Gospel Blessing | The Gospel Saves

“The time has come” With this announcement, Jesus proclaimed that the single most radical shift in all of history had begun. The plan that God had made for the salvation of His beloved creatures and the redemption of His world was entering the final phase, one that would lead the Savior from Galilee to Cavalry. His announcement was earthshaking, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

As Mark states in the first verse of his gospel, the good news is about Jesus Christ, the son of God. But the good news is also Jesus Christ, the son of God. The rightful king had come, bringing the kingdom of God near to His creatures in the incarnate form of Jesus. Repent, Jesus says, and believe this incredible news; turn back to God, turn back to home and be blessed by this act of your loving Father.

The gospel is more than an idea, it is a divine force. Among its countless blessings is the power to salvation (Rom 1:16). St. Paul repeats this idea in the first letter that he wrote to the church at Corinth. In that letter he dealt with several disturbing issues that had come to cause weakness in the church and required correction. Having dealt with those issues, rebuking in some cases and gently correcting and others, Paul reminds them of their common foundation, their unity in the gospel. He reminds them that all believers share one common truth; each was saved by the gospel of Jesus crucified and risen again:

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.” (1 Corinthians 15:1 – 2)

The power of the gospel is inherent in its content. God in Christ died to pay the penalty due sinful man. Penalty paid, life is restored as Jesus demonstrates his mastery over the grave, removing for all believers the sting of death. And none of this is left to conjecture: three days hence Jesus rose from the tomb appearing to those with eyes to see. All good news, all gospel, but also a call to action.

The gospel calls us to pause and consider the great sacrifice made on our behalf, our undeserving behalf. Because Jesus endured this, because God planned this, because you are hearing this good news the invitation to turn back toward God – to repent – is seen in a whole new light. No longer is it just one man calling another to change their behavior. It is an invitation to turn back toward home, to turn back toward the life that you were created for, to turn back to the one who sacrificially loves you. This is the gospel. This is the gospel that saves.

The Evangelist : In The Beginning

One: John 1:1-18

The fourth gospel writer, John, is moved by the Spirit to open his expansive book of Belief by tying it to a foundational theological tenet, In the beginning. Of all of the ways in which the majesty of God is revealed in the Bible, encountering Him as the Grand Initiator is one of the most important ways in which the relationship of human and divine is made comprehensible. God begins and our lives are the product of that initiative.

The first words of the Bible reveal an ever-existent God who creates all that exists, putting it in motion and unfolding His plan for its history. As the reader sees the logical progression of the perfect world unfolding in the order necessary for each successive step to prosper, we see the care and order in which the Initiator proceeds to fashion an existence without need for a Savior. As He arrives at the moment of creation for His greatest joy, man and woman, we are given a hint that God is not alone in this work, saying “Let us make man in our image..” To whom does He speak? Who is witness with Him to the creation and soon-to-come Fall?

John provides the answer most clearly; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Bearing witness to the creation and Fall that necessitates a Savior is the One who would be that Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only does God initiate the creation of all out of his love, desire and incomparable imagination, He also initiates its redemption and restoration to come. Apprehending this idea lies at the heart of our understanding of God and the Scriptures. God is first to act. Before humankind has even the briefest of notions about what it might need, He has acted to provide.

This is simultaneously humbling and comforting. It both mortifies our pride and wraps us in inexhaustible serenity as we apprehend the fact that just as we played no role in our creation, we also play no role in our salvation. It is wholly of the Great Creator, both in concept and in execution. We do nothing but celebrate the benefits and worship the provider who initiates before we know we have need.

image|magic madzik

Psalm 116 ~ He Saved Me

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When the prolific duo of Ashford and Simpson penned these words, were they thinking beyond the human realm?

Ain’t no mountain high enough.

Ain’t no valley low enough.

Ain’t no river wide enough, to keep me from getting’ to you.

The psalmist portrays this distance from the Savior in terms of life and death, painting mortality as the last moment in which He can reach out and pluck His creations for the abyss.

The cords of death entangle me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.

Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” (Ps 116:3-4)

Such is extent of the Savior’s reach that not even the ebbing moments of life can rebuff Him. We cry out “Lord, save me!” and redemption extends life forever. Restoration is a now and still to come reality. Whatever remains of our time in this world can be in peace and assurance;

Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. (v7)

A thankful heart taken captive by the Spirit guides our gratitude-filled steps, all of these remaining days;

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord—in your midst Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord. (vv 17-19)

Grace and peace to you…

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Burial Cloth and Neatness

The Jesus We Missed by Patrick Henry Reardon

imageThe folding of the kerchief may have been completely unconscious. I do not find this hard to believe. The universal Christ, the eternal Word in whom all things subsist, was still the same Jesus to whom an act of elementary neatness came naturally.

It was in reading these words in the closing paragraphs of The Jesus We Missed that the import of the book finally took hold. The humanity of Christ, while a matter of theological discussion through the centuries, is rarely given the biographical treatment that we read on these pages. Is it important? I believe yes, because the full picture of the God-man Jesus is incomplete unless the full measure of his humanity is realized and taken into account alongside of His words and actions.

Jesus was not God simply inhabiting a human form. He was God who willingly made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (Phil 2:7). He was not an infant who simply pretended not to comprehend the voices around him, Jesus was the helpless babe in the feed trough. He was the terrible two-year-old, the rebellious teenager, the young man full of strength and possessing the craftsmen’s hands.

And He was God, knowing an intimate relationship with the heavenly Father that we are called to emulate in the days preceding His return.

Reardon’s excellent book is not a casual read. It demands consideration on every page of the human nature of the Savior. In doing so, the reader is awakened to the senses of sight, smell and hearing in the fully-man Jesus. Events that often take on an other-worldly character when we forget His humanity are viewed in a different light as you consider scriptural hints that you may have skimmed in the past. The human portrait that Reardon paints is an encouragement to the reader in addition to its edification. Jesus relied on prayer to know the Father and His will and God used that open conduit to guide the Son’s steps. Has He promised anything less to us?

The Jesus We Missed will challenge you. It is written for the non-theological reader but that doesn’t make it a breezy read. You will be stopped on page after page as you find facets of the Lord that you had not considered in your travels through the Bible. Don’t hesitate to put the book down and pick up the Scriptures. The expanded perspective is well worth the time.

I am grateful to Thomas Nelson who provided this copy for review.

Who’s Up for (the exciting conclusion to) An Honest Reading? John 6:37-40

Theological discussion in various venues often pits one position of belief against its opposites. Supporters of one position or another like to issue proposition statements of the form ‘If they would give _____ an honest reading’, ‘once I gave ______ an honest reading’,’ you can’t read _________ honestly and still believe’ or various other permutations that are meant to couch the idea that your position is unsupportable in the light of clear interpretation. In other words, the veiled inference is that theological presuppositions have colored your interpretation of the text and if you would put them aside and engage an honest reading of the text, you would certainly see the validity of the opposing position. Let’s see if that’s a valid argument…

image Before we jump into the conclusion of this series, let’s have a look at how proof-texting works so that the danger in the practice becomes apparent. Suppose we want to ‘prove’ the horrible doctrine of infanticide exists in the Bible. [Atheist polemics use this argument all the time.] The proof-texter searches the Scriptures looking for individual verses or passages that appear to support this abhorrent practice so that they can proclaim the ‘truth’ that God approves the killing of children for pleasure or sustenance and they find these passages:

Psalm 137:9 -  he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

2 Kings 6:28-29 – She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him,’ but she had hidden him.”

God killing the first born, the Flood, etc. Okay, a quick show of hands. Who believes that God advocates or even suggests a doctrine of infanticide?

No one? Why not?

Because we know the dishonesty of pulling a passage from its context to try to make it match our desired meaning. We know that we are not free to dismiss the surrounding circles of context in the process of developing doctrine and yet, we continue to do so.

The Honest Reading

In the previous post we looked at the importance of making sure that the language we are reading (in this case English) holds the same meaning in the text as it did in the author’s original language. In the passage we are studying, there weren’t any surprises for the honest reader but the reader who wants to load a theological presupposition into the passage might find a bit of difficulty.

Continue reading “Who’s Up for (the exciting conclusion to) An Honest Reading? John 6:37-40”

Who’s Up (today) for An Honest Reading? John 6:37-40

image Theological discussion in various venues often pits one position of belief against its opposites. Supporters of one position or another like to issue proposition statements of the form ‘If they would give _____ an honest reading’, ‘once I gave ______ an honest reading’,’ you can’t read _________ honestly and still believe’ or various other permutations that are meant to couch the idea that your position is unsupportable in the light of clear interpretation. In other words, the veiled inference is that theological presuppositions have colored your interpretation of the text and if you would put them aside and engage an honest reading of the text, you would certainly see the validity of the opposing position. Let’s see if that’s a valid argument…

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  (Jn 6:37–40)

It’s All Greek to Me

Yesterday we looked at the various contextual levels in which the reader encounters a bible passage. To avoid mishandling a text or inappropriately proof-texting out of context we need to recognize the material that surrounds the passage to varying degrees of immediacy. We close by turning our attention to the language used by the original author and how well our modern translations accord to the original meaning of the words used. This will come as a shock to some but the Bible was not delivered in Elizabethan English. God elected to transmit His truth through authors in Hebrew and Greek for the most part and if we are going to delve beyond our English (or whatever translated language we read) we need to dive into the original texts. Caution is advised here; words in Greek and Hebrew often have ranges of meaning just like their English counterparts and it is easy to manipulate the interpretation of a passage

Continue reading “Who’s Up (today) for An Honest Reading? John 6:37-40”

Who’s Up (again) for An Honest Reading? John 6:37-40

image Theological discussion in various venues often pits one position of belief against its opposites. Supporters of one position or another like to issue proposition statements of the form ‘If they would give _____ an honest reading’, ‘once I gave ______ an honest reading’,’ you can’t read _________ honestly and still believe’ or various other permutations that are meant to couch the idea that your position is unsupportable in the light of clear interpretation. In other words, the veiled inference is that theological presuppositions have colored your interpretation of the text and if you would put them aside and engage an honest reading of the text, you would certainly see the validity of the opposing position. Let’s see if that’s a valid argument…

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  (Jn 6:37–40)

A Text Without a Context May Be a Pretext

We closed our discussion yesterday with a brief discussion of the necessity for recognizing context in interpreting biblical texts. In all cases, we want to avoid the interpretive error of proof texting which, unfortunately, has become a substitute for sound exegesis. In our pursuit of an honest reading, let’s have a look at the context in which this passage occurs, starting from the immediate and moving outward.

Continue reading “Who’s Up (again) for An Honest Reading? John 6:37-40”