We Cannot Imagine

The Lord Speaks

I’ve got 99 problems, but the Lord is bigger than all of them. Job could have said that (and did by the end of his book). So can we. Why do we appeal to God when we suffer, because we know, without thinking, that the Lord exceeds the extent of our suffering, He is bigger and more powerful than anything we can ask or imagine. No sooner than we conceive a limit for God, He exceeds it. And yet, in our limitedness, our Gini tide, God does not look down with contempt, but with the love of the vastness of His nature. Doesn’t God deserve your attention and respect today?

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They Shall Look on Him They Have Pierced

Also, another Scripture says: They will look at the One they pierced. (John 19:37)

The apostle John inserts this remark at the foot of the cross. Only John, of all the disciples, stood at the foot of the cross with Mary, Jesus’ mother, and the other women who followed Jesus. He is actually reciting an Old Testament prophet, Zechariah, one of the post-exilic prophets in the 5th-4th centuries BC.

“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)

This is a sad moment for the followers of Jesus, but something about this “piercing” has always bothered me. Why is “piercing” the operative word here? Certainly when Jesus was crucified, his hands and feet were “pierced” by nails and His side was “pierced” by a spear. And even after His resurrection, the evidence of these “piercings”
are still evident (John 20:25-27). Long after, in Revelation 5:6, Jesus’ appearance is as “a slaughtered lamb” standing in Heaven.  Forever Jesus bears the evidence of his crucifixion, the piercings in his hands and feet and side. But why? Couldn’t Jesus have chosen to rise in a body that doesn’t bear evidence of such trauma?

I believe part of this answer is found in the Law.

But if your slave says to you, ‘I don’t want to leave you,’ because he loves you and your family, and is well off with you, take an awl and pierce through his ear into the door, and he will become your slave for life. Also treat your female slave the same way.  (Deuteronomy 15:16-17)

Slaves who wished to stay with their masters after their term of slavery was up (seven years) were pierced with an awl in their ear. This means in symbol they were physically attached to your house, they belonged to you and your family for life. With our modern conceptions, this may seem a barbaric practice. But a slave, who previously sold himself to pay off debt, may find himself in a much better position serving someone else and their household, than by trying to make his own way. He may have found love and family in this new situation, and accepting the piercing was a permanent reminder of their decision.

Jesus was willing to be pierced as a slave. We had all been sold into slavery as sinners (Romans 6:17) and had no hope of redemption since no one could resist temptation and be free. Sin held us down and trapped us in death, and we have no hope without Jesus. In fact, slavery is a powerful image often employed in the New Testament to illustrate our plight.

Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death–that is, the Devil– and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.  (Hebrews 2:14-15)

But how did Jesus take all of our slavery upon Himself? He became a slave and bore the penalty of our sins. He had never sinned Himself, but offered Himself, His perfect sinless life, as payment for our debt. In exchange for His permanent enslavement, He was pierced, according to the Law. Instead of his ear to the doorpost, it was his hands and feet to the cross. As long as He lived, he would bear the payment of our sin.

But wait, Jesus died. Doesn’t that mean He is no longer a slave? Yes. But you see His payment was once for all.

so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.  (Hebrews 9:28)

Now He is alive, and no longer the slave. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. However, He still bears the marks of our slavery in His own flesh. Those are marks He received not because of necessity, but because of His love for us. Just as the slave gladly received the piercing to continue to be a part of the family, so Jesus accepted the piercing so that we could become part of His.

Interestingly, John again quotes the Zechariah passage above, but more completely in the book of Revelation.

Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, including those who pierced Him. And all the families of the earth will mourn over Him. This is certain. Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

Perhaps all the families will mourn because of the coming judgment, and that is certainly a part of what Revelation is about. But maybe many will mourn, remembering the sacrifice Jesus made for them, because they see the piercings in His hands and feet. They will see the piercings and weep because Jesus paid all of their debt and all they can give is their gratitude. Jesus was “pierced for our transgressions” and still bears the mark of His piercing.

 

P.S. I want to warn anyone who has ever had a Near Death Experience or talked to someone who has. Many of these people who die in the operating room or under similar circumstances may claim to have seen Jesus, be filled with peace and light and so on. If they have claimed to see Jesus, ask this simple question: Did you see the marks on his hands? Only the true and authentic Jesus bears these marks. That was how He proved Himself to Thomas. Any other Jesus is false cannot be trusted. And beware the false Jesus and his teachings.

Growing Up

All it takes is a seed, and under the right conditions, a mighty plant will soon take its place. But growing righteousness is a careful thing. You must have light front the Son, His truth as your daily diet. You must surround yourself in the right environment, not immersed in the temptations that we easily fall prey to, but making every effort to live unstained by the world. As you grow, you will meet challenges to match your faithfulness. Storms will come that will try to blow you over back into the dirt. But the Master Gardener is there to pick you back up again. He is never far, and sees all your trouble. He wants you to grow, and will do all that you allow Him and maybe a bit more. Be firmly rooted in His soil, grow in His light, and feed faithfully upon His truth. God bless you today.

Uncommitted!

In the gospels, Jesus walks along the seashore and sees some fishermen mending their nets. Jesus comes to them and announces clearly, “Follow Me!”. They immediately drop what they are doing and follow Him (I have to wonder where they thought they were going). But when you read in context, you find that for Peter, this was his third encounter with Jesus. He was familiar with what Jesus taught, and what Jesus’ purpose was, that is, to preach the coming kingdom. Jesus’ command to follow wasn’t from random stranger, but from a trusted friend. Maybe there is something to that in our modern context. We don’t call people to follow a random stranger they just met, but someone with whom they’ve become acquainted, even befriended. This is discipleship. Discipleship is commitment.

Jesus clearly calls for an answer to his command, “Follow Me.” When He does this, He isn’t suggesting that He is one choice among many for a route to everlasting life. He isn’t suggesting a part-time partnership. He is primary to the plan. It is His blood that atones completely for our sins, and no one else’s. It is He who is the “way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:8) “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:12, ESV) There is no one else who has the truth. (See John 6:68-69)

You may have trouble believing in a historical Jesus. Yet it has been clear, more than clear, even crystal clear, from historical evidence, personal testimony, and even scientific evidence, that the message of Christianity is absolutely reliable. It has not been proven beyond all possible doubt, but beyond all reasonable doubt. There is still room for faith. But many people: 1) don’t look at the evidence, 2) they base their opinion not on the facts, but on the evidence of their eyes, seeing Christians who fail in their discipleship, 3) they have a prior bias against Christianity anyway, and don’t either care or understand that their eternity is at stake. Therefore, when it comes to Christianity, most people vote “uncommitted”. This is a tragedy.

The Wave of Christianity has moved from through Western culture, continues on through Europe, the Americas, and now is moving through Asia to come full circle. Yet Europe is what is called by sociologists, “post-Christian”. That is to say, they have experienced the tide of the Church, gotten used to it, and now no longer deem it relevant. The Church in Europe is fast becoming a relic of history. The Church in America is still relevant, but its influence is diminishing. Why? Because the influence of the Christ is diminishing in the life of the Christian.

The question is about your commitment. The only way to stem the tide of dismissal and irrelevance is the commitment of everyday Christians. Will you be one to stand in the gap?

What Do I Need to Know to Become a Christian?

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For many Christians, we have been Christian so long that we have forgotten what it was that brought to salvation in the first place. It’s hard to explain to someone interested in Christ how it is to become a Christian, so we ought to take some time looking at what it means to become a Christian.

Most Religions in the world call upon a new convert to perform a number of tasks to be saved. For example, the Muslims believe in five “pillars” or tasks essential to becoming a saved Muslim. This includes praying five time a day (facing Mecca), giving alms, and making at least one trip (or pilgrimage) to Mecca. Mormons on the other hand have to spend two years doing evangelistic work, which is why they stop by your door from time to time. Catholics have to work through nine sacraments of grace, including Christening, First Communion, Marriage in the Church or Holy Orders, Frequent Confession, and even Last Rites. But all of these beg for grace. All of these in their own way beg the Almighty, or as they see Him, for grace to be saved. They are all efforts done by men to earn grace, but sadly, all of these fall far short to be worthy of salvation.

“For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9) This is what makes Christianity different from every other Religion. Every other religion relies on the effort of men to secure their own salvation from judgment, but in Christ, God has done all the work. All we have to do is accept it. But before we say it’s easy, accepting the salvation that God offers through Christ.

Far from being work, but effort enough to make it memorable, salvation through Christ forces us to recall the events outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago, When God came down and offered His own Son in exchange for our lives. Walking through salvation takes us through the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Salvation in Christ isn’t all bottles up in a single text, though there are several texts that include more than one element. This calls for reading throughout the New Testament to get the full picture.

Believe

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
(Act 16:31)

Repent

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
(2Co 7:10)

Confess

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
(Rom 10:9)

Be Baptized

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
(1Pe 3:21)

Work Out Your Salvation

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
(Php 2:12)

Giving

Lavish Expressions of Love

In light of the recent stories about churches removing people from membership for lack of attendance and lack of tithing, I am reminded of this passage in 2 Corinthians 8 about “God loves a cheerful giver”. A person should not give reluctantly or under compulsion, which is exactly what a church puts in place if they say you have to tithe to them to continue to be a member. There is some thing to be said for being an active attender of a church. A person ought not to neglect the fellowship. But church cannot demand a tithe, or make it a condition of membership. Rather, giving should be an expression of love and dependence on the Father who gives His own love lavishly in the atoning blood of his Son, i addition to the grace and blessings we receive every day.

God bless you on this Friday!