do you not know?

chains

  • Did you know that the leading manufacture of tires in the world is LEGO?
  • Did you know that a 26-year old woman aged 50 years in just days due to a strange illness cause by an allergy to seafood?
  • Did you know that Pumbaa from the Lion King was the first character to pass gas in a Disney film?
  • Did you know that only 2% of the world population has green eyes?
  • Did you know a guy from the UK actually changed his name to “Captain Fantastic Faster than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine The Hulk and the Flash Combined”? (Jack,’s younger brother?)
  • Did you know that falling coconuts kill more than shark bites each year?

I suppose you won’t look at Pumbaa the same the next time you watch The Lion King. Or maybe you won’t be able to look at me the same for feeding you such a ridiculous factoids. Sorry, I am a nerd for useless facts.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul lists no less that six “Did you not know” questions. Now he isn’t sharing useless Jeopardy Trivia, rather he is calling to mind truths the church was already taught but had not caught. So in asking the questions Paul is revealing their heart and making certain the truth’s are being applied to their current situation. What the questions reveal are two problems within the church. First, some members in the church are disputing over trivial matters outside the church that should be reconciled inside the church,

  • 1 Corinthians 6:2 – Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?
  • 1 Corinthians 6:3 – Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life?
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9 – Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Second, the church is tolerating types of sexual sin inside the church, which commonly characterizes unbelievers outside the church,

  • 1 Corinthians 6:15 – Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
  • 1 Corinthians 6:16 – Do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

Paul’s questions follow the pattern of Jesus’ (cf. Mark 4:13-14; John 6:43-44). Jesus used the same question not to upstage people with His knowledge, but is rather calling their knowledge into action. Knowledge should always lead to action. The question is meant to sit with you. Let it soak in. Stew in it. As you do so you cannot help but do something about it.

My pastor used to share an illustration on how many Christians are like the Dead Sea: stagnant and dead. Why is the Dead Sea so dead? It has an inlet, but no outlet. Water and salt come into the sea by river, but nothing comes out. Similarly, many Christians think they are wise because they know a lot of facts about God and know a lot about His Word. They are all in-take, but there is little to no out-take. They know that facts, but the facts do not effect their actions. Instead, they become more stagnant and dead, like the Dead Sea.

The test of knowledge is the character and behavior (or action) it produces. Genuine knowledge of God’s truth produces a true love for God’s people, a concern for God’s reputation, and a display of God’s glory. This is the background of 1 Corinthians 6. It’s also what leads us to Paul final “Did you not know” question, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

What does it mean that your body is called the temple of the Holy Spirit? To understand the question you must also understand the Jewish temple? First, the temple was a sacred shrine—a place dedicated by God and erected for God. Second, it was a holy temple—it’s a place clean and pure. In a casual reading of Exodus and Leviticus, we see God’s temple is immaculate, it resembles His own character. Third, the temple is not just any ordinary temple—it’s a place where God lives. In Moses day as in Jesus’ day, there were many kinds of temples, but Israel’s temple was unique because God designed it and God dwelt in it.

What evidence is there that you and I are God’s temple? Your belief about your body leads to your behavior within your body. Paul’s question is followed by two points which help you and I answer this question. They are two truths you must know. The first is theological and the second practical. If heeded they will change the way that you live in your body and within the Body of Christ.

Theological Truth You Must Know: You are not your own, for you were bought with a price (6:19b-20a)

In short, this verse is a simple definition of redemption. It is also the one of the greatest truths you need to know, think about, and allow to change the way you live. How would you define redemption? At it’s core, redemption is about being bought out of slavery.

What comes to mind when you think of slavery? Do you think about the 18th century slave trade? Or modern day trafficking? It is this image that lies at the backdrop of redemption. We are redeemed from slavery. And if redemption is the solution, then slavery is the problem.

When studying slavery in the Bible we see there are two forms. The first form of physical slavery. From cover to cover slavery is woven into the Bible’s tapestry because slavery is woven into the culture of time. In Genesis, we read about characters like Hagar a slave of Abraham and Joseph who was sold as a slave to Egypt by his brothers. In Exodus, we see slavery on a grand scale. An entire people is in slavery and they are miraculous redeemed. In the Law, Prophets and Epistles we learn that biblical times were a time of masters and slaves, even Jesus and His disciples address the topic of slavery. While not condoning slavery, the Bible makes provisions for slaves.

Whatever oppressive or unjust thoughts slavery congers up in your imagination, physical slavery is not the worst form of slavery. The Bibles second form of slavery is by far the worst. It is spiritual slavery. Jesus says some shocking words in John 8:31 “everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (cf. Romans 3:23) To say we are slaves to sin a shocking thing to say. It’s so shocking because modern and religious people do not think of themselves like this. However, to sin is to deny God’s love, to defy God’s word, to deceive yourself, and to willfully drink the poison.

In the movie, Truman Show, Jim Carrey plays a character who from a baby was raised in a city-sized television studio. He grew up without ever realizing the false reality he was living. He was trapped in his own world. When he realizes something is wrong he begins looking for an escape and finds his way out.

In contrast, a slave whether physical or spiritual is trapped. There is no way to escape. One might try to run away, but he’s still a slave. What can you and I do about what’s wrong? What can you do about your slavery to sin? Nothing. If I am slave I am powerless and helpless. Sin is a terrible taskmaster. It pays horribly. It doesn’t pay anything, but more slavery and death. What I need is someone to come and free me. A price needs to be paid. A ransom needs to be paid.

In the Old Testament there was two types of ransom given in the Law. First, there was a cash ransom, where a person was able to spend money to buy someone else out of debt. If you got into too much debt you had to sell yourself into slavery to someone with enough cash to buy you out. Second, there was a sacrificial ransom. In the sacrificial system, an animal was killed to pay for one’s sin debt. It was innocent blood spilt for a guilty human. Now according to the system, animals were to be sacrificed annually illustrating the fact that animal blood was not a sufficient substitute to cover the sins of a human or a nation. Instead, it pointed to a greater need, a bigger debt, a greater more sufficient sacrifice. A human life for human life. The ransom cost Jesus His blood. “We have redemption through His blood.” (Ephesians 1:7) Jesus’ death came at a cost. Your sin cost the God Man His life, the spotless sinless Lamb of God His blood, and the Father His precious Son.

He purchased freed that could not be bought with money or animal sacrifice (Hebrews 9:12-14). Your sin debt was bought with another man’s blood. Therefore, since you were bought with a price, you are not our own. You have a new task master. But God is a different taskmaster. His burden is easy, and yoke is light. He treats us as sons and daughters and instead of death He gives of life, instead of nothing, He gives us everything (Galatians 3:29-4:7). That is a truth we must know to honor our body as God’s temple.

Practical Truth You Must Know: “So glorify God in your body” (6:20b)

You are built to display God’s glory. It is easy to think we are something significant because God dwells within us. Wrong. We are not significant. What is significant is that the God of the universe would chose—if not promise—to dwell within us. What? Wow!

Yet what does it mean to glorify God? Sometimes the phrase to “Glorify God” slip off our lips so nebulously that its meaning is muffled. So the best way to define it is the way the Bible describes it.

First, creation glorifies God. Mountains speak, trees clap, waters cover the earth, and the heavens all declare the glory of God. Though tainted by the Fall, creation groans for the day it will be renewed.

Second, Israel declares God’s glory (1 Samuel 15:29; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Isaiah 60:19; 46:13). His people are His joy. They are His light to the nations (1 Chronicles 16:24), which is at the heart of evangelism and missions, then and now.

Third, Jesus displays God’s glory. “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” (John 1:14; cf. Hebrews 1:3). In His birth (Luke 2:9, 14, 32), during His ministry (Luke 9:31-32), in his humanity (John 17:5, 22, 24), and in His deity (Philippians 2:9-11) He displayed God’s glory. Jesus has God’s DNA. If you want to know what God’s glory looks like with skin on just look at Jesus.

Fourth, your body is for God’s glory. We’re in great company, eh? With creation, Israel and Jesus, we display the glory of God. “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus ‘sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)

How do I glorify God in my body? How do I make this practical? According to 1 Corinthians 6, it begins by donating your body to God for sexual purity. If you continue studying the Scriptures on what it means to glorify God it comes down to worshiping God, listening to God, obeying God, serving God, telling people about God’s Son, using your gifts for God and His Body, and giving God credit for it all. Glorifying orbits completely around God and God alone.

If you obsess over praising your own significance, knowledge, or morality, you are unable to exalt God’s significance. The two are mutually exclusive endeavors. You cannot have it both ways. In Philippians 1:21 Paul says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” If your thinking is “For me to live is personal gain or personal pleasure and to die is Christ” you forfeit the essential element of what it means to glorify God in your body. Until you are liberated from your obsession with self you will not be free to glorify God.

Michelangelo is said to have painted with a brush in one hand and a shielded candle in the other to prevent his shadow from covering the art he was creating. Likewise, as God works through us to display His glory and gain, we must be careful that our shadows are not cast across the canvas of His work. Christ is the masterpiece. He is the only significant person and foci of the universe. He is worth of our lives and death. He is worth our passions. He is worth all of us including our bodies.

Do you not know you are the temple of the Holy Spirit?

Are you living free and pure in the light of your redemption in Christ?

Are you proclaiming freedom in Christ to the glory of God?

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the long silence

sea of people

John Stott’s, The Cross of Christ is a rather filling and satisfying read, if you are looking for a book to bring you back to Jesus again. I recently turned the last page wanting more. Near the end of the book he includes a playlet by unknown author John McNeil entitled, The Long Silence. After a quick Google search I could not find it’s roots, but using my inner-Sherlock I noticed the choice of wording seems to be dated. It is well worth reading and reflecting.

At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God’s throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly – not with cringing shame, but with belligerence.

“Can God judge us? How can he know about suffering?” snapped a pert brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror…beatings…torture..death!”

In another group a Negro lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. “Lynched..for no crime but being black!”

In another crowd, a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes. “Why should I suffer?”, she murmured, “It wasn’t my fault.”

Far out across the plain there were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering he permitted in his world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that man had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.

So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered most. A Jew, a Negro, a person form Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the centre of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.

Before God could be qualified to be their judge, he must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live one earth – as a man!

“Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind when he tries to do it. Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.

“At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die. Let him die so that there can be no doubt that he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.

“As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled.

“And when the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. No-one moved. For suddenly all knew that God had already served his sentence.”

making much of Christ in a messy church

messy church

What do all soap operas have in common? Soaps have a never aging cast. They are predictable, yet still leave their audience surprised. They are scandalous, yet acceptable to the masses. Soaps live up to the name “daytime drama” filling plots with family messes, immorality, and power trips. After a quick reading of 1 Corinthians, you’d think it was a script for an episode of “Days of Our Lives” or “Guiding Light”. Corinth is a church wracked by division, money problems, and immorality. Certain church members are visiting prostitutes while others are promoting celibacy. One leader is having an affair with his step-mom and rather than dealing with it the church accepts it. Corinth is a mess.

Does this church sound like any you know? If we were honest, the first century church of Corinth resembles the church of our century. That’s why Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is one of the most relevant books in the Bible for the current church (and church goer). It is for people struggling to live together inside the church and live for Christ outside the church. It’s a letter for Corinth and a letter for you.

History of Corinth: To understand Corinth, you need to understand its history. The city itself dates back to the Peloponnesian War (431 BC). It became a Greek city-state and the seat of the Achaean League under Alexander the Great. Later, Corinth was destroyed by the Romans (146 BC), but 100 years later it was rebuilt by Julius Caesar (44 BC). So in Paul’s day, Corinth was newly rebuilt and revitalized.

Life in Corinth: Corinth (pop. 700k) was a happening city. First, it was the hub of trade between Rome and Asia and probably the wealthiest city in Greece. Its three harbors and overland route through its isthmus nicknamed it “the bridge of the sea” and made it the shortcut and emporium of half the world. Second, Corinth was multicultural and multi-religious. Romans, Greeks and Jews mingled together. The city’s the most popular god was Aphrodite, the goddess of love. She supported the economy with a thousand “Corinthian girls” or temple prostitutes. Corinth was coined as the Vanity Fair of the Roman empire; alike to London, Paris, New York or Las Vegas today. The label “To act like a Corinthian” carries the same weight as “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

It is easy to see how the church and Christians at Corinth would be influenced by its community. Corinth was a messy town with a messy church. Yet what town or church isn’t messy? Corinth could be any town or any church. It could be your town and your church.

1) When moving to a place like Corinth, be driven by a love for Jesus and His church (1:1-9)

Paul grew to love the Corinthians with Christ-like affection, though he never had to deal with any church so inflated, so immoral, so indifferent to his sufferings, or so cheeky towards his teaching. To understand Paul’s unconditional love for the church you need to travel back in time a few years to the beginnings of his relationship with the city.

Origin of the Gospel in Corinth: Paul was driven to Corinth (50-51AD) after a difficult time in Thessalonica and Athens (Acts 17:1-34). He didn’t go alone, but was assisted by Priscilla and Aquila, his tent-making buddy. Soon after arrival Paul preached the gospel (Acts 18:1–18) and opposition grew fierce. Discouraged, Jesus spoke to Paul in a vision assuring him that He had ‘many people’ in the city (Acts 18:10). With this encouragement, Paul stayed for 18-months, ‘teaching them the word of God’ (Acts 18:11) and a new church was born.

Origin of the First Letter: A few years later (54-55 AD), while in Ephesus (vs.16:8-9; Acts 20:31) ‘Paul the Apostle’ (v.1) penned this letter the “church of God, which is at Corinth,” (v.2a) likely, many small groups meeting in homes. To Paul, a letter was better than a phone call, but not as good as a visit.

It is obvious, Paul’s love for Jesus and the church are intertwined and dripping over every word. Proof of his love is seen in the sizable greetings and thanks portion of his letter (vs.2b-9). What Paul also reveals is the theology behind his love for the church and how we should think about the church. First, it belongs to God (v.2a). Second, its members are sanctified in Christ and becoming holy (v.2b). Third, it is made up of all those everywhere who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (v.2c). Fourth, God is faithful to it. These are universal truths about any church anywhere at anytime. What’s not to love about the church when you look at it through these eyes? What do you love about the church? How do you express thanks for it?

2) When ministering in a messy church, claim Jesus as the undisputed center (1:10-17)

Paul’s original mission to Corinth was successful. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, was baptized, with all his house. He started meeting in a room near the synagogue, which was made available by Titus Justus. It was there Paul preached for many months. What did he teach them? He taught them from the Law and the Prophets about Jesus. What do you think he had wished he had taught them? Probably nothing different, knowing Corinth. This is a great lesson for us to make Jesus the central topic of our discussions and teachings.

Overview of 1 CorinthiansWhat happens when Jesus in not made center? Corinth becomes the case and point. Here begins one of three different segments of the letter to the Corinthians: divisions (v.10). Who is it that reports division to Paul? (v.11) Chloe’s house. What’s the reason for division? (v.12) Certain leaders had “groupies”. Christian celebrity worship is not just a 21st Century thing. The first century church had groupies too. At Corinth(ian Idol), the “groupies” rallied around either Paul (the founder), Apollos (the pastor), Cephas (the rock, Peter), or Jesus (the One and Only). It’s uncertain how the cliques formed, yet the text gives clues that is concerns the one who baptized them (v.13) or tickled their intellect (v.17). And what about the “Christ” groupies? Likely they were pious groupies. In either case, when Jesus is not the undisputed center of your life, ministry or church you flirt with idolatry.

How can we minimize groupie-ness? Notice how Paul does it (vs.13-16). He simply, yet emphatically points to Jesus. The thing for which to watch for is the way in which Paul consistently relates every subject and problem in Corinth to the centrality of the Person and work of Jesus Christ (v.17). Paul’s cure for division in the church is unifying around the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s has a “we’re not alone, we’re in this together” view of the church. To him, if the church would just acknowledge its ultimate allegiance—Jesus—then the church would have a much better probability of getting along. Later, Paul uses a beautiful image to describe the church as “one body, many parts.” (12:20) and Jesus as the “Head of the Body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). Regardless of our differences, indifferences, and messes, the church is still Jesus’ beautiful Bride (Ephesians 5:23). It’s a beautiful mess because Jesus is its center.

3) When making much of Christ, be prepare for the world to think it is feeble and foolish (1:18-31)

If Jesus is your undisputed center, people will think you are foolish (vs.18-21). Paul echoes this by saying there are two types of people in this world: 1) people think the cross is the idea of fools or 2) people who think it’s the wisdom of God. There isn’t much room in between. The gospel message doesn’t rest well with the populace. It’s just not cool to be Christian. Never was and never will be. Remember, before Paul came to Corinth he reasoned with the intellectuals and philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens? They thought he was a fool—a babbler—and mocked him. Paul could wax profundity with the best of them, but on his way to Corinth, he determined to shelve all “human” wisdom and eloquence, instead he preached the gospel in its uttermost and humblest simplicity (v.23; cf. 1:17; 2:1–5).

How is preaching of the gospel opposite of what the Jews and Greeks desire, yet exactly what they need? Concerning God’s redemptive plan the Jews think the cross is feeble and the Greeks think the cross is foolish (vs.22-23). The wise and strong of this world reject the cross, but it is the only means by which God will accept them. The plan of the cross for your neighbor is feeble and foolish. However, for those called by God, the cross is the greatest display power and wisdom of God’s (v.24). We must acknowledge the divide, but continue to bridge it with the simple, powerful, and truthful message of the cross of Jesus Christ. As John Stott said, “The gospel of the cross will never be a popular message because it humbles the pride of our intellect and character. Yet Christ crucified is both God’s wisdom and ours. It therefore manifests His power too, “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)”

How do we begin to compare the power and wisdom of God to man? There is no comparison. “The foolishness of God is still far wiser than man’s most wisest thought and the weakness of God is still far more powerful than man’s most strongest feat” (v.25, my paraphrase). Is God “foolish” or “weak”? No. So why does Paul use the words “foolish” and “weak” to compare God and man? He is showing how polar opposite the power and wisdom of God and man really are. Comparing God to man is like comparing the power of gravity with a refrigerator magnet.

I felt like a fool this week. While walking through my neighborhood I saw a group of guys I’ve visited before sitting outside their gate. They greeted me from a distance and welcomed me over to them. There was a new man in the mix, a well-dressed older man with a whitening beard. He immediately asked me if I was Muslim, which is a common question since I speak a little Arabic and sport a beard too. I said, “No, I go the way of Jesus the Messiah.” He quickly responded, “So do I. I go the way of all the prophets. Do you go the way of the prophet Mohammad?” I said, “No, only the way of Jesus.” He then opened the gauntlet, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe in three gods? Can God be a baby? Can God die?” I was being shredded, gut-checked, and mocked. I felt so unloved, yet so calm. My only response was, “Can God can do the miraculous? (i.e. Create something from nothing, cause the sun to stand still, part the Red Sea, raise the dead, heal the sick) Have you read Jesus’ words in the Injil?” My questions and invitation seemed to rest on deaf ears. I said my goodbyes and left feeling like a fool, moreover, I was filled with sorrow for their souls.

The Corinthians forgot something important, which we often forget too. They thought they were somebodies, but forgot they were nobodies. They were proud and thought they arrived. They forgot they were weak, lowly, and despised (vs.26-29). The words “low” or “despised” are often used of slaves. Interestingly it is estimated that 400,000 of the 700,000 residents of Corinth were slaves. Not everyone in Corinth was the “cream of the crop.” Do not forget who you were before Christ. How do the words “low” and despised” remind you of Jesus’ own entrance into this world? Jesus was born in a manger, He worked as a carpenter, He hung out with sinners, He did not claim to be the returned King yet, and He suffered a criminals death rejected and despised. Jesus was the humblest, strongest and wisest man to ever live.

I’ve got nothing. When I stand before God at the end of my life, my brawn and brains will not be enough, my dollars and donations won’t amount to much, my good works or merciful acts won’t stack up. To boast in my little stack of stuff is silly. Nothing I boast in tops out Jesus Christ. He gives me serious grounds for boasting (vs.30-31). When I boast in Jesus, I boast in something God the Father and God the Spirit also boast in too. I want to make much of Jesus Christ.

No matter where you are or live the church is messy (like a soap opera), however, Jesus is still the founder and sustainer of it. It is His, He bought it with His blood, and it’s His living organism in the world today bringing people to Himself. May you serve the church of Jesus joyfully, especially, as you go to hard to reach places with hard to reach people who think your message is foolish and feeble, or disciple messy believers. Like Paul, you are in good company. Make much of Christ.

hanged on a tree (for me)

Part of the curse Jesus would bear for us on Golgotha was the taunting and testing by God’s enemies. As he drowned in his own blood, the spectators yelled words quite similar to those of Satan in the desert: “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32). But he didn’t jump down. He didn’t ascend to the skies. He just writhed there. And, after it all, the bloated corpse of Jesus hit the ground as he was pulled off the stake, spattering warm blood and water on the faces of the crowd.

That night the religious leaders probably read Deuteronomy 21 to their families, warning them about the curse of God on those who are “hanged on a tree.” Fathers probably told their sons, “Watch out that you don’t ever wind up like him.” Those Roman soldiers probably went home and washed the blood of Jesus from under their fingernails and played with their children in front of the fire before dozing off. This was just one more insurrectionist they had pulled off a cross, one in a line of them dotting the roadside. And this one (what was his name? Joshua?) was just decaying meat now, no threat to the empire at all.

That corpse of Jesus just lay there in the silences of that cave. By all appearances it had been tested and tried, and found wanting. If you’d been there to pull open his bruised eyelids, matted together with mottled blood, you would have looked into blank holes. If you’d lifted his arm, you would have felt no resistance. You would have heard only the thud as it hit the table when you let it go. You might have walked away from that morbid scene muttering to yourself, “The wages of sin is death.”

But sometime before dawn on a Sunday morning, a spike-torn hand twitched. A blood-crusted eyelid opened. The breath of God came blowing into that cave, and a new creation flashed into reality….

The following is my favorite excerpt from: Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ by Russell Moore, Crossway, 2011. pages 124-125.

a case for penal substitution

The cross work of Christ is not just a payment for the wages of sin, but it is man’s means for cleansing from and victory over sin and death. In essence, that is the doctrine of penal substitution. The doctrine of penal substitution is one of the glorious truth’s of the Bible.

First, the doctrine of penal substitution is biblical.

From beginning to end penal substitution is central to the message of the Bible [cf. Genesis 9:6; Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 1:4; 17:11; Isaiah 53:5-6; Hebrews 9:22]. The truth that Jesus Christ satisfied the justice of God and took upon Himself the wrath due sin.

Second, penal substitution is necessary for real forgiveness.

God cannot waive the wrath due sin. It is out of line with His character to do so. He cannot sweep sin under the rug. Justice demands a consequence. Sin robs the bank of God’s justice [Psalm 97:2; Proverbs 17:15]. The only remedy is to seek forgiveness, but forgiveness always has a cost. Injustice must be made right. For my sin the cost was the death of Jesus Christ. My cost is that without Christ I cannot escape death. He made up what I owed. I sinned, but Jesus suffered for it so I would not have to suffer the hellish consequences of my sin.

Third, the fame of God’s name is at stake.

An injustice against God unpunished with would make the nature untrue. If it were not true He would be a liar. His name would be tarnished. In my place condemned Jesus hung pun the cross to demonstrate the justice of God. Therefore my response is to put faith in my Merciful Justifier Jesus Christ [Romans 3:25-26].

Fourth, God cannot be untrue to His Word.

God has said that the the soul that sins must die [Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:20]. Since He declared it, it is decreed. Therefore, from the beginning of man’s sin God has provided a sacrifice. For Adam God sacrificed an animal to cloth his shame. For Cain and Abe;, God honored the righteous sacrifice. For Abraham God provided a substitute sacrifice in the place of his son [Genesis 22]. For the sins of Israel God atoned through the blood of animals. For my sin and yours God sent the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, to the cross as my sins sacrifice.

Glory to God for the gift of penal substitution. May it humble us to the core and motivate us to serve Him for life.

thumb lick thursday [4.7.11]

5 Ways to Make Your Kids Hate Church

If you are a parent you have huge influence on whether or not your kids fall in love with Christ’s Church. Thomas Weaver give 5 very real ways parents can cultivate a hateful attitude in their children’s heart towards the church.

My Christian Commitment

“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His and I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still…I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He does come for His won, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear!” – Written by a young African pastor. Found among his papers in Zimbabwe after he was martyred

6 Keys to Poor Preaching

Everyone has an opinion on what the pastor should preach. Most of the time people’s opinions lead to poor preaching. Pastors also have the problem of ticking their hearers ears rather than preaching good sermons their hearers need to hear. What makes poor preaching?

The Cross and Criticism

Most of us would agree that criticism is difficult to take. Who of us doesn’t know someone with whom we need to be especially careful in our remarks lest they blow up in response to our suggested corrections? I do not fear man’s criticism for I have already agreed with God’s criticism. And I do not look ultimately for man’s approval for I have gained by grace God’s approval.

Which baseball team should I cheer for this year?

With the 2011 MLB season on its way America’s pastime is in need of serious fans. Maybe you have cheered for the same team you entire life. Maybe you do not know which team to cheer for. Maybe you need to consider the Baseball Flow Chart. [HT]

the spiritual war and your enemy

The past few weeks we have been discussing matters of the heart. Your heart is the control center of your being. Your heart defines who you are and what you do. We have already discussed two specific factors that can distract your heart from what God desires to define you heart. First, the world, an external factor that seeks to distract your heart. Second, worldliness [i.e. flesh], an internal factor that seeks to distract your heart. Today, we will look at final factor, supernatural forces of evil [Devil & demons] a spiritual factor that seeks to distract your heart from following after Christ wholeheartedly.

Spiritual warfare is the real deal [Ephesians 6:10-20]

From the beginning to the end of Jesus’ ministry he warned, overturned, taught, and fought against spiritual foes. Much of Jesus’ ministry portrayed power encounters, exorcisms, and exposes a real supernatural warfare in this world.[1] Since, spiritual warfare is real, how do we deal with it?

Paul wraps up his letter to Ephesians with a battle cry similar to that Joshua, “be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” Right out of the box, preparation for this battle against spiritual warfare is exclaimed, “put on the whole armor of God.” There is an air of readiness for believers to put on the whole armor of God because spiritual warfare is eminent. Here are 5 truths about spiritual warfare from Ephesians 6:10-20:

#1 You are at war [6:10-11]. Believe it or not, and most do not realize it or try to ignore it, you are at war. From the moment you are born to the moment you die you are in the midst of a heated battle. It is the clash of the kingdom’s—the kingdom of light versus the kingdom of darkness. This world is not a playground; it’s a battlefield. This world and your heart is the battle zone. Are you ready for this spiritual warfare?

#2 You are at war with evil supernatural powers [6:11-12]. “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Paul would agree that your flesh and blood is evil, but we see in this text that the conflict is also fought against supernatural, demonic forces.

#3 You are charged to stand [6:11-14]. Three times in this passage Paul tells believers to stand so you do not fall [vs.11, 13-14]. These powerful forces cannot be faced in the power of your own might. If you stand alone, you will fail.

#4 You are able to stand by the provisions made by God [6:14-17]. “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” It is nothing about what strength you have, but everything about the strength of your God [cf. victory in Christ, 1:20-23]. The provision of God is the armor. The armor must be “put on,” for the spiritual armor is an external counterpart to Paul’s emphasis on inward growth and the edification of the church [cf. 4:12, 16].

#5 You are charged to be prayerful and watchful [6:18-20]. Prayer is not a weapon of warfare, but a sounding horn to God for continual preparation in the battle and communion with Him through the battle.

This text is clear, spiritual warfare is real and ferocious. Paul gives a clarifying call to believers in the church to stand firm against the supernatural powers seeking to destroy their unity and reputation in Christ as ambassadors of the gospel of Christ. Spiritual warfare is the real deal, but what about the enemy?

Know your enemy

Throughout history, military strategists have noted the effectiveness in winning battles is to know your enemy. As Victor Hugo said, “A good general must penetrate the brain of his enemy.” As followers of Christ, you have an enemy that is well document. You have dirt on how you can win the war against him. He is not invisible and impenetrable.

First, Satan is limited. He cannot do anything he wants anytime he wants. God limits Satan because he created Satan [Genesis 3:1]. God has Satan on a short leash [Revelation 12:12]. He cannot do anything without God permitting him. Satan knows humans are limited too. God limited Satan’s ability to touch Job when tempting him [1:12]. His limitation is a tactic he uses to deceive your hearts too. He knows your limited, “You can’t win. You can’t fight. Give up!” That is a lie from the pit of hell.

Second, Satan is not like God. Satan cannot know your thoughts. He does not have the power to force you to do anything. He cannot even be everywhere at once. He gets far more credit that he deserves. He has lots of help from his fallen minions, the fallen world, and your wickedly deceived heart. He is not capable in power, wisdom and presence like God. He can’t do what God can do. Only God can do what God can do. No one is like God.

Third, Satan is the defeated enemy. Have you read the end of the Book—the Bible? God will deal with Satan [Revelation 20]. God will throw him into the lake of fire for all eternity. Satan does not win. He ultimately loses. The cross of Christ crushed Satan’s hope for victory [Colossians 2:15]. Jesus defeats the devil through His death and resurrection. Although he is defeated he is not going out quietly. He is on a rampage to inflict as much chaos and catastrophe in the world and your life as possible before his end.

Your enemy’s strategy is to destroy you

During America’s Civil war General Ulysses S. Grant’s men were impressed—even scared of—southern commander, General Robert E. Lee’s brilliant war strategies. One northern sergeant said, “You never quite know how he is going to move. Wish we had ‘im on our side.” Now Robert E. Lee is not the devil [you can still get shot is some places for making a statement like that], but my point is, the strategies of the enemy often inflict fear in those on the defense.

Don’t underestimate Satan’s power [1 Corinthians 10:12]. He is strong, sly, and stealthy. He has ruined many lives. In Jesus’ words, he tries “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” [John 10:10; cf. 1 Peter 5:8] Satan’s sole purpose is to bring you down, to take you out, and inflict you with so much fear that you have no other hope than to escape this life.

Have you ever known someone paralyzed by fear? They tell you how powerful and cleaver the devil is [Ephesians 2:2], and how scared to death they are of his strategies. They give up to his tactics in defeat. They give glory to his strength, rather than giving it to God who is infinitely mightier and more powerful.

What your enemy doesn’t want you to know [1 John 4:1-6]

Do not be intimidated by the devil. Do not give him any ground [Ephesians 4:27]. Keep short accounts with sin. You have resources in Christ to effectively counter his attacks. Believe it or not, Satan believes Jesus [Matthew 4:3]. He fears Jesus [James 2:19] because he knows Jesus will judge him. The devil does not want you to know he is out matched by the power of Christ. He does not want you to know he has been conquered and constrained through the death and resurrection of Christ [1 John 3:8]. In Christ, you have victory, authority, protection, power, and position.

Any voice, word, or idea that violates Scripture or is constantly demeaning to you [i.e. you’re fat, you’re stupid, you can’t change, God can’t help you, you should take you life, etc.], it is not of the Holy Spirit and must be ignored. Test the spirits with the Word of God [1 John 4:1]. Call on the power of God with offensive prayer. Let God fight for you. He will protect because He is the Savior and Sovereign King. He sends His heavenly angels to guard His people [Psalm 34:7; Hebrews 1:13-14]. He gives strength in Christ to stand against and resist the devil [Ephesians 6:10; James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:6-9]. You are safe with Christ. Stay close to Him, “The Lord is faithful. He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

Recommended Resources on Spiritual Warfare:


[1] Matthew 4:1-12, 22-23; Luke 8:26-29; 10:17-20; 13:10-17; Acts 5:1-5; 19:13-20; Romans 8:31-39; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, 11:1-4, 13-15; Ephesians 2:6; 6:10-17; James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:6-9; Jude 8-9; Revelation 12:10-11

cross-centered relationships

What is at the center of your of your life? Your center is what is your main thing, your top priority, and the thing you most passionate about. It is what defines you. Your center is clearly seen in what do you talk about or what is on your mind the most. Commonly it is a relationship, passion, career or cause. Have you seen your center change over the years?

What is the one thing God says must be our center? In 1 Corinthians 15:3 Paul says that our first importance is the cross of Christ—the gospel. The cross is like a hub with spokes to a wheel. It affects everything you do—your passions, career, causes and relationships. It wasn’t until I came to know Christ and begin a relationship with the God of the universe that I realized my relationships with my parents, friends, and authorities could be different.

For those who do not know God the cross is silly and stupid. “The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:18] People hate the work of Christ because it runs so contradictory to the way people think and live. The cross is foolish because people do not make the connection from what Christ did on the cross to how it impacts their life. The cross is crucial to all our relationships. If you say you have a relationship with God, the proof of it is how you view your relationships. How does the cross impact my relationships: with my parents, friends, authorities, or dating partners?

1. The cross is the means to change my motives within relationships [2 Corinthians 5:14-15]. Jesus went to the cross not because he thought it was going to be fun or a vacation to the beach. It was hard, painful, and torturous. He could have backed down, but He didn’t. He was motivated by love and joyful obedience, even when people mocked Him and beat Him and bullied Him.

First, my relationships must be motivated by Christ’s love. This is often difficult because we are motivated by getting things from people. We are consumers. We view our relationships as people owing us attention, love, and respect [note Pharisees: John 12:43; Luke 7:47]. We say to our parents, “You owe me a nice room with privacy. You owe me new clothes for school and respect for my possessions.” We think our authorities and friends should treat us fairly and respectably. If you think people owe you it will frustrate you because you often do not get what you want.

My esteem does not come from self or others, but comes from Christ. I have Christ-esteem [v.15]. The question is not what do people owe me, but what do I owe them? “Owe no one anything, except love each other.” [Romans 13:3] “Walk in love as Christ loved you.” [Ephesians 5:2] “The love of Christ controls us.” [v.14] I owe others love because God commands me to love one another [Colossians 3:12-17]. If I am a genuine follower of Christ I am able to love others because He has loved me [1 John 3:7-21]. The cross is proof of His love [1 John 3:16]. The cross shows just how horrendous my sin is, but how immense is God’s love. The cross puts me on equal terms with everyone else. I am no better, and no worse.

Second, my relationships must be motivated by joyful obedience. I am willing to submit to others authority in my life because I see it has benefitted me to submit to God’s authority. God protects and provides. No longer do I need to live in the frustration of being a man pleaser, but in the joyfulness of becoming a God pleaser. My motivation as a follower of Christ is not what other people think about me, but is God pleased with me [2 Corinthians 5:9].

2. The cross is the means of dealing with conflict in relationships [2 Corinthians 5:16-19]. The cross challenges my attitude towards those I have something against [v.17; cf. Titus 3:1-11; Colossians 3:8-15]. Often when I have something against another person I want to control the situation by letting them feel my pain or know my hurt. However, God says that vengeance is not yours and when we take wrath into our hands we make a mess of the situation [Romans 12:19]. Only God can be God. So how does God desire us to deal with conflicts?

What if I have sinned against someone? What if I have blow it and messed up a relationship? As a new creation in Christ I seek reconciliation and forgiveness for your sin. What if they do not accept my forgiveness? You cannot control their response. You have done your part. Trust God to minister to them [v.18-19]. What if it is physically impossible to ask for their forgiveness because of death or distance? If death take your unforgiveness to God, but if not write a letter or call the person you have something against.

What if someone sinned against me? If someone has wronged you and you are struggling with thoughts of bitterness or rage seek their forgiveness for your sinful attitude. You can, “Forgive as Christ forgave you.” [Ephesians 4:32] because “Love covers a multitude of sins.” [1 Peter 4:8] Love is powerful.

What about those who don’t seem to deserve my love? Have you heard it said, “Hurt me once shame on you, hurt me twice shame on me”? The Bible says, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men.” [1 Thessalonians 5:15] What does it say about you if God can forgive sins eternally, but you cannot forgive someone? The proper response is to confront in love pointing them to the cross. In the cross, there is no one undeserving of God’s love.

Some people are fire starter while others are fire extinguisher. Who are you? An attitude of humility, gentleness, and understanding can diffuse many arguments, tensions and disagreements. “If any man is caught in any sin, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” [Galatians 6:1ff] “Let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” [1 Peter 3:8-9]

3. The cross is the means to restore broken relationships [2 Corinthians 5:20-21]. The cross makes our relationship right with God and gives us the ability to reconcile our earthly relationships because we are ambassadors of reconciliation [v.20]. The cross attacks the issues that hurt relationships. The cross attacks and defeats sin. The cross does not tear down a relationship with God it builds up. Teenagers are champs at knocking others down with their teasing and tearing words. This has no place in the life of a Christian, “Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” [Romans 14:19]

How has the cross impacted your relationships with God and others? The proof of your relationship with Heavenly Father is seen and heard in your earthly relationships.

Quick Q&A on Cross-Centered Communication in my Relationships:

Q: What does a cross-centered relationship look like at home with my parents? What if my parents are on my case? What if we do not get along What if they have does something to you that scarred you really deep? Begin with the road towards reconciliation and obey joyfully as to the Lord [Ephesians 6:1-3]. As you honor your parents you are really honoring God.

Q: What does a cross-centered relationship look like at school with my teachers or at work with my boss? Trust God who appoints all your authorities [Ephesians 6:1-9; Titus 3:1ff] Even if some are unfair or unreasonable God has placed them into their positions of authority. Remember your boss is ultimately God. The way you work can be a shining light for God’s glory.

Q: What does a cross-centered relationship look like with my friends? If you see your friends sinning be willing to confront their sin [cf. Matthew 18:15-17]. This is what good friends do—they hold one another accountable. A loving friend does not sympathize with sin; rather they help their friends overcome sin. Also, humbly accept confrontation for your sin too.

Q: What does a cross-centered relationship look like in my future marriage or dating relationships? [More on this the next few weeks] Check out: 1 Peter 3:1-7, Ephesians 5:22ff, and 1 Corinthians 7.

limits, sleep, gospel song

Limits

It is okay for me to have limits–God doesn’t. It is okay to get a good nights sleep–God doesn’t sleep. It is okay for me to rest–God doesn’t need to. We don’t know a lot about what heaven looks like, but this much we know: God is not pacing the throne room anxious and depressed because of the condition of the world. He knows, He is not surprised, and He is sovereign. It is okay for me to have limits. He is able. – Richard A. Swenson, The Overload Syndrome, p.37

Humility

Humility, rightly understood, shouldn’t be a fabric softener on our aspirations. When we become too humble to act, we’ve ceased being biblically humble. True humility doesn’t kill our dreams; it provides a guardrail for them, ensuring that they remain on God’s road and move in the direction of His glory. – Dave Harvey, Rescuing Ambition, 14

Cross

Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to be saying to us, “I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.” Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. – John Stott, The Message of Galatians, 179.

Sleep

Your sleep tonight will be a small but real fact of faith. You’ll lay your full weight on a bed, trusting this structure to support you. You can fully relax, because no effort at supporting yourself is required; something else is holding you up. And in the same way, throughout the night sleep, Someone else is sustaining you. This is a picture of what it’s like to belong to Christ. – C.J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness, 85.

Gospel Song

reconciliation by the way of the cross

Hostilities and tensions between people are a serious part of this world. From the Middle East to mid-town America there are people who cannot get along even amidst peace talks. Will peace ever come? Can real peace be a part of our world? How can I be at peace with my overbearing family member, bullish co-worker, “frenemies,” or nagging church member who is consistently unfair or unreasonable?

Dealing with these deep-rooted tensions are not easy. God is well aware that we need to be at peace with one another. Peace usually does not happen through 1000-page peace talk agreements, becoming the next Dr. Phil family, grueling divorce settlements, or court ordered conflict resolution seminars. Permanent peace can only happen through the reconciling work of the cross of Christ.

Real Tensions & Religious Hostility [Ephesians 2:11-12]

When Paul writes to the Ephesians he is aware of the tensions between new Christians coming from Gentile and Jewish backgrounds. It was not easy for the new community of Christ to worship with one another. Jews and Gentiles came from radically different backgrounds, but through the cross they are can come together as one.

The tensions between Israel and the world have been happening ever since God chose them to be a His holy nation from among all the pagan and idolatrous nations of the world [Deuteronomy 14:2; Isaiah 43:1]. The Bible describes the special covenant relationship God has with the Hebrews, as His people [Genesis 17:7; Exodus 6:7; Romans 9:4-5] for His glory [Isaiah 49:3; Jeremiah 13:11]. Their circumcision marked physically their covenant relationship with God [cf. Genesis 17]. The Jews were given special access to God through their priesthood and possession of the Temple, which is where God dwelt [Exodus 29:42-43]. God designated the Hebrews as a divine picture displaying His glory to the world.

According to the Jews, the Gentiles were uncircumcised pagans who lived like wild, scavenging dogs.  Therefore, the Jews segregated themselves from Gentiles. Over time the Jews had a deep hatred towards the Gentiles for their irreligious practices and debase lifestyles. To the Jew, there was no debate, salvation was of the Jews.

On the flipside, the Gentiles viewed the Jews as weird because of their legal forms of clothing, behavior, and biased religious practices. They viewed the Jewish circumcision as mutilation of baby boys. They thought the Jews were unsociable because they refused any contact with Gentiles. Imagine what it would been like if you were a [spiritually] unclean Gentile having a Jew take a religious bath after touching or meeting with you, or calling you an “uncircumcised dog.” Not a way to win friends and influence people.

Now Paul, the author of Ephesians was a Jew, which is quite common of other characters in the New Testament. He lived by the Law and loved being a Hebrew [Philippians 3:5]. Before coming to Christ he was a Christian killer because it was offensive to think that another group of people would claim to be the people of God [Galatians 5:11]. It wasn’t until Paul met Jesus on the Road to Damascus that his eyes were opened to the reconciling work of Christ. He realized that without Christ—as a Jew or non-Christian—meant no eternal hope. Jesus, the Messiah, was a radical paradigm shift in the Jews understanding of God’s divine plan for humanity. All the promises that were given to Israel were now open to the rest of the world through Christ.

Your Spiritual Emancipation Proclamation [Ephesians 2:13-18]

“And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons. And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages…And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”[1]

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which ordered all slaves to be freed. This began the long road to restoring peace and equality between all Americans. It took about 100 years before racial reconciliation took effect through the leadership of Martin Luther King in the early 1960’s. To this day these tensions are still real in our world.

In Ephesians 2:13-19, Paul writes about our Spiritual Emancipation Proclamation. Through these words, “But now in Christ,” [cf. 2:4] we are given seven distinct benefits of Christ’s peace: we are “brought near by the blood of Christ” [v.13], He “has made us one” [vs.14], He has “broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility” [v.14], He “created one new man in the place of two” [v.15], He “reconciles us to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility [between Jews and Gentiles]” [v.16], He “came and preached peace” [v.17], and through Him “we have access in One Spirit to the Father” [v.18]. Herein is documented our freedom, which was bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Peace appears 4 times in this passage. The world’s idea of peace is often living in prosperity and happiness without the interference of harm or imposition of rights. However, the biblical idea of peace means to put together two things that have been broken. What is broken? Man’s relationship with God is broken. How is it made right? The cross of Christ reconciles mans relationship with God [vertically] and mans relationship with one another [horizontally]. To reconcile means to set up or restore a relationship of peace not existing before. It is the thought of a ravaged wife desiring to be reconciled to her husband who has left her; a worried mother longing to be reconciled to their prodigal; or a lost sinner needing to be reconciled to God. How huge it is to reconcile a sinner to a peaceful relationship with God.

In Christ, we have freedom and the gateway to become reconciled with God and man. Jesus unveils to all men—Jew and Gentile—on one eternal plan: in Christ, we have one Savior, one cross, one body, one new man, one Spirit and one Father [4:4-6; Galatians 3:18; Colossians 3:11]. Christ reconciled the gap between the Jews and the Gentiles, making it possible for any man to become right with God because “He is our peace.”

Israel was once the display of God’s glory, but now in Christ the church would be the display of His glory. Today it is common to believe there are two covenants—one for Jews and another for Christians—however, biblically there is only one New Covenant given to man in Christ. There are not two ways to God; rather there is only one way to God [cf. John 14:6]. As John Piper argues this may appear intolerant, disrespectful, undemocratic, unpluralistic, offensive or anti-Semitic,[2] rather it is biblical and Christ-centric. Jesus, the Messiah, has become the focal point of redemptive history, and both Jews and non-Christians need Jesus because He is their only peacemaker.

Together we are Building the New Temple of God—The Church [Ephesians 2:19-22]

Being one in Christ for both a Jew and Gentile Christian would have been a cultural and spiritual adjustment. Think about what it would have been like to be a Jew and hear that Christ abolished the Law of Moses or to be a Gentile and know that the Temple of God was no longer a physical structure. A Jew would ask, “Why did Jesus abolish the law?” The simple answer, is that there was no longer a need for the Law because Jesus has fulfilled the Law. The Law of Moses still has its uses, primarily in showing people their sinfulness and ultimately in providing the basis for the condemnation of Jews who do not believe in Christ [Luke 18:18-27; Romans 2:14-16].

The Jewish temple in Paul’s day was an enormous building. In fact, Herod the Great modified the Temple in Jerusalem to be an eye-catching structure. In Ephesus, there was another temple, the Temple of Diana, which was a magnificent structure that some say rivaled the Parthenon. For both the Jews and the Gentiles worship in a Temple was a vital and central part of their lives. However, those in Christ—the holy temple—within the church are now the gathering of people worshiping God. It important to realize YOU are the place God dwells? You reflect Christ.

It would have been a huge and humbling pill for a Jew to swallow to acknowledge a Gentile as being a part of God’s redemptive plan for mankind, let alone “citizen” of the same divine kingdom. Through Christ, Gentiles have been invited into God’s divine plan and believing Jews have been invited into the church of Christ.

The church at large is a beautiful picture of God’s reconciling work through the cross of Christ. The Church is the living organism, which displays the Glory of God. Jesus Christ is the Head and High Priest of the church interceding on behalf of its members. We all function as priest having access to God anytime and anyplace. We are the living stones of His Temple [1 Peter 2:5], being built up in Christ, who have Him as our chief cornerstone. Without Him the whole thing crumbles. Without Christ there is no foundation to build upon, no stones can fit together, nor can the building grow [vs.20-21].

Like was said in the beginning, dealing with these deep-rooted tensions and hostilities are not easy. God is well aware that we need to be at peace with one another. Permanent peace can only happen through the reconciling work of the cross of Christ. If God can reconcile Jews and Gentiles in Christ, what other relationships can God reconcile? Your overbearing family member, bullish co-worker, “frenemies,” or nagging church member who is consistently unfair or unreasonable.


[1] An excerpt from the Emancipation Proclamation written by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.

[2] John Piper, Israel and Us Reconciled in One Body. September 27, 1992. http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/israel-and-us-reconciled-in-one-body

[3] Robert L. Saucy, The Church in God’s Program. Moody Press, Chicago. 1972. 34.

spiritual vitality, cross and tongue, peace of mind

spiritual vitality

When people lose their global vision, they begin to lose their spiritual vitality. And of course all this affects their values. – Tom Julien, Antioch Revisited, 23.

cross and tongue

When the message of the Cross captures our hearts and captivates our imaginations, our tongues, stammering, halting, insulting, awkward, sarcastic, imperfect as they may be, won’t be far behind. As Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” [Matthew 12:34] – Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, 144.

what’s to come

Christianity is not finally about anesthetizing us to life’s pain, or even about waking us up to it and teaching us to live with it. it is about teaching us to live with a transforming longing, with a growing faith, with a sure and certain hope of what’s to come. – Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, 35.

The gospel, you see, is not simply an additive that comes to make our already good lives better. No! The gospel is a message of wonderful good news that comes to those who realize their just desperation before God. – Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, 40.

peace of mind

risky move


The Discipleship Experiment.

This year our student ministry leadership set a goal: be disciples discipling others to be disciples. We decided to do ministry biblically, thus the discipleship experiment took life. It was a risky move, but a bold biblical endeavor.

We had some speed bumps, U-turns, and engines overheat along the journey, but overall I am ecstatic to see our adult leaders become more actively involved in the spiritual growth of our students. Though many would admit, “I feel like I’ve failed.” I would say their input into the lives of the students was exceed by the spiritual output. In other words, high risk [discipleship] equals high reward [disciples].

What is biblical student ministry?

Student ministry biblically is a ministry of the church coming alongside families equipping them to become faithful followers of Christ. Student ministry is intensive discipleship geared towards students and their families. Intensive discipleship is both encouraging one another to follow Christ [evangelism] and equipping follower in Christ [followership].

Discipleship is difficult. It’s difficult because of the cost involved. The cost may involve time, studying the Word to help student see their lives mirrored in the Word, willingness to get messy as students fall into sin, and desire to pour your life into another by living in a way that models a disciple of Christ. Discipleship takes a willingness to be selfless for the sake of another to see and savor Jesus Christ.

Discipleship is all for Christ and all about Christlikeness.

It is easy to disciple for all the wrong reasons. Some disciple to feel needed, important, or appreciated. Others disciple to impress, lord-over, or act as mini-Messiah’s. This is not discipleship. We don’t disciple as matter of self-defense or self-promotion. You don’t pour your life into others to fill yourself up. How selfish. Discipleship is selfless because it is promoting Christlikness.

When you gaze at the cross and get a glimpse of the gospel you see that you are unworthy, but God in Christ is worthy. Discipleship must always be rooted and nourished by the living message of the gospel. Jesus died, He was buried and resurrected that you and I might have abundant life [Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:20-21]. Without the gospel discipleship is dead.

This year I watch Brent pour his heart into middle school boys. Middle schools are not the easiest flock to shepherd. He would take them out to Taco Bell before FUEL or have them work on construction projects at the church. These middle schoolers know that Brent cares. Brent made a risky move–doesn’t feel like he did enough–but was willing to pour Christ into middle school boys. To Brent discipleship was more of a risk than being a stunt man. He was willing to get get messy and be spent of the sake of Christ.

Successful disciples are servants first [Matthew 20:25-28].

Christ became the servant of all. It is crazy to think that a King and Creator of the universe became a servant to His creation. Jesus gives us a genuine model for leadership and discipleship: humility [Matthew 11:29; Luke 14:7-11; Philippians 2:3-4], trust [Mark 10:32-41], shepherding [Mark 10:45; John 10:11], gift oriented teamwork [1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Luke 9:1-2], responsibility [John 13:15; Ephesians 4:11-13]; and risk [Hebrews 11:1].

Discipleship is a risky move, but it has great rewards.

sacrifice, balance beam, cross, and urgency

sacrifice

“Where are the young men and women of this generation who will hold their lives cheap and be faithful even unto death? Where are those who will lose their lives for Christ’s sake — flinging them away for love of him? Where are those who will live dangerously and be reckless in his service? Where are his lovers — those who love him and the souls of men more than their own reputations or comfort or very life?

Where are the men who say ‘no’ to self, who take up Christ’s cross to bear it after him, who are willing to be nailed to it in college or office, home or mission field, who are willing, if need be, to bleed, to suffer and to die on it?

Where are the adventurers, the explorers, the buccaneers for God, who count one human soul of far greater value than the rise or fall of an empire? Where are the men who are willing to pay the price of vision? Where are the men of prayer? Where are God’s men in this day of God’s power?” – Howard Guinness, Sacrifice [59-60]

the cross exposes

“The cross exposes the holy sovereign Lord whose authority we have defied and whose glory we have deflected to unworthy rivals was willing to endure judgment that his own impeccable justice pronounced upon us. The cross declares that we are loved with an intensity that defies our capacity to comprehend, not because we are intrinsically lovable but because God is intrinsically love.” Elyse Fitzpatrick, Counsel from the Cross [12]

Urgent Missiology

“Amid the many facets of the American dream that contradict the core of the gospel, one ideal Americans have embraced coincides subtly with the words of Christ. As James Adams was coining the phrase “American Dream,” Franklin Roosevelt was emphasizing how Americans will postpone immediate gradificatio and even endure hard sacrifices if they are convinced their future will be better than their past. Americans are willing to take great risks, he said, if they believe it will accomplish great reward.

In similar words Jesus said to His followers, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Jesus clearly acknowledged that following Him leads to a radical reward that this following Him involves risking the safety, security, and satisfaction we have found in this world. But in the end, Jesus said, following Him leads to a radical reward that this world can never offer. This begs a question from each of us: do we believe the reward found in Jesus is worth the risk of following Him?” – David Platt, Radical [161-162]

Are you needing a call to live radically for Christ? Check out An Unadjusted Gospel in an Unreached World: Connecting Gospel Theology with Urgent Missiology

balance beam

Francis Chan is one for stories and illustrations that pack a punch. I particularly appreciate this one passed along by a good friend, Sur John. Stop holding on and walk with Christ!

together 4 the gospel

Random thoughts on what it means to stand together for the gospel:

The church is the proof of the gospel. The Church reflects and defines the gospel. What Kind of gospel is our church making visible? To follow Jesus is to see others follow Him too. [Mark Dever]

This is how the gospel becomes mine: I am an alien of righteousness and any righteousness I have is given to me by Christ. The gospel is who Jesus is and what He does. The person and work of Christ on the cross is the nonnegotiable data about the gospel. You cannot improve upon the gospel. You cannot prove the gospel. The gospel is our only hope in life and death. [RC Sproul]

To love Christ is to contend for the gospel. The cross is beautiful, not pretty. The gospel is credible, Jesus makes it so. [Al Mohler]

Do not sow synthetic seed reaping mutations of another gospel. [John MacArthur]

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ. Hallelujah! Jesus is my life. [John Piper]

Will you stand together for the gospel with me?

Note: These quotations are personal highlights from the T4G 2010 Conference The [Unadjusted] Gospel in Louisville, Kentucky.

What is so good about Good Friday?

“What is so good about Good Friday?” asked a girl with a quizzical look. When we scan the surface of the events surrounding Good Friday they do not seem so good, in fact, they appear grotesque. How could the horrific death of the Jesus be so good, when a bloody and baffling execution appears so bad? This question begs another:

What if Jesus never came?
Or instead, accepted immediate fame?
What if He never walked this earth?
And purposed to die from birth?

What if Jesus never willfully died?
And lived a ludicrous lie?
What if He never became the sinless sacrifice?
And tumbled in temptations vices?

What if Jesus never bore God’s wrath?
And became righteousness on my behalf?
What if He complained and moaned?
And left my sin unatoned?

What if Jesus copped out of the crucifixion?
And put a pause on propitiation?
What if to Him redemption did not matter?
Or withheld glory from His Father?

What if Jesus decided not to save?
Or remained hidden in the grave?
What if He failed to rise again?
Or reconcile mankind from within?

I thank God that He did die that day,
Demonstrating and redefining a Good Friday.
Amidst sorrow and melancholy mood,
I can confidently say, “We got IT good.”