Sunday, April 16, 2017

One Lovely Life

Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, 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. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

One of the joys of Christian faith is the understanding that Christ has walked in your shoes. No, literally; He has walked in your shoes. For 33 years He was impacted by the same emotions, urges, desires that originate of the same various biological functions, physical circumstances, and human interactions.

So on the one hand, we can’t say to God “You’ve never experienced this, you don’t understand”, because He has experienced, in very real terms, the full range of a human existence through His unique Trinitarian bond with the Son.

But on the other hand, we are able to draw near to Him, and He to us, because of our shared life experience. To the young person battling with raging hormone levels, He says “been there”. To the older person pressing through physical pain to accomplish something, He says “done that”. To the person of any age striving to express true “agape” love to cold, heartless, definitively un-loving people, He says “I lived that ideal out continuously for all 33 years!

Therefore, Christ is our example of this truest sort of love - agape. It is a love that is heartfelt and emotional to the fullest; but it is equally intellectual and determinative.

Consider this anecdote from the well known preacher Ravi Zacharias:

When he was in his mid-twenties, my brother came to my father and said, “You know, Dad, I’ve always maintained even when we were in India that I’m only going to marry the girl you choose for me. I guess I am ready now. Would you please begin a search for a girl for me to marry?” I really didn’t believe he’d go through with it. We were living in Toronto, thousands of miles and a cultural planet away from the land of our birth…
He narrowed the “applicants” to a short list and, finally focusing on one person, began to correspond with her. Then they advanced to telephone conversations, but not many because that was “too expensive.” One could tell that reality was closing in. Finally, believe it or not, they both felt this was it. The dates for the engagement and the marriage were set with these two never having met. My brother and my father flew from Toronto to Bombay. More than one thousand wedding invitations were sent before my brother and his bride-to-be had ever seen each other.

I thought to myself, Oh my! You know, this is faith. Maybe it is even less than that. This is credulity! I began to get really concerned, so before my brother left for Bombay, I mustered up the courage to caution him. I said, “I don’t want to challenge anything you’re doing, but I do have a brief question. What are you going to do when you arrive in Bombay, come down the Jetway and see a young woman standing there with a garland in her hand, and say to yourself, Good grief! I hope that’s not her. I hope that’s somebody else!

My brother just stared at me. He said, “Are you through?” I told him that for the moment I was just awaiting his answer. Then he said something that was absolutely defining for him: “Write this down, and don’t ever forget it:
Love is as much a question of the will as it is of the emotion. And if you will to love somebody, you can.”
This is always a component of truest love. It is “agape” love. When Christ asked Peter if he “agape” loved Him and Peter responded that he “phileo” loved Him, Peter was saying his love was very real, very deep, but still not yet fully formed (John 21:15ff). As we see throughout the gospels, Peter was a man who passionately loved his Savior, but at times in merely impetuous ways (i.e. Matt.16:22, John 13:6ff). His heart and mind were not always operating at the same level. The right brain often ran ahead while the left brain lagged behind.

In Christ though, we see agape love, a love rooted in not only a passion for the beloved, but also a willful determination to forge a way for the beloved to dwell with Him, and He with them.

Which brings us back to the glorious gift of the Father giving us Himself, in a sense, in human form. Many preachers make the mistake of over-anthropomorphizing the God who far transcends all creation. There is much of God that has no human or earthly counterpart; i.e.- the full glory of the Trinity. But He did give us His Son, and He dwelt fully as a man for those 33 years. He has “been there, done that, and lived that” when it comes to the whole left brain, right brain kind of love. He literally knows what it is like to battle through the same biological, physical, and people issues, that we also battle with.

And praise God, He is there, in the moment, to likewise help us.

Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 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.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

That's Your Opinion!

This phrase is often encountered as one gives an apologetic for the Good News of Jesus Christ. We all have opinions about many matters, but this phrase is instead thrown out as a quick defense against unnerving statements of fact. They do not like your “truth”, so they seek to disengage from thinking further about it by implying that what is “true” for one does not necessarily mean it is “true” for all. This is called Relativism:
“The idea that no ideas or beliefs are universally true but that all are, instead, ‘relative’, that is, their validity depends on the time, persons, & circumstances in which they are applied.”

Relativism is not new, but dates back to the “sophist” line of Greek philosophy (c. 500 B.C.).

Apparently, Pilate was a devotee…

John 18:37-38a Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. (John 14:6) Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice."
Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"

Pilate’s response reflects the attitude of many academics, who expend great energy gaining knowledge either in a vain attempt to find meaning outside of submission to a supreme God; or (worse yet) to simply lord their intellect over others. This irony is supreme, for such are “always learning but never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7).

“Pilate's exclamation is neither the expression of an ardent thirst for truth, nor that of the despair of a soul which has long sought it in vain; it is the profession of a frivolous skepticism, such as is frequently seen in the overly philosophical man of the world.” Frédéric Louis Godet (1886)

But Christ instead relates truth that is universal to all…

John 8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."


Many Bible cherry-pickers will often stop here to teach “truth” which is often utterly out of context with
Christ’s teaching, with the implication that Jesus promises that believing such will cause you to be “set free”.

But, as with any good textual analysis, context is king.

Reading on, we see God’s Son precisely defining His emancipating truth…

8:33-36,45 They answered him, "We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.

How is it that you say, 'You will become free'?"

Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

The slave does not remain in the house forever; the Son remains forever.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed… But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.


So the ugly truth that Jesus desires to free us from is clearly revealed as the universal sinful nature.

This beast enslaves all who push away their only Savior, Advocate, & Friend Jesus Christ.


John 1:14,17 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… For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Coexist?

 
We all have seen the this bumper sticker lately. Superficially, the idea is to peacefully exist with others regardless of their creed, an idea put forward by the Bible (e.g. Rom. 12:17-18, 2Cor. 13:11, Heb. 12:14, 1Pet. 3:15b).

But below the surface it intimates something much more than that- the idea that all religions finds their own pathway to the God(s) of the universe, & therefore they are coequal as well… 
  for the letter "c," -a crescent moon representing Islam
for the letter "o," -the peace symbol
for the letter "e," -a male/female symbol or a scientific equation
for the letter "x," -the Star of David representing Judaism
for the letter "i," -a pagan/Wicca symbol
for the letter "s," -a Chinese yin-yang symbol
for the letter "t," -a cross representing Christianity

But Christ’s entire ministry speaks in direct contradiction. His is a message of one, exclusive path to God. Many before have referenced the great “trilemma” of Christ’s ministry, but none more famously than C.S. Lewis…  
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ...

Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” -Mere Christianity

To exemplify this, in one half of one Gospel alone, note just some of the times Jesus Christ Himself claims that He alone has absolute power over our eternal destiny…

John 3:15-18 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 4:13-14 Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

John 5:37-40 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

John 6:28-29 Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."
John 6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 7:37-38 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"

John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.
John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

John 10:1-2,9 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. (2) But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep… (9) I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
John 10:28-30 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (29) My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
(30) I and the Father are one."

John 11:23-26 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

John 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
John 12:44-46 And Jesus cried out and said, "Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

John 13:8 Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me."
John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

John 14:1-6 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
4 And you know the way to where I am going."
5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
 

Faced with these verses, we have a choice- either say that Jesus Christ is the greatest narcissist & megalomaniac the world has ever seen (for the measure which His autocracy has influenced world history)- or embrace His words as true & turn to follow Him with all that is within us (Matt. 22:37).

The words of Jesus Christ are a pure polemic, they leave us no other intervening option…