In our depravity, if God came down to us we’d hide from him, run from him, deny him, and even kill him, and that’s precisely what we did.
In our depravity, if God came down to us we’d hide from him, run from him, deny him, and even kill him, and that’s precisely what we did.
“Many evangelicals use the evangelistic appeal to ‘ask Jesus into your heart’. The positive aspect of this is that the New Testament speak of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Col. 1:27); of Christ dwelling ‘in your hearts through faith’ (Eph. 3:17), and the like. It speaks of the Christian as having ‘received Christ Jesus the Lord’ (Col. 2:6). But it also makes clear that Christ dwells among his people by his Spirit, for the bodily risen Jesus is in heaven. Furthermore, there are no examples in the New Testament involving the asking of Jesus into one’s heart. In many cases, this practice represents a loss of confidence in faith alone…
“…The gospel is seen more as what God is doing in me now, rather than what God did for me then. The focus is on Jesus living his life in and through me now, rather than the past historic event of Jesus of Nazareth living his life for me and dying for me. When the legitimate subjective dimension of our salvation begins to eclipse the historically and spiritually prior objective dimension, we are in trouble. The New Testament calls on the repenting sinner to believe in Christ, to trust him for salvation. To ask Jesus into one’s heart is simply not a New Testament way of speaking. It is superfluous to call on Christ to dwell in us, for to be a believer is to have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us. In the same way, it is not the New Testament perspective that we should call on Christ to give us the gift of new birth.”
Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2006), 176-177.
“Jesus is God incarnate – that is, he is fully God and fully human. But to be human is to be made from the created dust of the earth while being given life by the breath of God. In the God/Man we thus have all of reality present in a representative way that involves no dislocation of relationships. Jesus is thus the representative new creation. If reality consists of God-Humanity-Universe, Jesus is the perfect representative of all three dimensions in which all relate perfectly. Christology in the New Testament shows Jesus to be the comprehensive expression of reality in the purpose of God. The notion of the cosmic Christ rightly applies to the incarnate Son because he is representative reality.”
Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2006), 249.
The words “I know exactly how you feel” can either be the best or worst thing to say to someone suffering. If you do know exactly how a hurting friend feels, then they will probably be comforted by the knowledge that they are not alone in this experience, no matter how painful it is. However, if you don’t know exactly how they feel, then… well.. you’re just a great big jerk. There are certain events in life that you just can’t sympathize with unless you’ve been there.
For example, when Connie was pregnant with Kara, half of me expected her to miscarry in order that we would be able to sympathize with other couples who have experienced that tragedy. It’s not that I wanted Connie to miscarry; but I knew that if it happened, God would use it as an opportunity for us to minister to couples who have experienced it. We would know exactly how they felt. To some degree, I still fear that God may one day take our daughter or even my entire family from me so that I will be able to sympathize with people who have endured similar loss. I certainly don’t want anything like that to happen, but I do realize that it is not outside the realm of possibility. But unless something like that were to happen, there are certain people with whom I will never be able to truly sympathize.
Many people have a similar understanding of God. It’s easy for us to think of God as far away and unable to understand what it’s like to be human. This is especially true when we are suffering. Consider, for example, the following passages:
Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his seat!
I would lay my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would know what he would answer me
and understand what he would say to me. (Job 23:3-5)
God has cast me into the mire,
and I have become like dust and ashes.
I cry to you for help and you do not answer me;
I stand, and you only look at me. (Job 30:19-20)
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1)
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? (Habakkuk 1:2)
I could find many more, but you get the idea: When we suffer, it’s easy to think of God as distant.
But that’s not where the story ends. If, as Job described it, we have all been cast into the mire (Job 30:19), then Jesus has entered into the mire with us. Jesus has not left us alone. Think about what Hebrews 4:15-16 says; this should blow your mind:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Or what about this one:
Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:35-36, emphasis mine; see also Mark 6:34)
When we suffer, we can draw near to Jesus because He knows exactly how we feel. He has compassion for us, because He has seen firsthand how off-course and wayward we are. In fact, Romans 8:34 says that Christ intercedes for us; he pleads on our behalf because He has suffered too! So when you suffer—not “if,” but “when”—consider it an opportunity to grow closer to Christ because He knows exactly how you feel.
Recently, I made a decision: I want to be viewed as a yes man. By “yes man,” I don’t mean a person of unquestioning, mindless obedience or a sycophant. Instead, I mean a man who says yes when his neighbors ask for help. Or, when God reveals a need to me, I say yes to Him and offer to help. I want my neighbors—yes, my physical neighbors who live less than 40 yards away from me—to know that I am willing to serve them. I want the 88 year old widow to know that I want to help her rake her leaves. I want the 70 year old, technically-challenged retiree to know that it’s not a problem for me to help her set up her new laptop and printer. I want the older, single man to know that, in a weird way, I enjoy climbing on top of the roofs to blow the leaves off of everyone’s roofs in my little neighborhood. I want the young family, with the dad that works 16 hour shifts, to know that I don’t mind stacking wood with him in the rain. Why? Because if Christ lived as a servant (Mk. 10:45), then I want to live as a servant. Not only that, but it’s an incredibly practical way to obey the second half of the Great Commandment. Consider these two passages:
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29, emphasis mine)
Now, these are different occasions, but they both talk about our top two priorities when it comes to loving: God first, neighbors second. The second account, Luke 10:25-29, introduces the parable of the Good Samaritan. Take a second and re-read the last verse of that Luke passage, noting especially the portion I italicized.
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29, emphasis mine)
Here’s my question: how did he plan on justifying himself? It says that the lawyer asked “who is my neighbor” because he was desiring to justify himself. What does that mean?
Well, I think the passage gives us 4 clues:
Here’s my guess: when it came to loving his neighbors, this lawyer probably thought he was doing a great job. The only way he could justify himself is if he thought Jesus was about to give him kudos for being a shining example of loving his neighbor. After all, would it make sense to ask this question if the neighbor wasn’t loving his physical neighbors? But Jesus shatters his definition of ‘neighbor.’
In the story of the Good Samaritan, the man who falls is passed up by a priest and a Levite but helped by a foreigner. While not certain, it’s possible the priest was the local priest for this man; perhaps the Levite knew the man as well. Jesus finishes the story by forcing the lawyer to admit that the Samaritan proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell (in Luke 10:36-37). Why do you think Jesus did this? Why do you think Jesus forced the lawyer to admit that the foreigner was the neighbor, and not the priest or Levite who were actually his physical neighbors?
I think it’s because the lawyer already loved his physical neighbors and was becoming prideful about it. However, in America, we’ve got it reversed: we might sponsor a child in Africa—and know her name—but not know the names of our own neighbors who live less than 40 yards away. Sponsoring a child is a great thing; not knowing your neighbors’ names is a bad thing.
The lawyer thought he would justify himself because loving your physical neighbors was a no-brainer in Jesus’ culture. Of course you’re supposed to love the people that live right next to you. Jesus expanded his perceptions. Our problem is that we need to start taking the second half of the Great Commandment more literally. We need to love our neighbors.
So here are my two challenges for you:
So, why this push to love our physical neighbors? Because I think American Christians are completely ignoring the second half of the Great Commandment (which makes me wonder if we are also ignoring the first half of the Great Commandment). Can you honestly tell God that you followed the Command to love your neighbors if you don’t even know your neighbors’ names? Do we think God is pleased if we listen to dozens of sermons and can discuss in depth all our favorite Christian preachers and authors, yet don’t know the names or needs of the people God has placed in our immediate physical vicinity? I think it’s time to turn off the TV, spend less time reading about Christian living, and start spending some time living like Christians. Let’s start taking intentional steps to know, serve, and love our neighbors.
“…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
“They’ll need to see your face so they can see there’s no evil in it… To see the gentleness an decency in you… And know that they have nothing to fear. The mask– The mask is what you’ll have to wear the rest of the time.”
– Martha Kent, giving Clark his cape in Superman Earth One Volume 1.
Among superheroes, Superman has historically been a bit unique. Most superheroes—Spiderman, Batman, the Power Rangers—conceal who they really are when they are ‘on duty.’ Spiderman is just an alter ego to hide Peter Parker; Batman is just a symbol that serves to conceal Bruce Wayne; the Power Rangers are really high school kids. Superman, on the other hand, really is Superman. He puts on glasses, acts clumsy, and walks with poor posture to conceal his true identity. Clark Kent is the disguise; Superman is the reality. In recent years, it seems like a lot of superheroes have revealed their identity, but since his inception, Superman has been unique in this regard.
This reminds me of Someone…
…though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil. 2:6-7)
Jesus came as Clark Kent. Jesus was born in the likeness of weak men. He came not as a King, but as a servant. Is it any wonder we rejected Him? Is it any wonder we just didn’t seem to understand who He was? When Jesus came into this world, He modeled humility. But Jesus is coming back.
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Rev. 19:11-16).
When Jesus took the form of a lowly servant and washed the feet of His disciples, He was showing us how we are supposed to act; he was modeling our real identity. But He wasn’t showing us the full scope of His identity. Jesus was born as Clark Kent, but He shall return as Superman.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)
Before we get started, here are four things you need to know…
Okay, now that we’re all caught up…
For the last few weeks I’ve been obsessing a little bit about Romans 6-8. I used to think I loved Romans 8, but not compared to how much I love it now. You see, in Romans 6, we’re taught that we who have died to sin (Rom. 6:6) are now alive to God (Rom. 6:11). Furthermore, we are now slaves to Christ (Rom. 6:18) and follow a path and process that leads to eternal life (Rom. 6:22). In the same way that a woman is no longer legally married to a man after he dies but can freely remarry, we are remarried to Christ so we can bring glory to God (Rom. 7:4).
The only problem is our death to sin is a spiritual reality that has not yet been physically manifested; that doesn’t happen until after our physical death and resurrection (Rom. 8:23). We’re stuck in an in-between state; the check has been written but it hasn’t been cashed yet. This is why we still sin (Rom. 7:14-15); because there is a tension that exists within us (Rom. 7:25).
But!!! Even though we make mistakes, there is no condemnation for Christians (Rom. 8:1) because Jesus condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3). We may be influenced by the flesh (Rom. 7:20), but we are not dominated by the flesh (Rom. 6:6; 8:11). This means we battle the flesh by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 7:13) because we have been adopted (Rom. 8:16). We have a new identity that isn’t determined by our actions or even our failures but who God says we are. The fact that we are part of God’s family means that we are heirs with Christ and will be glorified with Christ, but we will also suffer with Him (Rom. 8:17).
However!!! The suffering we endure in this life pales in comparison to the glory awaiting us (Rom. 8:18) and we wait patiently to meet the Father who has adopted us because we understand that it will be worth the wait (Rom. 8:25). This is the check that has been written but is not yet cashed. In fact, the Holy Spirit helps us (Rom. 8:26) as we continue to be transformed to look more and more like Christ so that, when we ‘go home,’ we’ll fit in the family of God (Rom. 8:29).
In fact!!! Because Christ is on our side, no one and nothing in all creation (Rom. 8:38-39) can stand against us (Rom. 8:33). We have been irrevocably adopted by God; He chose us before the creation of the earth (Eph. 1:4-5).
So here’s what I’m realizing. Chapter 7 spends about 17 verses talking about our failures and our inability to be perfect. But this is bookended by Romans 6 & 8 where God spends almost 70 verses assuring us that we are free from sin (Rom. 6:7), and are now slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:18); that we have a new identity and belong to Christ (Rom. 7:4); that we face no condemnation (Rom. 8:1, 33-34); that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Rom. 8:26) and that even Christ intercedes for us at the right hand of God (Rom. 8:34)! Romans 9 continues this line of thought by explaining that God’s choice cannot be revoked by any mortal (Rom. 9:16).
So, my question for Christians is this: why do you let your failures haunt you and condemn you if God does not? The whole ‘if God is for us, who can be against us?’ idea applies to you, too! If God is for you, how can you be against yourself?
Who will condemn you? You? Christ Jesus is interceding for us. Will you condemn yourself? Do you really think your guilt outweighs the power of both the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ interceding on our behalf? Do we think our failures revoke God’s choice to adopt us? Who do we think we are? God? If God is for us, who can be against us? Our failures don’t define us in God’s eyes; Christ’s finished work and resurrection define us. God doesn’t look at our failures; He looks at our new identity as His slaves/children (seems weird to us, but that’s what the text says; think of us as adopted slaves).
During Christmas time, all these thoughts swimming around in my head help me appreciate the lengths to which Christ was willing to go to make sure that I could be adopted into God’s family. I praise God that, despite my failures, He chose to adopt me. I praise Christ because He chose to come and bridge the gap between sinfulness and God’s mercy. I praise the Spirit for helping me as I await the redemption of my body. God was willing to bridge the gap so that I could be adopted into His family; for that I am eternally grateful.
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness–they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist.”
The Lord’s Supper isn’t a funeral dirge of morbid introspective guilt-motivated mourning but a joyful Jesus-focused feast of celebration.
I think I’ve found my favorite Greek word. It’s a special word that we don’t really have an English equivalent for, which is a shame because it’s only used four times in the New Testament and it’s only used to describe Jesus (Acts 3:15, 5:13, Hebrews 2:10, 12:12). The word is archegos (pronounced ar-khay-gos’) and it is usually translated as “founder,” “author,” or “leader” but it means much more than that.
Consider, for example, Romulus the legendary founder of Rome. An ancient empire was named after him because he was the one who founded it. In the same way, Christianity is named after Christ because it is contingent upon his life, death, and resurrection. We follow Christ and are therefore called Christians.
But this word is also used to describe someone who begins something that is the first in a series; a series which is meant to be repeated. In Romans 8:15-17, we’re told that we’ve been adopted into a family and have become fellow heirs of suffering and glory with Christ. Later, in Romans 8:29, Jesus is described as the firstborn of many brothers. Jesus, as our archegos, has set a pattern for us that we can repeat because of his death and resurrection and by the power of the Holy Spirit . In the same way that everyone who completes a marathon follows the pattern of the first marathon, we, by following the pattern of Christ, have the privilege of being called Christians.
Finally, this word is use for someone who is a leader, prince, or ruler. The archegos has a special, preeminent position. Jesus, in Colossians 1:18, is described as preeminent in everything! Philippians 2:10-11 is clear that every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Every knee will bow, whether as friend or foe. Jesus Christ is our righteous ruler and we will have the joy of worshiping Him for all eternity.
Jesus is the way, paves the way, and shows the way to the Father. He is our archegos.