Christianity 201

April 18, 2022

“A Certain Man”

There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard… – Matthew 21:33

For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. – Matthew 25:14 NASB

A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. – Luke 7:41 NET

A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers. Luke 10:30 YLT

A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard – Luke 13:6 KJV

A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many guests – Luke 14:16 AMP

There was a rich man who received an accusation that his manager was squandering his possessions – Luke 16:1 HCSB

A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. – Luke 19:12 NASB

Although I didn’t stick with the KJV in this list, it often uses the phrase “A certain man;” as an indicator that Jesus is about to tell a story. A fictional story. Many commentators have said that when he says, “a certain man;” he might as well be saying “Once upon a time…” To our ears that indicates a fable. To those listening to a rabbi teach, the purpose might not be entertainment, or even to describe a moral principle, but rather to teach a spiritual lesson, to relate it to the number one theme in Jesus’ ministry, what the Kingdom of God is like.

Also, the use of “a certain man” doesn’t necessarily indicate a parable, and John uses it differently as do the Old Testament writers.

All this is introduction for today’s return to the devotional blog Get Along With God. They use different writers, and the one we’re reading today is John Enslow. Click the header which follows to read where we sourced it.

Parables – God With Us

All the parables of the Bible are God’s attempting to connect our earthly experience to His heavenly reality. I love when God connects our tangible experience with something deeply spiritual and heavenly. For example, His speaking to His agrarian culture about grapevines, fields, wine, oil, vineyard relating it all to His Heavenly Kingdom. When He used their earthly experience to reveal His heavenly reality, they saw in the Spirit so much clearer. They knew what they knew, and He met them in their experience to communicate something beyond their earthly understanding.

Christ wasn’t simply speaking about elusive Kingdom concepts, He was making things more tangible and real for their hearts by share Kingdom realities through earthly experiences. These parables just solidified it in their life, heart and spirits. Parables are intended to connect our awareness by plugging it into heaven’s reality. It is simply genius!

Being a Child – God With US

I am so grateful He knows us like this on such a deep level. That He doesn’t speak beyond our ability to make a connection to His meaning. While the mind of the flesh sees it as foolishness, the receptive childlike heart can grasp deep meaning from simple examples. And in actuality, it is only as we enter in with a childlike heart, that will we see meaning beyond the ordinary.

Imagine, our God is able to connect our hearts, our living, our experiences with His Kingdom. Who else could take something that is mere dirt and reveal something extremely eternal.

The parables of God are a further expression of God With US—Emmanuel! God wants to be with us in our lives to bring us beyond our lives into His Heavenly Reality. Remarkably He does this by coming into our experience and awareness and then surpassing it with His own. He so wants us with Him and comes to be with us.

Parables Today

Our lives are a continual opportunity to receive His parable reality. Jesus will uses our living expressions to communicate His deep truths. The Gospel is deeply tangible and totally relevant to my now moments. He will speak into my living experience just as I know it. This is who He is, God with me – God with US!

So as we live our lives in Him, let’s let Him be God with US. Let’s look for Him to connect our individual experience with His unique design. Le’s listen to hear His voice as He wants to reveal Himself deeply to us. He is so willing to be God with us as He reveals Himself to us.


Second Helping: By the same author, check out I am the Dwelling of God – A Living Tabernacle.


Old Testament Parables: If you’ve been in the church for any length of time, you know there is often intense discussion as to whether all of the narratives in the Old Testament are describing real events. And just because Jesus quotes the story, doesn’t mean the story happened. (If I’m speaking to a group of people and say, “It’s just like what happened to Jack with his beanstock;” that doesn’t mean I believe in magic beans.)

The two narratives most often discussed in this context are Job and Jonah. What do you think? Do you read these as literal events which happened as described? And as hard it is to gauge reaction this last question with everyone, does it really matter if they are parables?

 

December 17, 2021

God’s Storytelling Writes People into the Narrative

Another new writer to feature today. Gabriel Ponce is a pastor in Tucson Arizona who “is passionate about developing people’s relationships with Christ.”I like the way he wrestles through texts, stating that, “if the Bible speaks to an issue, then God has a perspective that we as Christians should submit to. If not, there may be principles to garner, and if not then we fall to the realm of wisdom for help, always being aware of the history. In all things to give God glory.” He admits that “this is partly me working through many issues for myself, that a pulpit doesn’t always grant opportunity for on a Sunday morning.

His blog is Blogabers.

To avoid stealing search engine results from the various people we feature here, I always create our own title for the piece; but sometimes, like today, ask myself, “Did I accurately capture what the article is all about?” I appreciated this one greatly, and I hope it gets you thinking as it did me.

Clicking the header which follows will take you to its source.

The Humanity of the Gospel

As I read through the Gospels again, I was struck by the humanness of the story of Jesus. What I mean is not so much the humanity of Christ, but how much God seemed to allow for the agency of man to be a part of the story. This is first obvious in the advent itself. But I don’t mean God left the story’s rhythm up to the capriciousness of men. Yet, he did use the obedience of men, the experiences of men, instead of the supernatural intervention we might expect. Mary was a willing participant and, therefore, she was blessed by God to be a part of the story.

After the incarnation, the birth of Christ, it is almost as if the safety of Jesus is left up to Joseph to lead his family. Why no mention of divine protection like the angels standing guard in Eden? Why doesn’t God strike Herod dead for attempting to take the life of Jesus? Why do Joseph and Mary have to flee? That is not to say this wasn’t available, but the story is not told in this way. Obviously, this is to fulfill prophecy, yet there is an element where God seems to want to include his people in the story. (Matthew 2:15) Even Herod’s wicked deed was a fulfillment of prophecy. (Matthew 2:18) Later, when Joseph is warned not to return to Galilee, he escapes to Nazareth by warning of an angel, and again this is a fulfillment of prophecy, but wasn’t the angel wearing a sword? What I mean by the humanity of the Gospel is how earthy and human God allows all the parts of the story to be. (It is almost like he wants to relate to us)

Jesus lived the true human experience. He was raised by human parents, even being misunderstood when he stayed at the temple, yet remained obedient to his parents when told to return with them. Presumably he worked with Joseph learning a trade until the time for his ministry began.  This leads of course to John the Baptist. God is working through the evangel of a prophet here to fulfill his duty. Why does God use men instead of just throwing his weight around? Why even use a prophet–just write it in the clouds and have angels appear and announce the truth? Even the baptism of Jesus is so human. Jesus comes and demonstrates obedience instead of the, simpler for him and flashier to us, ways he could have given revelation. Just snap your fingers and have explosions, lights, and trumpets blare, or something…It is not just the Jews who like signs.

This leads to the temptations of Jesus. Jesus could have just one finger punched the devil into a mountain, instead, He puts up with the temptations from Satan. Jesus continually restricts himself to his humanity to demonstrate a supernatural reality. This same kind of thing happens when Jesus had Simon fish out a coin from a fish’s mouth to pay a temple tax. (Matthew 17:24-27) He does things with what is around him for a purpose. I could keep doing this, but there is an obvious point in all this. Maybe it is so obvious, this is redundant, but God is looking for people to respond to his call. Everything in the story is a lesson of revelation.

It is a similar epiphany I had when reading from Exodus 34:16-17. God shares his pedigree. When the opportunity to introduce himself formally to Moses comes, He doesn’t go all flashy. He doesn’t say, “I Am Holy, Beautiful, Powerful, Amazing, Brilliant, Perfect, Awesome, and so Gloriously bright you gotta wear shades!” while holy electric guitars were wailing. Though he certainly is all those things, instead he uses relational attributes. “The LORD the LORD merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in Love…”

These are attributes that have meaning in relation to his creatures. God invites us to worship him by his interactions with us instead of doing an impressive dance number singing, “U can’t touch this!” Though, if Genesis chapter one isn’t such an awe-inspiring mind-bending feat, then I don’t know what is. But God never flaunts his power, He states it, and then begins to teach. He is not like a kid demonstrating his might over ants with his shoe. No, He seems to want to bring us along to his truth. I think of when Jesus is being arrested. The disciples want to fight for him, and He simply reminds them that he has command of the angels of God, if such an endeavor was called for. If only…

52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26)

I love this passage. Jesus isn’t speaking in parables; He isn’t clouding his language. He isn’t speaking loftily in spiritual language flying over their heads. He is almost pausing the whole story and commentating, Hey, guys do you really think things are out of control? Do you really fear that things just happen outside the purview of God? Do you truly worry that I am without power in this situation? No, I am doing this for a reason. I love this story because this is how we would assume it would be. A king commands. A leader leads. God doesn’t lose. So, we must understand that while we may wonder at or desire this more supernatural approach, Jesus seems to want to bring us along with him, not leave us behind as he travels on clouds dealing out lightning bolts and flaming swords. God’s ways are higher than man’s ways after all. (Isaiah 55:9) Though they may not always look like it to us.

It seems that God is working through the obedience of men to fulfill his own will, not through the demonstration of the ability to dominate. But he did miracles all the time! Yes, it is interesting, the power he does demonstrate is always for verification of his words. Who He is. It is for establishing his truth, his pedigree. It is making the not-so-subtle point that God is on his side. As you read through the Gospels, especially in Mark, it is almost as if Jesus is doing many private miracles out of compassion, above his mission. He wanted to preach, not simply be a miracle worker, that would take all day–and this seems to be why he is always telling people to keep quiet about it. Think of how easy it could have been when the Jews continually asked for signs for him to do so. Anytime someone questioned him, he could snap his finger and the ground would shake and swallow them whole. Think of it, people would have believed then, but for the wrong reasons.

God didn’t merely want fealty. He does not show up like Loki slamming his specter down in power and demanding that everyone must kneel, not yet, he first comes with an offer of the forgiveness of sins. He didn’t do that because he desires that none should perish. He draws us by the Spirit and again preaches to us through the Gospel message. He wants a relationship and that is so interesting. He certainly requires obedience and calls us to repentance, but it is more of an offer than a coaxing. I know my Calvinist friends, and I consider myself one too, might want to push back with the calling and election, but the language is broader than that. Jesus doesn’t minister as if the election is the point, He ministers as if their faithful response is. When He calls out their hardness of heart, it is after they have demonstrated an unwillingness to respond. The Word of God is understandable.

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2)

That is why the humanity of the incarnation at the advent is so remarkable. Jesus came as a human to communicate to us, in a real sense, at our level. He came as a child to live like a man to minister to men and to call us all to himself. This is the miracle in the Christmas story. He came this way to sympathize with us. To be with us, as the name Emmanuel communicates.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4)

The story of Jesus is so human because we are. But it doesn’t stay there, He is God in flesh. The posture of Jesus towards us is sympathy because he desires that we respond to him. He came into the world so that the world might be saved through him. The message of Jesus is to repent and believe because we need it. Ask yourself, why did he come?

September 16, 2012

Basic Concepts Reminder: Fullness of Deity

NIV Col 2: 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…

MSG Col 2: 9-10 … Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

It’s All There!

This term is used only here in the Bible, although Paul and other writers use similar phrases and ideas elsewhere (John 1:16; Colossians 1:19).

When Paul wrote to the Colossians, part of his purpose was to refute a teaching called Gnosticism that was influencing some of the Christians at Colossae.  According to this pagan belief, all matter was inherently evil, and only the soul and the mind were good.  This logically led to a denial of God’s creation of the world as well as a denial of Jesus’ incarnation or humanity.

Gnostics denied that Jesus was ever human and that Jesus died physically or was literally resurrected from the grave.  In this letter, Paul attacks these teachings and argues that Jesus, as God, created the universe (1:16), died on the cross (1:20), and had a human body (2:9).  But he adds more, declaring that during His time of humanity, Jesus also retained all the attributes and characteristics of God (see also Philippians 2:5-8).

All the powers and attributes that Jesus possessed in His deity were also present in his humanity.  All that God is in His divine essence is present also in Jesus Christ.  No inferiority or subordination exists within the Trinity or between God the Father and God the Son.  God’s loving, merciful and forgiving nature was manifested and demonstrated by the life and death of Jesus Christ. He was God incarnate, and that is why He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

In Colossians 2:9, Paul is doing more than simply teaching a technical or abstract point of theology.  He is reminding the Colossian Christians and all who would hear this letter that because Jesus is God and Christians have a unique relationship to Him, they too have received grace and enormous blessings (Colossians 2:10; Ephesians 1:3).  The Gnostics promoted a spiritual hierarchy and caste system that required secret knowledge for advancement.  They also taught that a person had to work through angels and many intermediaries to have access to God.  The Bible rejects these views.  The fullness of God is in Jesus Christ and the Christian is complete in Jesus Christ, who alone serves as a mediator and advocate for all who believe (1 Timothy 2:5).  No superiority or inferiority exists among Christians.  No one is lesser or greater than another.  All Christians are equal (Galatians 3:26-28).

Tim Demy in 101 Most Puzzling Bible Verses, Harvest House 2006, chapter 79