Posts Tagged With: Jesus Christ

Incarnation: God Sent His Son to Save Us

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. JOHN 1:14

Trinity and Incarnation belong together. The doctrine of the Trinity declares that the man Jesus is truly divine; that of the Incarnation declares that the divine Jesus is truly human. Together they proclaim the full reality of the Savior whom the New Testament sets forth, the Son who came from the Father’s side at the Father’s will to become the sinner’s substitute on the cross (Matt. 20:28; 26:36-46; John 1:29; 3:13-17; Rom. 5:8; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; 8:9; Phil. 2:5-8).

The moment of truth regarding the doctrine of the Trinity came at the Council of Nicaea (A.D.325), when the church countered the Arian idea that Jesus was God’s first and noblest creature by affirming that he was of the same “substance” or “essence” (i.e., the same existing entity) as the Father. Thus there is one God, not two; the distinction between Father and Son is within the divine unity, and the Son is God in the same sense as the Father is. In saying that Son and Father are “of one substance,” and that the Son is “begotten” (echoing “only-begotten,” John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18, and NIV text notes) but “not made,” the Nicene Creed unequivocally recognized the deity of the man from Galilee.

A crucial event for the church’s confession of the doctrine of the Incarnation came at the Council of Chalcedon (A.D.451), when the church countered both the Nestorian idea that Jesus was two personalities—the Son of God and a man—under one skin, and the Eutychian idea that Jesus’ divinity had swallowed up his humanity. Rejecting both, the council affirmed that Jesus is one divine-human person in two natures (i.e., with two sets of capacities for experience, expression, reaction, and action); and that the two natures are united in his personal being without mixture, confusion, separation, or division; and that each nature retained its own attributes. In other words, all the qualities and powers that are in us, as well as all the qualities and powers that are in God, were, are, and ever will be really and distinguishably present in the one person of the man from Galilee. Thus the Chalcedonian formula affirms the full humanity of the Lord from heaven in categorical terms.

The Incarnation, this mysterious miracle at the heart of historic Christianity, is central in the New Testament witness. That Jews should ever have come to such a belief is amazing. Eight of the nine New Testament writers, like Jesus’ original disciples, were Jews, drilled in the Jewish axiom that there is only one God and that no human is divine. They all teach, however, that Jesus is God’s Messiah, the Spirit-anointed son of David promised in the Old Testament (e.g., Isa. 11:1-5; Christos, “Christ,” is Greek for Messiah). They all present him in a threefold role as teacher, sin-bearer, and ruler—prophet, priest, and king. And in other words, they all insist that Jesus the Messiah should be personally worshiped and trusted—which is to say that he is God no less than he is man. Observe how the four most masterful New Testament theologians (John, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, and Peter) speak to this.

John’s Gospel frames its eyewitness narratives (John 1:14; 19:35; 21:24) with the declarations of its prologue (1:1-18): that Jesus is the eternal divine Logos (Word), agent of Creation and source of all life and light (vv. 1-5, 9), who through becoming “flesh” was revealed as Son of God and source of grace and truth, indeed as “God the only begotten” (vv. 14, 18; NIV text notes). The Gospel is punctuated with “I am” statements that have special significance because I am (Greek: ego eimi) was used to render God’s name in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14; whenever John reports Jesus as saying ego eimi, a claim to deity is implicit. Examples of this are John 8:28, 58, and the seven declarations of his grace as (a) the Bread of Life, giving spiritual food (6:35, 48, 51); (b) the Light of the World, banishing darkness (8:12; 9:5); (c) the gate for the sheep, giving access to God (10:7, 9); (d) the Good Shepherd, protecting from peril (10:11, 14); (e) the Resurrection and Life, overcoming our death (11:25); (f) the Way, Truth, and Life, guiding to fellowship with the Father (14:6); (g) the true Vine, nurturing for fruitfulness (15:1, 5). Climactically, Thomas worships Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (20:28). Jesus then pronounces a blessing on all who share Thomas’s faith and John urges his readers to join their number (20:29-31).

Paul quotes from what seems to be a hymn that declares Jesus’ personal deity (Phil. 2:6); states that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9; cf. 1:19); hails Jesus the Son as the Father’s image and as his agent in creating and upholding everything (Col. 1:15-17); declares him to be “Lord” (a title of kingship, with divine overtones), to whom one must pray for salvation according to the injunction to call on Yahweh in Joel 2:32 (Rom. 10:9-13); calls him “God over all” (Rom. 9:5) and “God and Savior” (Titus 2:13); and prays to him personally (2 Cor. 12:8-9), looking to him as a source of divine grace (2 Cor. 13:14). The testimony is explicit: faith in Jesus’ deity is basic to Paul’s theology and religion.

The writer to the Hebrews, purporting to expound the perfection of Christ’s high priesthood, starts by declaring the full deity and consequent unique dignity of the Son of God (Heb. 1:3, 6, 8-12), whose full humanity he then celebrates in chapter 2. The perfection, and indeed the very possibility, of the high priesthood that he describes Christ as fulfilling depends on the conjunction of an endless, unfailing divine life with a full human experience of temptation, pressure, and pain (Heb. 2:14-17; 4:14-5:2; 7:13-28; 12:2-3).

Not less significant is Peter’s use of Isaiah 8:12-13 (1 Pet. 3:14). He cites the Greek (Septuagint) version, urging the churches not to fear what others fear but to set apart the Lord as holy. But where the Septuagint text of Isaiah says, “Set apart the Lord himself,” Peter writes, “Set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Pet. 3:15). Peter would give the adoring fear due to the Almighty to Jesus of Nazareth, his Master and Lord.

The New Testament forbids worship of angels (Col. 2:18; Rev. 22:8-9) but commands worship of Jesus and focuses consistently on the divine-human Savior and Lord as the proper object of faith, hope, and love here and now. Religion that lacks these emphases is not Christianity. Let there be no mistake about that!

From J.I. Packer’s: Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs

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There’s a Purpose Behind It: God Identifies With Our Suffering

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:38-44). 

What do we see about this? First, by believing, we see the glory of God.

Secondly, the Father always hears the Son, and Christ intercedes for us and is doing so even now—even if we cannot sense that He is. He makes this clear for the people around him.

Thirdly, Jesus has Lord over death. Death listens to Jesus! If Jesus tells death to go, then death moves because Jesus is God the Son who is over death. Jesus was sent by God (v. 42) to conquer death for His own.

How would he do this? By his own death! Remember that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised. During Jesus death, we see the sky go dark for three days, when his Father turned His back on His Son—the only time they had ever been separated, for God cannot look upon sin. Here, Christ was paying for the penalty of our sin by becoming sin for us, and being separated from His beloved Father.

But when He said, “It is finished,” the Apostle Paul builds on this three word phrase:

54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

By the Father and the Son identifying with suffering in this way shows that there is a purpose behind the suffering. Malcolm Mudderidge says:

Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.

So what are we to think of suffering? That the presence of suffering is the absence of God? By no means, because God sent His Son for the purpose of suffering so that our suffering for His sake might mean something.

C.S. Lewis says, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  Suffering has a purpose—to show the cursed nature and wickedness prevalent in the world, so that we would recognize there is something for which we long—a hope in which we have only in Christ who saves, sanctifies, and glorifies!

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Everywhere Jesus Looked Caused Him to Weep: When the Hosannas Fade

Jesus Weeps Over His Beloved Jerusalem

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying,“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).

About 600 years before this even, the prophet Jeremiah wept over the city of Jerusalem when a nation named Babylon came in and carried the citizens off into exile away from the Holy Land, and destroyed the city—including the Temple!  If you wonder about how broken Jeremiah was, reading the book of Lamentations in the OT.

Here, Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem, not simply over the past, but over the present and the future.  Wiersbe rightly noted that “no matter where Jesus looked, he found some cause for weeping.”  Looking back¸ He saw a nation for whom was the “time of visitation” of the Messiah suffered from wasted opportunities.  Looking within, he saw a nation filled with hearts blinded with spiritual ignorance.  Looking around, he saw much religious activity, but little accomplished for any eternal significance.

But then he looked ahead.  His words about the upcoming days “when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you” set an ominous tone to his triumphal entry.  A scant 40 years later, the Romans would lay siege to Jerusalem for 143 days (almost five months), kill 600,000 Jews, take thousands more captive, then destroy the Temple and the city—and like Jeremiah who saw this happen 600 years prior, he wept with a loud lamentation.

We look at the church of Jesus Christ and remember from 1 Peter 4:17 that judgment begins with the house of God.  How is Jesus looking at His church now?  If he were to show us in looking back, would there be a time filled with wasted opportunities to connect with Jesus and connect Him to others around us?  Are the buildings that house the church also filled with those who are spiritually blind and ignorance to the grace of God?  Would he look around and see a lot of religious activity that may bring some sort of security and comfort to those inside the buildings, but are really accomplishing little spiritual activity?   And what is He seeing ahead?

Just as God used the idolatrous pagan Babylonians and Romans as an instrument of His judgment, He may well use secular governments and kingdoms as judgment toward those who “have a form of religion but deny its power.”  The very people who were praising the Savior would be the ones who would turn around and shout “Crucify Him” at the behest of the Roman guards.  When things seemed to go according to their plan, they praised.  But what would happen when things turned?

Even the subsequent arrest, kangaroo court trial, and His crucifixion were not ultimately at the hands of the Romans and Jewish leaders at that time.  The King was working out His plan!

And regardless what even the court systems say in regards to what God has spoken, we cannot live or die based upon what they say or even what the majority says.  God has spoken–and that (unlike public policy) will never change because He never changes.  Come what may, trust in His Word and His plan (Psalm 119:15-16).

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What Wondrous Love is This? The Lifting Up, Sending Down, and the Judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:14-21)

Around the time where we observe the Resurrection Sunday, many churches sing a wonderful chorus that begins:

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb,
Who is the great I AM,
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

It is a wondrous love, an amazing love—but what kind of love is this that we speak of in this passage? When we begin to look at the different ways not only the world speaks of God’s love but also the way the Scriptures speak of it, no wonder that D.A. Carson penned a book based on lectures entitled The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.

Why difficult? Carson outlines the different types of love God expresses in Scripture:

  • The peculiar love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father (John 14:31).
  • God’s love for all things he has made as Creator to His creation (Genesis 1)
  • God’s salvific stance toward his fallen world (not the bigness of the world, but of the badness of the world).
  • God’s particular love to his elect (Ephesians 5:25)
  • God’s love toward His people in a provisional way –provisioned on obedience (Jude 21).

As you can see, we must take time to look at what wondrous love is this God displays and speaks of in John 3:16. Remember how Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a ruler and teacher of the Jews. He knew the Word of the Lord—but he did not know the Lord of the Word. He could not be born by affiliation with a group or race. He could not be saved by his status. He could not be saved by his intellect and knowledge of the Scripture. It’s a wondrous love because His love is not displayed merely to one group

1. The Son of Man must be lifted up so we may live.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

When we use the term ‘lifted up’ in our day is usually used in the context of worship. We sometimes hear worship leaders say, “Let’s lift up the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But we must understand what Jesus is talking about. Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. Remember how the Pharisees were ones who sought to preserve and protect the Law, that is, the Scriptures. They knew the Scriptures backwards and forwards. So when Jesus said basically in passing, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,” Nicodemus immediately connected. However, we may not, so let’s connect it to see what Jesus means.

Turn with me to Numbers 21:4-9:

4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze[a] serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

What we see here is a rebellion against the protection and provision against the very God who made them and delivered them! But there’s more to it. The people of Israel could not go through Edom, so they went around, turning their back on the Red Sea that, had they crossed it, would have put them in the Promised Land. They grew “impatient–” and let it flow in their grievances. George Matheson once noted, “The hardest thing is that most of us are called to exercise patience, not in the sick bed, but in the street.” The people of Israel struggled with this—and so do we. The fact is, patience is not something with which we are naturally endowed. Patience is a part of the fruit of the Spirit. It’s not about being patient when things are going your way, but when things are not, when the timing is not, when the plans are not.

And so they spoke! Notice a number of things: (1) they lamented being delivered by God’s grace out of their slavery; (2) they bemoaned that they had no food or water, but they acknowledged there was some food, but they deemed it worthless. It was the manna and quail that God provided, without them having to lift a finger to make it. They rejected God’s grace.

So God sent fiery serpents on the people. God was powerful enough to demonstrate mercy, but also powerful enough to send justice! And here we see a subtler message Jesus gives to Nicodemus—don’t reject the message and provision that God has provided in the message Christ was giving them.

But God also gave them a remedy: put a bronze serpent on the pole, which all that looks up will go from death unto life. As they looked up in the wilderness and received physical life by God’s grace, so they could look up to the Christ lifted up and have eternal life.

2. The Son must be sent down so we may be lifted up (John 3:16-18).

16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

“For God so loved the world.” For many of us, this begins the most treasured verse in all of Scripture. But for many others, this is brand new.

When one looks at Tim Tebow’s stat line in the playoff game against Pittsburgh, he was 10 of 21 for 316 yards, averaging 31.6 yards per game. The Steelers’ time of possession was 31:06. CBS’ final quarter-hour overnight ratings were, yes, a 31.6.

But as a result of this, millions of fans Googled John 3:16, causing this verse to spread all over, with ESPN writers like Adam Schefter printing it out in full on an article dated January 13, 2012.[1]

I pray with further understanding, we may give even more glory to God.

What does this phrase mean? Does it mean intensity—God loved the world sooooo much? While God does love those whom He created with great intensity, there is better way to look at this. Suppose you’re teaching your child how to folk a pair of pants. I showed my boys the other day, “You fold them in half, then in half, and in half.” I could have said, “You fold it just so!” In other words, you fold it in this manner.

The point? Jesus is telling us, “God loved the world in this manner.” He demonstrated His love in this way! Other versions have translated this verse in this manner, and some have objected to it. May we not treasure a translation so that we neglect the meaning!

As we saw last Sunday when a dear sister came to recommit her life to Christ, we were reminded that we cannot climb a ladder of our own righteousness to get to God, but we do understand that Christ came down! God gave His Son (v. 16) and God sent His Son (v. 17).

The phrase that is translated, “that whoever believes in him” needs our attention as well. In the original, the word ‘whosoever’ is not there, but in essence it says, “all of the believing ones.” The word ‘whosoever’ is misleading—not just anyone could have everlasting life, but in connection with what Jesus said earlier, only those who have been born from above, born of the Spirit. We are dead spiritually, and can only be made alive if God makes us born again. Paul lets us know this, that “God, being rich in mercy, made us alive in Jesus—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4). Though we were dead in our sins, God raised us up! This is why God sent His Son!

In verses 17-18, we see Jesus telling Nicodemus that God sent Him into the world not to judge the world but that the world might be saved. Again, remember what’s being said and to whom. He’s speaking to Nicodemus, and Nicodemus and his fellow Pharisees thought and taught that only the Jews would be saved, and the Gentiles would be damned. But Christ came to rescue not just a people from one tribe, but from every tribe, language, people, and nation.

But isn’t this wonderful: whoever believes in him is not condemned. Why? Jesus took our condemnation! Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus—for the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death.” If you are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. You are free from sin and death. But there is condemnation for those who are not in Christ Jesus.

Just before the death of actor W.C. Fields, a friend visited Fields’ hospital room and was surprised to find him thumbing through a Bible. Asked what he was doing with a Bible, Fields replied, “I’m looking for loopholes.”

“On Him Almighty vengeance fell,
Which would have sunk a world to hell.
He bore it for a chosen race,
And thus becomes our Hiding Place.”

3. We must be held up by the Son we may not be sent down (John 3:19-21).

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

What is the essence of the judgment that Jesus defines here in verse 19? These words may sound familiar, since they echo John 1:10-11. The judgment is ultimately this, “What will we do with the light that has come into the world?” By nature, people love the darkness rather than the light.

Do we not truly understand this in fullness after Friday’s atrocity in Aurora? Alex Teves, Jon Blunk, John Larimer, Mikayla Medek, Alex Sullivan, Rebecca Wingo, Jessica Ghawi, Matt McQuinn, AJ Boik, jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, and Veronica Moser-Sullivan. Twelve victims, shot down in a senseless act of violence at a time when many simply expected to go and enjoy a movie. Twelve murdered and 59 wounded! This news made it internationally—my Trinidad pastor friend, Roddie Taylor, e-mailed me to make sure I was OK. Yes, it made it that far. And yes, everyone was mortified.

Each of them the recipient of a senseless, ridiculous shooting. Listening to the survivors of this shooting, you could see the terror on their faces and hear it in their voices. Some expressed an array of emotions from fear to anger to despair.

Two weeks ago, Jerry Sandusky, former defensive coordinator at Penn State University, was sent away for good after the abusing innocent boys. When the authorities found out about it, they smoothed over it—looked the other way. They did not report this to the authorities.

Everyone understands the evil of these two men who committed these heinous crimes. What most everyone does not understand is that this would be everyone of us without the restraining, efficacious grace of God. By nature, people love darkness rather than the light.

For instance, one man shot was lauded for being a hero for protecting his girlfriend and giving his own life. Yet, his wife from whom he was separated from still lived in Reno and is raising money to bring his body back. This man’s lifestyle is more acceptable in our culture than James Holmes’ or Jerry Sandusky’s—but it is still not the way God created us to be. It is still preferring light over darkness.

Jesus gave Nicodemus a definition of judgment: the light has come into the world, but it the object of their love that condemns them. We often believe that people are pounding on the door of heaven for God to let them in, but that is not so. Outside of Christ, we do not love him—we run as fast as we can away from him.

God has to come and rescue us. We cannot come to him on our own. Isaiah 5:20 says,

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

Romans 1:18-32 shows us the progression of this:

  • God’s wrath is revealed against mankind who suppress the truth of God in their unrighteousness.
  • God has made himself known in creation so they are without excuse.
  • People neither honored God nor gave thanks, and their hearts were darkened.
  • They exchanged the Creator for the creation, worshiping that which they could see.
  • God gave their over to their passions and desires to do unspeakable things.

But notice Romans 1:28-32:

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

When Jesus tells Nicodemus that people loved the light more than darkness—and by ‘light,’ we are not talking about particles or a physical property, but a person (John 8:12), rejecting Christ means we are doing what our depraved nature says.

We may say, “I’m not as bad as that murderer.” Jesus said, “If you have anger in your heart, you’ve committed murder already.” Well, at least I haven’t cheated on my wife. Jesus tells us if we have lusted in our hearts, we’ve broken the adultery commandment. Until we truly understand the depravity and sinfulness of our hearts, we will not appreciate nor be amazed at what Christ accomplished—He came to rescue us from our own hearts!

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous[a] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[b] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Martin Luther once said, “Once upon a time the devil came to me and said, ‘Martin, you are a great sinner, and you will be damned!’ ‘Stop! Stop!’ said I. ‘One thing at a time. I am a sinner, it is true, though you have no right to tell me of it. I confess it. What next?’ ‘Therefore you will be damned.’ ‘That is not good reasoning. It is true I am a great sinner, but it is written, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief,” therefore I shall be saved. Now go your way.’”

Romans 8:34 says, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again!”

[1]Adam Schefter, Tebow Phenomenon Gets Eerie.–adam-schefter-10-spot

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Jesus Is: The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sin of the World (John 1:19-34)

(This sermon was preached at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in Centennial, Colorado on Sunday, April 29, 2012.  Go to our ARBC sermons page – – to listen.  If it hasn’t uploaded, check back soon.  Oftentimes, the manuscript and the actual delivery of the sermon are not the same.  It’s amazing how God works in that way.)

We have a standard pulpit in our auditorium/sanctuary at our church. There is an unspoken understanding that when I speak, I speak from behind the pulpit. That is where I belong. That’s my place.

If I began preaching, say, in the organ pit or from the last row in the choir, it may get people’s attention—and the reason is that I’m not where I should be. In a sense, everything is right when we are where God wants us. Only here is true peace and contentment.

God has bestowed a calling on every single Christian in this room. When men and women come to Christ, he bestows them with what are called spiritual gifts, differing gifts given by God for each person to exercise and execute. He also sends them out as ones who will make a visible difference for His Kingdom in the world.

We have two examples here: one of John the Baptist, and the other of Jesus. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In other words, Jesus came for the express purpose of being offered as a sacrifice for the sins of those who would believe. To put it more starkly, Jesus was born in order to die. Most other leaders of movements don’t begin with the express intention of dying, but if they are martyred for the cause, then so be it. Jesus knew he would die—God ordained His death in order that those who would believe would be rescued from that. He knew His place!

Christ knew His place! The apostle John as we will see knew his place. One of the secondary questions we must ask if, “Do we know our place?” But of primary importance is this: do we see the richness of Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?

The apostle John leaves the introduction of this book to introduce to us … John the Baptist. But we will see that the Baptizer gives us an example in that, regardless of how influential our lives are, they must be influential in the sense that they point to Christ. No matter how much they wanted to attribute to John, he would have none of it. His life pointed to Christ. The Baptizer knew his role, he knew his calling, and was more than content to remain in that calling. Because the One to whom he pointed had a calling—to take away the sins of the world!

1. Trust the testimony of godly men who prepare the way for Christ (John 1:19-28).

In John 1:19-23, we see how the apostle John gives us a brief description of a rather eccentric prophet that turned up along the Jordan River by the name of John the Baptist—or John the Baptizer. But this is not all we see about this man! By the apostle bringing him up at this juncture shows that he is a significant figure that means a great deal to all of us.

The Baptizer first arrived on the scene in Luke 1 when the angel Gabriel arrived to bring the good news that Zechariah and Elizabeth were to have a child. Whereas this would be wonderful news for any couple, it was miraculous news for this couple. Zechariah, who served as a priest in the Temple in Jerusalem, and Elizabeth were old—beyond natural childbearing years. Plus, Elizabeth was “barren”—she had not been able to have children!

Gabriel shows us and tells them something about this child:

13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared (Luke 1:13-17).

We know that an angel came to announce the birth of Christ—but we must also recognize that an angel came to announce the birth of one who would come before him—John the Baptist.

· Took a Nazirite vow like Samson (see Numbers 6), vowing to take no food nor dirnk, but would only be filled with the Holy Spirit, set apart even in his mother’s womb like Jeremiah.

· He will be like Elijah, as prophecied in Malachi 4:5-6, who would come before the awesome day of the Lord. Little did they realize that this awesome day of the Lord would be Christ coming as a baby to Bethlehem.

· But this last portion is significant: “to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

This ministry that John the Baptist had was a confusing ministry to many. In Matthew 3:4, it says that “John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”

So they began to ask him, “Who are you?” Are you the Christ? No! Are you Elijah? While Luke tells us he came in the spirit and power of Elijah, many thought that Elijah would come in spirit and indwell John. But no, John was not Elijah nor vice versa. Are you the prophet? In Deuteronomy 18:15-18, we see that God gave Moses himself a promise of a great prophet to come:

15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him (Deuteronomy 18:15-18).

Why bring this up? There is something to be said for anticipation and expectation! When children are in school, they can endure knowing the weekend is coming or, on a grander scale, when summer or Christmas break is coming! When those who are in the armed forces are serving, they endure because they know what they are doing matters, and that they can expect a respite in the form of a three-day pass or a furlough.

The people of Israel were tired of Roman rule in the Holy Land. They were ready for the promises of a coming King to come to pass. This anticipation was reaching a fever pitch. So the questions feed this: are you the Rescuer who was to come? No? How about Elijah? Moses? Who!?!?

John speaks this: “I am the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” So John wasn’t just some preacher going out on his own to preach. He was “the Voice.” Isaiah prophecied about this 700 years prior. The lesson? God had not forgotten about His plan nor His people. When God makes a promise, he doesn’t go back on it.

So now that John described this, they now ask him, “Why are you baptizing?” In other words, by what authority are you baptizing, since you aren’t on our list!? John was performing a cleansing rite—something that greatly offended the Israelite leaders who felt they were cleansed enough. Why did it offend them? Because this type of baptism was usually made to those who were Gentiles converting to Judaism. But John was calling the Jews. He was basically telling them that the Messiah was coming—and you need to be cleansed!

But he made it clear—I’m only baptizing with water. It’s merely an outward cleansing, but one coming after him will surpass him in worthiness and power.

But look at how he describes his rank in relation to Jesus: “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do no know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:26-27). It was commonplace for rabbis to have disciples who not only sat at the feet of their teacher, but also in a sense because their servant. We see this with interns working for their boss at a company: they fetch their lunch, pick up their drycleaning, and do all sorts of menial tasks as part of their training.

But the difference between a disciple and a slave is this: a disciple never came near the sandals or shoes of the teachers. This was beneath them. But a slave’s job was this very thing. What was John saying? I’m not worthy to even be a common slave! So, in the process of us getting to know John, we get to know Christ! John the Baptist was great, but he was lower than a slave compared to Christ.

2. Turn to the One who takes away sin (John 1:29-34).

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.

Behold! That is a word that we do not use much in our day! But it’s a word intending to get our attention!

The Lamb of God. Those of you who listen to Christian music on the radio may remember a song that starts out very simply.

Alleluia, alleluia, for the Lord God Almighty reigns.

Alleluia, alleluia, for the Lord God Almighty reigns.

Holy, holy, are you Lord God Almighty?

Worthy is the Lamb, worthy is the Lamb. Holy!

This was written by Michael W. Smith, but he titled it from an ancient Latin phrase that says, “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi.” Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world. Christ is only called the Lamb of God twice in Scripture—here, and in Revelation 5:6: “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.”

But this was no new term. In Genesis 22, Abraham had finally received the promise of a son, Isaac. Abraham was 99 when Isaac was born, and as a son of his old age, this young man was beloved! God then approaches Abraham: “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2). And the Word says, “So Abraham rose early….” He wasted no time in obedience to God. He takes Isaac, lays him on the altar, ties him down, takes fire in one hand, the knife in the other and was ready to drive that knife through! God stops him, and over in the thickets, a ram was caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham said on the way up the mountain that God would provide a Lamb—and he did as a substitute for Isaac.

This Lamb would come and die—this Lamb of God who is Jesus Christ—would come and die as a substitute. But for whom? It goes on, “… Who takes away the sins of the world.” This does not mean that everyone will be saved with or without faith. This is called universalism. And we do know that from other portions in Scripture that not everyone goes to heaven. We saw two Wednesdays ago from Psalm 1 that there is a righteous way and a wicked way. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says there is a wide way that many go into to their destruction, and a narrow way that few go into that lead to life.

Here, it says that he died for the whole world—meaning, he death wasn’t only brought to one group of people (the Jews), but for every group of people. Again, in Revelation 5, they sing that the Lamb rescued a people “from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.” Again, see the context. The Pharisees sent people to John asking John, “Why are you baptizing Jews? We are children of Abraham. We are clean!” John basically says, “Not only are you unclean, the Lamb of God has come to call a people to Himself not simply of the Jews—but of every nations under heaven!” Remember, we are children of God, “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).

No one is born a Christian! No one is born righteous! No one is born exempt from the atoning work of Christ!

John even mentions that this one coming, the Christ, ranks before me “because he was before me.” Wait a minute! Didn’t Luke 1 say that John was born six months before Jesus came into the world? Yes, that is correct! But Christ was before Him “in the beginning.” This drove the spiritual leaders of Israel crazy. When Jesus told them later that “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58), when Abraham lived 2100 years before him, and Jesus was only in his mid 30’s, it’s because Christ was not merely human and did not begin when he was born in that stable in Bethlehem! He is eternal God and entered into the world as a human (Philippians 2:5-6).

John also said that he would see the Spirit resting on him and would baptize us with the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? This means that as soon as we receive Christ, he would baptize, submerge, and cleanse us with the Holy Spirit. This is a benefit that Christians receive. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit, a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14). But we also see that the Holy Spirit comes along as our teacher, counselor, and comforter. This is what Ezekiel prophecied:

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

What is a heart of stone? A stone doesn’t feel anything. It is insensitive to any feeling. When we say that someone is hardhearted, what do we mean but that they have no feeling. There is a callousness and an insensitivity.

But flesh is different. My kiddos and I have enjoyed of late throwing some baseball around the yard. Daniel is especially fond of throwing baseball. Everytime we have some time, he begs us to go outside, he grabs his glove and my glove and a ball and tells me, “Dad, are you ready?” And we throw for a long time!

But we have some bushes in our hard that line up against the fence. To get out of the sun, Daniel stands and catches a ball by one set of bushes, and I stand across the yard by the other. Every so often, a ball gets away and rolls under those bushes. No matter how careful we are in retrieving that ball, one of us comes out of those bushes with some scratches. Our response to the scratching of our flesh is, “Ouch!” It hurts! That’s the sensitivity of our flesh.

But we are sensitive with a heart of flesh to the Spirit. In other words, when we receive Christ, there is a change of the highest order. We no longer are insensitive to the things of God, but now we are ultra-sensitive. Every so often, we come across someone who says they are a Christian, but they are still insensitive to sin and, thus, insensitive to Christ. Even though Paul says in Romans 6 that we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness.

When we come to Christ, there is a change. We go from living for self to living for Christ.


At the beginning of the year on Wednesday nights, we journeyed through Don Whitney’s Ten Questions to Diagnose our Spiritual Health (NavPress, 2001).  These questions are probing because these questions wonderfully help us not only identify what Christianity looks like, but help us to diagnose where we are in our walk with Christ.  The questions are as follows:

  • Do you yearn to be with Jesus?
  • Do you thirst after God?
  • Are you governed increasingly by God’s Word?
  • Are you more loving?
  • Are you more sensitive to God’s presence?
  • Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and physical needs of others?
  • Do you delight in His church?
  • Are the spiritual disciplines more important to you?
  • Do you grieve over sin?
  • Are you a quick forgiver?
  • Do you yearn for heaven?
    Do these questions shed light on our spiritual walk?  Is there one?  Has the Lamb of God taken away our sin and cleansed us and baptized us by His Spirit?  If not, as Christ draws you, I pray He would give you the strength to respond.  Come to Christ! 
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Jesus is the Glory of the Father: From our “Jesus Is” Series

(This sermon was preached on Sunday, April 22, 2012 at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in Centennial, CO.  This is part of our “Jesus Is __________” sermon series as we begin an exposition on the Gospel According to John.  The audio version of the sermon should be up soon on our sermons page.)

1. He is the God of all creation.

In John 1:1-5, it says:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

If you have read through the Gospels (that is, the first four books of the NT) that outline the ministry of our Lord Jesus start in differing places. If you read Matthew starts with Mary and Joseph, with Joseph’s dilemma of how his virgin wife could be with child—that child being the Lord Jesus Christ himself—God with us! In Mark, the “beginning” was the start of his earthly ministry. In Luke, he starts with the coming of John the Baptist who (as you will see in John 1:6-8) is the one who came to pave the way as the witness of the Messiah to come.

Yet John starts further back—before Jesus’ ministry, before Jesus’ birth, before David, before Abraham, and even before Adam and Eve. “In the beginning”—meaning for our ears to understand before time began from all eternity—the same as it is in Genesis 1:1. At the same point when God created everything before time began, we see that “in the beginning [too] was the Word.” What are we to glean from here?

The word ‘word’ is translated from the Greek ‘logos.’ John understood that two different audiences would be reading this: the Greeks, and the Jews. The Greeks, especially the uber-rational Stoics, believed that this ‘logos’ was the principal showing the foundation of all rational thought. For the Jews, it was the sum total of all of God’s revelation (“His Word”). So the apostle John intentionally communicated that this to both groups! He is, as the apostle Paul noted, “the treasure of all wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).

He was with God, meaning he has a distinct personality that was intimate in fellowship with the Father. He is also God in that he possesses the same substance.

Then John goes on! Verse 3: “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” So Christ is the agent of all creation!

The pivot comes in verses 4-5: “In him was life, and that life was light of men. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome it.” Why is this a pivot? On the surface, it looks as if John is talking about Jesus’ role in the physical creation. But here, John begins to show Jesus’ spiritual creation and work. It’s the word ‘overcome.’ He is using a physical understanding to move forward a spiritual truth. In physical creation, darkness is simply an absence of light. In the spiritual realm, darkness is the presence of evil. But this ‘overcoming’ is interesting. This word can also be translated ‘comprehended’ or ‘understood.’

We have all been in classes where we have struggled. But there is a time (hopefully) that when you have struggled, you persevere until (and what’s the expression we use) “the light comes on.” There is a comprehension to the subject and a mastery that helps you overcome the obstacles impeding the progress!  Here, when we say that the darkness has not “overcome” it—it has not mastered it.  As in physical properties, so it is in spiritual properties, the light will never master the darkness.  Ever.

2. He is the true light of the new creation (John 1:6-13).

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own,[a] and his own people[b] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Here, John begins to show us what the true light is—it’s of a spiritual realm, but more than this. All through the OT, when the Shekinah glory of the Lord would arrive, it would be in light, in splendor, in majesty, and in awe.

This true light (Christ) came into the world. Remember, this is the world that He made. But the world did not know him.

Even more surprisingly (at least on the surface), he came to his own people—and they said no as well. This is the people of Israel! And this is devastating! I remind you of what Romans 9:4-5 says:

4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Look at all God had given them! Every advantage! Every opportunity! Before them, God rolled out progressively every sign and every relational possibility to show how He would come to rescue—all culminating in the True Light coming, but they remained blind! As we heard on Good Friday,

It would be bad news if the story ended at John 1:10-11. But let’s look again at John 1:12-13:

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

There are those who do receive him! There are those who believed in his name, trusting in his character, and His work! And God bestowed the right to become children of God. We receive him, but we see how this ultimately happens. We become children of God because we were born only of God.

Think about when you were born! Do you remember the day? Well, no, you don’t. Hopefully you remember your birthday at this point, but we do not remember when we were born. The fact is, most of us don’t remember anything before our 2nd birthday—with rare exceptions. The fact is, we had no say when we were conceived, and we had no say when we were to come into the world! John 3 says that we must be born not just once, but be born again.

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[a] 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[b] must be born again.’ 8 The wind[c] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

We are not saved by our family or heritage. We cannot manufacture the Spirit’s work like so many evangelist charlatan’s out there who try to use certain words or emotions to elicit a response.

3. He is the true temple of His people (John 1:14-18).

Look with me at John 1:14-18:

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 ( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.[a] 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God,[b] who is at the Father’s side,[c] he has made him known.

In the Old Testament, God gave His people His name, but He would not dwell among them. Moses and Joshua would go outside of the camp into the Tent of Meeting to meet with and commune with God. So when this Word, this True Light, would become flesh and dwell among us? And we would see his glory? We must not lose the thrust of this passage!

The Tabernacle in the wilderness and the Temple in the Promised Land were the centerpiece of the community of Israel, the people of God.  The Temple was the place where God and man met and communed.  So when the apostle John writes that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” this is a ‘tabernacling’ term.  The Tabernacle and the Temple pointed to the ultimate centerpiece of God’s people, the ultimate place where God and men could commune and dwell together: Jesus Christ. 

Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4 that there would come a time when they would not worship in Jerusalem or anywhere else (even their Mt. Gerazim), but they would worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  Christ would dwell with us and we would dwell with him (Revelation 21:1-4).  We have even been termed a ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’ through the Spirit of God through Christ residing in us (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) taking us to the throne of God (Hebrews 4:14-16). 

Jesus even said that the Temple would be destroyed, but he would raise it again in three days.  He is the Temple to which he refers.  Not another building, but Himself! 

If we wish to see the glory of God, we will not need to be hid like Moses was in the cleft of the rock—we need to see Christ! 

Charles Wesley’s words speak true, not just during the Christmas season:

Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"

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Why Do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?

In Luke 24, we see that on the first day of the week (Sunday) at sunrise, they went to the tomb where Jesus laid. It was a beautiful tomb, owned by a member of the Jewish Supreme Court, Joseph of Arimathea. This man, like so many others, was looking for the kingdom of God, waiting for the Messiah to come and to rule and reign as promised.

On that Sunday, some women came to the tomb but noticed that the stone which was rolled at the entrance of the tomb, sealed, and guarded by two Roman guards for the purpose of keeping outsiders from coming in and stealing the body, was rolled aside. The body was gone. They were perplexed, the Scriptures tell us.

The two men standing beside the tomb “in dazzling apparel” were angels. During times of God’s incredible work and intervention, these angels would appear to help give some direction. An angel came to Joseph just after Mary told him that she would have Jesus, even though she was still a virgin. The angel came and gave direction to Joseph, saying that all was according to God’s plan—and that plan was, as the angel told Joseph, “to save His people from their sins.”

They asked an all-important question to these women,

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (Luke 24:5-7).

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Obviously, the immediate context is that you cannot find a living, healthy being whose vitals are strong whose permanent bodily residence is in a cemetery. I’m always reminded of how my father, every time we would pass a cemetery, he would say, “You know, son, people are just dying to get in there.” And why would they seek after Jesus, when He told them repeatedly that he would rise in three days?

Human history is dotted with those who seek after life among things that are dead, even among those who are more devout. When God created everything, Adam and Eve were tempted to seek life in a place that promised death—eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They thought they would truly live if they partook of what was forbidden—and even destructive.

In Exodus, the people of Israel were delivered by God through the cloud by day, pillar of fire by night, refreshed by the rock in the waters—through the Spiritual Rock that is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-6). As they were going to the Promised Land, and even with all the provision God gave them, they longed to find their life among the dead: they wanted to return to Egypt where they would die in slavery. Even when their leader, Moses, was away, they crafted a golden calf—a non-living (that is, dead) idol that would lead them.

In Isaiah 44:9-20, we read about a man who had a large piece of wood. He took half of that wood and went to a craftsman. That craftsman shaped the eyes, the mouth, every bit of it, then set it up in a tent and would worship that idol. With the other he uses it to cook his food. Listen to what Isaiah says:

He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats mean; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

The Scriptures are littered with such examples of seeking life after dead things. But do we do this today?

Consider an automobile commercial I heard a few years ago touting the ‘soul’ of this certain brand when it hits the road. In reality, cars are just bits of metal, wire, and belts put together to function getting us from point A to point B.

Or consider a new service for married folks who wish to get what the recent movie called a “Hall Pass.” It’s a service where you can cheat (commit adultery) on your spouse, no questions asked. I remember talking to someone who was committing adultery against their spouse and said the reason they couldn’t discontinue it was because they “never felt more alive.” This demonstrates another example of seeing life among the dead-end of sin.

In fact, this is the paradox of sin: the very thing Satan tempts us to think will make us alive will actually make us dead. Even religiously devout folks find this out. The religious leaders began to count on something else besides the life-giving Word of God. In Mark 7, Jesus spoke to these leaders and quoted from the book of Isaiah:

This people honors me with their lips,

But their heart is far from me;

In vain do they worship me,

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men

(Mark 7:6b-7; cf. Isaiah 29:13)

See, it’s not just bad things that can become objects of worship, it can even be good things. But there are good things—and there are God things. We were wired to worship—and ultimately, we are wired to worship the God of the living—the living God!

Remember how he told you… and they remembered.

Remember how the women were perplexed? The angel said these words, “Remember how he told you . . . .” What was it? Well, a number of places Jesus told the disciples what would happen. “… the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

Then notice in 24:8: “And they remembered his words.” The word ‘must’ is of utmost importance. Rather than merely seeing Jesus turned over to the religious authorities and be an innocent man who was brutally executed, the angels reminded them that it must happen that way. Why?

Look with me at Hebrews 9:15-22:

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must b e established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Before us is a Lord’s Supper table, which signifies the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this He instituted a new covenant, instituted the night before His crucifixion. The first covenant, begun at the Passover was brought about through Moses. The only way to fulfill that was to keep every bit of God’s laws. But we couldn’t. Thus, the sacrifices of “the blood of calves and goats,” whose blood was to cleanse from sins.

But those things could not get to the heart of the matter. We were born with that DNA to pursue the living among the dead. Why? Because we are born dead in our sins (Psalm 51:4; Ephesians 2:1). But in order for that first “will” to be in force to redeem us fully from our sins, one had to die so it would be enacted. And the shedding of that blood set into motion the forgiveness of sins, cleansing us and redeeming us.

The angels called the women to remember what He told us. And they are calling us to do so as well. Allow me to ask you some questions:

  • Have you heard these words of Jesus before? The disciples had—but they hadn’t heard. You may be one here this morning who may have come with family and friends, and recall this account from many years back, but it’s been a while since you’ve encountered it. God brought you here this morning to you would hear them again, and not search for life among the dead things of this age.
  • Maybe you made a commitment to Jesus Christ at some point in your life. You may be one who comes every so often, you may be one who is here everytime the doors are open. Do you remember His words? Do you relish in His lavish love for you in how Jesus not only had to go to the cross, but willingly went. How much does that empty cross and empty tomb play in your life now? Is Christ a living reality in your life, or are you tampering trying to find life among the dead things of this world that will simply pass away?

Michael Horton said once,

The resurrection is the watershed in history, with dominion of sin and death falling into oblivion, losing its grip on its terrified subjects, and righteousness and life coming to reign. . . . The clock is running down on this present evil age. The first fruits of the harvest, Jesus Christ, has been raised, entering the everlasting Sabbath rest in conquest. The war in heaven is over, though insurgent battles must still be waged on earth.[1]

[1]Michael S. Horton, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011).

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Honoring the Chaplains of the Civil War—The National Civil War Chaplain’s Museum

James I. Robertson, Jr. and others talk about a wonderful museum located in Lynchburg, VA known as the National Civil War Chaplain’s Museum.  It focuses on the role of priests, ministers, and rabbis during the tumult of the American Civil War. 


While I have not visited there, it is on my short list of historical places to visit.  I reviewed a great book entitled “Christ in the Camp” regarding the chaplains of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.  Currently, I’m reading through Faith in the Fight: Civil War Chaplains with contributions by John W. Brinsfield, William C. Davis, Benedict Maryniak, and James Robertson. 

For both the Union and Confederate soldiers, religion was the greatest sustainer of morale in the Civil War, and faith was a refuge in times of need. Guarding and guiding the spiritual well being of the fighters, the army chaplain was a voice of hope and reason in an otherwise chaotic military existence. The clerics’ duties did not end after Sunday prayers; rather, many ministers could be found performing daily regimental duties, and some even found their way onto fields of battle. Identifies for the first time 3,694 ministers who were commissioned as chaplains in the Union and Confederate armies and serves as a starting point for any research into the neglected area of Civil War chaplains (Product review on Amazon).

Also of interest is a ministry known as the Re-Enactors Missions for Jesus Christ.  These men seek to minister within the context of the Civil War re-enactments.  Here’s their description:

Welcome to the web site for the Re-enactor’s Missions for Jesus Christ (RMJC).  This site is dedicated first and foremost to the glory of Almighty God.  It stands as a tribute to the heroism of those men who comprised the ranks of the chaplaincy during the War Between the States (Civil War), to their unswerving devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the missionary work they began in the 1860s.

In like manner, the business of the RMJC is the spreading of the Gospel through the re-printed Civil War period Gospel tracts, the spoken word, this web site as well as the National Civil War Chaplains Museum.

Its members, who serve as chaplains and colporteurs, are sent into the field, not as sham play-actors bent on pretentious historical interpretation, but as men and women of God, solidly committed to preaching, teaching and sharing the Gospel to the winning of souls among the ranks of Civil War re-enactors and enthusiasts across the United States.

On this site is a great little 4:00 clip entitled, “Whose Side Was God On During the Civil War?”  This gives a marvelous answer. 


May we thank God for using such a tragedy like the Civil War to use these chaplains as instruments of bringing them (and the re-enactors) to Jesus Christ. 

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"It Will Cost You Everything" (Powerful 11-Minute Video by Steven Lawson)

End your work week and start your weekend with a powerful 11-minute video by Steven Lawson.

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Mohler and Miller Debate the Bible's Message on Gay Marriage

Lisa Miller’s recent Newsweek cover story (December 15, 2008) on “The Bible and Gay Marriage” created a gigantic stir.  If Newsweek was having issues with magazine sales, I am sure that was remedied with this latest issue.  Miller contends:

While the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else’s —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. “Marriage” in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God’s will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.

In this paragraph, Miller gives away the store with her own ideology that is imposed on the Scriptures.

For one, she believes the “Bible is a living document” rightly saying that the Bible has spoken to generations, but missing that the Bible is living and active because the God who inspired it is still living and active, and He does not change.

For two, she brings into it an “American” notion that marriage (notice that she puts “marriage” in quotes) is a civil institution. Ron Paul rightly noted in his “Revolution: A Manifesto” that marriage was not seen as a civil institution in this country until the early 1900’s, a relatively recent development.

Thirdly, she fails to interact with Jesus’ words about marriage being between one man and one woman (Matthew 19:1-10), which is consistent with what Genesis notes in Genesis 1:26-27. Plus, Jesus does condemn lust (Matthew 5:27-30) which is yearning sexually for another outside of God’s boundaries of marriage. He created it, He defines what it is.

Fourthly, she sees marriage as a merely utilitarian contract rather than a God-ordained covenant that is clearly outlined in Scripture. Yet, if one approaches the Scriptures looking for a rationalization for something they wish to see, they will use that paradigm to filter out and justify away that which does not fit their scheme — which is why Mormons use the KJV Bible, yet still are deviant from evangelical faith.

I recommend you listening to Albert Mohler’s interview with Lisa Miller regarding this issue.  Miller’s article is a classic case of building up a straw man, then tearing it down.  Even so, Miller’s article will fail to sway those who hold to the Scriptures as the truth of God’s Word. 

More on this in the days ahead.

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