Christianity 201

April 16, 2017

Why Good Friday is Good?

by Russell Young

This being Easter weekend, I was compelled, like most, to consider the events that took place more than two millennia ago. The immense importance of the passion of Christ can never be taken for granted, but perhaps the exact events, those hidden from view, can escape our appreciation. I have discovered that reflecting on the sacrificial offering of Christ has given clarity to other biblical teachings.

Accepting that Christ died for my sins is humbling and awe-inspiring. Appreciating the unseen dynamics is enlightening. For instance, how did his death “destroy the work of Satan”? The Lord’s death was not a simple trade of his life for mine.

Christ came “to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 Jn 3:8 NIV) Trading lives would not have accomplished the destruction of Satan’s power. His power rested in his ability to make people sin, bringing about their death and ultimately defeating God’s plan to have a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. The defeat of Satan’s work could only be accomplished by eradicating sin and the death that accompanied it. It is transgression of the law that comprises sin-the law of Moses. Paul wrote, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” (1 Cor 15:56 NIV) And, “Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” (Rom 4:15 NIV) The law had to be satisfied and terminated. That is what Christ accomplished.

It is true that I deserved death for sin just as do all of humankind. I had been caught in Satan’s deceits and those practices that were offensive to my creator and sovereign. Had justice been served neither I nor anyone else would have survived. Satan would have won. There would not have been a single person suitable for God’s presence. Had Christ died for my sins and for those of all of humanity, the devil’s work would still not have been completed since sin would have reared its ugly head again during the remaining part of my life.

Some teach that all sin was forgiven at the cross but this is not so. According to Hebrews 9:15, “[Christ] died as a ransom to set [believers] free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” If at confession of faith, only my past sins had been forgiven, I would have still been at the mercy of the devil since my evil nature would have compelled me to continue in sin.

Christ not only provided my pardon, he defeated sin by destroying the law that defined it. Christ brought to an end the Old Covenant, the covenant of the law of Moses, the covenant that kills. (2 Cor 3:6) There can be no more sin under its jurisdiction. (see again Rom 4:15) This is Christ’s great victory over the devil. He robbed Satan of his power. Again, the writer of Hebrews stated, “For this reason (to cleanse our moral consciences from acts that lead to death) Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.” (Heb 9:15 NIV) The writer also stated, “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first obsolete.” (Heb 8:13 NIV) Believer’s are no longer under the righteous requirements of the Old Covenant and the evil one can no longer use its laws to cause sin and to bring about death.

That is not the end of the matter, however. John wrote of The Lord’s victory and of his proclamation: “I am the first and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Rev 1:18 NIV) The one who holds the keys has the power to control their use. That is, Christ has the power to determine who will die, who will be sentenced to Hades, and who will find eternal life. These are his determination!

The sacrificial death of Christ, in itself, does not fully meet the need of believers. The Lord holds the keys, and the matter of righteousness has not been concluded as some suppose. God still has requirements for those who are to dwell with him throughout eternity and the issue remains a “law” issue, not the law of Moses but the law of the Spirit. (Rom 8:2) “For the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”(NIV) The issue remains one of obedience, and God’s righteous requirements still exist; Christ is the means of accomplishing them, however. Paul wrote: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so, he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3─4 NIV) The New Covenant is a covenant of the Spirit. The Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18) and he must be obeyed. (Heb 5:9) Fortunately for me and for all who claim the name of Christ, the law of the Spirit is embodied in the Spirit and he gives the power to accomplish his law and to achieve victory over Satan for the believer. (2 Pet 1:3) I have been freed from the death I deserved and from the weakness of my sinful nature. I walk cleansed and in the power and authority of the Spirit of Christ. Greater is he that is in [me] than he that is in the world.” (1 Jn 4:4 NIV) I have a better hope of victory because I have Christ and his presence in me. (Col 1:27)

In the end those who have claimed belief will face Christ at judgment to determine their reward or judgment in compliance to his rule. Freedom from judgment comes from allowing the Spirit to enlighten, lead, and empower the believer so that he or she does not commit practices that are offensive to God. Believers are compelled to walk in the light-in obedience to the Spirit-or as Christ walked. (1 Jn 2:6)

The great work of the cross was the destruction of Satan’s power by instituting a new and better covenant empowered by Christ, and the cleansing of believers from the sin that they carried while under the Old Covenant.

September 18, 2016

Communion: Eating and Drinking, the Forgotten Components

Communionby Russell Young

Communion should be a powerful reminder, not just of what Christ has done but of that which he continues to do in the believer’s life.  It is well understood that the body of Christ was broken for mankind; the significance of eating the bread and drinking the wine is less well appreciated.

Christ said, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (Jn 6:53 NIV) Although some do not connect this revelation to communion its linking seems obvious.  The Lord has made it clear that unless the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood is done, a person has no life.  Communion is not only a command of Christ; it should be a potent reminder of the Lord’s ongoing ministry for the believer and of each person’s need.  It is not so much obedience to the command that God requires as it is a reminder to continuously eat and drink of the Lord.

Luke has recorded the Lord’s Passover celebration: “And he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in [because of, through] my blood, which was poured out for you.” (Lk 22:19-20 NIV) The new covenant, a covenant of the Spirit, was made available through the blood of Christ (Heb 9:15) and is only accomplished through the willingness of the believer to be led by the Spirit.

The bread of communion is to remember that Jesus, the Christ, gave his body as propitiation for the sins of the world. Bread also had great spiritual significance for the Israelites. Bread was and is a staple of life.  It nourishes the body and provides strength.  In the wilderness, manna, which was bread-like, had been provided for the Israelites. It was very nourishing and gave life to the Israelites as they wandered the wilderness.  However, Moses told them that “man does not live on bread alone but from every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut 8:3 NIV) Christ said that he was the bread of life, the nourishment they needed.  He promised that those who “eat” (take him in) would never die. He said, “I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.” (Jn 6:48-49 NIV) Jesus is also referenced as being “the Word.” (Jn 1:1; Rev 18:13)

The Bible also states that Ezekiel was given a scroll and was told to eat. “Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.’ So I ate it and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.” (Eze 3:4 NIV) The apostle John was also given a little scroll and was told to eat it (Rev 10:9), after which he was told to prophesy again. The scrolls contained the words of God and these servants were told to eat them.

The bread not only represents the Lord’s death, the significance of communion also rests in the understanding that the bread is God’s Word which must be taken in daily. Bread needs to be chewed, to be digested, in order to be made useful; it cannot be swallowed whole. Likewise, the Word needs to be “chewed” and digested.

Neither is wine a mere remembrance of the shed blood of Christ.  Life is in the blood. (Deut 12:23) Blood symbolizes the Spirit and drinking it symbolizes taking in the Spirit.  “The Spirit gives life.” (Jn 6:63 NIV) “He [came to] convict the world [including the believer] of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (Jn 16:8 NIV) The Spirit saves through his sanctifying work. (2 Thess 2:13; Titus 3:5-6) Since his sanctifying work has not been completed (Gal 5:5), neither has the believer’s need.  Communion needs to be a reminder of that fact; he or she must take in the Spirit and allow their Lord to live within them, leading them in righteousness apart from the law (Rom 8:4 ), into sonship (Rom 8:9) and it is he who will provide the believer with eternal life. (Heb 5:9; Jn 10:27-28) The people who will dwell in the Lord’s eternal presence are required to “let the Spirit renew [their] thoughts and attitudes.” (Eph 4:24 NLT; Rom 8:29)

Eating the bread is a different issue than breaking it.  The eating is a reminder that Christ is in the believer and that his Word must also be within them.  The living Spirit provided through the Lord’s blood is necessary if the believer is to gain victory over sin and to be conformed to the likeness of God’s Son. Christ in the believer is his hope of glory (Col 1:27) and the means of glorifying him. The acts of eating the bread and of drinking the wine will not clearly portray meaning to the believer until their significance is commemorated. Neither will the fullness of the Lord’s ministry and of the believer’s need be remembered until proper celebration takes place.

How great is God!  There is no good thing in us.  But, with Christ in us what great things can be accomplished.  What “good” is possible!  The fullness of His ministry must be commemorated! This must be remembered regularly.

May 4, 2015

Cana, Covenant, and Christ

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is an awesome post by Hardin Crowder, a blogger I’ve been reading regularly for many months. I believe it’s his first time here at C201. Click the title below and read this in its original format.

The Joy Behind The Wedding at Cana

When God Attends Your Wedding

I absolutely adore weddings, and I believe that God does too. I don’t think it is an accident that the human story in the Bible both begins and ends with a wedding. I also don’t think that it is an accident that Jesus’ first public miracle took place during a wedding celebration:

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “ Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “ Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “ Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “ Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “ Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

– John 2:1-11

One has to wonder why, of all the times and places, this seemingly uneventful wedding was where Jesus chose to perform his first public miracle. This miracle wasn’t performed in front of Kings, or Pharisees, or great men of power and influence. This miracle was performed in front of servants. It was performed at a wedding for a couple who couldn’t even afford enough wine to feed their guests.

One also has to wonder why, of all the miracles that could have been performed, did Christ decide to do something so trivial as providing refreshments. Why not start off by feeding the 5,000, or walking on water, or healing the lame? Does a wine shortage at a wedding really merit a miracle?

The New Covenant Wine

One thing I love about the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus is that an event can have multiple meanings. On the surface level, this is simply an act of kindness on the part of Christ. The poor groom had served all the wine he could afford, but it was not enough to satisfy his guests. Everyone attending the wedding would soon know that this groom had reached his limits and had come up short. He had failed to fulfill his duties. Christ’s intervention spared the poor groom the embarrassment of having to own up to his inability in front of all his friends and family.

There is, however, an even deeper meaning here. Jesus could have taken water from any source and turned it into wine, or perhaps even caused wine to appear out of thin air, but he didn’t. Jesus specifically told the servants to use the water from stone jars set apart for Jewish rites of purification.

These jars were used for ceremonial washing, and represented a core element of the Laws of Moses. They were used to protect jewish purity and make sure that people stayed ritually clean. The water from these jars washed away your dirtiness, at least on the surface level, and symbolically covered up the sins of the people. This was not simply drinking water. It served a specific purpose, and Jesus requested it to be used for this miracle.

Jesus Christ, God incarnate, was at this moment fundamentally changing everything. He was saying that these jars no longer need to be used for this purpose of ritual cleanliness. The ritual purity of the law of Moses was no longer necessary to hide your sin. No longer do you need to cover your sin and shame with ritual washings, for Christ has come and a new covenant is upon us!

He took the water meant to cover sin, and turned it into wine for a celebration!

Christ Is Better

Once the water is turned into wine and presented to the master of the feast, he declares that “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, the the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

On the surface one can read this passage and think, “Of course Jesus’ wine is better. What benefit would there be to making miraculously mediocre wine?”

There is, however, a deeper truth to be found here as well. The master of the feast was right when he says that “Everyone serves the good wine first.” I know that I am guilty of this in more ways than one. Human beings like to be loved, and as a result we often present and idealized version of ourselves to others. We put on masks and filter ourselves to make sure that the people around us only see the good side. Only once a person has tasted our “good wine” do we let them see our “poor wine” as well.

All of us are playing a part, hoping to impress. We put out as much “good wine” as we can possibly muster up, and only show our “poor wine” when we have to.  All of us, like the poor groom, are terrified of being left empty and ashamed. We fear that once we have given our all, it will not be enough.

That’s where Jesus comes in. He picks up where you fall short. He accomplishes what you and I never could.

With Jesus the best is always yet to come. When your walk with Christ first begins it is like tasting good wine for the very first time. One wonders how they ever could have thought the poor wine of the world was ever worth anything. One thinks that it can never get better than this, and to their surprise it does.

I’ve been a Christian for several years now, and never once has Christ failed to amaze me. The deeper I go in my walk with him, the sweeter and more beautiful his gospel is. Times of prayer grow from being a chore, to being the highlight of every day. Reading scripture goes from an obligation to becoming a bottomless well of inspiration. His commands stop seeming like limitations as we begin to catch glimpses of the joy that is the faithful Christian life. Jesus becomes your all, and you begin to realize that in Him is a peace, joy, and fulfillment that (like a fine wine) only grows greater with time.

It is no coincidence that the Bible describes the Church as the Bride of Christ. He is the groom we all need. He provides the wine that never runs out, and always proves to be better. We are simply called to taste and see that the Lord is good!

Are You Empty?

Are you willing to admit that even our best can only hope to mask the fact that we simply aren’t good enough?

Are you willing to admit that, though you might put out your best for everyone, you know that you can’t keep up appearances forever, and you are afraid that one day people might just sees the real you?

Are you worried that one day you are going to run dry? Or maybe you are completely spent already, and you don’t know where else to turn?

Are you tired of falling into the same messes? Tired of trying to get yourself clean, only to find that the stains never fully go away?

If that is you I have good news…

Christ is enough

Christ sees the real you, and wants the real you to be his bride.

He died for you to save you at your very worst.

He will not let your cup run dry, he will fill you up so that you never thirst again.

His sacrifice is enough to wash away all your sins in a way that soap and water never could, and he takes great joy in washing you white as snow (or perhaps white as the dress of a bride on her wedding day).

Christ is seeking out his bride and calling her home, will you come?

 

August 9, 2014

What People Might Say

ESV John 5:2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic[a] called Bethesda,[b] which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.[c] One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews[d] said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

Today’s blog post is a reminder that sometimes we might hesitate to do something truly good because we’re concerned about what people might say, or that they might think we’re doing it in the wrong way.  The writer, who goes simply by Dan, blogs at Apprentice 2 Jesus. To read this at source, click on the title below.

You bunch of Sabbath breakers!

John 5 gives us the story of the lame man healed at the Pool of Bethesda. The real problem the Jewish leadership had was… horrors! … Jesus healed on the SABBATH. 

They were so concerned about Sabbath breaking they missed the larger point of actually helping someone. 

Each of us, regardless of our theological leanings, have this temptation in us. We cut to the rules and find the rules we like to harp on and then we camp right there waiting for someone to trip over the rules, or our narrow theological definitions, or (place your issue here) and then we pounce.

For some theological circles, it’s upsetting if I hang out with homosexuals and call them my friends. For some theological/political circles, it is anathema that I mention Israel possibly doing something wrong in the current situation in Gaza.

For some, it’s upsetting to buy a sandwich at Chik-Fil-A, or buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks, or shop at Target…

In each case I could hear shouted out at me, “YOU SABBATH BREAKER!”

I have yelled it at times myself. It’s fun. It gets a lot of energy out. I feel a bit more superior… and RIGHT.

Which brings me to the point… and I do have one.

We are far more concerned (and I speak to “right,” “left,” or whatever stripe of theology you may bear) with being RIGHT than being RIGHTEOUS. We become consumed with winning the argument rather than being the apprentice to Jesus like we are called. We hesitate to help a Muslim or a homosexual or a Republican (I won’t let anyone off the hook. I’m an equal opportunity offender) because we fear someone wagging a religious finger at us and yelling, “SABBATH BREAKER!”

God help us to DO righteousness. To DO justice and to LOVE mercy! THEN we will know God!

March 31, 2013

It’s a New Day

I thought we’d begin today with a comment that George Hartwell left here a few days ago:

It is still the evening before it all – the evening when God revealed the secret that had been hidden for 1,200 years. All those Passover meals, all those animal sacrifices over all those years would soon be cancelled from the Roman cross with the declaration that “It is finished!”

The whole system of remembering the Passover is about to be fulfilled in one who revealed at a Passover meal with his disciples that he is The Lamb. The secret was revealed by the Spokesman for the Three, to a small group of 12 or so.

The Temple, the priests, the sacrificial system, the religious way of appeasing and appealing to God was all fulfilled and finished. Fulfilled in the one who is The Lamb and finished by the one who is The Lamb.

Enough of law, ritual and feast, They – the Three – want to meet with you and me, face to face, like Jesus that night having a special meal with his men, and sharing the secret. “I am the Lamb. Don’t you know me,__________?”

It’s a new day.

The sun rises on the age of a new covenant.

Yesterday, Jeff Dunn at Internet Monk posted a song which, strictly speaking is not an Easter song, but then again, it is insofar as it describes the next climactic scene in the panorama of scripture, when God and man sit down together, which is made possible by Calvary. He introduced it:

This week I thought I would share my favorite hymn with you, a hymn very appropriate for this weekend. Truly, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God and man at table are sat down. Enjoy, and Happy Resurrection Day.

Yes, fellowship with God starts now; eternal life starts now.  He has a different version posted, this one is an earlier one that is audio-only for my readers in remote places. You know who you are!

This is Hebrews 10: 11-12 from The Voice Bible, which is similar in some respects to The Amplified Bible:

11 In the first covenant, every day every officiating priest stands at his post serving, offering over and over those same sacrifices that can never take away sin. 12 But after He stepped up to offer His single sacrifice for sins for all time, He sat down in the position of honor at the right hand of God.

Click here to read the whole chapter in The Voice.

March 21, 2012

Rewriting the Epistles in the First Person

Here’s a really cool idea I’ve never seen before. You take a chapter of one of Paul’s epistles and rework it verse-by-verse into a first person declaration.  B. J. Stockman guest posted this at Vitamin Z, and I’m going to give you about half of it, but you’ll have to click through for the whole chapter.  He calls it “preaching to yourself.”  This could also be a great exercise for a small group, Sunday School class or youth group.

Galatians Chapter Three
  • I will not be foolish and be cast under the spell of trading the true Gospel of grace for a different one.  My greatest remedy against false gospels is to be infatuated and continually familiar with the true Gospel.  (3:1)
  • I will not be impressed with preachers that do not focus my eyes on Jesus Christ and whom do not consistently paint the picture of the crucified Jesus before me no matter how clever and inspiring and motivating they are in their preaching. (3:1)
  • I receive the Holy Spirit by faith, not by works.  I desire more of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life, and I receive the Spirit by faith in the finished work of Christ not by doing works. (3:2)
  • I will not pursue sanctification by works, but by faith.  I recognize that justification and sanctification are both by faith.  (3:3)
  • When suffering comes I know that it is not in vain, but that the Holy Spirit is still working.  Therefore I trust Jesus for endurance through suffering. (3:4)
  • God generously provides me with the Holy Spirit and works miracles through faith, not works.  I desire God’s gifts of a greater filling of the Holy Spirit and miracles, and I trust Him to provide them. (3:5)
  • I will not despise the preached word, but will believe the preached word that glorifies Jesus and emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit.  I recognize that hearing the word is critical in building my faith. (3:1-2, 5)
  • I know that God counted Abraham righteous because he believed God.  (3:6)
  • I am a son of Abraham because I believe the Gospel.  My brothers and sisters who believe the Gospel are sons of Abraham as well. (3:7)
  • The Old Testament Scriptures foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith.  Abraham had the gospel preached to him, as all nations are blessed in Abraham.  Therefore I will not ignore the Old Testament, but trust God’s word and God’s gospel in all the Scriptures. (3:8)
  • The blessing of Abraham is upon me because I am a believer like Abraham. (3:9)
  • When I work from law I am returning to the curse because I do not do all that is written in the law.  I refuse to live under the curse that the law brings, because I am now in Christ. (3:10)
  • It is evident that no one is justified by law-keeping, because in the Old Testament God has made clear that the righteous live by faith.  God’s righteousness is imputed to me by faith in Jesus not by law-keeping, and I am justified before God by faith not by law-keeping.  (3:11)
  • I will not live with the idea that the Old Testament was about law, while the New Testament is about faith.  God has always, in the Old and New Testament, said that the righteous live by faith not law. (3:10-12)

You’re almost halfway through but the best is ahead…. keep reading (click here)

You’ll also find on the same blog examples of Galatians 1 and Galatians 2.

Update, Saturday March 24th: Later on in the week, B. J. added chapters four and five.  We decided to publish both chapter five in the NIV and B. J.’s first person version at Thinking Out Loud in parallel, so you could compare what he wrote side-by-side with the text.