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.

October 29, 2016

Words That Knock You Down

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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As we mentioned yesterday, devotions and studies here often begin with the words, “Today we return to the blog of ______ …” as we catch up with writers we’ve used in the same month, but previous years. Yesterday and today we’re taking the liberty of running two posts from B.J. Richardson at The River Walk. Click the titles to see these at source, you can also click the “merch” link to find out about owning copies of his studies in John’s gospel. Each devotional also has a related music video which you can see there.

Two Words

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them.
“Who are you looking for?” he asked.
“Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied.

I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.)
As Jesus said I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground!
John 18:4-6

Read: Acts 14:21-28, Galatians 1:1 – 3:23

Relate: Ego Eimi. I exist. It is I. I am. However you want to translate it, the words out of Jesus mouth threw the others to the ground. Judas, the betrayer, was there. A delegation from the priests and the Pharisees was there in all their stuffily religious zeal. A detachment of soldiers was there armed to the teeth. It doesn’t matter. With two words, “I AM” they all fall down.

These men came to arrest Jesus. They wanted to control Him, to stop Him, to silence Him. They wanted to put Him in chains and take Him where He didn’t want to go. They thought they were in control of the situation. The religious delegates felt that they were the ones running the show. The soldiers felt they could handle anything that came their way. Judas thought… well, who knew what Judas was thinking. He clearly wasn’t. No matter. With two simple words, in Greek, “Ego Eimi” in English, “I AM” Jesus set them straight. The road He walked to the cross was completely and totally His choice. It was not forced on Him. He never lost control. What He did, Jesus did willingly.

React: Am I like the soldier? Do I think I can force the issue? If I have the right tools, the right weapons, I am the one in control? If only I am strong enough, if I undergo enough training or preparation, then I can be the one running the show. This is a popular lie from the world. If one has enough education, or self discipline, if one knows the right people then they can be the one running the show.

Am I the religious delegate? Do I think that by virtue of my self earned righteousness that I can be the one running the show? We would never couch it in those terms, but how often do those in the religious world buy into this lie? If only I pray more, or fast more, then God must listen to me. If I stop what I am doing and bow my head to the east with every call from the minaret then surely God will listen to me? If I read my Bible more often, how could I not earn His favor? How dare He deny my request?

Am I Judas? Everyone thinks I am a follower of Christ. I believe I’ve got everyone fooled. Even God. Even perhaps myself. Yet even as my words and my appearance is that of being a friend of God, with my actions I betray Him. I think I’ve got everything under control. I can stop doing it anytime I want. As long as I say I’m sorry, He has to forgive my most recent betrayal. I think that an apology has it covered and that repentance is far too radical a step. “I’m in control” I think as I betray Him with a kiss.

Then He speaks two words…
All illusions are shattered.

Respond: God, shatter my illusions. Knock me off my feet. That misconception of control, that idea of freedom, that I can do my own thing. Erase it from my mind. Forgive me for the audacity in thinking that if somehow I might be a little more righteous I might somehow control You. Forgive me for the temerity in thinking that I can be OK even as I betray You with my sin. Forgive me for thinking that I can run things with just a little more self discipline or force of will. You are in control. You are God. You are, “Ego eime.” Jesus, You are I AM.

 

 

March 23, 2016

Jesus, Some Greeks, and Your Agenda

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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•••by Clarke Dixon

As Jesus enters Jerusalem he is faced by many people who want much from him. There are the crowds shouting 

Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
the King of Israel (John 12:13 )

They were waving palm branches, often a symbol of victory in ancient times, but in the hands of Jews living in a land occupied by the Romans, a symbol of a coming victory, and therefore symbol of rebellion. That is what they want and expect from this miracle working Jesus, the leading of a rebellion to kick the Romans out.

The Pharisees also want something from Jesus:

The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.’” (John 12:19)

They already do not like Jesus for his blasphemous teachings and religiously incorrect acts. Now they are worried that things will become too exciting and the Romans will come and shut the city down. They want Jesus to disappear, or at least be quiet. If only he would just teach some nice things and do some nice miracles, at the proper times of course, so not on the Sabbath, then everything will be okay. How some things never change as many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, would prefer a quiet unoffending Jesus.

Then there are the Greeks who come to see Jesus:

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus. 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. (John 12:20-22)

What do they want from Jesus apart from the opportunity to meet him? We don’t know, we are not told. And we do not hear about the Greeks ever again. They almost seem to stick out in John 12 like sore thumbs, as if they have nothing to do with Jesus entering into Jerusalem on His way to the cross. Indeed it once bothered me that Jesus “answered” Andrew and Phillip but then seemed to go on teaching without really responding to the Greeks at all. That was my misunderstanding. As we read on we do find out what Jesus wants Phillip and Andrew to tell the inquisitive Greeks. In fact, while the crowds and the Pharisees are looking to get something from Jesus, in responding to the Greeks Jesus makes known what God wants for them, and from them.  Let us see what he has to say;

“Jesus answered them [Phillip and Andrew], ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’” (John 12:23 )

In referring to himself as the “Son of Man” Jesus is taking us back to Daniel 7 where Daniel has a vision of four beasts, each representing an empire marked by inhumane leadership. But then,

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14 NIV italics mine)

In this vision the oppressive kingdoms of the world are replaced by the good and Godly Kingdom of the Son of Man. The Good News coming through Israel and through this one Jew, Jesus, is Good News for all the world. Tell the Greeks that. This is a blessing the Lord has in store for them.

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)

Jesus is about to declare that he will be killed. His death will bear much fruit, it will bring many blessings worldwide. Tell the Greeks that. Through his death Jesus will bear much fruit, so much in fact that all the world will be invited to eat of it.

Whoever serves me, the Father will honour (John 12:26 )

The “whoever” is very important here. It is not “God’s set-apart people, the Jews who serve me,” it is not “people from a certain ethnic and/or religious background who serve me.” It is “whoever serves me, the Father will honour.” Tell the Greeks that. The opportunity is coming for them to know the blessing of being honoured by God.

Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. (John 12:31)

We normally think of judgement in negative terms, but the judgement of the oppressors of the world and the driving out of Satan, the current ruler of this world, is a good thing for all the world. Tell the Greeks that. Jesus has come not to rid Jerusalem of Romans, but to rid all the the world of evil.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. (John 12:32-33)

Death by crucifixion was in view here and we therefore have an admission by Jesus that the Romans, the very people the crowds are hoping Jesus will kick out of the land, will see to it that he dies. The startling bit is that having been killed Jesus “will draw all people” to Himself. Yes, all people, even the Romans who crucified him. Yes, all people, even the Jewish religious leaders who led him to Pilate.  Yes, all people, even the crowds who misunderstood him. Yes, all people, including the Greeks who were asking to see him. Tell the Greeks that. Let them know God has a plan of salvation for them. Jesus has entered into Jerusalem so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News of God’s love, can go out to all the world.

These are the things that God wants for the Greeks. These are the things God wants for you.

But Jesus also speaks about what God wants from the Greeks:

24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour. (John 12:24-26)

Dying to self. Bearing fruit. Changed priorities. Serving and following Jesus. Tell the Greeks these are the things God is wanting from them. Don’t tell them to become observant Jews. Tell them to center their lives on Jesus. That is what God wants from them. That is what God wants from you.

As Jesus enters Jerusalem there are a lot of people wanting a lot of things from him. We often talk about Jesus entering into our hearts. Perhaps we do the same thing as the crowds, saying something like “Now that you are here, let me tell you what I want.” What if we were the Greeks in John chapter 12? Do we come to Jesus with an agenda, with a list of what we want? Or do we come with a blank sheet and pen in hand ready and waiting to hear what God wants for us, and what God wants from us?

(All scriptures are taken from the NRSV unless otherwise stated)

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 9, 2014

Deeper and Deeper: Into the Heart of Jesus

Eph. 5:1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

I mentioned on the weekend when we looked at “Devotions from the Hymnbook” that we would take some time to look at a single hymn that so well expresses the Good Friday / Easter story.  Some of you may be unfamiliar with this song, and the YouTube videos for it are either instrumentals, or take a 1950’s ‘gospel’ approach to it. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the church founded by Oswald J. Smith, the writer, so I got to hear this the way his own church first heard it.  My suggestion is that you find the print music and get someone to play it for you.

I hope this also benefits any of you who would desire to write lasting Christian material.

The process here is simple: Each verse is a snapshot of Jesus’ road to the cross.  The first verse is general, but includes the picture of Jesus stooping. Is this a reference to Jesus washing His disciples feet? I think that was in mind.

The motif is a basic principle: As I get to know more about why, as I pray to be a better follower, as I experience Christ’s own prayer time in the garden, as I experience personal resurrection, and as I respond with worship and praise; as I do all these things listed in the third line of each verse, then what happens?

Then I find myself in the state mentioned in the last line of each stanza: I return to Jesus, I am shaped and molded, I am the beneficiary of grace, I am supported and sustained, I am ecstatically lost in thanksgiving and adoration.

So the song moves from the washing of the disciples feet, to the breaking of bread (‘take,’ ‘break’), to Gethsemane, to the betrayal and arrest, to “the world below,” (a reference to the worst this world can offer, or the Hades of the Apostles Creed, I’m not sure), to rising from the dead, to the complete recognition of all this lifts us from our sin with reverberations into eternity.

1. Into the heart of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Seeking to know the reason
Why He should love me so,
Why He should stoop to lift me
Up from the miry clay,
Saving my soul, making me whole,
Though I had wandered away.

2. Into the will of Jesus,
Deeper and deeper I go,
Praying for grace to follow,
Seeking His way to know;
Bowing in full surrender
Low at His blessed feet,
Bidding Him take, break me and make,
Till I am molded, complete.

3. Into the cross of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Following through the garden,
Facing the dreaded foe;
Drinking the cup of sorrow,
Sobbing with broken heart,
"O Savior, help! Dear Savior, help!
Grace for my weakness impart."

4. Into the joy of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Rising, with soul enraptured,
Far from the world below.
Joy in the place of sorrow,
Peace in the midst of pain,
Jesus will give, Jesus will give;
He will uphold and sustain.

5. Into the love of Jesus
Deeper and deeper I go,
Praising the One Who brought me
Out of my sin and woe;
And through eternal ages
Gratefully I shall sing,
"O how He loved! O how He loved!
Jesus, my Lord and my King!"

So is this just a classroom exercise in poetry analysis? There are some principles here.

  1. If we wish to write things that will endure, things with substance we must begin with scripture.
  2. If we wish to depict Christ — in words or in visuals — we need to take our cues from the narrative that already exists; in other words, the gospel writers give us a beautiful picture and nothing should be added or subtracted from it.
  3. We must remember that what Christ did, is part of what had already been planned, and has ramifications for what will take place, including our standing side-by-side with saints from decades and centuries prior.
  4. Songs (and poems) can teach. The Christian songwriter is part artist, part Bible expositor.
  5. As we said on the weekend, many of the older hymns seem to implore the hearer to make a response, but any song of proclamation (i.e. not a ‘vertical’ worship song) should cause us to want to respond. Here, if you are not struck by overcoming thanksgiving — “O how He loved!” — then your life stands in contrast to that of the hymn-writer. So you don’t need to beg hearers to respond, a person who truly sees the passion in the song will be broken by it.

John 20

30  Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

August 19, 2013

Family Ties

Most of you are familiar with the story of Peter’s denying Jesus, and most of you are familiar with the overall story of the arrest and trial of Jesus; but until the weekend, I had missed one connection.

I was reading a sampler of The Gospel of Mark published to promote the study Bible edition of The Common English Bible, when I came upon this passage:

CEB Mark 14:66 Meanwhile, Peter was below in the courtyard. A woman, one of the high priest’s servants, approached 67 and saw Peter warming himself by the fire. She stared at him and said, “You were also with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

68 But he denied it, saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t understand what you’re saying.” And he went outside into the outer courtyard. A rooster crowed.

69 The female servant saw him and began a second time to say to those standing around, “This man is one of them.” 70 But he denied it again.

Okay, but I still didn’t get it until I looked down to the study notes:

Caiaphas’ household is involved at every turn in the plot against Jesus.

Wow! I never thought of that before. And it was the high priest’s servant whose ear Peter cut off.

CEB John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

It’s amazing how one family can make a difference. When it came to church hierarchy, this family had a lock on the job that counted. It would be like having a father and son both being President of the United States. (Oh wait; that happened…!)

NIV John 18:12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.

Annas and CaiaphasLuke, who you would expect to be a stickler for accuracy, refers to their dynasty as a single reign:

NIV Luke 3:2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

This passage often confuses. The Reformation Study Bible is helpful here:

The Jews had only one high priest at a time. Annas had been deposed by the Romans who appointed instead Caiaphas, his son-in-law. The Romans saw to it that Caiaphas exercised the official functions, but many Jews still considered Annas the true high priest.

Family ties can reflect positively or negatively. Some of you have grown up in Christian denominations where certain family names were a running theme. If you see the surname, and have a bit of context, apart from any clues related to ethnicity, you already know if the person referred to is Pentecostal or Methodist or Salvation Army. But for others, a family name can be tainted; it’s hard to hear that particular surname without negative associations.

For me, the tie in between the Caiaphas and Annas dynasty also adds to the complexity of the Passion Week story. Here the actions of one particular family overlay on the many prophecies fulfilled during Jesus arrest and crucifixion. Time and again, I am responded of the Walter Wink quotation, “If Jesus had never lived, we would never have been able to invent him.” Or in more modern language, “You just can’t make stuff like this up.”

So what does the high priest and his servants represent here? Certainly all those who are opposed to the Kingdom of God; but in this case God used their actions as part of the orchestration of His higher, divine plan.

~PW

September 10, 2012

The Wonder of the Cross

Today for the first time, a worship song repeat.  But first, a poem:

The Ironies of the Cross

 o

On that wretched day the soldiers mocked him
Raucous laughter in a barracks room
Hail the king they sneered while spitting on him
Brutal beatings on this day of doom
Though his crown was thorn, he was born a king
Holy brilliance bathed in bleeding loss
All the soldiers blind to this stunning theme
Jesus reigning from a bloody cross

o

Awful weakness marks the battered god-man
Far too broken now to heist the beam
Soldiers strip him bare and pound the nails in
Watch him hanging on the cruel tree
God’s own temple’s down he has been destroyed
Death’s remains are laid in rock and sod
But the temple rises in god’s wise ploy
Our great temple is the Son of God

o

Here’s the one who said he cares for others
One who said he came to save the lost
How can we believe he saves others
When he can’t get off that bloody cross
Let him save himself, let him come down now
Savage jeering at the king’s disgrace
But by hanging there is precisely how
Christ saves others as the king of grace

o

Draped in darkness utterly rejected
Crying why have you forsaken me
Jesus bore God’s wroth alone dejected
Wept the bitterest tears instead of me
And the mockers cried he has lost his trust
He is defeated by hypocrisy
But with faith’s resolve Jesus knows he must
Do God’s will and swallow death for me

o

The preceding poem is a transcript made from a recording of an excellent D.A. Carson sermon called the Ironies of the Cross. (from a D.A. Carson sermon archivesourced at a 2007 post at Homeward Bound.

And now the song, from Robin Mark, The Wonder of Your Cross

Learn more about the song from its first appearance here one year ago.

August 26, 2012

All My Sin Had Brought a Price To Pay

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:58 pm
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This is one of the songs we posted as part of our YouTube project, collecting “lost songs” that haven’t heretofore been posted at the popular site by anyone else.  The annotation reads,

…This is an amazing song by the otherwise heavy metal Christian band, Scarlet Red.

As they brought him up the roadside
Many people came to see
The one who taught us all to trust in God
They wondered as they saw his misery…

Blood ran down from off his fingers
Where he wiped his bloody eyes
As they threw him down and drove those nails
I heard the painful sounds that Jesus cried

And I said, ‘Why, my God, my God is it that the innocent must die?
He’s done no wrong, He’s praised your name
And yet You’ve let Him die
Tell me why, why oh why?’

I cried as I walked home that evening
Couldn’t see how it could be
If God is fair and just to all mankind
Father God how do you look at me?

As I walked I thought about Him
His words were ringing in my ears
Could it be that this was God Himself
Come to bear the sins of all my years.

And I said, ‘Why, my God, my God is it that the innocent must die?
He’s done no wrong, He’s praised your name
And yet You’ve let Him die
Tell me why, why oh why?’

It wasn’t long before I saw the painful truth before my eyes
All my sin had brought a price to pay
And I knew it was for me that Jesus died.

And I said, ‘I know why my God is it that the innocent must die?
He’s done no wrong, He’s praised your name
And then You’ve let Him die
I know why, I know why’
I know why, I know why’

June 19, 2012

Now Versus Then

This appeared earlier this week at the blog at Blue Letter Bible, an online Bible search engine, where it was titled, As-He-Is vs. As-He-Was.

  1. As He is. He is walking in majesty in the midst of the Churches. “…who walks among the seven golden lampstands” (Revelation 2:1).
    As He was. He was seen in humiliation, and in the midst of two thieves, crucified. “There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them” (John 19:18).
  2. As He is. He is seen in garments of glory, representing the glory of His person. …clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest” (Revelation 1:13).
    As He was. He was stripped of His garments, and made a spectacle to men, demons, and angels. “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts” (John 19:23).
  3. As He is. His eyes are as flames of fire―reminding us of His all-seeingness. “His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14).
    As He was. Those eyes lost their brightness in death, and closed under the load of sin. “…and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).
  4. As He is. His feet are as burning and polished brass―telling us of His durability and deity. “his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace” (Revelation 1:15).
    As He was. Those feet were nailed to the Cross. “See my hands and my feet…” (Luke 24:39).
  5. As He is. His voice is as the sound of many waters, reminding us of the power of His word. “his voice was like the roar of many waters” (Revelation 1:15).
    As He was. His voice was hushed in death. “…they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead…” (John 19:33).
  6. As He is. His hand is mighty to hold, and to help us. “In his right hand he held seven stars” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. Those hands were pierced, and nailed to the accursed tree. “…they have pierced my hands and fee…” (Psalm 22:16).
  7. As He is. Out of His mouth, goes a sharp two-edged sword―telling us of His power to destroy His enemies. “…from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword…” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. He opened not His mouth, but was smitten by the officer over the mouth. “…so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
  8. As He is. His face is as the sun shining in his strength. “his face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. That face was marred, spit on, the hair plucked from, and the rude hand of man insulted. “As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance…” (Isaiah52:14).

May 28, 2012

His Own Received Him Not

Back at Easter, C. Baxter Kruger posted two consecutive pieces dealing with the rejection of Jesus.  The first was titled Who Rejected Jesus? (You are encouraged to click the link and read this at source.)

“Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45). 
 
“For consider him who has endured such hostility by sinners against himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3). 
 
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and will deliver him up to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify him…” (Matthew 20:18).
The inherent legalism of the Western Church trains our eyes to see Jesus’ suffering as the judgment of God upon our sin, and virtually blinds us to the more obvious point that Jesus suffered from the wickedness of humanity. It was the human race, not the Father, who rejected his beloved Son and killed him.  The wrath poured out on Calvary’s hill did not originate in the Father’s heart, but in ours.  The humiliation that Jesus bore, the torment that he suffered, was not divine but human. We mocked him; we detested him; we judged him. We ridiculed him, tortured him, and turned our face from him. It was not the Father or the Holy Spirit who abandoned Jesus and banished him to the abyss of shame; it was the human race. We cursed him.
Either the Father, Son, and Spirit were caught off guard by our corporate rejection of Jesus, or there is a redemptive genius at work here that is too beautiful for words. Was the Jewish and Roman rejection of Jesus not foreseen by the triune God? Was the Father surprised when we killed the solution? Was Jesus bewildered and the Holy Spirit shocked when things went south and the crowds turned against him? No, of course not. The animosity of the human race towards the Father’s Son was anticipated, and indeed counted on, and literally incorporated (See Acts 2:23) as the critical part in bringing about our real relationship. Here is amazing grace. In breathtaking love, the Lord’s way of relationship and reconciliation involves the shocking acceptance of our cruelty. The Incarnation involves the inconceivable submission of the Trinity to our bizarre darkness and its bitter judgment.
And the point of such shocking grace is to find us, to meet us, to relate to us and to embrace us as we really are as broken, deceived, wounded, terror-filled, and rebellious creatures.  Here is the heart of the grace of the blessed Trinity.  Jesus bowed to suffer from our loathsome enmity.  He took a dagger to the heart.  He willfully and astonishingly submitted himself to us in our profound darkness—and we damned him—and in submitting himself to us he embraced us at our very worst.
What does this mean?  It means that Jesus took our treachery, our betrayal, our murder and turned them into the way of his Father’s embrace and into the Holy Spirit’s anointing.  We killed him.  Jesus is saying to us on Good Friday: “I can take your murder, and I can let it happen, and in so doing I am accepting you as you are, and I am bringing my relationship with my Father, and my anointing with the Holy Spirit into your murderous darkness.  I use your murder to be the way I bring you into real relationship with my Father and the Holy Spirit.
Our contribution to our adoption was to pour our wrath out upon Jesus.  And on this day we did.  Jesus took it, and drew us in all our anger and brokenness and sin into his Father’s arms.  Shocking, stunning, beautiful grace. It is not ‘dark’ Friday, but ‘good’ Friday.
The second post was titled The House of His Father. (You are encouraged to click the link and read at source.)
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2COR 8:9).
In the genius of the blessed Trinity, our cruel rejection of Jesus became the way of our adoption; our bitter abuse became the way of the Father’s embrace and the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. For how could our unfaithfulness and contempt and treachery, or the enslaving lie of the evil one, or death itself break the love and oneness and life of the blessed Trinity?  In dying at our hands, Jesus brought his life into our death, his relationship with his Father into our gnarled pathology, his anointing by the Holy Spirit into our twisted darkness. Out of his boundless love “he was dishonored that he might glorify us,” (Gregory Nazianzen, Orations, I.5.) “he endured our insolence that we might inherit immortality”( Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, §54). Suffering our abuse to give us grace, he met our cruelty with his kindness, our rejection with his merciful acceptance, and our dead and despairing religion with his joy.  By accepting us at our very worst, by submitting himself to us in our great darkness, he entered into our world with his, thus transforming the shack of Adam’s horrid fall into the house of his Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit.

In a variation on St. Paul’s great statement we might say, “For you know the stunning grace of the Father’s Son: that though he was rich in the shared life of the blessed Trinity, yet for our sake he became poor, suffering our wrath to meet us, and that now through his suffering we who were so poor have been included in Jesus’ own rich relationship with his Father in the Spirit.”

October 29, 2011

Take, Eat

This article by Nicola Hulks appeared two days ago at The Underground

Two thousand years ago a man sat down with his friends and ate a meal.

It could be argued that no meal has echoed down the centuries quite like this one. That meal is the Last Supper and this moment is remembered by churches around the world by eating bread and wine in memory of the man who first did it, Jesus.

If you haven’t read the account of the Last Supper before, or would like a refresher, then you might like to turn to the gospel of Mark in the New Testament and have a read of chapter 14 verses 12 to 26.

Theories about the Last Supper, and how we should practice our remembrance of it in the church today, are widespread and numerous.

It seems there are as many opinions as there are grains of sand on the seashore! But perhaps there is more to draw from the accounts of the last supper than a simple set of rules of how we should or shouldn’t conduct our church services.

Picture the scene: The tension is rising in this group of 12 friends. Their leader, friend and spiritual teacher Jesus has been confronted by the authorities many times.

They are aware that Jerusalem is not a safe place for him to be yet he insists on going there to celebrate the Passover, an important festival in the Jewish calendar (see Exodus 12 for its origins).

Two of the disciples head into the city early to prepare a space for the celebratory meal, the others follow.

The meal starts off well. They sit back in their chairs, enjoy each others company and then suddenly the man who called this motley crew together changes the atmosphere. “One of you will betray me,” he says.

The reaction of these friends and disciples of Jesus is fascinating. They immediately ask the question ‘Is it me?’ I think this, and Jesus’ response, says something big about us and God.

The disciples loved Jesus, they had given up their homes and livelihoods to follow him and yet they still thought to themselves and said out loud, “Could it be me that betrays him?” I think we universally know this potential in ourselves.

Words slip out of our mouths that we wish hadn’t. We make wrong choices out of anger, sadness and disappointment. We wish we could take things back, daily sometimes.

But what is really interesting is Jesus’ response to this rag tag bunch, none of whom is confident that they are not his betrayer.

He picks up a loaf of bread and says ‘Take it, this is my body,” and a cup of wine saying “This is my blood which is poured out for many.”

Jesus sees their inability to be what even they want to be, to even know if it is they who would betray the one they love.

Later that evening he tells them they will be scattered like sheep when he is taken from them, a prediction that comes true alarmingly quickly after this cosy meal among friends.

And to Peter, one of his closest friends he says, “Tonight, you yourself will deny me three times.”

It is with this full knowledge that Jesus performs these powerful symbols of what is to come, his death within days on the cross–An act to unite people ever falling short with God who desires to give them a fresh start as many times as they need it.

This offering of bread and wine at the last supper is the gospel in a moment. In this act Jesus says, I know you fail, that you can’t even be sure of yourself, but here is the solution: “Take, eat – it is given for you.”

Sometimes Christian life can feel like you are ever striving. Striving for a perfection that even you know you cannot reach.

This story shows us that God knows full well our struggles and our inabilities. It is into this reality that he offers himself, going to die knowing that the closest people to him will run from him at the time he needs them most.

And to this he says, I have the answer. The answer is me.

~Nicola Hulks

October 13, 2011

The Last 14 Hours of Christ’s Earthly Mission

Structured somewhat like an episode of the television series 24, Dawson McAllister’s 2009 book A Walk With Christ to the Cross: The Last Fourteen Hours of His Earthly Mission, is probably one of the more explicit books I’ve seen in terms of Christ’s suffering.

I picked up this book and not-so-randomly jumped to chapter three, which deals with Jesus in Gethsemane.  I’ve read some rather detailed descriptions of Christ’s crucifixion — I think Chuck Swindoll has a book that is exceptionally clear on this — but considering that I was reading a chapter consisting of 90-minute window before Jesus was even arrested, nothing at all prepared me for what I read. 

The chapter is based on a combination — or harmonization — of all the gospel accounts.  I’d hoped to find some text from the book online, but since that wasn’t an option, and since it’s hard to excerpt bits of this chapter without missing the impact of the whole, I’ll just note a few things in bullet points:

  • His friends didn’t understand His pain
  • …and they were soon to abandon Him.
  • The severity of what He was about to face could mean that physically, He was going in to shock.
  • Jesus began to be sorrowful; emotions absolutely shot.
  • Jesus became deeply distressed; He began to shudder; some believe this was to the point of a mild heart attack.
  • He pressed His face to the ground and prayed, basically, “Abba Father! Is there another way?”
  • He asked himself: Could He do it? Was it right to take all our sin on Him at once? Could he bear the utter hell of being forsaken by The Father?  Was humankind worth the suffering?
  • Nonetheless, He had to make a yes or no decision. 
  • He sweat drops of blood: Hematidrosis is the technical name for this condition; blood passing through the veins into the sweat glands.
  • He would want to do The Father’s will, but His whole system would be shouting, “NO!”
  • All these things considered, He might have died right there, but The Father sent an angel to comfort him; in some way the angel ministered to Jesus; the almighty creator of everything being comforted by a created being.

[…I have no words at this point…]

What we learn from Jesus’ time in the garden:

  • Humility.  If we’d walked by that garden and looked over the wall, we wouldn’t have said, “Oh, I get it…God in human form!  That must be God in the flesh.”  …Our first reaction would have been, “Who is this peasant Jew having a nervous breakdown?”
  • Sin is no small thing to Jesus.  What troubled Him deeply even to the point of death?  What was it He saw in the garden?  Answer: He saw sin in all its fury. 
  • Jesus considered us worth the suffering.  Hebrews 12:2 “…Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.”

Items in all bullet points are edited quotations from the book.

July 11, 2011

The Wonder of Your Cross – Robin Mark

When I posted the song Lion of Judah here yesterday, I discovered that another Robin Mark song, The Wonder of Your Cross, is conspicuously absent from this blog.  So without waiting another day…

Sometimes we sing songs and never really consider the theology we are singing.  A line might not feel right, but we’ll sing it anyway without thinking.  There are often questions about the line

Were heaven’s praises silent in those hours of darkness?
Your Holy Spirit brooding ’round that empty throne…

Empty throne?  I thought God was always on the throne.  Here’s Robin’s response:

I used the word “empty” in the third verse to convey the absence of the Son from His rightful place.  (Heb. 1:3, Rev. 3:21, Ps. 110:1).  God was, is, and always will be on His heavenly throne, but it is part of the fantastic mystery of the cross that, for a time at Calvary, his Son was separated from the Father for our sakes.

I hope that helps.  Here are the references (NIV) Robin quoted:

Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Rev 3:21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Psalm 110:1 The LORD says to my lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”

April 23, 2011

The Scandal of the Cross: Look Who’s Getting In!

Part III of Setting our Faces Toward Jerusalem Series

A couple of years ago we were at Willow Creek at a time that they were getting ready to bring in a major country artist for a concert. It struck me that instead of promoting the benefits to be had for those adherents of the church who would be attending, they instead promoted the value of the artist’s reputation in terms of inviting unchurched neighbors, co-workers and family. “This is the best invite opportunity you’ll ever had,” was close to how Bill Hybels put it.

good-friday

In a way, Easter is like that. I don’t mean the actual Good Friday or Easter services at a local church, so much as the conversational opportunities it affords. You can talk about things during the next 48 hours that you simply might never get to the rest of the year, other than perhaps Christmas. This is a prime opportunity to talk about Jesus, the Cross, sin, death, forgiveness, atonement, resurrection — major themes of Christian doctrine and practice that just don’t come up in normal conversation. Provided you don’t introduce those topics artificially, you can still bring the discussion around to Easter fairly easily and then say what it means to you personally.

In considering writing this however, it occurred to me that voicing this suggestion is not unlike sitting in church and hearing a great sermon and then deciding that someone else that we know has to hear it; the idea that this time of year is a great opportunity for the benefit of somebody else. But this time of year comes around in the Christian calendar not so much for anyone else but for me. This is my time to sit and contemplate that it was my sin that led Christ to the cross to die in my place. This is why Jesus came; because we needed a savior.

The apostle Paul said that it was for this reason that Christ came into the world: to save sinners. And then he adds something like, ‘of which I am the worst.’ I, so undeserving, so unable to gain salvation by any of my own efforts, gets included in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary just by saying to God, “I want to be included among those who realize that this sacrifice was for me; I want to be among those covered by what happened that day on the cross.”

And look who else is getting in: The woman caught in the act of adultery; the thief on the cross; the prodigal son and his elder brother. Christ died to save sinners of which we all are the worst. We’re a bunch of misfits.

So this year, we need to be re-examining the story looking for things we’ve missed before; looking for things in a familiar story to touch us in a new way. Then, because of what Christ did, and because we’ve allowed ourselves to be changed by it, we look for opportunities to share this story with others at a time it is so much easier to do so, than at any other time of year.

And really, isn’t that just like the Gospel? Part one is “taste and see;” and part two is “go and tell.”

April 21, 2011

Famous Last Words…

The eleven men who were left were very quiet.  The voice of Christ was very soft and low — tender with farewell.

It was now only a matter of hours until Christ and his disciples would be separated.  He wished to fill those last hours of fellowship with the tenderest and most significant of His teachings.

The most sacred… the most tender… the most heart-felt emotions… are those expressed at the end of the letter…

The tenderest caress comes just before the parting.  The softest word just before the conversation is ended… before the train pulls out… before we turn away.

We seem to catch the quiet intimacy of that fellowship.  Unforgettable words of parting and comfort were spoken by Jesus to His friends.  Jesus has written them out for us:

  • “Little children … a new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you … By this will all know that you are my disciples…”
  • “Let not your heart be troubled; … In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you…”
  • “I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you…”
  • “I am the vine, you are the branches…  Abide in me, and I in you…”
  • “these things I have spoken unto you that in me you might have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world…”

Overcome the world?  When the one who spoke was so soon to fall under the power of Caesar?  Yes, for in reality we must remember that Jesus could have escaped the cross.  No one compelled him to go to Jerusalem on that last journey.  Indeed His friends and apostles urged Him not to go.

Watch Him, in the bitter hours that lie immediately ahead, time after time taking the initiative in deciding His own fate.

Christ had begun His ministry by telling His apostles that the Son of many must suffer many things.  Must — there was no other way.  It was for that purpose that He had come into the world.

“For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up .. that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

There was Light in the little room that night.  But beyond the light lay a death-ridden world…

  • in the midst of the military might that was Rome where life was cheap
  • in the philosopher’s porticoes of Athens where the mind found no hope
  • in the dangerous living of the great shipping centers of Asia Minor to the disease infested alleys of old Jerusalem —

Men feared death, dodged its hideous grasp, could nowhere find respite from their fear.

But here was something new… Here was one facing death — not afraid but confident … already triumphant … already speaking about seeing His friends again … about never leaving them…

Strange words … about being with them to the uttermost parts of the earth and to the end of time.

How?  Why? Because He alone knew the Father’s eternal purpose for what it was — the determination once and for all to destroy the power of death — once and for all to deliver men from their lifelong bondage to the fear of death.

Within a matter of hours, Christ Himself was to become the instrument by which the Father would — for all time — make death not a wall … but a door.

~ Peter Marshall –The First Easter (McGraw-Hill, 1959) pp. 16-19

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