

We see the innocent, holy, blameless lamb of God shedding His own blood to fulfill the will and purpose of God;

We see God, very God in Jesus Christ, crucified for his own creation;

We see the One who ordered the total universe dying amid great confusion near Jerusalem;

In the cross God sees life, but we see death;

In the cross God sees the healing of the nations but we see great suffering;

With human eyes we see the greatest tragedy of all time, but God in the cross sees the greatest victory that has taken place in heaven or on earth.

T. G. Low

April 18, 2014

Thoughts for Good Friday

Isaiah 53

The Voice (VOICE)

53 Indeed, who would ever believe it?
    Who would possibly accept what we’ve been told?[a]
    Who has witnessed the awesome power and plan of the Eternal in action?[b]
Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground.
He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—
    he had no physical beauty to attract our attention.
So he was despised and forsaken by men,
    this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend.
As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way;
    he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him.
Yet it was our suffering he carried,
    our pain[c] and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness.
We just figured that God had rejected him,
    that God was the reason he hurt so badly.
But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so.
    Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him.
He endured the breaking that made us whole.
    The injuries he suffered became our healing.
We all have wandered off, like shepherdless sheep,
    scattered by our aimless striving and endless pursuits;
The Eternal One laid on him, this silent sufferer,
    the sins of us all.

And in the face of such oppression and suffering—silence.
    Not a word of protest, not a finger raised to stop it.
Like a sheep to a shearing, like a lamb to be slaughtered,
    he went—oh so quietly, oh so willingly.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away.
    From this generation, who was there to complain?
Who was there to cry “Foul”?
    He was, after all, cut off from the land of the living,
Smacked and struck, not on his account,
    because of how my people (my people!)
Disregarded the lines between right and wrong.
    They snuffed out his life.[d]
And when he was dead, he was buried with the disgraced
    in borrowed space (among the rich),
Even though he did no wrong by word or deed.[e]

It is hard to understand why God would crush His innocent Servant. But it is in His suffering for sin that God deals decisively with sin and its harmful effects.

10 Yet the Eternal One planned to crush him all along,
    to bring him to grief, this innocent servant of God.
When he puts his life in sin’s dark place, in the pit of wrongdoing,
    this servant of God will see his children and have his days prolonged.
For in His servant’s hand, the Eternal’s deepest desire will come to pass and flourish.
11 As a result of the trials and troubles that wrack his soul,
    God’s servant will see light and be content
Because He knows, really understands, what it’s about; as God says,
    “My just servant will justify countless others by taking on their punishment and bearing it away.
12 Because he exposed his very self—
    laid bare his soul to the vicious grasping of death—
And was counted among the worst, I will count him among the best.
    I will allot this one, My servant, a share in all that is of any value,
Because he took on himself the sin of many
    and acted on behalf of those who broke My law.”

  1. 53:1 Romans 10:16
  2. 53:1 John 12:38
  3. 53:4 Matthew 8:17
  4. 53:7–8 Acts 8:33
  5. 53:9 1 Peter 2:22

 


Here also is a potpourri of thoughts from http://www.dailychristianquote.com Don’t rush through these, pause over them to grasp what the writers were discovering…


Good Friday is the mirror held up by Jesus so that we can see ourselves in all our stark reality, and then it turns us to that cross and to his eyes and we hear these words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” That’s us! And so we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. We see in that cross a love so amazing so divine that it loves us even when we turn away from it, or spurn it, or crucify it. There is no faith in Jesus without understanding that on the cross we see into the heart of God and find it filled with mercy for the sinner whoever he or she may be.

~ Robert G. Trache


Christ died. He left a will in which He gave His soul to His Father, His body to Joseph of Arimathea, His clothes to the soldiers, and His mother to John. But to His disciples, who had left all to follow Him, He left not silver or gold, but something far better – His PEACE!

~ Matthew Henry


God led Jesus to a cross, not a crown, and yet that cross ultimately proved to be the gateway to freedom and forgiveness for every sinner in the world. God also asks us as Jesus’ followers to carry a cross. Paradoxically, in carrying that cross, we find liberty and joy and fulfillment.

~ Bill Hybels


Christ is the Son of God. He died to atone for men’s sin, and after three days rose again. This is the most important fact in the universe. I die believing in Christ. –

~ Watchman Nee (Note found under his pillow, in prison, at his death)


As out of Jesus’ affliction came a new sense of God’s love and a new basis for love between men, so out of our affliction we may grasp the splendor of God’s love and how to love one another. Thus the consummation of the two commandments was on Golgotha; and the Cross is, at once, their image and their fulfillment.

~ Malcolm Muggeridge


The Christian community is a community of the cross, for it has been brought into being by the cross, and the focus of its worship is the Lamb once slain, now glorified. So the community of the cross is a community of celebration, a eucharistic community, ceaselessly offering to God through Christ the sacrifice of our praise and thanksgiving. The Christian life is an unending festival. And the festival we keep, now that our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us, is a joyful celebration of his sacrifice, together with a spiritual feasting upon it.

~ John R. W. Stott


This Word played life against death and death against life in tournament on the wood of the most holy cross, so that by his death he destroyed our death, and to give us life he spent his own bodily life. With love, then, he has so drawn us and with his kindness so conquered our malice that every heart should be won over.

~ Catherine of Siena


And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
~ How Great Thou Art

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
~ And Can It Be

 

April 20, 2011

He Took The Nails

I only know her as Missy.  She writes a parenting blog, It’s Almost Naptime, that often draws over 1,000 (mostly women) readers in a single day, and I highly recommend it, especially if, like her, your family grew quickly and the kids are still small.   I dropped in this morning only to discover a wonderful illustration in one of her recent posts, Better Me Than You.

[C201 readers are always encouraged to read the post at the author’s website/blog.]


Because I am barefoot 99% of the time, and because we aren’t the neatest house on the block, the incident of stepping on sharp, pointy objects is an all too common occurrence.

I wish I could blame it on the kids, but I’ve never had the neatest house on the block. My floor has always been a bit of a landmine. The soles of my feet are riddled with the scars of my domestic ineptitude.

Recently for some odd reason I was blessed to be wearing shoes when I stepped up the stairs and directly on top of a wayward nail which pierced straight through the sole of my shoe and into my poor foot. As I screamed dramatically, the thought ran through my mind which, for almost seven years, has been repeated every time I have been assaulted by my own home: Glad I got to that first. Better me than one of the kids.

That pretty much sums up the change in our hearts (and pain tolerance) caused by motherhood, doesn’t it? A tack in the foot no longer yields screaming and curses, but gratitude. The same tack could have harmed the sweet soft skin of my precious child. It hurts, but it would have hurt my baby worse. Better me than him.

Soon after Shepherd’s birth, I realized my love was so strong for this child that, not only would I take a bullet for him, but I’d take a bullet for him gladly. With zero hesitation. Now the chances of me being asked to take a bullet for one of my children are thankfully very small. But thumbtacks? Slivers of glass? Runaway carpet nails? A Lego with a vendetta? It’s a repetitive – sometimes daily – sacrifice.

Today I was cleaning the girls’ room. As I slid my hand under Maggie’s bed, my right thumb made direct contact with a pointy piece of glass. A rather large piece of glass, which could have done substantial damage to a small foot. My blood oozed from my body, while, as usual, I expressed gratitude for the opportunity to get to it first. Better me than her.

I stared at the blood stained glass when suddenly, I stifled a sob, and doubled over.

For the image of my bloody Savior hanging on a cross had appeared in my mind.

And He said, Better Me than you.

The Lord, in His wondrous mercy, beat me to the piercing, and the pain, and the blood. It was a sacrifice. Because He loves me even more than I love my own children.

When they tied his arms to a post with his back exposed, and He braced Himself for what was to come, He said, Better Me than you.

When they raised the whip, it’s tendrils tied with pointy pieces of glass and metal and bone, He said, Better Me than you.

When they brought the whip down on His back, with full force, over and over and over and over and over, He said, Better Me than you.

When the skin had been shredded and the arteries and veins in the muscles in His back began to hemorrhage, He said, Better Me than you.

When they dug the crown of thorns into his head, He said, Better Me than you.

When they grabbed His beard in their hands and pulled as hard as they could to rip the hair from His face, He said, Better Me than you.

When they cursed Him and called Him the foulest names they could think of, He said, Better Me than you.

When they slapped and punched His bleeding cheeks, and mocked Him, and spit on Him, and beat Him with a staff until His bloody tortured body was unrecognizable as human, He said, Better Me than you.

When they forced him to lift the seventy five pound crossbeam, lay it across his scourged and lacerated shoulders, and ordered his failing body to walk, He said, Better Me than you.

When the loss of blood and the pain from the tortures caused him to stumble and drop the cross, He said, Better Me than you.

When they stripped off all His clothes and threw His naked, mutilated body down on the cross, hammered thick, heavy, wrought-iron nails into His wrists, then lifted Him into place, He said, Better Me than you.

When they crossed his ankles and hammered similar nails into the arches of his feet, He said, Better Me than you.

When He struggled to breathe, causing Himself excruciating pain no matter how He moved, He said, Better Me than you.

When He looked into the face of a mother, His mother, watching the murder of her precious child, her baby boy, He said, Better Me than you.

When His Father turned His back on Him, when He felt most forsaken, when He cried out in agony and heartache and despair, He said, Better Me than you.

When His chest filled with fluid and He felt His own heart drown within Him, He said, Better Me than you.

When He cried out before He finally suffocated to death, He said, Better Me than you.

When He took on the wrath of God and paid the penalty for your sins, and my sins, and our beloved children’s sins, He said, Better Me than you.

This is love:
not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10