Jesus in Paradox

      “Sinners call Him a Samaritan and demon-possessed. Yet He, the true Samaritan, saves sinners who “came down from Jerusalem and fell among thieves”. The demons confess Him, as He expels them, drowning legions of unclean spirits into the sea, seeing the Prince of demons fall like lighting. They cast stones at Him, yet He isn’t taken. He prays, yet hears prayer. He weeps tears, yet makes tears cease. As Man, He asks where Lazarus was laid; as God, He raises Lazarus. He is sold, very cheaply too, for a mere thirty bits of silver; yet He buys the world’s freedom, at boundless cost, for the price was His blood. As a sheep, He is lead to the slaughter; yet he Himself is Israel’s Shepherd, and now the Shepherd of the whole earth too. As a Lamb He is dumb; yet He is the Word, preached by the voice of one crying in the wilderness. He is bruised and wounded, yet He heals every illness and infirmity. He is lifted up, pierced with nails to the tree; yet by that Tree of Life, He brings us back to Paradise. Behold, He saves even the thief crucified with Him, draping the world in darkness as He dies!

“They give Him vinegar mingled with gall to drink. To whom do they give it? He who turned water into wine! He is the destroyer of death’s bitter taste, for He is sweetness itself and the soul’s full desire. He lays down His life, yet He has the power to take it up again. The temple’s veil is rent asunder, for the mystic portals of heaven are opened. The rocks are ripped asunder, and the dead rise up. He dies, yet gives life, and by His death He destroys death. He is buried, but bursts forth again!”

~Saint Gregory the Theologian

*Third Theological Oration Against the Arians, ch 20 as printed in “Daily Readings: The Early Church Fathers” by Nick Needham

Joyful Joyful We Look Forward

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“Therefore, it is fitting that the new covenant radically alters the Sabbath perspective. The current believer in Christ does not follow the Sabbath pattern of the people of the old covenant. He does not first labour six days, looking hopefully toward rest. Instead, he begins the week by rejoicing in the rest already accomplished by the cosmic events of Christ’s resurrection. Then he enters joyfully into his six days of labor, confident of success through the victory which Christ already has won.”

~O. Palmer Robertson, Christ of the Covenants

Christ’s first advent brought hope. We joyfully start our week resting in the fulfilled promises of the Messiah, instead of living our week in anticipation of them. This is part of the greatness of the New Covenant.

There is a Sabbath rest still to come that all creation groans for-but it is coming; and we have the work of Christ in his incarnation, death, and resurrection to look back on as the assurance that God will fulfill His promises.

Joyfully look forward on what is already accomplished as the assurance of what is yet still to be accomplished!

Christmas is not about Family

 

WHHHHAAAATTTTT!!!! Heresy in its highest form.

Christmas is NOT about family- however, this does not mean that family cannot, and should not, be an integral part in the celebration and true focus of Christmas.

Christmas is about the incarnation of God.

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It has been said rather recently by a well known apologist that the Resurrection is the primary thing that matters. It does not exactly matter if the gospel accounts are entirely accurate, whether He was truly born of a virgin, truly born to Jospeh and Mary, truly born in bethlehem etc.

I beg to differ.

The Incarnation is just as important as the Resurrection. The Gospel accounts must also be true, not only for the fact that we must have confidence in God’s word, but also the doctrinal truth of the Virgin Birth is essential to truly understanding the hypostatic union, the resurrection, and the entirety of the work of Christ

Christ is the New Adam, therefore He could not be born of the sin imputed to us from the first Adam (see Romans 5). Christ was fully God and fully man but He did not have a sin nature.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:1-4, 14.

It matters that Christ was 100% God and 100% man. It matters that He was born of a Virgin. It matters that He was born! This is the ultimate act of love and glory. Jesus came to glorify the Father (and be glorified) by the loving act of redeeming such insignificant creatures as us, wholly underserving and not worthy of this gift; it is graciously given.

You cannot have the Crucifixion and Resurrection without the Incarnation-this is what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

As to family, use this time to focus on something that should be focused on much more than once a year with those closest to you; use this time to share with your friends and family who do not believe as to why the incarnation is so important; celebrate this time together so that you may grow in love for your Savior and each other!

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

 

 

 

 

Hebrews 2

One of the main adjectives that describes Christianity best is-paradox.

Hebrews 2:14 “Since therefore the children share in the flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death…”

Christ came and was born in the flesh so that He might die. The divine nature of Jesus could not be killed. God required a sacrifice for sin. Only God was Holy enough to provide a “once for all” sacrifice, fulfilling what was foreshadowed primarily in the Mosaic covenant but also in the Abrahamic with circumcision.

Christ came and was born in the flesh so that He might defeat death. In rising from the dead, Jesus utterly shattered the hold that sin had, not only over our mortal bodies, but especially our spiritual lives. Our bodies will be resurrected, we will be untied with Christ.

The verse above was prophesied all the way back in Gensis 3:15

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

This was God prophesying that He would destroy Satan. Make no mistake; this is not a battle of equals. This is an Elephant to an ant. Satan thought by stirring up the people, causing Judas to betray Jesus, and working to have Jesus crucified, that this would be the ultimate victory. The look on his face, and the absolute dread he must have felt when Jesus shouted “It is finished”, and the devil realized what he had done, would have been a sight to behold because this is exactly what God has planned. When the human nature died, the divine nature triumphed and then raised the human nature.

Christ came to die to defeat death. Satan’s biggest victory was Satan’s biggest defeat.

Hence-paradox. And a beautiful thing it is.

Walking Though Hebrews

Hebrews has always been a fascinating book to me. I have read it numerous times, studied it in college, and still feel like I know nothing about it.

I am now venturing again into this letter/sermon and maybe I can share some things along the way. It’s loaded so bear with me.

Hebrews 1

Recently I have done numerous posts on the deity of Christ but this is one good thing you cannot have too much of. It is undeniable taught within the first 3 verses and is kind of a main emphasis of the entire first chapter. What is fantastic about how the author proves it? He primarily quotes the OLD TESTAMENT. Yes, the deity of Christ was declared in the Old Testament.

Here is an interesting verse:

“Are they not all ministering spirits (referring back to the angels mentioned a verse before) sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” Hebrews 1:14

I had no intention of going this direction but hey, who doesn’t like some good angelology? I actually have spent very little time study demonology and angelology but what I do see here is that those who are to inherit salvation, i.e. the elect, have ministering spirits.

Is this before the elect are saved? Is this after? Is this a full time job? Probably for some more than others (sorry-obligated joke). What do these ministering spirits do?

These are interesting questions and since we are naturally drawn to the extra-ordinary we tend to focus here.  However, thanks to wiser men than I, I know that it is not the authors primary intent to teach about the habits of angels. Instead he is comparing the position of angels to the position of Christ. They ares simply ministers, Christ is Master. Christ is Lord over all. Christ is Supreme.

This reminds me of one of my favorite John Piper sermon excerpts. The video is not too long but it will have a profound impact upon your day. This is not a “share and you will be blessed” meme but I will shamelessly admit that I have yet to make it through without tearing up. Very powerful and many of these truths are derived straight from Hebrews.

 

An Imprint of Substance

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“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power…” Hebrews 1:3

When you think of an image or reflection of something, perhaps you envision a reflection in the water. The picture is there but blurred like an Impressionist’s painting. Or maybe you think of a mirror- a clear, sharp reflection. But no matter the perfection of the reflection, neither of those are actually you. They are you of a short, but hollow-completely devoid of substance.

What about a coin? It bears the image of the person or government it belongs to, giving it some sort of substance and it is given some value because of the image-but it is not the value of the image, but the image giving it value.

So when Hebrews says Jesus is the exact imprint of the nature of God what is being communicated? Is it that of a reflection in the water? A mirror? Or an imprint on a coin?

Calvin says this:

“When, therefore, thou hear that the Son is the brightness of the Father’s glory, think this with thyself, that the glory of the Father is invisible until is shines forth in Christ, and that he is called the impress of his substance…Even the Substance of the Father is in a manner engraved on the Son” (Commentary on Hebrews)

John 1:1, Colossians 1:16-17, and the passage above tell us that is was God who created the universe through the person of the Son. I think Genesis also gives us a trinitarian creation but the person of the Son-Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of His power”. 

Aside from this passage implicitly claiming the eternality of Christ, it is expressing that the Son is the exact imprint of the substance of God. Without conflating the persons, Christ has all the attributes of deity that the Father does-as does the Spirit; but different from the Spirit, Christ actually is an image for He became flesh.

Just a few years before Jerry Bridges died, I was at a conference he was speaking at, and the only thing I really remember from his message was this:

“Preach the gospel to yourself-everyday.”

The creator of the universe condescending to our level, to die for the sins of those who believe and enable them to believe to adopt them as children of the Father and co-heirs with the Son.

Amazing.

 

 

The Apostles Creed

I belive in God the Father, Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived of the virgin Mary;

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven;

And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;

The holy catholic* church; the communion of saints;

The forgiveness of sins;

The resurrection of the body;

And the life everlasting. Amen.

 

*universal church

Confessions

Something Christians need to get back to, and thankfully many are, is the reading, memorizing, and reciting of the old confessions and creeds. These documents were drafted by very devout men, who articulated the essential articles of faith in such a way as to be succinct and edifying. Most of the questions people ask of the faith are answered within these creeds and confessions.

If you have never read them before, here is list of some of the best:

Westminster Confession of Faith, as well as the Longer and Shorter Catechisms

The Belgic Confession

The Heidelberg Catechism

The 1689 London Baptist Confession

The Chalcedonian Definition of Faith

The Apostles Creed

The Nicene Creed

None of them take long too read so maybe today, instead of reading about that embarrassment of a game from the Cavaliers, you can read one or two of these creeds and confessions.

(I will embed links, some free some not, but all have free PDF versions somewhere in the interspace. Also, the New Reformation Study Bible [R.C. Sproul General Editor] from Ligonier Ministries has most of these in the back).

Here is an excerpt from one I was reading today, on a topic I believe many churches have lost the understanding, the meaning, and importance of: the sacraments/ordinances.

On the Lord’s Supper from the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q.76: What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ?

A: It is not only to embrace with a believing heart all the suffering and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain pardon of sin and life eternal; but also, besides that, to become more and more united to His sacred body, by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven, and we on earth, are not withstanding “flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone”; and that we live, and are governed forever by one spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul.