Archives For Jesus

I remember reading Ephesians as a newer Christian and being shocked as I came across the Apostle’s words in chapter 5:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)

I quickly became nervous because my wife was a brand new Christian and I was about as biblically literate as a flannel board. My first thought was, “This can’t mean what I think it means.” And my second thought was, “How in the world am I going to sell Christie on this?”

The first question was answered with a “yes” and a “no”. The concept of male leadership, even headship, was correct. However, I had this wrong perception of some type of bizarre patriarchal suppression of the wife by the husband. In my mind leadership and submission seemed to demean rather than provide for her flourishing.

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“and again, as was his custom, he taught them” (Mark 10.1c)

A couple of years ago our son began driving. As parents, we spent time with him so he would learn the rules of the road and became more familiar with the car. One thing he seemed to continue to forget about where the speed bumps. We would cruise over them at 35 mph only to elevate and then bottom out. Each time he’d say, “Whoops.” Eventually he learned to slow down a bit as he came upon the speed bumps.

Sometimes, when reading the life of Jesus, we just cruise over the Christological speed bumps. In other words, we jump over what appear to be minor details in order to get to bigger details that we we know are coming.

I would argue, however, that there really are no insignificant items.

Take for instance the above reference to Jesus teaching the crowds. We know that Mark 10 goes on to provide a highly charged debate between Jesus and the Pharisess on the topic of divorce and marriage. In this case Mark puts a Christological speed-bump before us. We are bidden to slow down a bit before charging into the narrative.
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“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus felt the full force of all temptations. The ones that we feel and cave upon he felt to the highest level–and prevailed victoriously.

You might be saying, “It was different for Jesus–he is the Son of God! How can he really understand me?”

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Does Jesus lack compassion? The question sounds ridiculous and at best has a whiff of being irrational and at worst dishonoring. But it is a helpful question to ask and answer in light of his words in Matthew 15.

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard what this saying?” He answered, "Every plant that my Heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit. (Mt. 15:12–14)

On its face this instruction to “let them alone” seems a bit heartless. After all, they are heading towards a pit. What’s worse, they are leading others there as well. Does this advocate an anti-evangelism? Should we just leave people alone? And above all, was (is) Jesus lacking compassion?

No. And, no. Let me explain.

1. Jesus is the Incarnation of Compassion

His entire mission leaves in its wake the foamy waters of compassion. B.B. Warfield observed that the most common description of Jesus is that of compassion. Whether we are talking about healing the lame, raising the dead, or simply preaching the truth of the kingdom, he exemplified and was characterized by compassion. Remember, he came to save sinners (Lk. 19:10). This is compassion on steroids.

2. There is a Greater Context Here

The setting in Matthew’s narrative comes after some very dramatic and important scenes. In chapter 12, verses 22–32 the Pharisees (those referenced here) witness the miracles and heard the preaching of Jesus and they made a stunning conclusion. He is Satan or he works for Satan. They attributed the powerful working of the Holy Spirit to be the demonic working of the Devil. This led to a very stern exchange with Jesus in which he pronounced judgment upon them (v.32). They have had the privilege of the curtain being pulled back and the Holy Spirit working right before their very eyes only to attribute the work to Satan. This conclusion brought judgment from Jesus. He then began teaching them in parables (Mt. 13, especially Mt. 13:10–14). Jesus is compassionate, he is also a judge. One does not eclipse the other.

3. There is an Immediate Context Here

You might say, “That is still pretty harsh. They didn’t get it and he blows them up.” Well, let’s remember the immediate context: Jesus is talking to the Pharisees (Mt. 15:1–9). This admittedly blistering exhortation is directed at the Pharisees. He is talking to them clearly and biblically. He is isolating their heart idolatry and laying it bear in the light of the Scriptures. While being firm it is still a very compassionate thing to do.

So, does Jesus lack compassion here? I do not think so. If anything we are to marvel at his persistent compassion in the face of such bald rebellion. While being the Priest who is compassionate, he is still the Prophet who declares and the King who demands obedience.

As i like to do about this time of year, I am reading through the classic The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. In addition to having the best nickname in church history, “The Sweet Dropper” this book is great. Sibbes throws strikes while encouraging, confronting, conforming and comforting us with Christ.

Here is a sample from what I read this morning: How Should we Think of Christ?

When we think of Joseph, Daniel, John the Evangelist, we frame conceptions of them with delight, as of mild and sweet persons. Much more when we think of Christ, we should conceive of him as a mirror of all meekness. If the sweetness of all flowers were in one, how sweet must that flower be? In Christ all perfections of mercy and love meet. How great then must that mercy be that lodges in so gracious a heart?

Whatever tenderness is scattered in husband, father, brother, head, all is but a beam from him; it is in him in the most eminent manner. We are weak, but we are his; we are deformed, but yet carry his image upon us. A father looks not so much at the blemishes of his child as at his own nature in him; so Christ finds matter of love from that which is his own in us. He sees his own nature in us: we are diseased, but yet his members. Who ever neglected his own members because they were sick or weak?

None ever hated his own flesh. Can the head forget the members? Can Christ forget himself? We are his fullness, as he is ours. He was love itself clothed with man’s nature, which he united so near to himself, that he might communicate his goodness the more freely to us. And he took not our nature when it was at its best, but when it was abased, with all the natural and common infirmities it was subject to.

Let us therefore abhor all suspicious thoughts, as either cast in or cherished by that damned spirit who, as he labored to divide between the Father and the Son by jealousies, by saying, ‘If thou be the Son of God’ (Matt. 4:6), so his daily study is to divide between the Son and us by breeding false opinions in us of Christ, as if there were not such tender love in him to such as we are. It was Satan’s art from the beginning to discredit God with man, by calling God’s love into question with our first father Adam. His success then makes him ready at that weapon still. (Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed< /a>), pp. 62-63

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2.7)

This is a familiar passage to be read and considered during the Advent season. It is embedded with so much rich theological beauty and truth for the Christian.

Here we have the Son of God become the son of a virgin. The one who swaddled the stars with darkness (Job 38.9) is now swaddled in cloth as a baby. This is such mind bending, heart melting truth! Christ, the Lord God, becomes a man, and dwells among us (John 1.14).

Furthermore, it is this same Jesus who was swaddled in the garments of humility who will soon swaddle his own children in the merit of his righteousness. This Jesus will, by his perfect obedience, earn the everlasting righteousness that will be credited to a sinner like me.

I cannot stare at the scene of the manger without seeing the looming shadow of Calvary descending upon it. This Jesus was born to die (Matt. 1.21). I see the baby here, swaddled in rags. But in due time he will be swaddled in the rags of my demerit, my sin (Is. 64.6; 1 Pet. 2.24; 2 Cor. 5.21). This he did that I might be clothed in his righteousness (Rom. 4.4-5; 5.1; 2 Cor. 5.21).

This is one reason I love the Christmas season. It forces me to be reminded again of the depth of Christ’s condescension for a rebel like me. The depth is infinite because my sin is infinite. And his righteousness is infinite because his value is infinite. Therefore, praise is befitting for those who have received such grace (Ps. 147.1)

From a sermon preached by Charles Spurgeon, entitled, He Shall Be Great:

Brothers and Sisters, I admit that there are many points in which He is greater to you than He is to me! But yet, to me He is higher than Heaven, vaster than eternity, more delightful than Paradise, more blessed than blessedness itself!

If I could speak of Him according to my soul’s desire, I would speak in great capital letters and not in the small italics which I am compelled to use. If I could speak as I would, I would make winds and waves my orators and cause the whole universe to become one open mouth with which to proclaim the praises of Emmanuel! If all eternity would speak as though it, too, were but one tongue, yet it could not tell all the charms of His love and the sureness of His faithfulness and His truth! We must leave off somewhere, but, truly, if it is the point of our estimation of Him, we can never express our overwhelming sense of His honor, His excellence, His sweetness!

Oh, that He were praised by every creature that has breath! Oh, that every minute placed another gem in His crown! Oh, that every soul that breathes did continue to breathe out nothing but hosannas and hallelujahs unto Him, for He deserves all possible praises!

Do you hear the crash of the multitudinous music of Heaven? It is like many waters and like the mighty waves of the sea—and it is all for Him! Can you hear the charming notes of “harpers harping with their harps”? Their harpings are all for Him! Can you conceive the unutterable joys of the glorified? Every felicity of eternity is a song to His honor! Heaven and earth shall yet be full of the brightness of His Glory! Who can look the sun in the face in the height of his noontide? Who can tell the illimitable greatnesses of the Son of God?

ship

Like many, I wake up and think about what I need to get accomplished today and how I am going to do it.  My mind begins to infiltrate the various areas and sub areas of responsibility.  However, I am aware, even at this early hour of contemplation, that I am not going to get it all done.  And furthermore, that what I do get finished will not be without flaw.

In what can only be described as the grace of God, my mind was quickly drawn to Hebrews 7:

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7.25)

The beloved Savior and High Priest does not, like the other priests, die.  Furthermore, he does not need to atone for his own sins (7.23ff).  As a result we have a perfect and eternal high priest who offered a perfect and eternally acceptable sacrifice to the Father.

I need to remember that even on my ‘best’ days I need to have my beloved high priest fervently, faithfully, zealously, and successfully pleading the merits of his righteous life and sacrificial death in my stead.  There is not a second that I live here on earth when I am not dependent upon this glorious work.

And furthermore, there is not a second throughout all eternity that his saints will not depend upon his gloriously flawless work!  This Jesus will not only be the song of my praise throughout eternity but also be the substance of why I can enjoy the presence of God throughout all eternity!

It is the flawless work of Christ that we now and forevermore will depend upon.  All of his ransomed saints will forever cling to his high priestly garments like barnacles upon a great ship.  Indeed the captain of our salvation will successfully navigate us to the celestial port.

In this his flawless person and duty are seen to be so attractive and refreshing to the sin plagued conscience.

“I am not saying my theology is 100% right, I’m just saying I don’t know where I am wrong!”

I have heard this statement repeated many times. Each time the implication is: if we knew where we were wrong then we would change.

While we cannot prevent the fact that we are and will be wrong on occasion, we can work to prevent the wrong responses. I believe there are some basic guidelines for being open to theological examination.

Read the rest of this article at my new monthly column on Christianity.com

We all have blind spots. We have our issues. Whether we are talking about personal, social, or theological blind spots, we have them. And to say you don’t, is to, well, make my point.

The important thing for us to look for said weaknesses, identify them and replace them. This is living life as a fallen sinner it is reality.

But sometimes our blind spots are our hobby horses. And this is a problem.

I can remember arguing about abortion with a friend who is pro-choice. In the midst of the discussion (it was civil) he called me out on my flippancy concerning life in the various wars that the US is involved in. He had a point. My issue was inconsistent. I had a blind spot.
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“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. Luke 22:31-32

As the Savior is looking down the barrel of the unmitigated wrath of God he speaks to his disciples rather cryptically about the ‘one’ (Judas) who would betray him and then quite specifically about the Apostle Peter’s impending defection.

In the midst of this dialog between Peter and Jesus we have these two verses nestled in full of encouragement for believers today.

We learn of Satan’s desires. It is to “have” believers. Satan is not concerned so much with the unbelievers, for he already has them, but rather those who are following the Messiah. Satan’s desire is to have Peter. Satan already ‘has’ Judas (Luk 22.3) and now he wants Peter too. He wants to undermine the work of Jesus by attacking his followers. So believer, know that just as sure as you have the Holy Spirit you have been ‘painted’ with a demonic laser sight…he wants to have you. For truly nothing would give the Devil more joy than to see the narrow road depopoulated, for there is plenty of room on the broad road for apostates.

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One of my favorite statues is in downtown Boston, in Quincy Market. Towering above the crowd on a pillar is a life-sized Sam Adams statue. Engraved on it is this inscription: Fearless and Incorruptible. Now whatever you think of the early American Revolutionary you have got to admit that Adams was, from the perspective of his cause, fearless and incorruptible.

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Likewise there are many great reformers in the Bible who fit into such a mold. One of my favorites is Ezra. God used this scribe-priest to bring about substantial biblical reform in Israel. He not only led many people out of exile but he set the cadence for post-exilic life with his biblically saturated life. Privately and publicly he was about the Bible, as he set his heart to study, practice and teach the Law of God (Ezra 7:10). There is little doubt as to why he was so successful, he walked around with ink-stains on his forehead from his hours pouring over the Scriptures. Furthermore, he was courageous (Ezra 7.28) and extremely preoccupied with the glory of God (Ezra 8.21-23). What a guy indeed.

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He is Able to Sympathize.

Erik Raymond —  February 20, 2012

Hebrews 4.15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses

Often times, particularly during tough times, we struggle with the thoughts that people do not understand what we are going through. I cannot count how many times I have heard people say, “But you don’t understand what I am going through!” The good thing for us who are Christians is that we don’t necessarily have to understand or identify with what each person is going through in order to help or to be consoled.

Why? Because Jesus does.

This is so good, so rich and so life changing!! In God’s infinite wisdom and design he has organized things to exalt his Son. Within this context we have Christ’s sympathy and compassion exalted. There is nothing that anyone has gone through, are currently going through, or will go through that Jesus cannot relate to, sympathize with or encourage his children in. Jesus is so gloriously and marvelously sufficient!!

When I read a passage like the one above I am driven to the gospels to analyze the context of some of the days within the context of Christ’s earthly ministry. I am left with an open mouth and enriched praise when I consider that Jesus was under no obligation to become a man and deal with the junk that comes as a result of our sin in this fallen world. He did this because he loves his Father. Jesus is loving his Father as he is loving his sheep.

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Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.(Mark 14.61b-62 )

I remember back to my early days as a Christian, shortly after conversion. I was gobbling up everything that I could get my hands on. I felt like a whole new aspect of reality was opened to me. But after a short time I recall quietly struggling with something, asking, in the privacy of my own mind, “Does Jesus believe that he is who I believe him to be?”

The implications of this are staggering. On the one hand if he did not–then I am making up a Jesus to fit my own religious needs. I am an idolater.

On the other hand, if he does believe that he is God’s Son, the Savior of the world–then I am on the right page, my faith is therefore validated and strengthened.

It was this exchange with Caiaphas that helped me to see a little bit more clearly and as a result smile a bit more confidently.

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“You are holding what is destined to be one of the worst-selling books of all time.” – Todd Friel

This is an ‘endorsement’ for a new book entitled The Sovereignty and Supremacy of King Jesus: Bowing to the Gracious Despot by Mike Abendroth. The endorser’s point is simple: people don’t like to be ruled because they want to rule. And therefore, they don’t like Jesus the king because they prefer Jesus their buddy. This of course, is nothing new.

Abendroth has the deck stacked against him a bit. This also helps support the need for such a book.

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There was once a day when soldiers and kings mocked Jesus with the props for a fake king. However, there is a day coming when his opponents will bow before him in all regal splendor as he wields a real scepter and makes true judgments.

To his cross and above his head in shame, his enemies affixed the mocking title of king. However, in his eternal decree, and to his everlasting glory, Almighty God has affixed this indelible inscription: “I have set my king in Zion, my holy Hill.” (Ps. 2.6)

While there is no refuge from him but there is refuge in him (Psalm 2.12).

In Jesus’ 1st advent he magnified the law through his obedience & death, in his 2nd advent he will magnify it through judgment.

Because Jesus obeyed God perfectly in our place, every bud of present happiness and delight will be fully bloomed when we enter the eternal presence of Christ.

Because Jesus bore our guilt and shame, every weed of pain and grief will be finally plucked when we enter the eternal presence of Christ.

Promises, Promises

Erik Raymond —  June 13, 2011

(This is a guest post by my 15-year-old son, Bryce.)

Presidents have always made promises while they run for office. Many times these promises are so huge, so attractive, and their only purpose is to obtain more votes. But when they are actually elected, they seem to have a completely different agenda than before, and the promises are not kept.

This is a trademark of the leaders of this world. Deception, even lies, are simply the way to win.

Everybody knows this, everybody accepts this. This is why when Jesus says in Matt. 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” It seems like the big daddy of all promises. Jesus is saying this while on the earth, in human form. He says that when this world is destroyed, his words will still stand true.

What are the implications of this?

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The scene is hard to imagine.  With the Last Supper’s lingering taste still in their mouths the disciples are led with Jesus out toward the Mount of Olives.  The time of Christ’s crucifixion is at hand.

But prior to proceeding on the Scripture includes a remarkable detail:

(Mar 14.26) And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives

Can you imagine this scene?  This is a precious time of singing with the Lord Jesus as he proceeds out to walk the lonely path to Golgotha to purchase redemption for sinners like me and you.

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“and again, as was his custom, he taught them” (Mark 10.1c)

Sometimes, when reading the life of Jesus, we jump over seemingly minor details to get to bigger details that we we know are coming.

I would argue, however, that there really are no insignificant items.

Take for instance the above reference to Jesus teaching the crowds. We know that Mark 10 goes on to provide a highly charged debate between Jesus and the Pharisess on the topic of divorce and marriage.

In this case Mark puts a Christological speed-bump before us. We are bidden to slow down a bit before charging into the narrative.

And when we do, what do we find? We find the truth that Jesus teaches the crowds. Mark adds the emphasis that this was his custom.

This passage bleeds compassion. It is like a healthy pine in a forest of verses. There is pitch to be seen and felt as we draw close.

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For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. (1 Peter 1.16-17)

Would you not have loved to have been there on the Mountain with Peter? No doubt it would be the highlight of our lives to see the glory of Christ in such a dazzling manner and to hear the words of God affirming him.

It is interesting to consider how the Apostle Peter later wrote about this event.

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