Christianity 201

May 12, 2014

Unpacking the Meaning of Redemption

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:28 pm
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While looking for something else today I stumbled across Experimental Theology, the blog of Richard Beck. As always, you’re encouraged to not read the articles here, but click through to read them at source. This appeared under the title Redemption and Goel.


 

What does redemption mean?

That was a question I was dealing with the other night out at the prison bible study.

It’s an interesting question as other than a vague sense that redemption is synonymous with “salvation,” I don’t know if many Christians have a ready definition for “redemption.”

What I pointed out in my study was how redemption has strong associations with Christus Victor views of salvation, the notion that “salvation” is fundamentally about deliverance, liberation, freedom and emancipation from dark enslaving forces.

The idea that Christ is a “redeemer” goes back to the Old Testament notion of the goel, what is sometimes translated as “kinsmen-redeemer.” The kinsmen-redeemer is related to the Hebrew word ga’al which means to buy back, to regain possession of by payment, or to ransom. The kinsmen-redeemer is the one who buys back and pays the ransom.

The basic function goes back to Leviticus 25. When Israelites fell into debt they sometimes would have to sell their ancestral property. When this happened the kinsmen-redeemer was to buy the land so that the land remained in the family:

Leviticus 25.25
If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold. 

This role of buying back–redeeming–ancestral land to keep it in the family is nicely illustrated in the book of Ruth where Boaz, as kinsmen-redeemer, seeks to buy the ancestral land of Elimelek, Naomi’s deceased husband. 

But sometimes things would get worse and an Israelite would have to sell more than the land, he would have to sell himself as a debt-slave. When that happened the kinsmen-redeemer was to rescue their kinsman from debt-slavery by buying him back:

Leviticus 25.47-49a
If a foreigner residing among you becomes rich and any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to the foreigner or to a member of the foreigner’s clan, they retain the right of redemption after they have sold themselves. One of their relatives may redeem them: An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in their clan may redeem them. 

Basically, the idea of “redemption” is rooted in the notion of debt-slavery. To be “redeemed” or “ransomed” is to be bought back from slavery, from the ownership of another person. And the one who makes the payment is the goel, the kinsmen-redeemer.

In the book of Isaiah God becomes identified as the goel, as the Redeemer of Israel. For example,

Isaiah 41.14
“Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the LORD, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. 

And while the name “redeemer” doesn’t occur in the New Testament, in many places Jesus is described as performing the role of the goel. For example,

Mark 10.45
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Ephesians 1.7
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace

1 Peter 1.18
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors…

The words “redemption” and “redeemed” in these texts tend to obscure the OT echoes. That is, I don’t think many modern readers know how to translate the word “redeemed.” Though you do notice echos of the OT economic, buying-back overtones when we do things like redeeming coupons at the store. Translation-wise, I think the rendering of the NLT does nice job of highlighting the kinsmen-redeemer overtones in some of these NT texts:

Ephesians 1.7
He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.

Ephesians 1.14
The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

The connections here with Christus Victor theology should be obvious. The function of the goel–the “redeemer”–has to do with emancipation and liberation from slavery, the “buying us back” from the ownership of another person.

And as should be clear, there is little in any of the NT texts that suggests that we were once enslaved or in bondage to God. No, our bondage was to dark spiritual forces. Thus Jesus, as kinsmen-redeemer, saves us by securing our liberation from these enslaving forces.

That is the meaning of “redemption.”

 

March 6, 2014

God Places Our Sin Behind His Back

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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This is from Jerry Bridges Holiness devotional (p. 94) and is also a selection from his book, The Discipline of Grace.

I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake. Is. 43:25

God uses several metaphors and colorful expressions to assure us that our sins have been literally carried away by our Lord Jesus Christ. One of them is in Psalm 103:12: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (NIV). Here was an infinite distance as great as human vocabulary could express.

Jesus not only bore our sins on the cross, He carried them away an infinite distance. He removed them from the presence of God and from us forever. They can no longer bar our access to God’s holy presence. Now “we have confidence” – or “boldness” as the King James Version more strikingly puts it – to enter God’s presence. (Hebrews 10:19)

Reinforcing this message is Isaiah 38:17, where King Hezekiah said to God, “You have cast all my sins behind your back.” When something’s behind your back, you can’t see it anymore. It’s out of sight. This is how He has completely dealt with our sin and put it away.

There’s an emphatic ring to Hezekiah’s words. They suggest a deliberate, decisive action on God’s part. God Himself has cast our sins behind His back and He is not hesitant or reluctant in doing this. He has taken the initiative and He did so joyfully and gladly. God takes pleasure in putting our sins behind his back because He takes pleasure in the work of His Son.

Do we believe this? Do we believe the testimony of Scripture, or do we believe our guilty feelings? Only to the extent we believe God has indeed put our sins behind His back will we be motivated and enabled to effectively deal with those sins in our daily lives.

February 3, 2014

Salvation: Still Free (Last Time I Checked)

Although I don’t use eBooks, I’m always intrigued by the concept that publishers now routinely offer books completely free of charge. There are Christian bloggers who regularly advise their readers where to find the daily and weekly bargain downloads, but sometimes I’m reading an old blog post, so even though I don’t have an eReader, I’ll click through to learn more, only to find the offer is no longer in effect and there is now a price to be paid.

Fortunately, when it comes to salvation, there is currently no closing date on God’s offer. True, a day will come when that will change. Also true, you don’t know long you have to take advantage. But it’s a free offer.

Mercy there was great and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary

For some, this is simply too good to be true. “Surely there is a cost;” they say, and truthfully they are correct. While Salvation itself is a free gift, God offers so much for us for this life, and that is going to involve taking up your cross daily. It might mean sacrifice or it might mean being ostracized by your family, friends and co-workers.

But in our original coming to Jesus, we find the offer to “taste and see” is both easy and simple. The problem we have is putting this idea across to those outside the church, and I believe part of the challenge is that we are living in a culture that is not Biblically literate, and therefore are not, as music and literary people say, “familiar with the literature.”

The story that needs to be kept told for me is the story in Numbers:

Numbers 21:7-9

(NIV)

7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

This Old Testament story foreshadows, as do so many OT stories, what Christ is going to do. As God’s people sojourn, they are given pictures which are somewhat for our benefit. Sometimes we impute this into the text from a New Testament perspective, but sometimes Jesus spells out for us in words unmistakable:

John 3:14

(NIV)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up…

Again, some of you are thinking, “this sounds really familiar,” and that’s because we covered this here in August, just a few months ago. But I felt directed that we need to return to this Old Testament picture, and furthermore we need to teach people how to teach people this story. While a testimony of “what God has done for us,” and a rudimentary knowledge of basic salvation scriptures are both helpful, it’s needful to be able to construct the offer of “God’s gift” in terms unrelated to the deeper, doctrinal considerations of Romans or Hebrews which the novice believer can’t fully process.

That’s why, for the fourth time, I’ve returned to this theme today. It can be explored more in each of the blog posts listed below.

But what if salvation is being commodified too much in this approach. As with all things, we need to be careful; we need to strike a balance. Tomorrow, we’re going to explore this in a way we haven’t in any of the preceding articles. Stay tuned.

The Great Exchange from Adam4d

Go deeper, read more:

Graphic: Adam4D (click graphic to source)

August 15, 2013

The Salvation Transaction

…and the transaction so quickly was made, when at the cross I believed…

~lyrics, “Heaven Came Down”

Today’s thoughts appeared here exactly a year ago, but I wanted to repeat this because I believe an understanding of the foundation underpinning salvation — which goes back to the book of Numbers — is often missed, even by seasoned Christ-followers who have been on this journey for a long time.

The moment of salvation is an invisible transaction. For some people there is an inward witness that verifies that step of faith.

John 9:24-25

(NIV)

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

But for some people, there is a desire to understand the underpinning of how that invisible transaction takes place. An entire branch of theology is devoted to this:

so·te·ri·ol·o·gy

[suh-teer-ee-ol-uh-jee]

~noun Theology.

— the doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ.
So while the healing of the blind man in the story above provides its own satisfactory proof if you are, in fact, the blind man or his parents; for everyone else we have the books of Romans and Hebrews to understand the depth of salvation doctrine; how the saving work of Jesus meets all of the criteria necessary for the forgiveness of sin.
But we often miss a basic fact of how salvation works:

John 3:14

(NIV)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up
The verse recalls a story from the book of Numbers often overlooked in times of increasing Biblical illiteracy:

7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

The concept of the invisible transaction was once entrenched through a hymn written by William Ogden in 1887 that was popular in some circles, the chorus inviting you to…

“Look and live,” my brother, live,
Look to Jesus now, and live;
’Tis recorded in His word, hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.”

Youth ministries in the late 1960’s borrowed a phrase from a popular Clairol commercial and suggested that the invisibility of the transaction was such that “only your hairdresser knows for sure.” In other words, there isn’t necessarily a physical manifestation of salvation.

But as with so many things in God’s kingdom, there is a balance to be found on that issue, since the visible manifestation of salvation ought to be the presence of the fruit of the spirit.

Ultimately, the invisibility of the salvation transaction ought to be central if putting our trust in Jesus Christ to both redeem us and then from that point guide us is to be considered part of the realm of faith. You don’t get a certificate, or a wallet card — though sadly, some churches do just that — when you decide to become a Christ follower.

We cross the line of faith to become Christ followers at some point, but the line itself remains seen only in the spiritual world.


Today’s music:
For complete original lyrics to Heaven Came down, click here.
For an abridged version of the original redone in a modern style by David Crowder, click here.
Go Deeper:
To see an index of the main subjects that form a study on soteriology, note the ten sessions covered on this page.
To go extra deep on this topic, check out this teaching page.
Finally, here are links to dozens of other resources on the doctrine of salvation.
~PW

April 18, 2013

Zacchaeus Meets The Christmas Story

Ever wondered what you were thinking when you wrote something years earlier?  This was first published at Thinking Out Loud in November, 2009.  I read this three times before I finally noticed what the reference is to the Christmas story. This has actually appeared here before as well, in 2011; I hope you don’t mind a repeat.

The story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19: 1-9 is the ultimate children’s Bible story. Think about, it’s got:

  • zacchaeusa short key character; kids can identify
  • a parade — or something similar — about to pass by
  • tree climbing; what kid doesn’t like that?
  • unlikely guy gets singled out for special treatment
  • Zacchaeus and Jesus have a tea party, at least according to the children’s song; actual serving of tea may have been unlikely
  • restitution of unfair trade practices; he did something bad and is going to make it right

But the tree climbing is the fun part of the story, so much so that we omit to notice the fact that respectable adults in the culture don’t climb trees. In the book Preaching the Parables to Postmoderns, Brian Stiller reminds of another story where we miss the cultural nuances.

Stiller notes that in the story of the prodigal son, the father sees his returning son in the distance and runs to meet him. To run meant to lift the lower hem of the tunics worn at that time, which would expose the ankles and lower leg. While that may not seem out of line with the bathrobes worn in most church plays you’ve seen, it in fact is out of line with norms in that society. Besides, the patriarchal head of household doesn’t run, period.

Zacchaeus climbs up a tree because he doesn’t want to miss Jesus. The father in the story of the two brothers runs because he doesn’t want to miss a moment with or hide his enthusiasm for the return of his lost son. Both actions involve a considerable loss of dignity on the part of both parties.

David understood this. Consider this account from II Samuel 6:

14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

The line I like is verse 22: I will become even more undignified than this. Nothing reinforces this like the Matt Redman song,

I will dance I will sing
To be mad for my King
Nothing Lord is hindering
The passion in my soul

And I’ll become even more
Undignified than this
Some would say it’s foolishness but
I’ll become even more
Undignified than this

David’s removal of his outer garment ought to remind you of something else. Think about this moment from John 13:

1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.

The outer garment that Jesus removed was the fine piece of clothing that symbolized his authority as a rabbi. Hours later, Roman soldiers would gamble for the chance to walk way with this prime specimen of clothing as a souvenir of their day’s work.

This action symbolized his servant leadership, but as he told Peter, there was a bigger picture yet to be grasped. I believe that the removal of his outer garment symbolizes something else entirely, as shown in Philippians 2:

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor…

Jesus gave up the splendor of heaven — took of his outer robe — to enter into our human condition. But then, as John 13:12 shows us, he puts that outer robe back on, i.e. he returns to the glory he had known before at the right hand of the Father.

There are lots of words we could use to describe this, but the key one for today is that he made himself undignified.

Now, he invites you to find a place where you can lose your own dignity in order to accomplish his purposes in your generation.

I Samuel and John passages – NIV; Philippians passage – NLT

A edgier version of Undignified by David Crowder appears here

August 17, 2012

Ministry Life Reminders

Usually it takes us six months to come back to a particular writer, but even though we just shared some of Paul Clark’s writing a month ago,  I enjoyed this short five-point outline to people in ministry — that’s all of us — that he wrote a few days ago under the title A Few Reminders.  For C201 readers, I’ve filled out the scripture portions he alluded to.

First, let’s remind ourselves that God holds us safely in the palm of his hand.

NLT Psalm 91: 1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.

Life has a way of throwing us curveballs, doesn’t it? We find ourselves thrown into circumstances that shake our foundations. But in the midst of those circumstances, we must remind ourselves that we are safe in the hands of our heavenly Father.

Second, let’s remind ourselves of the goodness of God.

(MSG)Romans 8: 28…we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

All God’s intentions toward us are good.  All of God’s activities toward us flow from his goodness. A.W. Tozer wrote, “The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us.

Third, let’s remind ourselves that we are no longer slaves to sin.

(NASB) Romans 6: 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;

Anyone who has been born of God knows the battle between sin and righteousness that’s being waged in us and around us. The battle between going along or being honest; between pure thoughts and worthless self-talk; between giving in to the flesh or living by the Spirit. We can make the right choices through Jesus Christ!

Fourth, let’s remind ourselves that God’s mercy and forgiveness are inexhaustible.

(CEB) Ephensians 2: 4-5 However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace!

The word “rich” means overabounding, limitless, without measure.  God demonstrated that limitless mercy when he sent his Son to die on a cross for our sins. Nothing about me is inexhaustible, yet God is merciful without measure.

Finally, let’s remind ourselves that God’s Word has the power to transform our lives.

(TNIV) I Peter 2: 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…

Our culture makes us spiritually dull.  It wears us down.  We need daily renewal if we will be sharp and prepared for whatever God brings into our day. God’s Word transforming our hearts is the key to living the abundant life.

~Paul Clark

Read more at Paul’s blog, Vision Meets Reality:

August 16, 2012

Salvation: Invisible Transaction

…and the transaction so quickly was made, when at the cross I believed…

~lyrics, “Heaven Came Down”

The moment of salvation is an invisible transaction.  For some people there is an inward witness that verifies that step of faith.

John 9:24-25

(NIV)

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

But for some people, there is a desire to understand the underpinning of how that invisible transaction takes place.  An entire branch of theology is devoted to this:

so·te·ri·ol·o·gy

[suh-teer-ee-ol-uh-jee]

~noun Theology.

   — the doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ.
So while the healing of the blind man provides its own satisfactory proof if you are, in fact, the blind man or his parents; for everyone else we have the books of Romans and Hebrews to understand the depth of salvation doctrine.
But we often miss a basic fact of how salvation works:

John 3:14

(NIV)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up
The verse recalls a story from the book of Numbers often overlooked in times of increasing Biblical illiteracy:

The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

The concept of the invisible transaction was once entrenched through a hymn written by William Ogden in 1887 that was popular in some circles, the chorus inviting you to…

“Look and live,” my brother, live,
Look to Jesus now, and live;
’Tis recorded in His word, hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.”

Youth ministries in the late 1960’s borrowed a phrase from a popular Clairol commercial and suggested that the invisibility of the transaction was such that “only your hairdresser knows for sure.” In other words, there isn’t necessarily a physical manifestation of salvation.

But as with so many things in God’s kingdom, there is a balance to be found on that issue, since the visible manifestation of salvation ought to be the presence of the fruit of the spirit.

Ultimately, the invisibility of the salvation transaction ought to be central if putting our trust in Jesus Christ to both redeem us and then from that point guide us is to be considered part of the realm of faith. You don’t get a certificate, or a wallet card — though sadly, some churches do just that — when you decide to become a Christ follower.

We cross the line of faith to become Christ followers at some point, but the line itself remains seen only in the spiritual world.


Today’s music:
For complete original lyrics to Heaven Came down, click here.
For an abridged version of the original redone in a modern style by David Crowder, click here.
Go Deeper:
To see an index of the main subjects that form a study on soteriology, note the ten sessions covered on this page.
To go extra deep on this topic, check out this teaching page.
Finally, here are links to dozens of other resources on the doctrine of salvation.
~PW

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.”

January 8, 2012

The Strength and Vitality of the Spirit

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:56 pm
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This quotation appeared at the blog, Standing for God.  A. B. Simpson was the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination.

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me freeRomans 8:2

The life of Jesus Christ brought into our hearts by the Holy Spirit operates there as a new law of divine strength and vitality. it counteracts, overcomes and lifts us above the old law of sin and death.

Let us illustrate these two laws by a simple comparison. By the law of gravity my hand naturally falls upon the desk and lies there, attracted downward by that natural law which makes heavy bodies fall to the earth.

But there is a stronger law than the law of gravity-my own life and will. Through the operation of this higher law-the law of vitality-I can defy the-law of gravity, lift my hand and hold it above its former resting place and move it at my will. The law of vitality has freed me from the law of gravity.

Precisely so the indwelling life of Christ Jesus, operating with the power of a new law, lifts me above and counteracts the power of sin in my fallen nature.

by A.B. Simpson

November 27, 2011

Undignified: Zacchaeus Meets the Christmas Story

The story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19: 1-9 is the ultimate children’s Bible story. Think about, it’s got:

  • zacchaeusa short key character; kids can identify
  • a parade — or something similar — about to pass by
  • tree climbing; what kid doesn’t like that?
  • unlikely guy gets singled out for special treatment
  • Zacchaeus and Jesus have a tea party, at least according to the children’s song; actual serving of tea may have been unlikely
  • restitution of unfair trade practices; he did something bad and is going to make it right

But the tree climbing is the fun part of the story, so much so that we omit to notice the fact that respectable adults in the culture simply don’t climb trees. In the book Preaching the Parables to Postmoderns, Brian Stiller reminds of another story, a different story, where we miss the cultural nuances.

Stiller notes that in the story of the prodigal son, the father sees his returning son in the distance and runs to meet him. To run meant to lift the lower hem of the tunics worn at that time, which would expose the ankles and lower leg. While that may not seem out of line with the bathrobes worn in most church plays you’ve seen, it in fact is out of line with norms in that society. Besides, the patriarchal head of household doesn’t run, period.

Zacchaeus climbs up a tree because he doesn’t want to miss Jesus. The father in the story of the two brothers runs because he doesn’t want to miss a moment with or hide his enthusiasm for the return of his lost son. Both actions involve a considerable loss of dignity on the part of both parties.

David understood this. Consider this account from II Samuel 6:

14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

Note especially verse 22: I will become even more undignified than this. Nothing reinforces this like the Matt Redman song,

David Danced by Steve PhelpsI will dance I will sing
To be mad for my King
Nothing Lord is hindering
The passion in my soul

And I’ll become even more
Undignified than this
Some would say it’s foolishness but
I’ll become even more
Undignified than this

David’s removal of his outer garment ought to remind you of something else. Think about this moment from John 13:

1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” …

12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.

The outer garment that Jesus removed was the fine piece of clothing that symbolized his authority as a rabbi. Hours later, Roman soldiers would gamble for the chance to walk way with this prime specimen of clothing as a souvenir of their day’s work.

This action symbolized his servant leadership, but as he told Peter, there was a bigger picture yet to be grasped. I believe that the removal of his outer garment symbolizes something else entirely, as remembered in Philippians 2:

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor…

Jesus gave up the splendor of heaven — took of his outer robe — to enter into our human condition. But then, as John 13:12 shows us, he puts that outer robe back on, i.e. he returns to the glory he had known before at the right hand of the Father.

There are lots of words we could use to describe this, but the key one for today is that he made himself undignified.

Now, he invites you to find a place where you can lose your own pride and dignity in order to accomplish his purposes in your generation.

I Samuel and John passages – NIV; Philippians passage – NLT

This article appeared on November 3, 2009 at Thinking Out Loud

October 3, 2011

Well… I Hope I’m Saved…

For the past several days,  Ferrum, VA pastor Terry Covey at the blog Seeds of Faith, has been dealing with the issue of “assurance of salvation.”  It was once more frequent that people would respond to altar calls because they needed assurance, perhaps it’s time for churches to return to this subject.


It is sad that some who profess to be a Christian are uncertain of their salvation. ‘I hope I am saved’, they say. They believe that no one can know for sure until they die. What a great risk they are taking. After death it will be too late. Our eternal destiny will already be settled and there will be no turning back. We need to know for certain that what we believe is biblical and that it will take us to heaven.

With that in mind, consider these words from the Apostle John –

1 John 5:13 KJV These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

John says that the purpose of his writings is to give us rock-solid security of our salvation. These things have I written that you may know with confidence that you have eternal life. What can we know and why can we have confidence? Over the next few days we will consider some of these important truths.

1. What We Can Know With Certainty

A.  We can know with certainty concerning the character of God

Earlier in this same letter John wrote –

1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

By stating that God is light, John is saying that God is perfectly holy. Light is a symbol for purity and darkness is a symbol for sin. Other portions of scripture support this truth about God’s character:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Is. 6:3)

“Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy.” (Ps. 99:9)

“A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deut. 32:4)

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. (Ps. 18:30)

Can God’s character change? Can He sometimes sin or tolerate evil?

Malachi 3:6 KJV For I am the LORD, I change not…

When Moses ask God His name, the LORD replied – “I AM THAT I AM.” (Ex 3:14) Some interpret this name to mean –

“I will be in the future who I am in the present
and who I have always been in the past.”

Because God’s character never changes, we can know with certainty that whatever He promises He will perform. Consider this great promise of God regarding the security of our salvation.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

B.  We can know with certainty the condition of man

What do we know about the condition of man? Consider these portions of scripture:

Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way , they are together become unprofitable ; there is none that does good, no, not one.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

What is the condition of man? How does the Bible describe his character? Is anyone righteous? Is there anyone who can go to heaven because they are a good person? How many among us have sinned?

But the Lord is not condemning everyone. Surely there are some good people. Consider what Isaiah the prophet wrote about the religious people of Israel-

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…

When comparing ourselves with each other we think that we are pretty good; yet when comparing ourselves to God, even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.

The Apostle Paul is a perfect example of this. Before Paul was saved he was a very religious man. He was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. Yet note Paul’s words concerning his true spiritual condition.

Philippians 3:4 I once had confidence in the flesh too. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. 7 But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ-the righteousness from God based on faith. (CSB)

As far as any other man could tell, Paul was doing everything anyone needed to get to heaven. Paul the Pharisee was blameless. He dotted all of his ‘i’s’ and crossed every ‘t’. However, how did view himself in light of the character of God? Paul considered his righteous deeds to be like filth. The actual word used here mean – ‘manure.’

Dear friend, this I can tell you with certainty – you are not good enough to go to heaven. Regardless of how religious you may try to be, you will never match the character of God. In order for anyone to go to heaven, we must come to the same conclusion as Paul –

Philippians 3:8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ-the righteousness from God based on faith. (CSB)

“All of my religious deeds are nothing in comparison to God. I must have the righteousness of Christ!”

The reason some question about the certainty of salvation is because they are depending upon their own sufficiency to merit heaven. “What if I do this or what if I don’t do that?” Yet the certainty that scripture emphasizes is not based upon man, but upon Christ.

C.  We can know with certainty the condemnation awaiting sinful man

Some people think that they will have to wait until they stand before God in order to know whether or not they will be permitted into heaven. Yet the Bible tells us with certainty that mankind is sinful and the destiny awaiting him is eternal condemnation.

One night a very religious man came to talk with Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and he wanted to talk about miracles. But notice what Christ said.

John 3:36 He that believes on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him. (KJV)

Some people believe that God has a giant balance or scale in heaven and that in the end God will weigh the good against the bad in order to determine whether or not someone is worthy of heaven. But that is not what the Bible teaches. According to scripture, what determines our eternal destiny is our personal relationship with God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The truth is reinforced in this same passage.

John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

He that puts his faith in Christ is not condemned. But he who does not put his faith in Christ, is condemned already. He is condemned because God is holy and he is sinful.

Dear friend, you will never earn your way to heaven. You will never be good enough. Consider once again these words from Jesus.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? For more information, go to: HOW TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN

D.  We can know with certainty God’s plan of salvation

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Note that the certainty of salvation is based upon believing on the name of the Son of God. What does it mean to believe on Jesus’ name?

It is more than believing that there was someone called Jesus. Note these words found in the Bible.

James 2:19 You believes that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

The demons believe that there is one God. The demons also believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Matthew 8:29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?

Mark 1:24 Saying , Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

The demons believe ‘in’ Jesus, but they do not believe ‘on’ Jesus. They believe that Jesus is the Son of God and they believe that they are sinful and worthy of judgment. Yet they do not believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

John says that we must believe ‘on the name’ of the Son of God. Names carried great importance in scripture. Names often identified someone’s character. Names also established authority. To act ‘in the name’ of someone meant to act ‘in their authority.’ To believe in the name of Jesus means to believe that He has the authority to forgive sins.

Scripture teaches us that God’s plan of salvation requires us to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Regarding such faith, Jesus said –

John 3:18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


That represents four solid days at Seeds of Faith, and at the end of part four, having looked at the “what”, we look at the “why.”


2. Why We Can Have Confidence

The questions some might ask at this point are – “Why can we know these things with certainty? What gives us such confidence? Aren’t we being a bit arrogant to think that we can know that we are saved?” These are very important questions and therefore we need to know with certainty that we have the right answer. We can know these these things with certainty because every principle I have shared with you comes straight from the pages of scripture.

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Therefore to say that we cannot know with certainty whether or not we are saved is to question the authority of Scripture.

~Terry Covey, Seeds of Faith

September 26, 2011

The Meaning of “Spreading the Gospel”

An interesting examination into a phrase that was quoted like scripture in the church where I grew up: “Why should anyone hear the gospel twice before everyone has heard it once?”  Eddie Arthur looks at this more  closely:

No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice while there remains someone who has not heard it once. (Oswald J. Smith)

This is the second post in what may become a series on famous sayings about Christian mission (the first one is here). This quote by Smith is one that turns up in lots of missionary writing and at first glance it seems to make sense, but like many things that make sense at first glance, it is actually rather problematic.

On the positive side, this quote encourages us to reflect on the importance of taking the Gospel to places where there are, as yet, no Christians. This is something which is absolutely key to the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators and something which motivated St. Paul, too.

My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. (Romans 15:20)

That being said, this quote raises an awful lot of questions.

“No one has a right to hear the Gospel twice”; I’m not sure where the language of rights comes from – it certainly isn’t in the Bible. Scripture talks about the responsibility of Christians to bear witness to Christ all around the world, but it is silent on the rights of people to hear the message. Surely, hearing the Gospel, once, twice or a hundred times is all about God’s grace in reaching out to His creation, not about our rights to hear.

So, what about this notion that people should only hear the Gospel once while others have not heard?

The first thing to say is that this is not how Paul operated. Despite his desire to preach in new situations, he spent serious amounts of time in some cities, building up and encouraging the Church and on more than one occasion he went back to visit a city where he had previously planted a Church.

This phrase comes from the sort of thinking which I addressed at a number of points in my series on the Great Commission. It stems from the idea that mission is nothing more than announcing the Good News of Jesus and moving on, it ignores the Biblical injunction to make disciples (Matthew 28:19,20) and fails to take Jesus commands to love and care for people seriously. Are we only supposed to give thirsty people one drink? Or should we visit prisoners once and then move on? (Matthew 25:38-40) Of course we wouldn’t limit these commands in this way; but there is nothing about the command to teach the Gospel that would allow us to limit that either.

Christian mission is about long-term engagement with people. It involves building relationships, serving people and telling them the Good News about Jesus. It takes time, often lots of time, for people to move from not knowing Christ to becoming his disciples. They may need to hear the Gospel many times.

However, the main problem with this phrase, and the sort of missiology that it represents, is that it places us and our strategy in the lead position in mission, rather than having us follow the Spirit and joining in where he is at work.

Phrases like this one are powerful, all the more so because they contain a grain of truth, but they can shape our thinking in ways that are not helpful. Sadly, it can be a lot easier to use sayings like this to shape our mission strategy rather than being guided by the complex and sometimes confusing narrative of Scripture.

If you want to look at this quote in more detail, take a look at what Ernest Goodman has to say (and follow the comments), here is a taste of his thoughts:

I cannot accept a missiology that essentially puts us on “auto-pilot” in terms of to whom we should go. The second we assume where and in whom God is going to work, we get ahead of Him and disqualify ourselves from full participation in what He’s doing. This missiology is essentially either/or; missions is either relating to those people that God leads us to, or it is targeting the next “lostest” people group according to our statistics and research. It cannot be both, because the second assumes a monopoly on the first. How else can we explain so many of our workers feeling called to work among “reached” peoples?

God is at work redeeming humankind to Himself. I believe that missions is crossing cultural barriers to be part of that. Until we seriously rethink our missiology, we will continue to build our strategies on a broken foundation.

September 23, 2011

Our Image Determines Our Destiny

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It’s really unfortunate that there are not modern language editions of the classic works of Andrew Murray.   Last night I was reading the “eighteenth lesson” of With Christ in the School of Prayer and was amazed again at the depth of his writing.

He begins with Jesus interacting with the Pharisees over the paying of the tribute tax, and Jesus’ question, “Whose image is on this coin?” (Matt 22:29) But then he quickly moves to Genesis 1, and talks about the fact that we were created in God’s image and that even post-fall, we still bear that image.

Our destiny was to fill, to subdue and to have dominion over the earth.  As God’s representatives, we were to rule here on earth.  The idea was that we were God’s representatives here on earth, and that there was a certain power that went with that responsibility.

Then, Andrew Murray points out that God’s relationship with man, and man’s relationship with creation underwent a great change when sin was introduced; but with redemption, we have “the beginning of a glorious restoration.”  This is also seen as God introduces what we could call ‘the road back’ through Abraham.

This road extends to us, where we have the opportunity to be new creations in Christ, and be brought back to our original destiny as God’s image is restored, and with it, the power to have dominion.  He then states that this will allow us to be bold in prayer.

There is much more in this lesson, but Murray concludes with the reminder that we, the church, have no idea of the high calling we have been given as we begin to understand, and move in, our original destiny.

…There’s no way I’ve done this justice in a few short words;  as good as paraphrasing Andrew Murray would be, trying to summarize him robs the text of its original depth and richness.  I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of With Christ in the School of Prayer and dedicate yourself to taking very small sections at a time, i.e. a chapter a day and slowing your reading speed to half its normal pace so you can absorb all that this great writer is saying.

 

 

August 15, 2011

The Impossibility of Doing Holiness on Our Own Strength

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Tim Challies is one of the few Canadian writers whose blog consistently turns up in the annual Top 100 Christian blog list, if not the Top 10.  He writes on a very wide variety of topics from a Reformed perspective, but nested in last week’s pieces was this short devotional which gives us a new analogy to use when trying to explain how we can never match God’s standard of holiness.  He simply called this piece 99.99%.

Canada’s Bank of Nova Scotia has to be one of the few banks in the world that allows you to order gold bullion online. Visit their web site, punch in your order along with your credit card information, and a couple days later FedEx will deliver your gold to the door, all sealed up in a plain and boring little envelope.

The gold comes in tiny little bars. For somewhere around $1700 (and rising fast!) you can purchase a 1 ounce gold bar and have it delivered to your home. It will be 22mm wide, 38mm high and 2.3mm thick. What you do with it once you buy it is a bit trickier—maybe you will want to put it in a safe deposit box or bury it out in the backyard.

That 1 ounce gold bar is 24 karat gold, 99.99% pure. Think about that for a moment. If it is 99.99% pure, it means that in order to divide out the impurities, you would need to divide it into 10,000 equal pieces before you found the one that was not gold. If the total surface area of that gold bar is 836mm, the impure part would come to less than one tenth of one millimeter. That would be smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. Do the calculation by weight and you’d find that it comes out to less than 3 milligrams.

A little while ago my son was asking me about holiness, about what it means to be a sinner. He was having trouble distinguishing between what it means to do bad things to other people and what it means to be a sinner. He is only a young kid, not old enough to have experienced any significant trouble. He has never murdered, he has never stolen, he has never cursed the name of God. He may have done some bad things in his life, but honestly, he’s a pretty good kid. Isn’t that good enough? If we were to divide his life into 10,000 little thoughts and actions, would we find that only one in 10,000 was impure?

The problem, of course, is that God is not 99.99% pure and neither does he allow us to be “only” that pure. God is perfect—not mostly perfect, not almost entirely perfect, but absolutely, fully, purely perfect. And he made us to be like him, to be holy as he is holy. He gave us the ability to live in that holiness, to live so that 10,000 out of 10,000 thoughts and deeds were unblemished in any way. 99.99% was never meant to be good enough. Though our first parents, acting on our behalf, saw fit to blemish that holiness, plunging us all into filth and defilement, the standard has removed unchanged. God demands and expects perfection. Any lack of perfection blemishes the entire person.

Ah, but here’s where we come to the heart of it. We cannot be perfect even though God demands perfection. And yet, out of his infinite grace, he has provided for us a substitute, one who was good on our behalf. He was good when he was born, free of the defilement of our parents; he was good as he walked the earth, free of the defilement of his own sin; he was good as he hung on the cross, even though there he became sin for us, taking on the full weight of our sin. And in the eyes of God, his sacrifice was good and sufficient. And now he offers to trade his holiness for our sin, if only we will trust in him.

It will be the answer to many, many prayers when my children look to this Savior, when they trade in their filth for his righteousness.

~Tim Challies

 

June 14, 2011

After That He Took The Cup…

While reading through the Psalms, Cindy at Cindy by the Sea gets some new insights into Passover…  There’s much more than that here as well, you might want to click the link at the very bottom and catch up on previous installments of this study…

“Who shut up the sea behind doors, when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment, and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it, and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther, here is where your proud waves halt?’”  Job 38:8-11

God separates light from dark, sea from land and the righteous from the unrighteous.

————————————

Yesterday afternoon, I went out shopping and when I returned to my car, I found the following hand written words scrawled in blue pen on a white sheet of paper and attached to my windshield –

“Please do every one a favor and learn how to park!’  Signed, “the public.”

Indignant, I looked at the note and then at my tires and sure enough, I was parked a little over the line; well, maybe just a little more than a little, but, not that much!  I then glanced around at the cars parked near me and wondered who had the gall to write such a note and who would make such a big deal out of such a small thing.  After all, I had only gone a little over the line.

It didn’t occur to me until this morning, that my little parking episode had provided the perfect opening for today’s post.

————————-

When I started researching these Psalms, I came across a foot note in my Bible that really excited me, a foot-note, which at least for me provided the key to understanding the prophetic implication of this particular group of Psalms.

According to my foot-note, Psalms 113- 118, (the Egyptian Hallel)  is broken in to two parts, when read at Passover. The first two Psalms (113 & 114) are recited before the pouring of the second cup and the last three Psalms (115-118) are recited before the filling of the fourth cup.  Now this is very important. As someone who loves Passover and has taught on it many times, I was blown away, when I understood the implications of this.

Let’s start here:

There are four cups of wine at a Passover Seder.  In order, they are:

The cup of Sanctification, the cup of Judgment, the cup of Redemption and the cup of Praise.

If Psalms 113 and 114 correspond with years 2013 and 2014, then, we would expect to see someone or something sanctified (set apart) before judgment (wrath) falls.  *not to be confused with the chaos of 2012, which is a type of judgment, but, is not the wrath that falls during the last 3.5 years of the seven-year period.

Now, Sanctification is a big word which simply means to “set apart”. 

Passover, of course, did exactly that. By bringing his people out of Egypt, God separated them unto himself.  In the last days, there will be another group of people sanctified or “called out”.  We find these people listed in Revelation chapter 7, and they are the 144,000, 12,000 Jewish men from each tribe. 

Starting with Psalm 114 and working backwards –

The 114th Psalm opens with a recounting of the Exodus events –

“When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.  The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs. Why was it, O sea that you fled, O Jordan that you turned back, you mountains that you skipped like rams, you hills, like lambs?” Psalm 114:1-6

Now, why would it be important for the 114th Psalm to start out this way?  If God is going to call out this great group of people, who will be instrumental in bringing a remnant to faith in Christ during this period, what better way than recalling the great events of the Exodus.  Don’t you just love the wording used, this was a time of incredible joy for the Father, “the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs!”  This was marvelous, this was incredible, God had chosen a people for himself and called them out of Egypt.

Life in Egypt was darkness, life in Egypt was slavery, life in Egypt was hopeless – but, God delivered them!  Out of the chaos of 2012, a light shines, God raises up 144,000 spirit filled dynamos that will powerfully preach the message of the cross.  And, people will be saved!  A remnant to be sure, but, nevertheless, people will be saved!

Psalm 114, therefore, serves as a reminder that God is not yet finished – even in the midst of chaos God has set apart, chosen and sealed a people for his purposes. 

The Psalm ends with these words:

“Tremble, O earth at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock in to a pool, the hard rock in to springs of water.”  Psalm 114:8

The indication here I believe, that the same God who brought water out of the rock, will turn even these terrible events of the tribulation period in to springs of living water for those who will hear and believe.

How many will be saved during this period, I don’t know. But, I do know that we are told in the book of Zechariah that 2/3 of the population of Israel will die, while 1/3  will survive – therefore, of the estimated six million people living in Israel today, at least two million will come to faith in Jesus Christ at some time during this period. (Zechariah 13:8)

Backing up to Psalm 113 – the year that follows on the heels of the opening of the six seals during the year 2012.  The Psalmist opens with these words:

“Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forever more. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”

God has begun a mighty work; world-wide in scope which will culminate in triumph over his enemies. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, THE NAME OF THE LORD IS TO BE PRAISED!

The Psalmist reminds us in verses 4-6 that God is exalted ABOVE the nations, enthroned on high, he stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth.

“The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth.” Psalm 113: 4-6

Can you imagine? God stoops down to see who is making such a fuss. The nations raging against Israel are really raging against God. In their vain imaginations and their pride, they think by defeating Israel, they can defeat God. They don’t want their ten commandments and they sure don’t want their Messiah. They want their self-made, man-made religion without any restrictions, without any boundaries and without any responsibilities. And, as long as Jews and Christians are around, it’s a sore reminder of a God who says otherwise.

During this chaotic time period, those who are poor and needy ( in other words, those who see their spiritual need and respond to the call of Jesus) will be lifted from the ash heap and the dust to be seated with princes.

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people.” Psalm 113:7-8

Every Passover Seder begins with an invitation to Passover. A call for any one who is hungry or thirsty to come to the table. The implication, that what ever your needs, they will be met at the Passover table.  And, of course, in a very large sense it is true, as the Passover Seder is a wonderful picture of the redemptive work of Christ. Jesus, who also said, ”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” To be seated with the princes, is to be seated with Christ.

And, the Psalm concludes –

“He settles the barren woman in her home, as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord!”  Psalm 113:9

The barren woman (Rachel) matriarch of the Jewish people, was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin; Joseph, a type of Christ. Israel, will never be moved from their land. And, Jew and Gentile believers, their happy-off spring of whom there are many, will share in this blessed inheritance.

I started todays post with my little parking incident and though minor and of no real consequence, I have to admit, how quickly, I took offense at being shown the error of my ways. There are laws and boundaries that govern even nature itself. Only man has the choice and the capability of defying the creator. Humbleness is not easy to come by and without the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit, not one of us would see our sin and how desperately in need of a Savior, we really are. 

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper who love thee” Psalm 122:6   Watching and waiting with YOU for the soon return of Jesus!  

~Cindy

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