Archive for the ‘Cross’ Category

“To believe in Jesus in the Christian sense means not less than trusting him utterly as the One who has borne our sin in his own body on the tree, as the One whose life and death and resurrection, offered up in our place, has reconciled us to God.”

–DA Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, 29

 

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I happened across the blog of an author tonight whom I had never heard of before. I recognized some of the names associated in one way or another with the author so I hung around for a bit and did some reading. I discovered this author had recently published a new book he calls Rediscovering the God Imagination: Reconstructing a Whole New Christianity.

The author is Jonathan Brink. I have never heard of him before, as I said, but I did recognize the names of his endorsers and his detractors. Having had my own issues in the past with Ken Silva, I can say that to an extent Mr Brink has my sympathies. I suppose one could say that, as a rule, if Ken Silva is one of your detractors then I will give you the benefit of the doubt and welcome to the club.

The problem is that Silva is an equal opportunity judge and jury and Brink set himself up by using the words ‘reconstructing’ and ‘new’ alongside the word ‘christianity.’ I’d like to give a balanced, quick review of the 26 page sample chapter Brink posted at his blog.

I took the time to read Brink’s 26-page sample chapter* that he has graciously posted at his website because, well, that’s what I do. I read. I’m a little on the fence regarding some of what I read (and I was also a little taken aback when I read in the comment section that he hadn’t read The Everlasting Man by GK Chesterton–even though that comment was written, evidently, two years ago) and I’m not able to make a complete judgment about the contents of the book. He begins by reminding us that we live in an age of questions–questions about the very traditions upon which we have nursed as Christians. He opens by writing this:

But what is the inherent nature of the Gospel? What actually happened in the Garden of Eden? In order to follow Jesus, it would seem obvious that we would want to know exactly what Jesus is doing on the cross, what problem he is solving, and what it means to humanity. Yet there is no clear, historical agreement regarding our basic understanding of the Gospel. Scholars and theologians have been wrestling with this tension within the Christian tradition for roughly 1,700 years.

I think people are going to have problems with this. I really do. I strongly disagree there is ‘no clear, historical agreement regarding our basic understanding of the Gospel.’ Yes, indeed, scholars have wrestled (and rightly so) with Scripture and definitions. And yes, indeed, there are a lot of theories about the implications of these beliefs. But the basic suppositions of the Gospel, even at the most basic, creedal level, are not really challenged (and probably shouldn’t be). Christians still believe Jesus died, was buried, and was raised from the grave (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-11).

I am not so sure, and even Brink equivocates just a bit, that we need to seriously rethink 1,700 years worth of theological reflection. He has questions about whether or not many of the theological formulas that have been created during this period of time actually address the correct question. Thus he writes:

This book suggests a provocative possibility: much of our historical understanding of the problem is wrong. The basic assumptions we make about what is happening in the Garden of Eden are skewed by the very nature of the problem. We locate the problem in the wrong place and end up trying to resolve a problem, which doesn’t actually exist. (p 6 of the pdf sample chapter)

I suppose that in order for new theories to be put forward, the historical understandings have to be cast in this light. We cannot suggest a better way forward unless we cast aspersion on all that has led to this point. This is a very post-modern way of going about things and it is very popular among many so-called emergent theologians and preachers (although I don’t think Brink categorizes himself as either). Challenging ideas is fine; I do so all the time. Suggesting that they are altogether wrong–well, there are a lot of preachers and theologians who will abandon Brink at this point.

Brink also has to do some re-working of the first three chapters of Genesis–which he does (see p 16-19 of the downloadable pdf). Here I believe Brink asks some important questions, and I am curious as to how he will answer them. I have no problem with questions being asked and, to be sure, I am always thrilled when someone, anyone, actually opens their Bible and wrestles with the story–a chore that many who are firmly ensconced in those 1,700 years of theological strictures refuse to undertake since it is much easier to whip out a quote from Calvin or Spurgeon to bolster one’s position: Calvin said it; I believe it; that settles it.

Yeah, that works.

As I neared the end of Brink’s 26 pages, I came across this paragraph:

And finally the story presents the atonement – how God is actually reconciling humanity to God. To understand the human story means confronting our traditional notions of what is happening on the cross, to ask, “Where is the problem located?” Once we answer this question, a new understanding of the atonement opens up. We are invited to discover the depth of what is happening, to shudder at the sheer magnitude of love it reveals, and embrace it with open arms. The story reveals God’s central concern is not a punitive sense of justice for breaking a law, but an overriding concern for the consequence of death. (p 21 of the downloadable pdf)

There’s more to it than this, and I don’t want to be unfair to Brink, but here I might be disinclined to go all the way with his idea. The problem as I see it is that we don’t necessarily need to confront the traditional understandings of the cross and we do not need a new understanding of the atonement. I have no problems with the idea that there is more than one ‘theory of atonement’. Nor, for that matter, do I mind someone opening our eyes to another aspect of God’s work in Jesus. What I object to is the idea that all those theories that went before need replacing or scuttling. Maybe Brink is not being so drastic, but it’s hard not to think he is. And, to be sure, he will have a lot of work to do in order to convince people that 1,700 years of theological reflection have been wrong and that, aha!, he suddenly has it all figured out.

That’s a tall order for anyone. I’m genuinely interested to see how he pulls it off, and how he resolves it for a new generation of pilgrims.

A better approach, I think, is to see all those theories (of atonement) that went before as bits and parts of a comprehensive atonement that God enacted in Christ. None of them is comprehensive, none is exclusive of the others. Together they all help explain what God was doing in Jesus and what he is doing in us. I agree wholeheartedly with Brink that the cross expresses God’s concern for the consequences of death; yes, say it so. But the cross dealt with what caused death (sin); resurrection dealt with death. Or, so says the apostle,

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:14-21, NIV)

I will be interested to see how Brink treats the Resurrection of Jesus since it was only mentioned once in the 26 pages I read and even then it had nothing, necessarily, to do with Jesus’s Resurrection. I hope he has a very large section on Resurrection because in the sort of undertaking he is proposing it will surely be necessary.

I also agree with Brink that we need to be set free from religion. Too many Christians are far too content to live in a scripted religious experience where everything is contained inside neat little compartments that never ever mix together and share ideas or educate or inform one another. Religion is typically what destroys preachers who have been called by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel, who have been called to tell and retell the story.

Frankly, I’m not sure we need a new Christianity–maybe, better, we just need people who are willing to live the story already there (you know, the ‘take up your cross, deny yourself, follow me’ kind of stuff). Frankly, I am not so sure we need to reconstruct a new anything since we are utterly incapable of doing so anyhow (no mention of the Holy Spirit in those 26 pages either; I realize he couldn’t include everything in 26 pages so I am not being overly critical, I’m just saying…)

Brink seems rather intent on redefining some of the terms we use in the church, but I don’t know that such redefining is necessary either. And don’t get me wrong, I understand there is a disconnect between what the Bible says and the way many Christians live. I get it; really I do. I was fired by a church in whom that very disconnect was incarnate in an unimaginable, undeniable, and epic way.

I also understand that suffering and pain and injustice need to be addressed at a much deeper level than preachers have dared to think necessary and possible in the past. The so-called tried and true Sunday school clichés first uttered by John Calvin and perpetuated by the Neo-Reformed scholars of this age no longer work on a people who have questioned and will continue to question everything. One of the great aspects of my generation’s rebelliousness towards authority is the freedom to question, challenge, everything. In other words, you will not control me, you will not tell me what to do or believe; I will figure it out for myself, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, thank you very much.

It may be that I’ll end up agreeing with you or Calvin. It may be that I will reject you and Calvin (especially Calvin). But I will work that out on my own in the company of fellow pilgrims–if only I could find a group of pilgrims willing to live in the turmoil of the doubt that we call faith (see Matthew 28:17).

Brink will have no problem convincing some, will reap the scorn and hatred of others who are already convinced he is a heretic, and will, hopefully, find even more who will read what he says and shout ‘hooray!’ when they read something brilliant, will weep when they read something silly, and will search the Scripture when they come across something that challenges their understanding of Jesus, Christianity, and faith.

Brink claims to have gone back to Scripture in order to write this book. He also claims that much of what he saw in Scripture just didn’t seem to line up with some of the traditional teachings. Therefore I believe it is equally fair and important for those who read this book to go back to Scripture also and see if what Brink has written squares up with what Scripture, the Bible, says. From what I read in 26 sample pages, I think there are going to be some issues.

But we can give him a read and test that for ourselves.

*my reflections concern only the 26 page sample chapter Brink posted at his website.

Friends,

This is part 10 of my current series of sermons 90 Days with Scripture. In this sermon from Mark 15, I begin by doing a short survey of the previous 9 sermons before offering a few thoughts on Mark 15. The sermon takes about 25 minutes and ends by wondering how it is that Jesus dying on the cross gives us any hope that God’s promise of New Covenant, New Heavens and New Earth, and Crushing the Serpent (among other things) can actually be brought about. And yet, that is the manifold witness of the New Testament: Jesus’ death does all that and much, much more. There is a lengthy quote from NT Write’s book Surprised By Hope in the conclusion. I have included a link to the manuscript at box.net below.  jerry

You can download here: Jesus, pt 3: Mark 15

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Part 1: Genesis 3, Where it All Went Wrong
Part 2: Genesis 12:1-9, A Blessing for All People
Part 3: Exodus 7-12 (a), Freedom For God’s People
Part 4: Exodus 7-12 (b), Freedom For God’s People, b
Part 5: 2 Samuel 5-7, The King
Part 6: Isaiah 60-66, The New Heavens and New Earth
Part 7: Jeremiah 31, The New Covenant
Part 8: Matthew 1, Jesus pt 1
Part 9: Luke 1-2, Jesus pt 2
Part 10: Mark 15, Jesus, pt 3

Other download options are available through feedburner and archive.org.

Always for His glory!

Friends,

This is part two of my sermon on the Exodus narratives. In this sermon I focus on Pharaoh and the Passover. This is reverse side of the sermon for last week that focused on Prophets (Moses & Aaron) and the Plagues. The exodus, while a real even in history, also becomes a type of what God has done in Christ. Now he is still setting people free from slavery, but his people are not located in one particular nation, nor are his people from one particular nation. Instead, as John wrote in Revelation (Rev. 7:9), he is drawing people from every tribe, nation, people and language–a great multitude. But again, as I point out, this is not about mere liberation. If God is setting people free he is doing so that he may build a nation of those people who will, in Peter’s language, declare the praises of Him who set them free (see 1 Peter 2:9-10; Colossians 1:13-14). So we have no mere liberation theology here, but a powerful declaration of God who makes himself known (see Exodus 5:2 where Pharaoh says he does not know God; and 6:3, 7; 7:5, 17; 8:10, 22; 9:14, 29; 10:2; 14:4, 8 where God says these plagues were that he might make himself known.) Now God is known through Jesus Christ.

90 Days with Scripture
Week 4: October 19, 2008
Exodus 7-12: Freedom for God’s People, pt b

Introduction

1 Now the LORD had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” 3 (The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)

4 So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt-worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.

9 The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you-so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire-head, legs and inner parts. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn-both men and animals-and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. 31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”

As I said last week, the Exodus of Israel from Egypt is likely the most significant historical event to ever occur on planet earth. The problem is that often times the Exodus has been reduced to a mere type with the requisite anti-type being neglected. That is, some have spent so much time focusing on the Exodus as mere Exodus that they have neglected the greater theological significance of the narrative itself. Thus, what I have tried to do in last week and this week is describe for you the theological significance of the type and the direction the type is pointing us; namely, Jesus Christ.

This is all to say that the Exodus narratives and the historical events themselves point us beyond the mere story of a nation being brought out of slavery; people being brought out of slavery is nothing new: We have had that happen in our own nation. This is not to denigrate such an accomplishment, but it is to say that what is more important than the exodus of the nation of Israel is the manner in which the events took place and what the author of the narratives told us about the events that took place. The author necessarily interpreted the events through a theological lens and his perspective is meant to shape our understanding of the God who affected the event itself.

So last week, we looked at the first of two points: Prophets and Plagues. This week, we’ll conclude by looking at Pharaoh and Passover.
_________________________

First, we’ll look at the Pharaoh who was the king of Egypt at the time. In God’s dealings with Pharaoh we have a demonstration of who runs the earth. Pharaoh thought for certain that it was himself. So he continued time and time again to stand up against the Lord and refused to alter his position.

But you see, Pharaoh was not working alone and he was not only protecting his interests. Pharaoh was working for the enemy doing all he could to snuff out the Lord’s people in order that the enemy might snuff out the Lord’s plans. This is a strange man who sacrificed the lot of his own people because of his stubborn refusal to let Israel go. What we learn is that the gods we set up always betray us in the end. They are only concerned about their own self-interests.

But I wonder: At the outset, we were told that God would make Moses like God to pharaoh and Aaron would be his prophet. So if YHWH was able to make Moses appear this way in Pharaoh’s presence, where did Pharaoh’s strength to resist the Lord come from? Was Pharaoh being played by his ‘gods’? “This is a section that focuses sharply on the conflict between heaven and earth, issuing in the same lesson which, in later years, Nebudchadnezzar had to learn the hard way.” You might recall from my sermon series on Daniel last year:

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

Simply put, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. I suspect that even now we have this strange misconception that we are the ones running the earth and putting up the show. Pharaoh learned this lesson in a terribly difficult way.  We see here that God takes back what is his by demolishing all that is not. He said, “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.”

____________________

Finally, we have the Passover. In the Passover event we see that God made a distinction between who belongs to God and who does not. He said, “But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will Know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”

It’s not everyone who was saved. The Egyptians suffered. Mightily. But the bottom line is this: It was only those who were under the protection of blood who were saved. If an Israelite did not paint his door with blood and keep everyone inside, he would have suffered loss. If an Egyptian had covered his door with blood and stayed inside, he would have been saved. It wasn’t just being a part of Israel that saved them, it was being under the blood that made them distinct. He didn’t say, “When I notice you are an Israelite I will pass over you.” He said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” I suppose we might justifiably say that anyone who came under the blood would have been safe.

One writer noted, “Ever since the fourth plague, the people of Israel had been set apart from the Egyptians, but in each case it was the onset of the plague itself that made their distinct status evident.” (Motyer, 126) The Israelites were special people whom God protected. Motyer goes on, “What we can say with certainty is that by the wonder of divine mercy they were the Lord’s people, the subjects of his saving activity, the people destined for deliverance and, in the meantime, in a world under his just and awesome judgment, they were a people set apart, the objects of his loving, protective care.” (123)

God did not allow his people, his special people, his chosen people, his unique people to be washed under the flood or swept under the rug or destroyed by the rebellion of humans. In the Passover God made a distinction and demonstrated in a mighty way that his judgment is just. He made a distinction and demonstrated that he will not allow anyone in heaven or earth or under the earth to destroy his people or the purposes he has planned for them. He demonstrates that he is able to protect those he loves.

It should give us great comfort; great strength; great courage. God demonstrates that he is able to protect his own. The gods of Pharaoh cannot say the same. So I don’t know why people blame God for this episode. We want this contest don’t we? We want to see whose god reigns, whose god is supreme, whose god has the power? I don’t know why people blame god for so much death when people are given every opportunity to come under his protection.

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13″I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

God himself provided the protection for his people. Even now, as then.
__________________________

We have examined four aspects of the Exodus narratives.

So in the Prophets we have a discovery of who speaks for God.

In the Plagues we have a declaration of who is God.

In the Pharaoh we have a demonstration of who runs the Earth.

And in the Passover we see a distinction between those who belong to God and those who do not.

But it is my contention that we are learning more here than just a mere history of the ancient Israelites and Egyptians. My contention is that we are learning something here about God’s dealings with humans and God’s ability and design to preserve the people he has called into being.

The battle here was that Egypt’s intent was to keep God’s people enslaved and thus prevent God from fulfilling his promise to bring them into the Land.

If the events that took place leading up to the Exodus, the plagues, the confrontations between Moses and Pharaoh, were designed so that God might show his power and his name be declared in all the earth (9:16), then can their repetition in this book serve any less purpose to us? We too are meant to know God. We are meant to know the God who makes himself known even if today we only read about these events we see God who triumphs over the gods we have erected. He says: Go ahead and trust in your gods. Go ahead and put your faith in the gods your hands manufacture. He doesn’t deny us that much.  But we should not be surprised, either, when the True God wages war against those gods; neither when we suffer casualties and death because we have not chosen wisely.

The same event is happening, I believe, even today. God desires to be known and has made himself known. And he is redeeming his people from slavery all around the world. God’s people, however unknown to us, but known to him, are slaves all around the world and God is in the process of setting them free-overcoming the powers that hold them captive and setting them free by the Son: If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

But it seems that there is also the same result for those who refuse to know God. He still makes himself known, but now through Jesus; and the results are the same: some will be saved, some will not:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

He is gathering his people from among the nations. He is setting them free through Jesus. He is creating, Peter wrote, a ‘chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness and into his wonderful light.’

But we only get there through Jesus. Jesus is our message. Jesus we proclaim. When Jesus is lifted up will he draw all people unto himself. We have only one message of hope and deliverence for God’s people: Look to Jesus. Be free in Christ. He is our Exodus.

Friends,

Here’s a lengthy, but necessary quote from my friend PT Forsyth. Every time I read something of his, I am astounded at his prescience (not to mention his depth of thought!) Here he is lamenting the church not only losing focus on the centrality of Christ’s cross and its vital connection to our salvation, but also I believe he is chiding those who purposely misrepresent the work of Christ at Calvary as a mere afterthought or aside. Instead, Forsyth rightly notes that the work of Christ is central, crucial, and second to nothing else he did.

“It has been asked concerning Christ, Was His will to die one with His will to save? Is there any doubt about the answer the Church has given to that question from first to last? The salvation has always been attached to Christ’s death, from New Testament days downward…If Christ’s atoning death is not the central effect of His person, and the central thing to our faith, if that notion of atonement has overlaid Christ’s real gospel, how has the whole Church come totally to misread its creator, and to miss what for Him was central? There has surely been some gigantic bungling on the Church’s part, some almost fatuous misconception of its Lord, a blunder whose long life and immense moral effect is quite unintelligible. An error of that kind is no misprint but a flaw. It is not mistake but heresy. And, as it concerns the centre and nature of faith, it must destroy any belief in the guidance of the Church by the Holy Spirit—which, however, is not a very lively faith among those whose challenge here occupies us….The church has done its Lord many a wrong, but none so grave as this, to have determinedly perverted His legacy, and grieved His spirit in regard to the central object of His mission on earth. It has often travestied His methods, misconstrued points of His teaching, and even compromised His principles; but these things have been done against its best conscience and its holiest spirits. These errors have passed, and been reformed, and renounced. But this perversion I speak of, if perversion it be, is greater than these, less culpable possibly, but even greater as perversion. For it has been the misrepresentation of Christ’s central gospel by the Church’s best and wisest. It has been a more total and venerable perversion than even the papacy. For even had all such passing ills and historic abuses been cured, this travesty of Christ’s central intent would still have gone on, and gone on with all the force lent by a purified Church, and all the spell of saintliness to wing the central lie. If the cross was but little to Christ in comparison with His real work, if it was a mere by-produced of His mission, a mere appendix to it and not its purpose, a mere calamity that befell it and not its consummation; and if His church has yet made it central, seminal, creative, and submersive of all else, then the enemies who swore Christ’s life away did Him no such bad turn as the train of disciples whose stupidity has belied Him over the whole world for all time. And those browbeaters who would let Him say nothing did His cause less harm than those apostles who made Him say what He did not mean.” –PT Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, 94-98

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Friends,

A few years ago, I became weary of the Purpose Driven Life. We had gone through the program at my church, read the book, preached the sermons. When it was all done, I felt no better and our church did not grow. I felt dirty for using someone else’s sermon outlines. (My content stuffed around someone else’s outlines.) About the time we were going through that series, a couple of books were published that had a remarkable effect on my discipleship. One was Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson and the other The Cross and Christian Ministry by DA Carson. I also read The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and several others. I began to see, in book after book, something I had not noticed before and something that seemed terribly absent from PDL: It was the cross. It was painful, to be sure, to see my entire ministry turned upside down, my discipleship in Christ radically altered, and my understanding of Scripture forever changed. I had missed it; I had missed the cross. Thus I began a great quest. I started saving quotes and poems and other items about the cross (One file ended up with 27 single spaced 10-point font pages of notes and quotes from biblical commentaries, authors like Annie Dillard, John Stott, DA Carson, Eugene Peterson, James Montegomery Boice, CS Lewis, Bernard of Clairvaux, Martin Luther, and poets like Bob Dylan, Thomas Merton, Jeremy Camp, and more. And that is not all. ). I started reading with a critical eye. The Father began to change me. Somehow, I had missed the cross. This reading, combined with intense study of Scripture (in particular the book of Matthew) and prayer and the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to Christ all over again for the first time. Thus was born The Crucifixion Driven Life which was my response to my congregation after I led them through PDL. This is the first sermon from that series, January 1, 2006. It runs 35 minutes or so. I have others that I will be posting as time permits and, also, as I did with the series on Daniel, I will be posting links to the manuscripts at box.net. Thank you. jerry

Listen here: The Crucifixion Driven Life Begins at Birth, Matthew 1:18-25

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Always for His glory!

Friends,

This continues my series on The Crucifixion Driven Life. This quote is from John RW Stott a scholar admired and respected across denominational lines as a sound expositor of Scripture and a welcome ambassador for the Kingdom of God:

The uniqueness of Christ’s sacrifice does not mean, then, that we have no sacrifices to offer, but only that their nature and purpose are different. They are not material but spiritual, and their object is not propitiatory but eucharistic, the expression of a responsive gratitude…What spiritual sacrifices, then, do the people of God as a ‘holy priesthood’ offer to him? Eight are mentioned in Scripture…living sacrifices (Romans 12:1)…praise, worship and thanksgiving, ‘the fruit of lips that confess his name’ (Heb 13:15, Psalm 50:14, 69:30-31, 116:17)…the sacrifice of prayer, which is said to ascend to God like fragrant incense, and our fourth ‘a broken and contrite heart,’ which God accepts and never despises (Mal 1:11, Ps 51:17, Hose 14:1-2, Rev 5:8, 8:3-4)…faith is called a ‘sacrifice and service’ and sixth are our gifts and good deeds, for ‘with such sacrifices God is pleased’ (Phil 2:71, 4:18; Heb 13:16; Acts 10:4)…sacrifice is our life poured out like a drink offering in God’s service, even unto death, while the eight is the special offering of the evangelist, whose preaching of the gospel is called a priestly duty because he is able to present his converts as ‘an offering acceptable to God’ (Phil 2:17, 2 Tim 4:6; Rom 15:16)—The Cross of Christ, 263-264

Always For His Glory!

Friends,

Aaron W Calhoun, MD, has a rather brilliant, if short, essay in the most recent issue of Touchstone titled “Jesus Wept.” In the short essay he touches on some of the objections that atheists and others come up with for why there almost certainly is not a god.  This part of the essay has been rehearsed a thousand times by a thousand different authors so I won’t bother again. What makes this essay, in my opinion, brilliant is that he doesn’t let the Christian off the hook. He notes that it is Christians who often have the wrong answer (at the wrong times) for why there is suffering in the world and how we can justify God or God’s existence in light of such suffering. Answers that involve repeated references to ‘God’s plan,’ or ‘his sovereignty,’ while not wrong, are not necessarily the best approach either. I agree.

Instead of a necessarily philosophical answer or a ‘tired’ theological answer, what we need is a Christological answer. “Christological answers deal with natural evil not with a defense of who God is, but with an exposition of what God did. They stress, not logic and argument, but a direct appeal to the power of Christ death and resurrection over evil”  (Calhoun, 14-15). Well that is just fantastic writing. It is too often that our apologetic for God in light of a suffering world is to neglect Christ’s work, his entrance into this world, the enfleshing of God in Christ, and his suffering. It’s almost as if Christians are afraid to talk about the cross when we are confronted with the horrors of suffering and evil in this world. Now of course, we cannot leave the cross here. The cross was not merely about God understanding our suffering or participating in it. The cross can never be about mere sympathy and we must carry it on to its ends of atonement, propitiation, and redemption. But Calhoun is surely correct in this assessment that in our quest to understand suffering and God in this world the cross is the place to start. In the cross is the renewal of all things.

The fact is, God did do something about suffering: He dealt the death blow to sin in Christ. This is the testimony of Scripture time and time again. Suffering has at its root sin and if suffering and evil are going to be dealt with then sin has to be confronted and defeated. Only in the total defeat of sin in the cross will the last enemy, death, be destroyed. “When he had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Colossians 2:15). Here is your victory: Christ Crucified. Here is your answer to suffering in the world: Christ Crucified. Here is the content of the Gospel: Christ Crucified. This means that the preacher has the responsibility to preach: Christ Crucified. It is only in this message that suffering will make any sense at all. Forsyth said it profoundly, “The Cross is at once creation’s final jar and final recovery. And there is no theodicy for the world except in a theology of the Cross. The only final theodicy is that self-justification of God which was fundamental to His justification of man. No reason of man can justify God in a world like this. He must justify Himself, and He did so in the Cross of His Son” (The Justification of God, 122).

Calhoun wrote, “We forget that the ultimate response to evil is not a theory or a doctrine, but a person…And it is in him, the Infinite God who became man and died, bearing our suffering and sin as his own, that we see the truth” (15). An absolutely brilliant essay. I am thankful that Dr Calhoun wrote it and I am hopeful that more of you who have tasted it here will discover it for yourselves. If you are wondering about suffering, about ‘where God is’ in all this mess we call the world, about the massive amount of and proliferation of evil in our culture, then there is only one answer: Jesus Christ crucified.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

Here I am again, overwhelmed at how freely flows the pen of the masters. I lament that we no longer live in a day and age when people are moved by such profundity–preferring instead to be captivated by smooth, earthly philosophies; guilt trips that impose on the grace of God. Here is Spurgeon, with whom I have not spent a great deal of my leisure time, but one who certainly understood well exactly what our culture continues to miss: The triumph over all the ills of our culture and world has already been declared in the Cross!

To the eye of reason the cross is the centre of sorrow and the lowest depth of shame. Jesus dies a malefactor’s death. He hangs upon the gibbet of a felon and pours out his blood upon the common mount of doom with thieves for his companions. In the midst of mockery, and jest, and scorn, and ribaldry, and blasphemy, he gives up the ghost. Earth rejects him and lifts him from her surface, and heaven affords him no light, but darkens the mid-day sun in the hour of his extremity. Deeper in woe the Saviour dived, imagination cannot descend. A blacker calumny than was cast on him satanic malice could not invent. He hid not his face from shame and spitting; and what shame and spitting it was! To the world the cross must ever be the emblem of shame: to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness. How different however is the view which presents itself to the eye of faith. Faith knows no shame in the cross, except the shame of those who nailed the Saviour there; it sees no ground for scorn, but it hurls indignant scorn at sin, the enemy which pierced the Lord. Faith sees woe, indeed, but from this woe it marks a fount of mercy springing. It is true it mourns a dying Saviour, but it beholds him bringing life and immortality to light at the very moment when his soul was eclipsed in the shadow of death. Faith regards the cross, not as the emblem of shame, but as the token of glory. The sons of Belial lay the cross in the dust, but the Christian makes a constellation of it, and sees it glittering in the seventh heaven. Man spits upon it, but believers, having angels for their companions, bow down and worship him who ever liveth though once he was crucified. My brethren, our text presents us with a portion of the view which faith is certain to discover when its eyes are anointed with the eye-salve of the Spirit. It tells us that the cross was Jesus Christ’s field of triumph. There he fought, and there he conquered, too. As a victor on the cross he divided the spoil. Nay, more than this; in our text the cross is spoken of as being Christ’s triumphal chariot in which he rode when he led captivity captive, and received gifts for men. Calvin thus admirably expounds the last sentence of our text:—”the expression in the Greek allows, it is true, of our reading–in himself;the connection of the passage, however, requires that we read it otherwise; for what would be meagre as applied to Christ, suits admirably well as applied to the cross. For as he had previously compared the cross to a signal trophy or show of triumph, in which Christ led about his enemies, so he now also compares it to a triumphal car in which he showed himself in great magnificence. For there is no tribunal so magnificent, no throne so stately, no show of triumph so distinguished, no chariot so elevated, as is the gibbet on which Christ has subdued death and the devil, the prince of death; nay, more, has utterly trodden them under his feet.”

Oh, thank God for the cross. This is why I love Forsyth, Wells, Bonhoeffer and Spurgeon. These men are and are not afraid of the cross. The understand deeply our utter hopelessness apart from it. They understand well that our triumph is the triumph of Christ alone. I hope that our generation will soon awaken to the Cross we have so frequently neglected.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

Friends,

Could be that I have posted this before and forgotten. I repent if I have, but as I prepare for a new series of sermons due to begin in February, I came across this quote and thought it deserved a place of its own:

For too long, many evangelicals have viewed the cross exclusively as the means by which God in Christ Jesus achieved our redemption. Of course, no Christian would want to minimize the centrality of the cross in God’s redemptive purposes. But if we view it as the means of our salvation and nothing more, we shall overlook many of its functions in the New Testament. In particular, so far as this study is concerned, we shall fail to see how the cross stands as the test and standard of all vital Christian ministry. The cross not only establishes what we are to preach, but how we are to preach. It prescribes what Christian leaders must be and how Christians must view leaders. It tells us how to serve and draws us onward in discipleship until we understand what it means to be world Christians.” (The Cross and Christian Ministry, p 9)

Amen.

jerry

Friends,

I thought I would take a little space here to update you on some recent additions to the blog. First, I have added two new sermons to the page: Towards a Theology of Suffering. These sermons cover Matthew 14-25. Here’s an excerpt from the first sermon covering Matthew 14-18:

What I am saying to you is this: We cannot solve the problems of this world even if we are called to mount an offensive charge against the gates of hell. I am suggesting that the solution to the problem of evil and suffering is found in the cross of Christ because it was there that Jesus embraced suffering, gave in to evil, and eventually in the Resurrection transformed evil and suffering. But if we are going to grasp this, we must grasp it on God’s terms and not ours. No Lord, not you. Get behind me Satan, you have in mind the things of men, and not God.

If we are going to understand God we are going to have to accept God on the terms that he has established and revealed. Ours is a cross life. Ours is a cross faith. Ours is a faith that begins and ends at the cross. Ours is a faith that understands Jesus’ goal was for the Strong Man not only to be bound, but defeated.

The second sermon is from Matthew 19-25 and deals with the Word of God and suffering. Here’s an excerpt:

Suffering is all around us and we are the cause of all of it. We have trusted in ourselves to solve the world’s problems and we have neglected and ignored the Word of God. He gives us all the answers we need but we refuse to listen. We refuse to hear. We refuse to welcome the prophets who are telling us the truth. And Jesus says that because we are more interested in ourselves than God there is a suffering that will outlast this earth because we want it to. You see all that is necessary for the suffering of this world to end is submission to the Word of Christ: Haven’t you read? But we won’t do it. So many will be cast into the place prepared for the devil and his angels, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Finally, I added a second sermon I recently preached on Grace. I interrupted my series on a Theology of Suffering to preach these two sermons on grace. Here’s an excerpt from sermon #2 which deals with the Limits of Grace:

Do you think that if we are saved originally by grace that after we are saved by grace God all of the sudden changes the plan? That is, after God saves us ‘while we are yet sinners’ does he continue to save us each day on the basis of our meritorious behavior? Or does God continue to save us each day on the basis of his grace?

If I was saved by grace yesterday, am I any less saved by grace today? So the Scripture agrees: If I am saved by grace before I am Christian I am not less saved by that grace after I become a Christian. I’m not saved because I am a Christian, or because I attend the right church, or perform the right rituals, or because I ‘go to church on Sundays.’ I am saved by the grace of God. Period.

I hope you will find the sermons helpful and encouraging. Feel free to leave your comments and let me know what you think. I’ll be finished with the series on Suffering and Evil in about three weeks then, as I said above, I’ll be preaching a short series on grace. I’ll be posting all these sermons here. If you would ever like a CD copy of a sermon you read here, just let me know.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

Friends,

This is a must watch. D A Carson discusses sin, grace, the Cross and how misunderstanding of these can be threats faced by the church.

 jerry

Friends,

Here’s a closing thought for the day.

“In all those passages in which one person is said to die for another. . .or in which the reference is to sacrifice, the idea of substitution is clearly expressed. The argument does not rest on the force of the preposition, but on the nature of the case. The only way in which the death of the victim benefited the offerer, was by substitution. When, therefore, Christ is said to die as a sacrifice for us, the meaning is, he died in our stead. His death is taken in the place of ours so as to save us from death.”–(C Hodge, commenting on 2 Corinthians 5:14, as quoted by Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, 63; 3rd ed)

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

Friends,

In the Gospel of John, we read this story:

1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11″No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I have no doubt whatsoever that Jesus loves people. He loves people of all stripes. He loves ‘the church and gave himself up for her’:

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Yes, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ loved sinners and ate with them: tax collectors, ‘sinners’, prostitutes, Pharisees, fishermen, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Peter and Paul. I fully accept the notion that Jesus accepts us for who we are, but I add this caveat in the form of a question: Does Jesus, in accepting us for who we are, permit us to stay as we are or does he demand change?

It is this question that most struggle with, and many in the evangelical church refuse to answer the question. Instead evangelicals allow their theology to be dictated and determined by cultural phenomenons, icons, or superstars: What Mel Gibson says must be the Gospel! But is this right? Is this true? Are the superstars of myspace, youtube, megachurches, hollywood, washington, D.C. the prophets who determine the boundaries of evangelical biblical theology? When Tila Tequila speaks, should we listen?

This is a significant problem in the evangelical world just now. I don’t happen to think that MTV stars and myspace celebrities are reliable sources for Biblical theology or for ecclesiastical practice. In fact, I’m not even sure why it is news when one of them says something about God or Jesus or the Bible because normally it is absolutely, unequivocally, wrong. Such is the case with the supposed phenom of myspace, Tila Tequila whose story is being partially reported at Christian Post as some sort of eye opening, Jeremiah type prophetic revelation concerning God and His Word. I’ll will note but a couple of the more significant problems with Tila’s theology of ‘Love is just love.’

First, my disclaimer, that I have never met Tila, I’ve only heard of her just today, I don’t watch MTV because I only have basic cable, I’m not one of her ‘friends’ at her myspace (of which it is reported she has 2 million!), and I only visited her myspace (which I won’t link to) twice (reading her blog). Second, it should be stated up front that Tila is a self acknowledged bi-sexual who will begin hosting a show on MTV called ‘A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila’ in which 32 straight men and lesbians will compete for her affections (I guess). OK, here’s some thoughts.

 First,

Although acknowledging that the show would raise controversy, she wrote, “I just want to say that I am truly blessed to have had an opportunity to share with the world and teach the world that it is OK to be who you are! Gay or not! So thank you MTV for giving me this opportunity.”

Well, this is patently wrong. It is not OK to be who we are otherwise God would have found no offense, would not have declared his coming wrath against all ungodliness, and there would have been no place for the cross. Fact is, there is no sin apart from sinners and there is no room for sin in this world that belongs to God. This is, then, false doctrine. The story above from John 8 declares: I do not condemn you, but leave your life of sin. We are not free to remain in the stranglehold of sin that Jesus died to set us free from. No doubt we are loved; no doubt it is that we might be set free from sin and set free to serve God in holiness. Part of the reason He gives the Spirit is to sanctify us, that is, make us holy. If God were satisfied with who we are, why would he demand that we change? Strike one against Tila’s theology.

Second, she says:

“Growing up, I felt like I had no one to turn to in times of need, who would be there for me with open arms without judgment when I felt hopeless,” Tequila wrote. “I lived in a lonely shattered world and tried to commit suicide quite a few times from a very young and tender age starting at 11 [years] to 22 years of age.

“That is until I made amends with God,” she added.

Tequila said she didn’t meet God in a church, which she had avoided going to with her “‘gay’ problems.” And she didn’t meet the God worshipped by churches that preached condemnation. Instead, she said she made amends with “the God that I can feel and hear in my own heart.”

Well, I certainly feel for the girl who, according to the story, “built her celebrity status online with racy photos and videos, Tila merchandise and album singles.” OK. I wonder, then, if God accepts those who are interested in pornography, those who flaunt their sexuality in order to turn a profit, those who engage in activities that the Scripture clearly condemns? Still, there is sympathy. I feel for her that she was so lonely that she attempted suicide ‘quite a few times.’ Who wouldn’t? I’m sorry she met churches that only condemned and didn’t attempt to teach about forgiveness in the Name of Jesus. Sadly, I don’t think Tila made amends with the God of the Scripture, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. No, I’m afraid she did not.

Sadly, she says that she ‘didn’t meet God in a church.’ Where else is she going to meet God? God has appointed the church to be a kingdom of priests. So writes Peter:

9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Where else is one to meet this God? Who else has such a privilege? Who else has God appointed for such a task of declaring his good news, of having ‘beautiful feet’, of preaching? (Romans 10) No one. That’s the whole point. For better or worse, God had chosen the Church to be the repository of His grace and good news. It is in the Church, which is made up of people, that God has hidden treasures in jars of clay. The Church has its flaws–no one can dispute that. But in spite of its flaws God continues to accomplish his Gospel work through that Church, the Body of Christ. Strike two against Tila’s theology.

Third, she said:

“I stopped feeling bad about myself because I was told that I was a ‘bad’ person for whatever reasons and opinions,” Tequila explained. “That’s when I turned my life around. I accepted me for who I am in all my glory. I accepted the fact that God would love me as long as my heart is good.”

I agree that God judges the heart. There’s another problem though. It is this:

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

10 “I the LORD search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward everyone according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”

There’s another problem: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The problem, clearly, is that we don’t have good hearts. Our intentions are never right. We are like those in the days of Noah whose hearts were only evil all the time. We can’t trust our hearts. Strike three.

Fourth, she said (all of these quotes are in the Christian Post story as written by Tila at her myspace site):

“The church should understand that they have a higher responsibility to teach the youth about unconditional love, and how we can spread the love, not why being gay is a bad thing,” she wrote.

This is simply not true at any level and it is quite presumptuous for a 25 year old soft-core porn star, mtv starlet, and myspace celeb to presume to tell the church what its responsibility is in this world. In fact, the only person who has a right to tell the church what the church should do, what the church should understand, and what the church’s responsibility is in this world is Jesus Christ–and He has in the Scripture. The church has no such responsibility to to teach the youth about unconditional love, spreading love. Nor does the church have a right to teach the youth things that are contrary to Scripture–especially when it comes to homosexuality. Sin is sin and Tila Tequila does not get to dictate the parameters of what is and is not: Scripture does.

The church has a responsibility to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and in that respect love is not necessarily unconditional. Love carries with it responsibilities. One, for example, is to submit to the Lordship of Jesus. It demands repentance. The sort of love God calls us to is a ‘believing’ love, that is, we must believe in Jesus–and all that he teaches. We don’t have a right to leave anything out of the Gospel. The sort of love we are called to is a ‘love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind’ love ‘and your neighbor as yourself.’ It is not a free-for-all-do-whatever-you-want sort of love. Strike four. (See I was kind, I gave her an extra strike!)

Something else that is missing from this report is any mention of Jesus. She said:

“[N]ow that I’ve endured all of that pain, maybe God put me on this path so that I would be able to share with everyone else who may be going through the same things?”

Or, perhaps God ‘put’ her on this path so that others might not go down the same path. Tila Tequila is a porn star (I don’t know if she makes movies or not, but her pictures are certainly on that track). And she is not someone anyone should be signing up to take theology classes from. She is not, and I don’t think she is claiming to be, in any way a Christian: not an evangelical, not a biblical, not a Catholic, Baptist, or anything else. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised that CP even did the story. There is no mention of Jesus. A lot of talk about God, a lot of criticism of the church, a lot of criticism of Christians; no mention of Jesus. Strike Five! It is impossible to avoid what Jesus says about the God who sent Him to earth, about the God who loves, about the God who demands our perfection, and about the God who, through His Spirit, makes us perfect. It is impossible to mention God’s love without mentioning the sort of love that God demonstrates for people: sacrificial, holy love.

But this goes to show what can happen to a person’s theology when it is not in any way grounded in the Word of God. Our path, our direction, our theology, must come from Scripture. I feel badly for all those who have heard her mention ‘God’ who will now think it is OK to participate in her television and internet shows. My friend Jason Goroncy posted this from PT Forsyth at his blog the other day. It captures beautifully my point:

‘The great Word of Gospel is not God is love. That is too stationary, too little energetic. It produces a religion unable to cope with crises. But the Word is this—Love is omnipotent for ever because it is holy. That is the voice of Christ-raised from the midst of time, and its chaos, and its convulsions, yet coming from the depths of eternity, where the Son dwells in the bosom of the Father, the Son to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth because He overcame the world in a Cross holier than love itself, more tragic, more solemn, more dynamic than all earth’s wars. The key to history is the historic Christ above history and in command of it, and there is no other’. Peter T. Forsyth, The Justification of God: Lectures for War-Time on a Christian Theodicy (London: Independent Press, 1957), 217

We need to be well aware of the false gospels that are making the rounds. Tila Tequila is another example of someone who talks a lot about God, but knows nothing about theology–or Scripture. We do well to ignore her.

I have no doubt that God accepts sinners because if he didn’t, no one could be saved. However, I do also believe that God does not intend for us to stay that way or else he would not have sent Jesus to earth to die on the Cross. The Cross is proof enough of that. Go now, and leave your life of sin. Love is not ‘just love.’ Love is holy and it is clearly defined in Scripture by pointing us to the cross of Christ. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Love devoid of truth is meaningless. Tia Tequilas love, just from looking at her myspace, is anything but godly, and nothing remotely close to biblical. Again, we do well to avoid her definitions of ‘god’, ‘love’, and ‘church.’ 

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

Friends,

There is a strong chance that you might not recognize these words you’re about to read. I didn’t write them, and it has been a long time since I have read them. They come from an author who has written many books on a variety of subjects (well, perhaps he always has one subject so that perhaps a better way of saying that is ‘he has written many books on the same subject from a variety of perspectives.) You may or may not have heard of him, you may or may not have read his books. But one way or another, I think you will be surprised by these words from one of his earliest books (1989):

There is a direct correlation between the accuracy of our memory and the effectiveness of our mission. If we are not teaching people how to be saved, it is perhaps because we have forgotten the tragedy of being lost! If we’re not teaching the message of forgiveness, itmay be because we don’t remember what it was like to be guilty. And if we’re not preaching the cross, it could be that we’ve subconsciously decided that–God forbid–somehow we don’t need it.” (75)

Are you ready? Or do you know? Well, the author is Max Lucado, the book is Six Hours One Friday. Mr Lucado brings us back to reality in the church with these words. It could possibly be the single best paragraph he’s ever written, and, the most important. The Church must remember the cross!

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry