Monthly Archives: April 2011

What if there were No Crucifixion? It Was Meant to be Seen!

Have you ever considered the question: “What if Jesus had not been crucified?” What would we miss that was meant to be seen?

What if Jesus would have died of cancer in Bethany? What if He would have died in a boating accident on the Sea of Galilee? What if He had been run down by a chariot in the busy streets of Jerusalem?

Why is the cross so important? Why did God, in His infinite wisdom, choose a cross as the instrument to ransom the souls of many? At such great cost, what does the cross teach us that God wants us to see and know? Why put the son of God on a slave’s tree?

It had to be a Visible and Public Spectacle. In 71 B.C. a slave named Spartacus led a slave revolt against the Romans that was eventually decimated. The Romans captured approximately 6,000 slaves and crucified them at varying distances for 119 miles along the Appian Highway between Rome and Capua. Jesus was crucified on a hill just outside of Jerusalem so that everyone could see as they walked by. This was also one of the points of the cross itself. Not only was it a terribly elongated and painful death, but the cross elevated the visibility of those who were executed. The Romans wanted crucifixion to be a visible and public warning not to cross their authority and rule.

It had to be Wrathful and Horrifically Cruel. Tim Keller writes in his latest book, The King’s Cross, “Crucifixion was designed to be the most humiliating and gruesome method of execution. The Romans reserved it for their worst offenders. It was a protracted, bloody public spectacle of extreme pain that usually ended in a horrible death by shock or asphyxiation.” (p. 198) And as horrible as the crucifixion itself (John 19:18) was, there was the subsequent flogging, beating, beard pulling, cross carrying and naked humiliation (for Jesus the crown of thorns) that took place prior to being nailed to the wooden beams so they could drop the cross in a hole that made it stand up. It was uncensored cruelty at its worst. God wanted us to have a picture of His wrath on the sin of sinners.

It had to be for Criminals and Insurrectionists. The cross was for people who violated the Roman Law. It was for slaves like Spartacus who led revolts. It was for people like Barabbas, an insurrectionist and murderer (Luke 23:18-19). The cross was for people who had actually committed crimes, like the two criminals mentioned in Luke 23:39-43, who were crucified next to Jesus. The cross was for sinners, law violators and transgressors.

Jesus was publicly executed as a heinous criminal with the most wrathful punishment in the history of mankind.

God wants us to see these truths. He wants us to see that what we deserved Christ absorbed.

If there were no crucifixion we lose the picture of redemption; we would lose the story of the wrath of God poured out on an innocent man who atoned for our heinous crimes against an infinitely Holy God.

Be brave and look on the cross with much sorrow, but  look also with great thankfulness and joy. The Cross was meant to be looked at.

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“King’s Cross” and Resurrection Hope

I’ve recently picked up and began reading Tim Keller’s newest book, King’s Cross; The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus. In the book Keller works through the Gospel of Mark and carefully unfolds the life of Jesus. At the end of the book Keller naturally looks at the resurrection and calls the last chapter, The Beginning. Given the fact that Easter is upon us, I thought I would pass on a couple of passages about the resurrection that I found helpful. Keller writes on page 222:

And to the extent that the future is real to you, it will change everything about how you live in the present. For example, why is it so hard to face suffering? Why is it so hard to face disability and disease? Why is it so hard to do the right thing if you know it’s going to cost you money, reputation, maybe even your life? Why is it so hard to face your own death or the death of loved ones? It’s so hard because we think this broken world is the only world we’re ever going to have. It’s easy to feel as if this money is the only wealth we will ever have, as if this body is the only body we will ever have. But if Jesus is risen, then you future is so much more beautiful, and so much more certain, than that.

Do you really believe that Jesus was raised from the grave, conquering sin and death? Because if you do it will change how you live. If you live and react like there is no resurrection then perhaps you are not convinced, and that could be eternally problematic (1 Cor. 15:1-8). The Bible portrays the transformed disciples/apostles as those who really believed in the resurrection, and their lives validated what they said they believed.

Keller writes on page 224:

And if you know that this is not the only world, the only body, the only life you are ever going to have-that you will someday have a perfect life-who cares what people do to you? You’re free from ultimate anxieties in this life, so you can be brave and take risks. You can face the worst thing, even life in wheelchair, with joy, with hope. The resurrection means we can look forward with hope to the day our suffering will be gone.

Keller’s application is helpful, though not easy, but do we hope in the resurrection of Jesus, believing that His resurrection will result in our resurrection? What we really believe will have bearing on how we really live.

So think hard about the resurrection and why it can be believed, but also think about what it should mean for those in Christ. And pick up Keller’s book and study Mark with his guidance. You will see we have much reason to hope in King Jesus.

5 Thoughts I Thought – April 11

These are 5 thoughts I thought over the last 24 hours.

  1. Our boys went home with my mom and dad this past weekend and stayed the night. Our youngest son gave us a complete report of significant events and verbal exchanges. He reported that they had “Bible Time” on Sunday Morning. I was so glad to hear that my sons are seeing the Bible read not only in their own home but in the home of my dad and mom. However, I asked Elijah what it was about and his reply was revealing: “I don’t remember.” So he remembered that he had Bible Time but could not remember what it was about. Here’s a thought I thought: The event itself can play an  important role in teaching and reminding about what is important and worth doing. This is an example of a meaningful tradition.  My son may not remember what was said about the Bible for now, but at least he remembers and will remember that grandma and grandpa also cherish God’s word. Until he hears, remembers and believes the word, I am glad he at least knows our family prioritize God’s word.
  2. My wife actually put this thought in my head, but it is an interesting thing to ponder.”Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink.” Isaiah 5:22 Can a person be a bartender with a good conscience?
  3. “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!” 1 Cor. 16:22 Paul doesn’t mince words and He clearly cannot understand how anyone would not love the Lord. I take this also to mean that believing in the Lord will be accompanied by loving the Lord. If anyone believes Jesus and loves Jesus then he will obey His commands (See John 14). Is it impossible to believe in Jesus, knowing that He loved us with His life and death, and then think that we can ignore his commands, which are for our good?
  4. A sixth-grader said to me yesterday shortly after the sermon: “I want to correct you on something in your sermon.” Me: “Alright.” Sixth-grader: “The United States is not the richest country in the world, Luxembourg is.” Me: “That’s true if you mean GDP, but not by overall wealth and power. Do you know what GDP is?” The look on the Sixth-grader’s face: “What did I get myself into.” My thought after asking the question: “Why didn’t I just say thank you for the correction and go on?”
  5. Sermon corrections from yesterday. I said yesterday that if anyone does not provide for his family he is worse than a believer. I corrected it a moment later by saying “unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Additionally I said that the average credit card debt per individual is $7,600. That was a wrong statement on two accounts. First, I should have said $7,300. Second, it is per household not individual. Both accounts are a good reminder to slow down and then stick with the notes unless certain I have the facts right.

Bible Thoughts – Why would a King?

This morning as I was trying to get my mind and heart ready for the day, a passage and a song stirred my soul with thankfulness for Christ.  In Hebrew chapter 2:9-10, the inspired writer says these words about King Jesus:

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.

Why would a King, do such a thing. Why would the one for whom are all things, and through whom are all things -why would suffer for those who rejected His goodness?

Many answers might come rushing into our minds, but for me this morning it was enough just to say, “Thank you Jesus. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I have also been listening to Matt Maher a lot, and his song, “Love Comes Down” was a fitting expression to the inspired word of God. Here is the song with lyrics.

A few other thoughts from Hebrews 2

2:2 says, “and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty.” A sobering reminder of the seriousness of sin in the past, in the now time and whenever it might occur. Every sin will be dealt with.

2:4 says, “God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” Just a helpful reminder to see in other books of the Bible that is God who gives Spiritual gifts, we don’t buy them (Acts 8:1-25) or give them – Jesus does through the Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-11).

2:9 says, “so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” Is the atonement available to everyone? How does the subjunctive (“might”) show that it is possible for Jesus to taste death for everyone? I still hold that the atonement is limited by the mere fact that if the atonement is applied to everyone then why are people still in danger of the fires of hell. But there does remain the philosophical question as to what is the availability of the atonement for those who don’t believe? This passage seems to suggest that Jesus tasted death that everyone might have the availability of his atoning death. Just thinking with key strokes.

Bottom line for today and everyday, “Jesus died my soul to save. Thank you King Jesus.”


With You in Spirit – What Does That Mean?

I recently received this question by email:

When I am reading in 1 Cor. 5:3, Paul says he’s with them in “spirit”, which is a term I’ve heard my whole life during illness, weddings, funerals, etc. What’s the real meaning of this idea?

Here’s how I responded and I would welcome any additional insight.

These comments are from the ESV Study Bible:

1 Cor. 5:3–4 ‘my spirit is present.’ A difficult phrase that probably means that the disciplinary power of the Holy Spirit, which Paul knew to be present in his own ministry, would also be manifested in their meeting, because of the Corinthian church’s connection with Paul.Deliver this man to Satan probably refers to removing him from the church, since those outside of the church are in Satan’s realm (Luke 4:5–6; Eph. 2:2; 1 John 5:19). destruction of the flesh. Although it is certainly not always the case (cf. John 9:1–3), personal sin sometimes has grave physical consequences (Acts 5:1–11; 1 Cor. 11:29–30). spirit may be saved. The purpose of the discipline was not to punish the man for punishment’s sake but to effect his restoration to the church and eventual salvation (see 1 Tim. 1:20).

Walter Bauer’s Greek and English Lexicon (BAGD) says that “spirit” means: “a part of a human personality” There is the body and the spirit (or soul).

If you read 1 Corinthians 5, you will notice that the context (1 Cor. 5:3) is speaking of someone who is willfully and publicly sinning in such a way that it tarnishes the image of Christ’s body, the local church (1 Cor. 5:1-5). Paul is instructing them on what to do and that if they make a decision to discipline the unrepentant man, then he will agree with them as though he were there with them. His presence is not necessary for them to make a decision. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus is talking about the discipline of dealing with sin and says in v. 20, that He is with the disciples as they make decisions about confronting sin, even to the point of affirming the decision to put an unrepentant man out of the local gathering or church.

I am convinced it means that the truth of what he has taught them and the way that he has instructed them to deal with this situation, shows that he is there in the spirit of his teaching them how to handle the situation. So we might say that Paul is with them in that he is agreeing with them wherever he is, as they act on the truth of scripture as the Spirit gives them wisdom to do what he has taught them.

Applied to illness, weddings, funerals, etc., we might say that a person is there in the spirit of wanting to be there to encourage in the truth for whatever the moment calls for. In other words, Paul is at least saying: “You know what I taught. You know what is right and you know what to do. Do it as though I were actually with you. My spirit is with you in what I taught in our time together when I was actually there.” The truth of Paul’s teaching in Christ is there and should be guiding them, even if he is not there physically.

 

Strategies for Killing Lust

purity

John Owen famously said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

Stats: The Horrifying Truth About Porn

A young man recently said to me about lust, “I just want to be done with it.” I replied to him pointedly, “You will never be done with it until you stand before Jesus who died to save you from your lust.”

This is why Owen’s grammar and the grammar of the title are so important. You must be continuously killing lust. You don’t kill it, but rather you must be killing it. Jesus killed your sin once for all with His death on the cross, but you must be killing it because sin has lost its sting and death has been killed by Christ for those in Christ. You must be killing sin everyday. You must die everyday to the flesh and walk with the Spirit.

God gives us the power through the gospel and by the Spirit of Jesus, but we must respond with loving obedience.

The struggle is not all bad, it makes us trust God all the more. Additionally, struggling to resist sin does not mean that you have to cave and give in, it just means that we are constantly waging war against the temptation to believe that we can provide for ourselves a greater and more satisfying good than God is able to provide with His plan of purity before marriage and purity in marriage. To embrace and accept lust is to reject Christ and the goodness of God.

And this war against lust is deadly serious. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:27-30:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go to hell.

Our hearts matter as much as our outward actions and Hell is a very real consequence of lust that goes unchecked. And  Jesus says that we are to deal with lust and adultery drastically. We are to treat adultery extremely serious and take actions to deal with it that reflect how serious the sin of lust is.

So what’s your strategy. How are you fighting and killing lust and adultery?

Here are some lust killing strategies:

Start with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We tend to far too easily minimize the gospel and its application to solve practical and everyday problems. Every sin solution is grounded in the gospel first and foremost. This also means that theology is important. All theology is practical.

To begin with Jesus lived, died and rose from the grave to take care of our sin once for all. When Jesus said, “It is finished”, he meant it. So if I am in Christ, having repented of my sin and believed in Jesus, then I can bank on verses like 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

The application of the gospel by grace through faith is that my sin was imputed (credited) to Jesus and taken care of on the cross once for all. God is not out to get me because of my lust or any sin – if I am in Christ. Jesus’ perfect righteousness is imputed to my account by grace through faith in Christ. When God sees me, He does not see the sick sin of lust that belongs to an adulterer, but He sees the righteousness of Christ. I have no righteousness in and of myself, but I bear the righteousness of Christ and I have been declared righteous by God through faith. Because I have been given so much that I don’t deserve, this should make me want to be killing lust because it has been taken care of on the cross. I should want to live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24) and not in a life of lust.

Though I am forgiven and righteous in Christ, once for all, sin still has consequences in this life. But the gospel has freed me from the law of sin and death.

Additionally, trusting the good news of Jesus Christ means that God has put His Spirit within me (John 14:16-17; Ephesians 1:13-14), and it is the Spirit who convicts me of my sin and empowers me to follow Christ so that sin might be purged from my life.

The gospel is of first importance for salvation, but it is also of first importance for fighting sin in the here and now. If the gospel is not applied to my life then I am not righteous and I have no power to overcome sin. But if I am in Christ, then I am transformed to be transformed.

Look to the Bible to diagnose your weakness. Why do men, more so than women, battle lust? What’s wrong with us? Why can’t we beat it. What is our handicap? Believe it or not, the Bible has the answer. Men are passive and lazy. Genesis 3:1-7; 16, displays so well the tendency of men. Adam was given by God the one prohibition of the otherwise free and open garden (2:15-17), and yet when it came time to lead and take the initiative, he let his wife lead, plunging all mankind into the disease of sin. Men are lazy and they are sight-driven, and instead of waiting on God in purity, we tend to indulge ourselves visually, thinking that no one else knows. This is why the television and computers are so dangerous. We can sit and watch lazily. We must discipline ourselves for the purpose of Godliness, but sitting in our lazy chair, which is a badge of honor to most men, is often the very thing that leads us down the road where lust lives.

A Negative Strategy That So Often Fails Us. I am afraid for most men, their sum total strategy goes something like this when they are tempted to lust; “Don’t lust! Don’t lust! Don’t lust!” Result: Lust. Why? Because that is what they have filled their life and mind with lust. Even when they try to get away from lust and fight lust, they lust because that is what they are focused on. We need a better strategy, a strategy that does more than say, “Don’t lust!” We need something more. We need a strategy that helps us be so full of Christ that we can’t be full of our sinful selves.

Practical Strategies – Negative and Positive. One way you can fight lust is to think more specifically about the humanness of the person for which you are lusting. More than likely the person that is the object of your sin is not a synthetic replication of an idea, they are real and created in the image of God. They are someone’s daughter, someone’s sister and maybe someone’s mother. How would you like it if someone committed adultery in their mind with your daughter, sister or mother? How would you like it if someone took advantage of someone you cared? Additionally, lust is not only sinning, but if the lust is in response to a woman who is participating in some sort of pornography or inappropriate exposure, you are taking advantage of her sin, the sin that Jesus died for.

Another way that we can fight lust, or any sin, is to meditate for prolonged amounts of time on the cross. If you feel yourself being sucked into the black hole of temptation, then fix your thoughts on Jesus being crucified beyond recognition on the cross for your sins. Think about the crown of thorns, the nails, the lacerations, the mocking, the betrayal, your sin in His body, etc. Dwell on that for five minutes and see if it doesn’t make you disgusted that it was the very action that you were headed for the put Jesus there to die the death He died.

Some people might advise that the way to beat lust is to get rid of computers or phones or televisions. But that doesn’t deal with the real problem. The problem is not our television or computer, it is us. The problem is you. If we do a Kirk Cameron on our computer with a baseball bat, we are not solving the problem, we are shifting the blame and other temptations will take the place of those we removed. Besides, if pornography is the main impetus that causes lust in your life, then the images that you have already looked at our seared in your brain and the brain will easily open them if you don’t deal with the problem, which is you and your passivity in fighting lust.

These are good and helpful and I have found them advantageous in my fight against lust, but if we stopped there with  strategies, I don’t think we would have a complete plan. We need to not only divert our attention and be disgusted with our potential perverted actions, we need also to develop a superior satisfaction for the things of God.

Developing a Strategy of God-Centered Satisfaction. It is not enough to say no to lust, but we must also have something or someone greater that we are saying yes to.  I posit that because we were created by and for Christ Jesus that it is Jesus himself that we must learn to value as our deepest joy if we are to learn to hate and be killing lust. Augustine had it right when he said, “God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.” Regardless of whether we have come to the realization or not, all our sin is actually a longing for the satisfaction that only God can give. John Piper has said, “Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied in God.” CS Lewis wrote, “The real way of mending a man’s taste is not to denigrate his favorites, but to teach him how to enjoy something better.” God the Father through Christ the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit is better. He is best.

We must learn to fill our lives with the things of God that produce a superior joy, lest we enjoy the temporary joys of lust and all others sins.

A pastor was recently at an aquarium that had sharks. There were divers in the tank with the sharks which prompted him to ask, “Why don’t the sharks eat the divers?” He was told that the sharks don’t eat the divers because their appetite has been satisfied from devouring the fish that the divers feed them. They are full from the kind of food they should be eating, so they have no desire or need to eat the divers.  We need also to discipline ourselves to feast on the things of the Spirit so that we are full of the Spirit, not full of the things of this world.

We need to be constantly nourishing ourselves on the word. We need to be memorizing the scriptures for moments of weakness. We need to have accountability with brothers in Christ. We need to be praying constantly. We need the Spirit to empower us and so we need to be full of the Spirit. We need to pray prayers like, “God, satisfy me with who you are so that I won’t seek my satisfaction in the perversion of the world.” Then we need to seek God everyday. If we fail, we know we have forgiveness and we are righteous in Christ. We may feel the healthy pain of guilt and sorrow for our sin, but we don’t beat ourselves up because we know that Christ is our mediator.

We need the gospel and we need a gospel-centered plan. Remember the old anti-drug strategy, “Just say no.” That won’t wean you off of lust. It might help you a few times, but we need to have a greater reason to say no than saying no for the sake of no. We need to be certain that the hope of saying yes in Christ is the most satisfying and fulfilling thing we can humanly do until we get to heaven and sin is purged permanently by the gift of a glorified and resurrected body.

There is hope for you. There is hope for men in Christ. There are men who wage war against lust and say yes to Jesus and no to perversion. But it won’t happen for you if you passively wait for lust to go away. That day isn’t coming on this side of heaven unless you seek to be killing lust.

What’s your strategy for killing lust and living for the joy of obedience to Christ? Be killing lust or it will be killing you.