Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

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The Kingdom of God is: Greater than its Current Appearance…

April 8, 2013

msHe put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
(Matthew 13:31-33 ESV)

As believers we live life in light of a promise.  A promise found in the very beginning of time and recorded in the very beginning of the Bible which speaks to the inevitable rise of God’s kingdom on earth. Genesis 3:17 is known to some as the protoevangelium, or “first gospel.” In this verse The Lord God speaks to the serpent and foretells the demise of the serpent’s reign over the surface of the earth.  The offspring of the woman Eve would be at odds with the offspring of the serpent.  The seed or offspring of the serpent would bruise the heel of the woman’s seed; and the woman’s offspring would crush the head of the serpent. This tiny phrase contains within it a promise of One who would come and be the One, bruised and beaten, but One who would crush death and defeat the serpent by His death and resurrection through the power of God. This promise had come to those fallen in the garden, but to them, it was not yet fully realized. This promise courses through the entire scripture all the way to Matthew 13, and like leaven lifts the entire word of God.  It’s truth of the kingdom’s rise and evil’s demise is declared in the garden, finished at the cross, and yet evil is still prevalent.  What are we to make of this reality that has already occurred but is somehow not yet completed?

This passage in Matthew is ripe with meaning and nuance.  One of the greatest mysteries surrounding the kingdom of God is that it has appeared with Christ, and yet it is not fully here.  Apologetically this is a huge conundrum; If Christ the King has come, and He has proclaimed that the kingdom has arrived then where is it?  Is he talking about a mere heavenly reality or a true earthly dominion.  The disciples themselves asked this same question to the risen Christ in Acts chapter 1.  As they stood on the mount called Olivet, their minds awash with thoughts of the kingdom they asked, “is now the time the kingdom will be restored?”

Many of us, as we read this passage in Matthew, are prompted to question its meaning.  We are prompted by general biblical curiosity to be sure, but also something by deeper.  The paradox of tiny seeds and mighty kingdoms, minute yeast and massive loaves speaks to a larger discontinuity we all face.  We are citizens of Christ’s kingdom but residents of Satan’s world.  So we ask, If the kingdom is here then why is there still suffering, injustice, sin and tumult?  Like the disciples, each new generation of believers face the risen Lord and ask “is now the time?”

The answer to these reasonable questions is found in this passage in Matthew.

The kingdom is already present, though not yet fully consummated. The technical term for this is inaugurated eschatology, the kingdom has been inaugurated, but not yet fully consummated.  Jesus alludes to this truth in both of the examples he provides in verses 31-33.

The mustard seed, while the smallest known seed at the time, contains within in it all the potential for a mustard tree.  In essence, it is already a mustard tree, but not yet fully developed.  It is greater than its physical appearance.  It is teaming with potential, give it the right conditions and it will blossom beyond every tree in the garden.

The yeast speaks to the same metaphor.  It is tiny, almost insignificant, and yet it activates and causes growth and increase. Yeast is alive, and has an impact greater than its physical appearance.

God’s kingdom is found on earth in the form of his followers, in the body of believers known as his church.  In every captive heart, and in every renewed mind, there resides the measure of kingdom impact.  We experience love, family, fellowship, and loss through the experience of this kingdom community.  To those who undergoes this divine naturalization, the reality and the presence of God’s kingdom on earth is overwhelming.  And yet there is something lacking, something not yet present.  Think of all the good the church accomplishes, think of all the love that you experience in the fellowship of believers, think of all the service done on the part of the church attempting to make the world right; now consider the following: The millions of believers across the globe, and the love of the believers across this country, are but a minute expression of the kingdom that is to come.

So what are we to do with this truth? I believe the answer comes from Acts 3:19-21.  Peter and John are speaking to a crowd on the Temple Mount, following the miraculous healing of a lame man at the gate called beautiful.  This instance is a perfect example of kingdom living, through the proclamation of God’s love and the power of His Spirit, the lame are made whole and the Word is proclaimed.  Immediately after this, Peter and John proclaim the following to the crowd of witnesses:

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that the time of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Acts 3:19-21

Peter and John acknowledge the arrival of the kingdom through their actions, but they also call on the listeners to hope in the kingdom that is to come.  Our response to the signs and proclamation of God’s kingdom is to repent, turn from sin, receive Christ and wait until the time that he will return and restore all things.  Christ has come, He has come in power, He has deployed His Spirit that we may proclaim the kingdom of Heaven.  While some are restored in the present, He will restore all things at a future time.  So we preach.  So we act in love to a hurting world.  And we relish the joy of His calling on our lives, knowing full well that as great as that joy is, it will pale in comparison to what is to come.

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Concluding thoughts on Theodicy in Job…

August 1, 2012

The book of Job “anticipates the Christian witness.”[1]  The reality of suffering and the pain of death is reflected in both Job and the New testament.  But Job lacks a certain measure of fulfillment and completion because it lacks the eschatological reality of Christ.  In Christ, “the greatest evils, the betrayal and crucifixion of the Son of God, become, and are now, the greatest good for all mankind.”[2] Job experiences evil according to the foreknowledge of God, as does Christ.  But Job in his lament, lacks the power to overcome the evil; he simply begs for relief and redress.  “Jesus own life was marked by suffering with loud cries and tears.”[3]  Jesus serves as the ultimate extension and realization of the Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy.  Christ experienced evil, suffering and death all according to God’s foreknowledge, delivered into the hands of evil men, and he simply proclaims that “it is finished.”  The futility of evil was finished and suffering ceased to be final and became instrumental.

Job reflects back to all its readers the familiar pattern recognizable to anyone who has experienced suffering and God’s grace.  We face an unseen Adversary who seeks our harm.  Evil exists and manifests itself in suffering.  When we experience suffering we cannot help but be inspired to question why.  God in His grace provides a revelation of Himself which both answers our questions and exceeds our capacity to understand.  That revelation necessitates a response.  It is God’s will that those who have received His light, will darken his counsel with words of knowledge and respond in repentance.  What awaits all who respond in repentance is a restoration, exceeding their previous state of being.  This is the hope of the gospel, that beyond the cross and the grave lies a new birth into a new life where sin and evil are no more; a picture of evil redeemed and instrumental in the hands of a loving God, to and for His Glory.

Here are links to the entire Series on Theodicy in the Book of Job

Darkened Counsel

Introduction: An Evil Job Well Done…

The Free Will Theodicy: A Will to Live…

The Augustinian Theodicy: Privation in Job…

The Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy: God’s Instrumental Use of Evil…


[1] Long, 108.

[2] Anderson, 69

[3] Long, 108.

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The People’s Court: Judging Others vs. Matthew 7…

July 20, 2012

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
(Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)

No one can read the Sermon on the Mount without being prompted to question.  When we come to Matthew chapter 7, the questions inevitably abound; is Jesus saying we can never judge?  Can we ever judge others?

Yes, there are times in which it is permissible, even mandated that we judge or pass judgment on others. One can think of the process of Church discipline in Matthew 18, or the commendation that if a brother sins we are to rebuke him, and if he then repents we are to forgive. (Luke 17:3)  Also later in this chapter, Jesus’ clearly instructs the listener to discern (judge) false prophets and false disciples by their behavior. (7:15-23)   But this passage is not talking about mere judging righteously (Proverbs 31:9); this passage is dealing with hypocrisy and hypocritical judgment.  Jesus first addressed this theme earlier in the sermon, in Matthew 6:2, 5 and 16.  The grammatical construction of the negation “do not Judge” uses the negative “me” which “calls the hearers to cease an action already in progress.”[1]  This allows us to assume that Jesus was addressing a behavior already present within His disciples, “Jesus had observed a judgmental attitude among His disciples and He now urged [them] to abandon that outlook.”[2]

The notion here in this passage is to admonish against the judgmental self-righteousness that fails to reflect the experienced mercy of God.  We judge not, lest we be judged much like we show mercy, so that mercy will be shown to us.(Matthew 5:7)  Jesus is addressing the prevalent mindset of one who would pass judgement on others all the while oblivious to his own sin, perhaps the same sin he is condemning.  There is a consistent scriptural teaching regarding this tragic abuse and denial of mercy: i.e. Romans 2:3 “do you suppose, O man- you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself- that you will escape the judgement of God?”  Christians who have truly experienced God’s forgiveness and mercy are loath to focus on the transgressions of others, as they are rightly so overwhelmed by the weight of their own sin overcome at the cross.  “The story is intended to restrict hypocritical correction of others rather than to restrict all helpful correction.  Jesus calls for His followers to avoid prejudice, prejudgement, and stereotyping.”[3]

Another major question that arises out of this passage is what is the difference between confronting a brother in sin and wrongly judging others?

There are two important aspects of this teaching that we must emphasize:

First. It is important to remember, that in order to observe we need to be able to see in the first place.  This is integral to Jesus’ teaching in this passage, that we deal with our own spiritual blindness before we move on to addressing the need of others.  If you have a log or beam in your own eye you are blind, you can not see your own troubles let alone address the needs of others.  You would not want a blind optometrist performing eye surgery on you; likewise one blinded by their own sin is incapable and ill-suited to address sin in the life of others.  But praise be to God that we serve a Lord who gives sight to the blind and removes our afflictions.  Wh must first address our own sin with God before we move on to others.

Second.  In this passage, Jesus is addressing the hypocritical practice of judging others out of turn.  The observation in view in regards to observing a brother’s sin is completely different.  In this case, one who is well and sighted (having dealt with their own sin first) is tasked with shepherding the flock of God, or keeping another accountable.  When one claims to know Christ, but acts wholly inconsistent with that knowledge those with in the body are tasked with the responsibility of addressing that sin.  They observe and address the sin both for the brother’s soul and for the reputation of the body of believers as a whole.  The intent is not merely to point out flaws or to call someone out, judging them irrationally; the purpose of this observation and confrontation is to lead the brother to repentance and restoration.  If the brother repents, then he/she is to be forgiven and accepted with no malice back into the fold. (Mt 18, Gal 6:1, Col 3:12-15)

 

 


[1] Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the basics, 724.

[2] Quarles, Charles. Sermon on the Mount, 284.

[3] Dockery and Garland, Seeking the Kingdom, 104.

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Opposition Overcome…

June 2, 2012

Part 6: Opposition Overcome

In the last post of this series, we will examine the similarities present in the three texts we have discussed previously in 2 Samuel 15, Isaiah 14 and the Judas narrative.

There is a consistent picture in Scripture of our Savior King: from the Seed of the woman which will crush the serpent, to the blessing of nations in Abraham, the anointed one, and suffering servant. With this consistent glimmer of light has come a shadow of opposition, equally determined, equally consistent, but ultimately futile. As we review the three texts we see in three different time periods, three representations of God’s anointed, three forms of opposition, but one consistent outcome. The figure below will illustrate visually the similarities:

20120810-113051.jpg

These texts speak to their periods and they serve to interpret and add layers of meaning on each other. King David serves as a type for the Messiah King Jesus. Absalom serves as a type for Judas. That Satan is explicitly or implicitly present in the narratives helps to locate both narratives in the larger cosmic theater of God’s glory where Satan seeks to oppose God. As the serpent will be crushed, and Satan will be cast down, so too will all those who seek to oppose God’s glory through His anointed. This hope is not lost on David as he writes in Psalm 3:

O LORD, how many are my foes!

Many are rising against me;

many are saying of my soul,

there is no salvation for him in God. Selah

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,

my glory, and the lifter of my head.

(Psalm 3:1-3 ESV)

;

David records these would while being pursued by Absalom. Even in this dire condition, in an environment rife with uncertainty, David’s hope is in the Yahweh. He knows the fate that awaits the wicked, that God will “strike all my enemies on the cheek, and shatter the teeth of the wicked.” (Ps. 3:7) The heads of the wicked will be crushed for “salvation belongs to the Yahweh.” Those who make it their chief end to oppose God, are made an end in their opposition.

“A good story requires a beginning, a middle and an ending, a narrative whole. A well constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles.”[1] A clear beginning and a clear end serve to clarify the overall meaning of a text.[2] Here we see in these texts scattered across the overall narrative of scripture a picture of both God’s anointed and His evil opposition. Both strains of the narrative share beginnings, means of operations, and chief ends. The chief end of God’s anointed is glory in salvation through judgment[3]. The chief end of evil is to oppose God and mar His creation.[4] The anointed end in glory, those in opposition end in head crushing defeat and obscurity. From the beginning, God has made clear that such opposing efforts are bound to bring about death and distance from glory. God overcomes the narrative of pride, deceit, self-exaltation, murder and opposition with His raw creation-wielding power. He gives us a humble suffering servant, who is the way, the truth, God-exalting, life -giver, and crushes the head of the opposition. Through God’s command of the narrative, in both prediction and practice, we gain hope in the face of opposition. Even if thousands set opposition around us, we will not be afraid, for Yahweh sustains and He is our Salvation.[5]


[1] Aristotle from his Poetics quoted in Stephen G. Dempster. Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible Downers Grove: IVP Apollos. 2003. 45.

[2] Dempster, 45

[3] “God’s ultimate purpose is the main concern of the biblical authors, even when they are describing subordinate ends on the way to the chief end.” James Hamilton God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway. 2010 560.

[4] We might think of God’s prophecy concerning the serpent, that the seed of the serpent would pursue the seed of the woman, consistently bruising his heel; attempting to mar God’s creation and slow His purpose. Gen 3:15

[5] Psalm 3:5-6

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The Living Witness: The final stage of missions…

April 4, 2012

The Living Witness

The previous sections have largely been focused the substance of the great commission found in Matthew 28:19-20 applied through the organization of Acts 1:8.  We have focused on going and making, but now we shall focus on living.  In Acts 1:8 Christ addresses His followers prior to His ascension into Heaven.  He does not give them a commission, rather He provides them with a prophecy.  He states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” This “witness” here in the text refers to testimony.  A testimony given in a historical sense about past events; and a testimony lived out before others, that these historical events have a powerful impact on life.  This is not a request on Jesus’ part, rather He is promising that this will occur when the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon His followers.  Where His power is, one cannot help but testify to its effects.

The New Testament provides us with a picture of this power lived out, through evangelism, preaching, church instruction, even martyrdom.[1]  Followers of Christ are commanded to preach to those who have not heard, in season and out of season, the Word of God.[2]  But believers are also commanded to conduct themselves in such a way as to demonstrate an active faith, one that is above reproach, a faith protected from error.[3]  Going into the nations is useless and will have short-lived results if it is not mirrored by a true witness.  Making disciples is nearly impossible if it is not done by displaying a witness what is being taught impacts more than the mind.  Living out a witness is little more than testifying through word and action that my heart has been changed by the grace of God.  He has revealed through His Son: who I should become and who I am.  These truths have affected my life, directed my worship and grounded my hope in the future.

When we are faithful to live this witness before the world, we fulfill God’s command to obey Him, love our neighbor and glorify His name among the nations.   To the extent that we are faithful in this, surely the knowledge of God may cover the earth, as the waters cover the seas, a flood of His glory through the mission of His church.  Lord, may this be done in us.


[1] The word for witnesses in Acts 1:8 is where we get our word for martyr.  A martyr is one who literally bears witness of their devotion to Christ through the willing sacrifice of their life for the sake of their testimony.

 [2]Romans 10:17-19; 2 Timothy 4:2

 [3] James 2:17-25, I Peter 2:16-17, Colossians 2:8

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Disciples in the Making: the Who, the How, and the Why…

March 30, 2012

In the last two posts we have examined the mission of the church, the going into the world, the making of disciples, and the living witness.  In this post we will go deep on Making Disciples, and examine the who, the how and the why behind Jesus command to make disciples of all the nations.

Even a cursory reading of the great commission in Matthew 28 shows that the center of the commission is not on going but rather making.  Jesus commands His disciples to make disciples.  To go into the nations, “baptizing them and teaching them all that I have commanded.”  To often though the church has missed this simple distinction and has settled for merely going and telling, while neglecting making.  The aforementioned pattern in Acts though reflects the fact that the disciples did not make this mistake.  They established a church where they were, proclaimed the gospel, saw growth outward, and established other churches throughout the known world.  This is why we will endeavor to do the same; become established, proclaim, grow, and establish other congregations.  To do this we will focus on the “who” of discipleship, the “how” of making disciples, and finally the reason “why” we should carry out this command.

Who do we Disciple

Discipleship is missions in micro.  It is the proclamation of the gospel and the instruction of believers in the ways of Christ; moreover the progress after the proclamation.  Just as the mission of the church starts close and radiates out, so too does our discipleship.  Those who call upon the name of Christ have merely begun the journey.  There is a vast difference between believing on His cross and taking up your own, and in that gap rests discipleship.  Discipleship begins in the home and for a believer should radiate out from there.  For our purposes we will focus on four categories Family, Friends, Neighbors and Nations. Discipleship is teaching and modeling; the life of Christ, the plan of God, and His character revealed in both.  This must begin at home.  Our church will focus on training men, women, husbands, wives, and parents to in turn train their households.  The nuclear family of the home and the corporate family of the church then should work together to disciple the remaining groups through missions and church planting.

The Flow of Discipleship:

(The Church)                                (Missions)

Church + Families –> Friends, Neighbors, and Nations

How we Disciple

For the church or Christian engaging in discipleship the substance of that teaching is key.  And while the whole of Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and encouragement, Jesus provides His church with a ready-made catechism in His Sermon on the Mount.  In the Sermon (found in Matthew 5 through 7), Jesus informs His followers how they are to become; who they are to be; how this should affect their lives; how it should direct their worship; and how it grounds their hope.  His teaching is both the Truth to be believed and the behavior to be followed.

The Sermon for discipleship:

Instruction                                                Focus                                  Verses

How to become…             Blessed (knowing and cherishing God)               5:1-12

Who we are…                    Salt and Light (impacting the world)                  5:13-16

Affects our lives…            Pure Heart, new boundaries                               5:17-48

Directs our worship         God is focus of Prayer, Fasting, Giving                6:1-34

Grounds our Hope            A life lived this way is built on a rock.                7:1-29

Following this pattern demonstrates that we seek to make disciples, not merely count converts.  The goal is to instruct the families of our congregation and then partner with these families to disciple the wider world through missions.    Having examine who we are to disciple and how we disciple them we now will focus on the reason behind our discipleship.

Why we Disciple

God’s people have always had a mandate.  Even in the Garden, those who bore His image were commanded to be fruitful and multiply that image and through that multiplication dominate the earth.[1]  As God’s new creation through Christ we have much the same command.  As we are being conformed into the likeness of His image through discipleship, He commands us to go and preach so that others will come to know and resemble Him.  This command may seem elemental, perhaps even passé, but its weight should be felt not ignored.  For our response to it, either in obedience or rejection, displays our attitude in the face of the risen Savior.   Like those who came to see Him after His resurrection there were only two responses: one either worshiped with hearts burning at His word, or one wavered doubting Him to His face.  We shall endeavor to mirror the former, rather than the latter, so that our worship lived out may serve as a witness to others.  In the next post we shall conclude by examining our witness for Christ which we are to have among the nations .


[1] Genesis 1:28

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The Twin Terrors of our Fallen Nation…

January 24, 2012

Our nation, and indeed the world, is beset with an abundance of adultery and divorce.  Often the two go hand-in-hand wrecking lives and destabilizing society.  Neither are a recent plague, so we find that it was no accident that our Lord addressed both in His Sermon on the Mount.  At the heart of both sins is the idolatry of the self.  Putting the needs and wants of the self above the rightly ordered plan of God.  Adultery takes the gift of sex, intended to unite husband and wife, and turns it into a weapon of division and discord.  Divorce often follows in the destructive wake of adultery leaving behind scarred lives and broken families.  But there is Hope.

God sees us in our sinful state and provides mercy, grace, renewal and redemption to all who repent, turn from their sin, and seek shelter under the sufficient sacrifice of Christ.  In the next several posts, I am going to try and dissect these sticky verses in Matthew 5:27-32.

First, we will look at the root of adultery: lust; the sin, Christ’s solution, and His message regarding our hearts.

Second, we will look at divorce: its history, its pain, and hope for the divorced among us.

Ultimately, and this can not be stressed enough, both are grievous sins with horrific consequences which shatter lives, leaving the participants hurt and broken.  Likewise, though, we must stress that Jesus tackled these issues head on, and His grace is great enough to overcome the sin, mend the broken, and soothe the hurt.

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them,“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”  
                                                                                                                        -John 8:7-12