Christianity 201

November 30, 2016

God’s Providence for His People

Today we’re paying a first-time visit to the blog No Condemnation. Click the title to read at source. (This Psalm appears in your Bible just a couple before the one we looked at yesterday, and is quite different.)

Let the redeemed tell their story

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever. Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe …

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.
Psalm 107:1, 6-7, 19-20 (NIV)

Read: Psalm 107

Consider: A few days ago we looked at the problem of praying when the words just won’t come. This can be because the problem we are facing is so enormous, or potentially life-changing. It is in times like these that the Holy Spirit takes our unspoken words and groans, and intercedes to God on our behalf. Prayer in difficult times is generally more heart felt than prayer in easy times.

The story of the people of Israel is one of bringing their troubles before God and, once the immediate danger had passed, they promptly forgot and rebelled against Him. As a Christian you are unlikely to go into open rebellion against God, but do you remember or forget God’s providence once the danger you have been facing has passed?

I love the opening verses of Psalm 107 where it says: ‘Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story …’ (v2). It speaks to me of the providence of God and how he cares for and loves us, but it also speaks to me about my response to God’s goodness in my life. When God rescues you in your trouble (note: not from your trouble) are you forgetful, or do you want to thank God so much that your can’t stop talking about it? Are you willing to share details of God’s rescue with your close relatives, home group members, the wider church membership? I’m not advocating being so talkative about yourself that you very quickly become a bore. What I am advocating is the willingness to recognize God’s hand in your circumstances and thanking him first and foremost for this. As the psalmist puts it : Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever (v1). Having first thanked God, we should then be willing to share with others what God has done for us.

Look again at Psalm 107 and some of the words the psalmist uses to speak of God’s providence for his people. He uses words like redeemed, delivered, led, saved, healed and rescued. All these speak so clearly of God’s love.

Don’t let the fact that the immediate danger has passed prevent you from thanking God and telling others about his providence in your life. You never know who is going through similar circumstance to yourself, who needs to hear your words of encouragement.

Pray: Father, forgive us for being so quick to forget your goodness to us. May we remember to thank you and also to share with others what you have been doing in our lives. Amen

Every blessing.

 

March 25, 2016

The Theme of the Day

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

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

Isaiah 53:5, NKJV and NLT

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

Three Crosses

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

I never miss this event.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was our sin and guilt that put Him there.

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

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

Isaiah 52:7 NASB

and one that is repeated in the New Testament:

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

Romans 10:15 CEV

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

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

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

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

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

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

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

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

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

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

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!

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

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

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

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

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

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

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

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

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

Our God reigns, our God reigns…


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

February 6, 2016

Responses to ‘Sin Boldly’

NIV 1 John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Two days ago we ran a devotional post centered on the phrase ‘sin boldly’ which is a modernization of words spoken by Martin Luther. You can read that post at this link, along with Luther’s original quotation. I realize that we only scratched the surface on this, and sensed through one posted comment and an email that a few of you would like to delve into this a little deeper. So today we’ll take some extra time to hear from several voices.

First, Russell Young posted this (click the article link to read the full comment):

…There seems to be a common understanding that the believer is “free to sin.” This is not so! All, starting with the household of God, will be judged for the things done in the flesh whether good or evil. Will we sin? Yes! Can it be forgiven? John makes it clear that repentance and confession can result in forgiveness. (1 John 1:9) The believer must be led by the Spirit. He must be obedient and it is through “obedience” that he will gain “eternal” salvation. (Hebrews 5:9) The result of being led is that he will become a “son of God.” (Romans 8:14) If he lives according to the sinful nature he will die. He must put to death the misdeeds of the body if he is to live. (Romans 8:13) You are correct in stating that we cannot help but sin, but the Spirit, who is the Spirit of Christ in the believer, will not sin and will provide escape from temptations and recourse for those who do…

…Although there are a great many references to the need to walk in the light and under the leadership of the Spirit, these are being ignored as spiritual educators hang onto the teachings of Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc. and set the Word aside.

The Lord’s own teaching should give cause for concern: “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” (John 8:34-35) A son is the one who is being led. Also, He revealed in His Revelation that it is those who “overcome” who will be allowed entry into His holy city, the New Jerusalem. (Revelation 21:7)

At the website, The Grace of God:

…Replacing the word “sin” with the word “murder” we have this:  Be a murderer and murder boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.  Or how about this: Be an adulterer and commit adultery boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly. Or perhaps your favorite sin is lying:  Be a liar and lie boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.  Do you steal? Be a thief and steal boldly! Just make sure you believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly!

Some may accuse me of taking Martin Luther’s words out of context, but I assert that his words have been used as a license to sin by many, and indeed seem custom-made for the job!  He said you can murder a thousand times a day and still remain in Jesus Christ! Have you ever heard such blasphemy? I know Luther is a revered reformer, but Christ’s sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. They will not follow the voice of the stranger, and this is the voice of a stranger if I’ve ever heard one. Test the spirits by which men speak!  Never assume that someone honored by others is the friend of your soul.

To the shamed adulterer, Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

To the man whom He had healed from a 38-year infirmity, Jesus said, “Sin no more lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14)  What could be worse than 38 years of perpetual infirmity?

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” (I Cor. 15:34)

He also wrote, “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:15-16)

Again, Paul wrote to Timothy, “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ DEPART FROM INIQUITY.’”  (2 Tim. 2:19)

The Apostle John testified that he wrote his epistle “that you may not sin.” (I Jn. 2:1)

Peter wrote of false teachers who would deny the Lord who bought them, bringing on themselves swift destruction. How do they deny the Lord?–through disobedience and teaching disobedience to the Lord’s servants. For they profess to know God, but in works they deny Him. Some of their distinguishing marks are:  they will receive the wages of unrighteousness (because they are unrighteous), they count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime (not even blushing for their sins, but doing them boldly even in the company of the Christian church), and they have eyes full of adultery, and they cannot cease from sin (2 Pet. 2:1-14; Titus 1:16).

They cannot cease from sin! Though Jesus said to cease from sin and gives victory over sin to those who abide in Him, and though His apostles taught that we must cease from sin and obey Jesus, these teachers not only cannot cease from sin in their own lives, but they also teach others, “Be a sinner and sin boldly…as long as we are here, WE HAVE TO SIN.”

Do you hear the hiss of the deceiver in those terrible words? …

The website Confessing Evangelical quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s response to sin boldly:

…Is this the proclamation of cheap grace, naked and unashamed, the carte blanche for sin, the end of all discipleship? Is this a blasphemous encouragement to sin boldly and rely on grace? Is there a more diabolical abuse of grace than to sin and rely on the grace which God has given? Is not the Roman Catechism quite right in denouncing this as the sin against the Holy Ghost?…

Taken as the premise [for our doctrine of grace], pecca fortiter [sin boldly] acquires the character of an ethical principle, a principle of grace to which the principle of pecca fortiter must correspond. That means the justification of sin, and it turns Luther’s formula into its very opposite.

For Luther “sin boldly” could only be his very last refuge, the consolation for one whose attempts to follow Christ had taught him that he can never become sinless, who in his fear of sin despairs of the grace of God. As Luther saw it, “sin boldly” did not happen to be a fundamental acknowledgement of his disobedient life; it was the gospel of the grace of God before which we are always and in every circumstance sinners. Yet that grace seeks us and justifies us, sinners though we are.

Take courage and confess your sin, says Luther, do not try to run away from it, but believe more boldly still. You are a sinner, so be a sinner, and don’t try to become what you are not. Yes, and become a sinner again and again every day, and be bold about it.

But to whom can such words be addressed, except to those who from the bottom of their hearts make a daily renunciation of sin and of every barrier which hinders them from following Christ, but who nevertheless are troubled by their daily faithlessness and sin? Who can hear these words without endangering his faith but he who hears their consolation as a renewed summons to follow Christ? Interpreted in this way, these words of Luther become a testimony to the costliness of grace, the only genuine kind of grace there is.

At the website authored by J. P. Serrano:

…First, it is an indictment of who we are.  Luther is clearly saying to Melanchthon that we (people) are sinners and because of our fallenness, we will continue to sin until the second coming.  I believe that Luther is using a hyperbole here in order for us to understand exactly who we are.  Our sins are real; they are not unimportant nor minimal…they do matter. Luther is trying to tell those people who think they are pretty good, except for those little sins here or there, that they are in fact really big sinners and should see themselves as big sinners.  Hence why he says, “be a sinner.”  What I hear in this is an admonition for me to own the state I am in now and a recognition that I am not a saint on my own.  Nowhere in here do I hear Luther giving permission to sin–which is the way I hear the quote often used.

Secondly, we need to own our sin and understand it to be real, in order for grace to be real.  If we have fake sin, then we don’t need grace.  If our sin, however, is real, then we in fact need a grace that is real.  What I hear in this is more about God’s grace to forgive and continually seek me out rather than doing whatever I want (or as it is more popularly summarized: SINNING BOLDLY!)

Lastly, what is missed in not quoting the whole phrase Luther uses is the admonition to let our trust in Christ be stronger than the sins we commit.  Luther is telling Melanchthon (and us) that our trust in Christ is of first importance.  It is to be stronger than our sin, and it is to cause us to rejoice in victory.  This is important because I often I hear a defeatism in Lutheranism that keeps continually reminding people that we are sinners (which we are), but doesn’t in the same breath remind us that we are in fact freed from sin in Christ whom overcame.

I want to thank Deb for getting us thinking about this two days ago and getting us started on the path where we’ve ended up today. She concluded that we can’t be “avoiding life and people to protect ourselves from sin.” In the real world we’re going to get our hands and feet dirty. We need to acknowledge that, which is a very nuanced difference from accepting that.

December 17, 2015

Christ as Burnt Offering

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Today we pay a return visit to Abundant Life Now, the blog of Robert Lloyd Russell. To read this at source, click the title below. This devotional study is packed with scripture references, and brings to life a book of the Bible that some struggle with when reading. (Note: When you’re done here, check out the “3 Men” series of studies currently running at Robert’s blog.)

Christ, Burnt Offering

~ 10 Previews of Christ in One First Covenant Offering ~

Some commentators consider the Book of Leviticus the greatest book in the Bible. It opens with five offerings (sacrifices) to the nation of Israel—with specific laws for each one. All five offerings present a picture of the Coming Messiah—Jesus Christ.

The first group of three offerings in Leviticus 1-3 (the sweet savor offerings) provide a glimpse of the person and character of Jesus Christ. He is lovely, He is our peace, and most importantly He is our substitute—He paid the penalty for our sin.

The final two offerings, the sin offering and the trespass offering, (the non-sweet savor offerings) are bitter. They provide a glimpse of the redemptive work of the person of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary for us. In this post we will look at just the first offering—the burnt offering.

The Burnt Offering was listed first in order because it is first in importance! It is the only free will offering (voluntary, not required by God). It is likely the oldest offering known to man (i.e., Abel, the son of Adam, provided a burnt offering). God gave Israel this as the first offering and even called the place of the burnt offering the burnt altar.

This burnt offering is a clear “type” or foreshadow of Jesus Christ. Consider ten aspects of the burnt offering which point to The Messiah—Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Burnt ~ The Hebrew word means “that which ascends.” The offering was entirely consumed—nothing left but ashes. “If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd … And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord” (Leviticus 1:3a, 9b). Jesus Christ gave His totality on the Cross of Calvary. Upon the completion of His once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin He exclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Washed ~ The animal’s inwards and legs were washed with water. “He shall wash its entrails and its legs with water (Leviticus 1:9a). For us the inwards relate to our inner thought life and our character and legs represent our walk or lifestyle. In the New Testament we are washed the water of the written Word of God and by the by the blood of the living Word of God. “A new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:20-22). “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6).

Domestic ~ It was a domestic animal. Wild animals were not acceptable. “When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock” (Leviticus 1:2b). Domestic animals represent taming—or obedience. “Jesus Christ humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross” (Philippians 2:8b).

Male ~ “… a male without blemish…” (Leviticus 1:3). Male symbolizes strength. The Lord Jesus Christ is “mighty to save” (Isaiah 63:1). He is able to “save to the uttermost” (Hebrews 7:25).

Perfect ~ The sacrifices of Leviticus required “… a male without blemish…” (Leviticus 1:3). Those sacrifices pointed forward to the true sacrificial lamb, the Lamb of God, who was “without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19) and Who lived a sinless life on earth—“in Him no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22).

Choice ~ “…he shall offer it of his own free will…” (Leviticus 1:3). Jesus said, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18a).

Substitute ~ “The burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him (Leviticus 1:4b). The burnt offering was a substitute offering—a vicarious offering—on behalf of another. That is the great basic issue of The Gospel of Jesus Christ—that He paid for my sin, for your sin, and for the sins of all who will come to Him as their personal Savior. By God’s law “without the shedding of blood there is no remission [forgiveness] of sin” (Hebrews 9:22). “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7b).

• Important note: This is a major change in God’s dealings with mankind. No longer is sin covered over (atonement) as it was in the first covenant rather now it is paid in full and forgiven.

Death ~ “He shall kill the bull before the Lord” (Leviticus 1:5a). The animal had to die on behalf of the Israelites as a sacrifice for their sin. Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty of our sin. Who killed the Christ? I killed Him. You killed Him.

Separation ~ Later we learn in chapter 4 of Leviticus that the ashes of both the animal sacrifice and the fuel for the fire were required to be taken outside the camp. Jesus Christ while He was in the world maintained a perfect separation from sin. Christians today are to be separate from the world. “Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

His Radiance ~ “And the priest who offers anyone’s burnt offering, that priest shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering which he has offered (Leviticus 7:8).

The only exception to the consuming fire was the skin of the animal which was kept for a covering (an atonement in the first covenant). Christians are priests (1 Peter 2:9) and are seen by God the Father as being covered with the Robe of Christ’s righteousness.

• The scripture revisited:   “Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock. If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He shall kill the bull before the Lord’” (Leviticus 1:1-5a).


Reprinted from “Abundant Life Now,” a free blog which offers inspiring moments, thought-provoking comments, and solid Biblical insight at http://RobertLloydRussell.blogspot.com/ .

May 12, 2014

Unpacking the Meaning of Redemption

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:28 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , ,

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

« Previous PageNext Page »