Archive for March, 2007
This story is from The Message of Daniel in the Bible Speaks Today Series (IVP), by Ronald S. Wallace. I found it encouraging so I copied it into my notes thinking I could use it for my Sunday sermon. Alas, it did not work out so I will post it here for someone else’s encouragement.
Let me tell one story of my life [said Dr Martin Niemoller once at a meeting of the National Bible Society], of how I came to know what this book is worth. It was on the 2nd of March, in 1938. I had been in prison in Berlin for eight months and had been tried. After the trial I had been taken by Secret State Police and they had put me in a van, and had brought me to a concentration camp north of Berlin. They took my wallet, they took my wrist watch, they took my wedding ring, and they took my pocket Bible, which I had been allowed to have with me during the days and weeks and months in Berlin prison. This first night I shall never forget, because I didn’t sleep for one minute. I didn’t find any peace. I was quarelling with God and blaming Him. I had lost my memory during the very strenuous weeks of the trial. I couldn’t remember a single verse from the Book by myself. I was very dependent on what was printed. I assure you I should gladly have given not only eight oxen but years of my life if only I could have had that Book. Next morning, when the commandant entered, I asked him, ‘Let me have my Bible back.’ The man wavered. I was the personal prisoner of the Fuehrer. If he treated me too harshly it might be bad; and if he treated me too well that might be bad also. In the end he turned to the orderly and said, ‘Go over to my office and bring the book which was on my desk. It is the Bible; you bring it here.’ I had not yet been for twelve hours in the concentration camp and the Book had entered—the Holy Bible—the Book that bears witness and testifies to the One to Whom all power belongs in heaven and earth, even in concentration camp. The book was, and there He was with all His strength, with all His comfort, with all I needed. (excerpted by Wallace from National Bible Society, October 1959, p 9 in Wallace, p 151)
Never underestimate the power and presence of the Word of God. Until the next time.
I will be working on the above passage for a few hours today. So as I did the other day I will be sharing a few thoughts as I go along. I will begin with a mind-blowing statement from PT Forsyth. He puts into words the nature of the work of Jesus on the Cross–that is, just exactly who it was that went to the cross and suffered our shame and disgrace.
“Christ went to His death in His function as King, not to become King.” (PT Forsyth, The Justification of God, 176)
Here is our King! Here is Our God! (DCB)
Can we fathom this? Can we comprehend the depth and nature of the cross? Can we begin to even approach this? This statement by Forsyth rearranges everything we have understood about Jesus ‘who died for our sins.’ He did so much more that merely die for our sins. “Their belief in Christ is impaired for want of a belief in the Satan that Christ felt it His supreme conflict to counter-work and destroy” (175). This is part of what Hebrews says below.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:14-18).
Vs 15: We are not meant to be slaves of fear or death or slaves of the fear of death. The death of Christ has rendered death a moot point. Death is no longer an option for those who have partaken of Christ. (John also speaks of this in his Gospel.) It’s not just that the Kingdom is something future that we look forward to, and its not just that eternal life is something future that we look forward to. These have begun in earnest with the coronation (v 9) of Jesus on the Cross. Eternity is now. The Future is present. Our hope is not for the future only but for the present.
Vs 18: ‘He is able’ is more like ‘he is powerful’ to help us. Why can he help us? Because in every way he has been like us, and yet without sin. He understands us: Cast all your cares on him for he cares for you. He is able, powerful, to help because he wants to help us. Perhaps there are times when we simply don’t believe he can, but probably more often it is that we don’t think he wants to help us. But these passages go on to say that he was made like us for this very purpose: To Help us. Not only, then, is Jesus the Pathfinder, he is our Helper, our Everpresent Help in times of trouble. What the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 46:
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. (NIV)
- He is The Final Authority (v 8—everything is subject to him)
- He is The King (v 9—crowned with glory and honor)
- He is The Destroy (v 9b—He tasted death for everyone)
- He is The Author of Salvation (v 10—see below)
- He is The Perfector of men (v 11—He makes men Holy)
- He is The Conqueror of the devil (v 14)
- He is The Liberator of the Captives (v 15—set free those slaves in fear of death)
- He is The Helper (v 16—He helps Abraham’s seed)
- He is The Merciful and Faithful High Priest (v 17)
- He is the Pathfinder, Trailblazer (v 10—in bringing many sons to glory)
- He is our Helper (v 18—because he was tempted like us)
I began all this by noting that Forsyth says these things are possible not to make Jesus King but because He already is King. None of these things are possible for a mere human being, nor a mere prophet. Jesus Is far more than someone who ‘came along’ that we can ignore. We cannot ignore what Jesus has done. We cannot avoid making a judgment about Him. We cannot go some place he is not and think we can hide from His judgment. No. This King Jesus cannot be silenced. When the King makes His entrance all eyes will be turned to Him, all attention will be confiscated by His Majesty, all ears are tuned to His Majestic Trumpet Voice, all knees bow, all tongues confess That Jesus is King, Lord and Messiah.
I’m working late tonight. I have some exegetical work to do for Bible School on Sunday. As I go along in the work tonight I’m going to drop some notes here sort of as practice. These are all preliminary thoughts and may or may not mean anything in particular at the moment.
2:9: τὸν δὲ βραχύ τι παρ᾿ ἀγγέλους ἠλαττωμένον βλέπομεν ᾿Ιησοῦν διὰ τὸ πάθημα τοῦ θανάτου δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφανωμένον, ὅπως χάριτι Θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς γεύσηται θανάτου.
“In putting everything under him, God left nothign that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to Him” (v 8).
PT Forsyth wrote in The Justification of God: “It is not easy to believe that the Kingdom of God is the greatest Empire now in the world—and especially at present it is hard. But faith’s greatest conquest of the world is to believe, on the strength of Christ’s Cross, that the world has been overcome, and that the nations which rage so furiously are still in the leash of the redeeming God…Must we not go on to find and trust in the Cross something more absolute even than universal, something which does not simply promise the final victory, but achieves it, something which is the crucial act of the world’s King, and not simply an act which ought to make Him that King, if right had might. Has he not only value for us but right, nor only right but equal might? Is the last enemy already destroyed in the Cross? Is the last victory won? Are all things already put under the feet of God’s love and grace? Have we in the Cross of Christ the crisis of all spiritual existence? The Christian religion stands or falls with the answer Yes to such questions. In His Cross, Resurrection and Pentecost, Christ is the Son of God’s love with power. God’s love is the principle and power of all being. It is established in Christ everywhere and forever. Love so universal is also absolute and final. The world is His, whether in maelstrom or volcano, whether it sink to Beelzebub’s grossness or rise to Lucifer’s pride and culture. The thing is done, it isnot to do. ‘Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ ‘This is the victory which has overcome the world—your faith.’ The only teleology is a theodicy, and the only theodicy is theological and evangelical.”—158, 166-167
Well, he says more too. But here’s the point he’s making: The fact of evil in the world (his perspective was WW I) does not negate God’s already victory. Hebrews says ‘all things’ have been put under his feet even if we do not see all things yet subject to him. This does not negate the already, final victory of Jesus Messiah—in the Cross. In the cross the world’s kingdoms are complete incapacitated, completely rendered eternally impotent. They cannot last. They cannot stand. They are struck dumb and destroyed. How can anything of this world last if the greatest power, death, has already succumbed to his Victory at the Cross? So when the world seems to be getting the upper hand, when the world seems to be winning, when the world’s kingdoms seem to triumph over Messiah, the One Enthroned in Heaven laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. They don’t even know in their lust for power, in their thirst for acquisition, in their ambitious thrusts of terror that they are already judged, already defeated, already lost. They have nothing more to gain.
Revelation 1:4-5: “Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
Concerning the phrase, ‘…should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering…’ Leon Morris who wrote, “…for Christians, as for their Master, there is a perfection in suffering. Little as we may like them, the fires of affliction are the place in which qualities of Christian character are forged. No one wants to suffer. No only looks forward to suffering. But the Christian cannot regard suffering as an unmitigated evil. He can agree that it is an evil, but he knows also that, borne in the right spirit, it is the means of increasing Christlikeness” (quoted in Brown, 62 from The Cross in the New Testament, 281.)
F F Bruce wrote: “The pathway to perfection which his people must tread must first be trodden by the Pathfinder.”
Clearly there is more to these passages that one can imagine. I could parse every verb and split every infinitive. We could diagram the sentences and imagine how much we have still missed. The suffering of Christ is quite remarkable in what it has accomplished not only for those who believe but for the entire cosmos. He tastes death for everyone. He is made perfect in suffering. He is crowned with glory and honor in his death. He destroyed the one who holds the power of death. He freed those who are held captive by their fear of death. He is able to help us because he suffered like us. He made atonement for our sins. He became a merciful high priest. These verses say more about the death of Jesus Messiah than we have time to fully understand in a given lifetime. What an amazing God to send His Son–to understand the ones he desires to save.
I’m ready to enjoy these thoughts for a while. I’ll close with these thoughts from Andrew Murray: “What the suffering and the death effected in Christ personally, in perfecting His character, is the groundwork of what it effected on our behalf. It was needful that God should make Him perfect through suffering; the perfectness that comes through suffering is meekness and gentleness, patience and perfect resignation to God’s will. It was because of the humility and meekness and lowliness of heart, which the Lamb of God showed here upon earth, that He is now the Lamb on the throne. Through suffering He was made perfect, and found worthy to be our High Priest.”
Thanks for stopping by.
I’m only 41 pages into the book. I’m reading it slowly so that it will last. What I have found, whether it is eating or having sex, is that no sooner has the pleasure started than it’s finished. So I’m working on eating slower, loving slower, and reading slower. Three great pleasures in life that life would be un-life without are far to valuable to simply rush through to get finished. I’m reading Eugene Peterson’s book The Jesus Way slower than I read his Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places and Eat This Book. I have to read it slower because I’m not looking forward to another book release until July–four months from now–when The Deathly Hallows will be released. Discipleship, like reading, eating and sex, are better slower. And, honestly, discipleship cannot begin to be rushed, hurried, or one-clicked. There is no such thing as speed-dial discipleship and I think those preachers who sell it that way are losers who have not read the Bible or who have at least abused the Bible to their own ends, or who, really do not understand what Jesus said about discipleship being a slow, agonizing, cross-carrying walk.
This is probably why I am a fan of baseball. It takes a long time for the baseball season to start and an even longer time for it to end. 162 games is nothing to scoff at. That doesn’t include pre-season and some post-season. Baseball is the sport of the long-haul, the long-obedience, the long journey. Sometimes individual games take a long time. Sometimes one inning will take a long time. It’s not the face-paced back and forthness of tennis or basketball. It’s the slow season. It’s deliberate.
Peterson writes, “North American Christians are conspicuous for going along with whatever the culture decides is charismatic, successful, influential–whatever gets things done, whatever can gather a crowd of followers–hardly noticing that these ways and means are at odds with the clearly marked way that Jesus walked and called us to follow. Doesn’t anybody notice that the ways and means taken up, often enthusiastically, are blasphemously at odds with the way Jesus leads his followers? Why doesn’t anybody notice?” (Eugene Peterson, p 8, The Jesus Way) And he has much more to say on this subject on pages 30-35. (I think you should read this book and the two that preceded it.)
The way of Jesus is totally at odds with the way things are done in a lot of churches across America. My contention is that God has not yet considered us worthy to suffer disgrace for His Name. The church in America is languishing under the mis-guided leadership of leaders who do not know how to follow.
I hope to explore these thoughts some more as time goes on and as I read slowly through Peterson’s book.
About 6 months ago I was introduced to a writer named David Wells. I was first introduced to him, however, as a preacher preaching on the Supremacy of Christ. In the course of reading a series of 4 books by Dr Wells I was introduced to the magnificent and grand writing of a preacher named Peter Taylor Forsyth. I have been amazed at the similarity found between Forsyth and Wells. I cannot read a page in Forsyth’s book The Justification of God without underlining at least a paragraph. (A friend who worships at the church I preach at had purchased a copy of the book a few years ago and loaned it to me. And you can find a large selection of his books for purchase or download at http://www.newcreation.org.au/books/indexes/forsyth.htm Furthermore, you can access a short essay about Forsyth at http://www.layman.org/layman/news/2007-news/review-theological-liberalism.htm.)However, I’m not necessarily writing to talk about Forsyth as much as to talk about something he wrote in The Justification of God. It’s found in one of the later chapters of the book, the chapter called The Cross Crucial For Destiny. He wrote:
“There is none that should destroy a faith which is Christian faith indeed, i.e. which has its object, source, and sustenance in that Cross and its victory, in which the prince of the world has been in principle judged and doomed forever. In that Eternal Act (and by no moral process only) the Father’s name is hallowed, His Kingdom come, and His will completely met on earth. And we are transported in spirit into the region, not far from any one of us, where these things are always perfectly done and won. It is a solemn and fortifying thought that interior to all space, time, and history there is a world where God’s name is perfectly hallowed, his will fully done, and His Kingdom already come. That region is where we retire to renew our moral certainty, behold a royal righteousness, acquire a theodicy more than rational, restore our spiritual strength, and heal our soul’s wounds. To have faith unhinged by what we now see is to confess that it was a faith unfounded and unfed from the eternal source. It is to own that our faith arose elsewhere than at Christ’s Cross.” (151-152)
And so we must cling to the cross. We must remember Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. If we try to wrap our faith around any other victory save for the victory of the Cross we are doomed. It is no wonder so many churches close their doors. It is no wonder so many Christians drift away from Christ. It is no wonder missionary zeal is a lost passion. Too many preachers in an effort to maintain the roles, in order to scratch the itch, in order to appeal to the most people possible, offer a palliative, watered down gospel that in no way confronts sinners (Christians and un-Christians alike) with the cross of Jesus. David Wells is right (God in the Wasteland) we don’t take God or His Gospel seriously in the church and we think His judgment weak.
What preacher will have the courage to abandon a feel-good, nice God and actually talk about the God who ’spared not his own Son’? What preacher will have the nerve to speak of the blood of redemption? What preacher will rise up with a prophetic voice and shame the wise with speech and utterance about the shame, humiliation and violence of the cross upon which Jesus died? Who will dare to stand with the crucified Lord of Glory? Who agrees that this world cannot be saved by any means save for the Crucified Lord Jesus?
It is my firm conviction that the church has spent far too much time lingering over matters that matter not. We have spent far too much time in the wasteland of unbelief. The prophet Amos wrote:
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
Men will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD,
but they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)
Here’s a thought: Before the world will become hungry for the word of God, the people of God need to be hungry for it. I think once the Church gets a taste of the real Word of God, unfiltered, unadulterated, uncensored–once they have tasted–then the Church will get hungry for more. Preachers must stop feeding the Church junk food and baby food.
There are some churches in the world that argue about whether or not a musical instrument should be played in the worship of God on Sunday mornings–or whenever worship of God is conducted. I’ve been reading some of those arguments. I dislike them all for the same reasons. These are some thoughts I wrote concerning some of the arguments posted.
You know how Jesus wrote seven letters to the Churches in the Book of the Revelation? I got to thinking, what sort of letter would Jesus send to the church in the United States. I wonder what He would say is commendable about us and what is an abomination. I wonder what Jesus thinks of the ‘problems’ we have. I wonder why the church in the US has not been ‘counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the Name.’ Right now, 11:40 PM, I’m rather sad. I went to the NACC last year and I honestly thought that progress was being made on this issue of instruments and not-instruments. I thought people concluded it didn’t matter because both ‘sides’ could be used for His glory alone. I mean, does anyone realize that we have the greatest message in the universe to share with people and we are still arguing about instruments? It is mind-boggling, staggering, beyond comprehension that this is what we have made a test of fellowship. Sometimes I wish I had never gone to a Christian college–after all, it was there I had to take Restoration History and learn that this ‘discussion’ was even taking place. I often wish I was still in the bliss of ignorance because I, for one, am filled to the brim with grief that such a thing, such an argument, such a division, exists in the Body that Christ Jesus died for. I don’t think I even have words to describe how sad I am over this. And do I feel helpless? It’s almost like none of us have any idea at all what grace is all about or what it means or how it comes to us. Shame on us! Shame on us! I resolved to know nothing…except Christ Jesus and Him Crucified. Meanwhile, the thorns are pushed deeper, the nails cling tighter, and the spear is thrust harder–and satan laughs and laughs and laughs.
I think we need to get out of the way and let the Spirit of God conduct His business. I think God can and does use all worship for His own glory. I think it is time for us to get out of the ‘in opinions liberty’ business and back into the ‘in all things love’ business.
The day is nearly over. I’m ready for bed and yet I’m not. I can’t make up my mind if I want to read, sleep, dream, eat, or just listen to some music. I’m agitated and irritated. I wish it were fully summer and I was looking forward to a day in my garden. I like hanging out with the worms, beetles, bugs, and assorted vegetation. I live under the sky. I’m one with the dirt. I guess for now I’ll just go to sleep. Good Night. Good Day.
This is just what I need. Another blog, another place to not maintain. But it should be fun.