suffered under Pontius Pilate

(This is part six of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

We’re still talking about Jesus. Mainly because Jesus Christ is the definitive character of Christianity. This entry looks specifically at the line that says that Jesus:
“suffered under Pontius Pilate,”
Like before, we’ll break this passage down into several smaller sections.
“He Suffered…”– We find here that Jesus was a man familiar with suffering. Isaiah 53:3 says he was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” This should give us great comfort. This tells us that when we experience sorrow or grief we are not alone. We have a Savior who has suffered, too! Hebrews 4:15 tells us that when we are suffering, we have a Savior who can sympathize with us. He can look at us and say “me too.” He’s been in our shoes and he’s made it through the other side. For this reason, when we suffer we are invited to cast our cares on Jesus because He loves us (1 Peter 5:7). Not only that, but God Himself will, after we have suffered a little while, restore us and make us strong, firm, and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10). This is the beauty of having a God who knows where we are (because He’s been there too) and has shown us how to suffer yet remain faithful.
“under” – This single word tells us something profound about Jesus:  He wasn’t a victim. In John 10:11-18, Jesus describes Himself as the “Good Shepherd.” Specifically, in John 10:15, 17 Jesus says that He lays down His life. In John 10:18, He goes so far as to say, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” Jesus is not a victim who got caught up at the wrong place at the wrong time. After Jesus is arrested, he is brought before Pilate and questioned. Pilate tells Jesus that he has the authority to release him. In John 19:11, Jesus tell him, “”You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” Jesus willingly endured the cross; He passively laid down His life for us and in our place. He chose the nails. He chose the nails for us.
“Pontius Pilate” – Although I honestly don’t know for sure why they included the name Pontius Pilate, I do know that this lends historical credibility to the Gospels. Here’s a bio I got of Pontius Pilate from an atheist website. Even those who don’t believe in Jesus or God will not deny that Pontius Pilate existed. We find in John 19:16 that Pilate was the final authority to approve the crucifixion of Jesus. Not much else is known about him. The only reason we remember him is because he was instrumental in the crucifixion of Jesus. We know that Jesus existed, Pontius Pilate existed, and that the historical record of the Gospels is accurate and reliable.

This line tells us that Jesus was real and that Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified out of submission to God the Father.

born of the Virgin Mary

(This is part five of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

We’ve covered the Father, Son, and the Spirit in the previous entries. This entry focuses in on something very specific about Jesus; he was:

“Born of the Virgin Mary,”

The interesting thing about this statement is that Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin over 700 years before Jesus was born (Isaiah 7:14). Many people claim that the term used in this verse could also translate to “maiden” or simply “woman.” But what about the narrative in Luke where Mary specifically says she is a virgin in Luke 1:26-37? An angel appears to Mary and tells her she will have a child; Mary is perplexed and says, “How can this be since I am still a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Some people might try to claim that the word virgin here can also mean “maiden.”

My first question is this: Why would Mary be surprised and say, “How can this be since I am a woman”? Does that make any logical sense? I’m pretty sure that, since Mary was engaged to Joseph, she knew where babies came from or at least understood that babies came from women.

Additionally, if you do some homework and look at the literal Greek, Mary says something like “How can this be since I have not known a man” which was an idiom for “How can this be since I have not had sexual relations with a man.” Mary had not “known” a man and that’s why she was surprised that she was going to have a baby.

Another verse that addresses Mary’s virginity is Matthew 1:18, which says that Mary was found to be with child “before they came together;” which is another way of saying they had not had sex. We also read that Joseph and Mary did not have sex until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:24-25).

So why did Jesus have to be born of a woman and of God? Couldn’t Jesus have just floated down from Heaven? I’m going to rip off Wayne Grudem for just a minute here. In his book Systematic Theology (Chapter 26: “The Person of Christ”) he was a wonderful job explaining the significance of the “doctrinal importance of the virgin birth.” He says there are three reasons this is important:

1. “It shows that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord.” As Grudem states here, salvation is not the result of human good works and efforts. Salvation is the direct result of the will and power of God and can only come to us as a gift. This was made possible in the person of Jesus.

2. “The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person.”  While it is possible that God could have sent Jesus to earth in a different way, this is the best way. Jesus could have floated down to earth, fully human and fully God; but then it would have been hard for us to understand how he could have been united with humanity since he had none of the same origins as us. On the other hand, Jesus could have been born of two human parents and then been filled with godliness early on in his life or even in the womb; but then it would have been hard for us to understand how Jesus could have been fully divine in he had all of the same origins as us.

3. “The virgin birth also makes possible Christ’s true humanity without inherited sin.” What’s interesting about this is that, according to tradition, original sin is passed from Adam and through the father to the children. Since Jesus did not have a human father, He did not inherit any original sin. (Additionally, although I will readily admit I don’t remember where I read this, in Jesus time you were not considered Jewish unless your mother was a Jew.) From Mary, Jesus inherited full humanity but was free from the legal guilt and moral corruption of Adam.

Was it necessary for Jesus to be fully human? You betcha! Once again Grudem does a great job answering this question, although I won’t go into detail for each point, but Jesus was fully human for representative obedience (Romans 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47), the be a substitute for sacrifice (John 3:16; Hebrews 2:16-17), to be the one mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5), to fulfill God’s original purpose for man to rule of creation (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:22; Revelation 3:21), to be our example and pattern in life (1 John 2:6, 3:2-3; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:21; Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 3:10; Acts 7:60; 1 Peter 3:17-18, 4:1), to be the pattern for our redeemed bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 49; Colossians 1:18), and to sympathize as a high priest (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15-16). Just to name a few…

So, to conclude, we find that God united humanity and divinity in the unique person of Jesus Christ. He did this through a woman named Mary, who was considered a highly favored servant of God. Jesus inherited full divinity from His Father and fully humanity from His mother. He did this so that Jesus could be a substitute for our sins, and example for our lives, a preview of our resurrection, and a mediator (literally a “bridge”) between us and our Heavenly Father.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

(This is part four of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

First we looked at God the Father; then we started talking about God the Son; now we’ll look a little bit at how God the Spirit has participated in our redemption with the third line of the Apostles’ Creed:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit…”

This line is fairly simple, so I don’t think we need to break it into segments, but there are at least a few things stand out about this line to me….

First, this line reveals that the Apostles’ Creed is Trinitarian. The first line is about the Father, the second line mentions the Son, and the third line mentions the Spirit. This is not an accident. During the first few centuries of Christianity, the Roman Empire heavily persecuted followers of Jesus. This made it very difficult to iron out any systematic theology, let alone publish and widely circulate Christian doctrine. The Apostles’ Creed was created almost immediately after Roman persecution of Christians ended and was made to affirm doctrinal beliefs in a largely illiterate culture. It’s a condensed version of Christian doctrine that is meant to be easily memorized and passed on and served two purposes. First, it allowed Christians to share their beliefs with non-Christians around them. Second, it helped to prevent the spread of heretical doctrine. One of the most important Christian tenants is Trinitarian Doctrine.

Second, this line is talking about both Jesus and the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit helped Jesus during his ministry. First and foremost, as this line indicates, the Holy Spirit conceives Jesus (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:35). The Spirit signals to John the Baptist that Jesus is the Messiah (John 1:32-34). God the Father and God the Spirit endorse Jesus after His baptism (Matthew 3:16, 17; Mark 1:10,11; Luke 3:21-22) and the Spirit descends on Jesus before He goes into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1). We find that the Holy Spirit partners with Jesus during his earthly ministry.

Third, if the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus and partners with Him in his earthly ministry, won’t He also conceive us as new creations when we are born again? Won’t He also partner with us during our time here on earth? Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit; this power is also available to us. Ephesians 3:20 states that God is able to do more than we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us. That power is the Holy Spirit. We’ll look more closely at the Holy Spirit in another entry soon…

Dug Down Deep

In an earlier post I talked about the importance of studying and understanding theology. Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl, is releasing a book called Dug Down Deep that I’m looking forward to picking up. For his book he had a short film made that does a great job of explaining why we need to study theology:

Two thoughts on Ruth

This week I read the book of Ruth for one of my classes and wanted to share two things God revealed to me after reading it:

First, I would say this book beautifully illustrates the idea that sometimes God uses the least likely people to accomplish His will; in this book he used a foreign widow who had travelled to Bethlehem with her “bitter” mother-in-law. It’s likely that a man as well respected and important as Boaz could have had any available woman he wanted in such a small town, but he chose Ruth and the her grandson is was King David. From this lineage also came Jesus.

Second, I would say that you never know how your suffering will be used by God to accomplish His purposes in someone else’s life. Naomi lost everything! She was in the worst possible situation women could be in during this era (a widow with no husband or sons to care for her) yet God used the events in her life to bring her back to her hometown, with Ruth, so that the Davidic—and incidentally the Messianic—lineage could continue. The story doesn’t end with Naomi getting re-married, although she does get to hold her grandson, but Naomi was key to this story playing out the way it did. The point is that sometimes we don’t get the happy ending we want, but God uses our life as one small piece in His grand plan.

…and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,…

(This is part three of a multi-entry blog series discussion of the Apostles’ Creed.)

The last entry talked about God the Father, creator of Heaven and earth. Now we’re going to look at the next line of the Apostles’ Creed:

“and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord.”

Once again, I’ll break the line down into segments…

“and” – Didn’t think there was anything important about this word, did ya? Well in this single word, we find that there is more to Christianity than just God the Father. In the previous line, we could still find harmony with Judaism, Islam, and possibly many other world religions; with Jesus, however, we zero in on the unique and absolute claims of Christianity: Jesus.

“in Jesus” – While some might consider Jesus the founder of Christianity, He is actually much more: He is the foundation. Ephesians 2:19-22 describes Jesus as the cornerstone for our faith. Without Jesus, the Christian Church would not stand up. The Christian faith is all about Jesus and this line tells us some important facts about Him.

“Christ”This actually isn’t Jesus’ last name; it’s a title! Christ comes from the Greek word Khristós which means “the anointed one” or the Hebrew word M?šîa? which means “Messiah.” Quite simply, these two terms indicate that Jesus’ life was prophesied hundreds of years before His birth. He was to be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1: 18-23) in a small town called Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2: 1,6) of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Hebrews 7:14). He would die for sinner (Isaiah 53:6) and would be buried in a borrowed tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60) and rise again after three days (Psalms 16:10; Acts 2:30, 31). Christ was God’s promise to the world to redeem His chosen people and it was fulfilled in…

“his only Son” – First, it tells us that Jesus is the only Son of God the Father. There were not other sons; there is only Jesus. Jesus stands alone in Creation as being unique in His nature. Jesus is not one of the angels, He’s not just a good man or just a good teacher, He is God. Jesus is our only hope. Son-ship implies being of the same nature as the father. I am my father’s son; I have the same DNA. I think this is an illustration of the closeness that Jesus enjoys with His Father.

“our Lord.” – Jesus is more than savior; Jesus is more than redeemer; Jesus is Lord. Jesus demands all of us because He gave us all of Himself. Jesus died for us; He invites us to life for him in this life and with Him in the next for all eternity. This is the invitation we receive because of Christ’s work upon the cross. Jesus says that He must be our Lord; we must deny ourselves and take up our cross (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). We must die to ourselves with sin as our master and be raised to new life with a new Master: the Son of God, Jesus our Lord.

Upper Tier – Jesus is the one and only Son of God; the promised Messiah; and He deserves a place of worship and priority in our lives.

We’ll devote the next few lines to specifics about Jesus, since the next chunk of the Creed talks specifically about Him.

…in God the Father almighty, maker of Heaven and earth…

(This is part two of a multi-entry blog series discussion of the Apostles’ Creed.)

Last week, we looked at what a creed is. Simply, a creed is an ironed-out, agreed-upon set of beliefs. It’s the upper-tier of the theological beliefs of a group of believers. Almost like peaking at the table of contents in a book. Today we’ll open up a chapter and look at the first line of the Apostles’ Creed:

“I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of Heaven and earth;”

This statement, although small, contains a large amount of theological belief. I think it will be easiest to cut the line into segments and look at them one at a time…

“I believe in God…” – At the risk of stating the obvious, this statement is a confession that God exists. To say the first four words of the Creed is to admit that you are not God; that life is bigger than you are; and that there is more to reality than what can be seen. To say the first four words of the Creed is to say that “God is.” Indeed, when Moses asks what God’s name is, God’s reply is simply “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). This is the God we confess a belief in.

“…the Father…” – By referring to “God the Father” the creed immediately hints at the Trinity because it suggests God the Son and God the Spirit. Christianity is NOT a polytheistic religion. The Trinity is defined as “One God who eternally exists as three distinct, equal persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, who are each fully and equally God.” Confusing, right? Mark Driscoll does a great job explaining the Trinity in his book Doctrine or in his sermon series by the same name. During the sermon it takes him over an hour; if you’re interested watch the below video:

“…almightly…” – God is mighty, powerful, sovereign, in control, and fully capable of making our world and the entire universe. In fact, the word uni-verse, actually means “one word.” Uni means one, verse means word. God is so mighty and powerful that, with one word, He created all that exists.

“…maker of Heaven and earth;” – There are a handful of different theories concerning how God made the earth. Some subscribe to young earth creationism and believe God created earth in six, literal days. Some subscribe to progresssive creationism and will tell you He created earth over the course of millions of years and gradually created new forms of life. Some subscribe to gap creationism and believe that God created the earth in Gen 1:1 and then waited a long period of time before He started the work in Gen 2:2. Others believe that when Genesis describes the creation process, it is not describing literal 24-hour days; this is called day-age creationism. Some people will only admit that the universe appears to have been created by an intelligent force, a theory called intelligent design. And there are likely several other theories that could be listed. However, those are all lower-tier beliefs. They don’t matter. I’ll say that again to let it sink in. Your specific beliefs on how God created the earth are not that important. Genesis is written as a theological history about God’s interaction with mankind, not as a scientific textbook and, with regards to the creation account, Genesis is not specific enough for any of those theories to be determined as superior. What is important is Who created the Heavens and the earth. And that is God.

That is where Christians can find agreement: God the Father is the Creator of Heaven and earth. He made all we see. Christians should not divide over how God created earth. I think it’s okay for us to agree to disagree on the specifics because those are lower tiers issue.

Upper tier – God is the almighty creator of Heaven and earth. That knowledge should lead us to humble worship of a God who is much, much bigger than we are.

Lower tier– The specific theories that explore how God created earth are open for debate and healthy discussion.

Building a life worth living: Broken

I am often reminded, of late, of how God deals with me. For some, it is easy to get to their knees and go before the Father, for me, it seems as if the only time I’m on my knees is when I get knocked to them. For the last few days there has been a complete tearing down of all the “stuff” I’ve built up around my heart. And, that’s when it hit me, all of this, these feelings, the lack thereof, and experiences I’ve had, it’s all about the heart! Consider this, proverbs tells us to “above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (4:23) then, we see it gets complicated, in Matthew 15:19, we see that “it is out of the HEART that evil thoughts come, as well as murder, adultery, sexual immorality, stealing…”. But, we know that when are saved, we are given “a new heart.”. But, that doesn’t mean all that “stuff” just goes away. That comes from the renewing of the mind that we find in Romans. But, what was in my heart, my fleshly heart, were all the lies that vie been told or told myself and believed, the selfish plans and desires I had designed for personal accolades and the counterfeit that I used to make myself feel better. This has been troubling for me for days, this deep intense sadness and loneliness I’ve held onto as a way of rationalizing my actions and possibly to justify them has defined, not only who I am, but what I am. As I was driving to work today I was reminded of how God loves using “broken” people. The psalmist tells us in 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ” what’s amazing here is that brokenhearted here is literally translated “shattered”. Isn’t it awe-inspiring that God takes that which is utterly torn apart and move mountains. It’s all a condition of the heart.

Building a Life Worth Living

So, recently I’ve undergone a series of challenges not often spoken of, especially not in the realm of Christianity and the “church”. I thought I would share these challenges and especially my journey through them.
I returned from my first deployement to the “sandbox” in June of this year. My time in Iraq was a great learning experience and an eye opener. I found myself in situations there that I never dreamed I would be in. I now find myself in situations where I said, “I will never be like “THOSE” people~!” Now that I AM one of THOSE people, my perspective has changed, DRAMATICALLY! To put it lightly, I’ve been diagnosed with chronic PTSD, which is Combat related, as well as Anxiety Disorder with Agoriphobia (fear of Open Spaces). This condition I find myself in is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It alters a person to their very core. Things that you never thought about doing, now are a struggle. For instance, I bet you never thought that simply going to the grocery store took any sort of planning or effort; however, for me it is an enormous ordeal. It requires mapping out the store, what food is found in what isle and what is the most expedient way to gather all the goods I need and get out of the store as quickly as possible. What happens if someone tries to speak to you? What if you have a flashback while in the store? I can’t adequetly describe how hard it is for me to accomplish mundane ordinary tasks, let’s just say that my first time trying, I ended up literally crawling out of the store and spending the next 2 hours sitting inside my truck in a crying fit. It is incredibly humbling for me to admit that. For those of you who know me, it is crystal clear as to why. I’ve never been “that guy”. So, how does this relate to the title “Building a Life Worth Living”? This is just the introduction into what God is pouring out to me in my own journey. It has started with a complete emptying out of all that I built myself up to be, all the walls I had built around myself, and all that the world said I should hold onto. I now sit, naked and alone, with no pretense or falsivity to my thoughts or identity. I have been tested by fire and found that all I had used to build my house upon were burned away, only the foundation remains. That foundation, Our Lord and Savior – JESUS – is all that remains. And I’m glad! What I want to share with you is the rebuilding process. This is going to be raw; this is going to be real! I’m not going to hold anything back. IF HE shows it to me, I’m going to show it to you. Every emotion, every thought, every action will be laid bare for all to see. Hopefully, as I journey through this time of rebuilding, someone here may relate and may be ministered to. That is all I can hope for. So, as we begin our Journey, I ask only for you to be patient and have an open mind for what the Spirit of God is doing in my life…and maybe….just maybe….He may have something to say that applies to all of us!