Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Person and Work of Christ

Over the past few weeks, I have been traveling around the Midwest, visiting various family members to celebrate Christmas together (which explains the long break since my last post, sorry). In between driving, dinners, and Christmas cantatas, I spent several hours preparing for my next class: The Person and Work of Christ. Coupling this study with the message of the Christmas season has been a true joy.

The Son, 2nd person of the Trinity, came into human flesh. In his lecture on the Apostles Creed topic "suffered under Pontius Pilate," Dr. Albert Mohler described that not only did Jesus suffer on the cross, but His very incarnation was suffered for our sake. For God to become Man is a sacrifice that we should not quickly forget. Mohler went on to say that many people have died martyrs, but only one was born one: Jesus Christ.

But, as is fitting given the setting of this holiday season, we will start this Sunday, the first class of the series, at the beginning. However, praise God that Jesus' beginning was not in the manger. No, in fact, John makes it very clear in John 1 that Jesus was not created (begotten of the Father, yes, but not created by Him). Instead, quite the opposite: "Through him all things were made" (John 1:3).

From His eternal existence to His deity, humanity, roles, atonement, and future works... we will study over the coming nine weeks the Person and Work of Christ, the Son of God. As we study the single most scrutinized and publicly defamed character of world History, I hope that we may honor God in this course by holding "firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught," and that as a result those taking the course will be emboldened to "refute those who oppose it" (Titus 1:9). To recount a previous question posted on this blog by anonymous, I pray that I my split these doctrinal hairs responsibly and in accordance with God's word.

(Audio mp3 lectures will be posted weekly here.)

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

1 Peter 4:12-19 - Judgment & God's Sovereignty

Several weeks back I wrote a lengthy response to a reader's question about Job, his suffering, and God's sovereignty. The basic premise was, "He's God, you're not." For many people, that is an unsatisfactory answer to the dilemma of evil, suffering, injustices and social inequality. For me, it's the most satisfying response there could be. Why the disparity?

At my office one afternoon, I sat and discussed communication rhetoric, approaches, and strategies with an intern, himself a communication major, and writer at our firm. In his studies at a secular university he was learning about the sharp distinctions between historic Christian rhetoric, born out of a worldview of absolute truth handed down by God, and that of the secular culture today where truth is relative and God's words hold no higher authority (nay, even less) than one's own thought. The application of his study in school was that to these two diverse audiences, two diverse forms of rhetoric have emerged: the apologetic and the exegetical.

The apologetic is of little value to the believer because he can (or should be able to) understand and process the words of God as truth. Instead, he benefits from the exegesis of scripture. On the contrary, the non-believer will find little value in exegesis because it's basis is not established yet in the heart and mind of the listener.

So, why this dissertation on communication to address the topic of sovereignty? I can accept from the non-believer that suffering, evil, injustice and the like present a logical hurdle toward faith in God. But I must rebuke, on the basis of God's word, that a believer professing faith in God the Father Almighty would cite such circumstances as problematic to their faith. I openly oppose such a view within the church in light of one simple and certain exegetical truth: God is God.

In exegetical style, New Testament authors refuted any questioning of God with authoritative fashion. "Do not be surprised," Peter says in verse 12. He goes on in verse 19 to declare that we "suffer according to the will of God." Elsewhere, Paul answers the question directly, "Is God unjust? Not at all" (Romans 9:14). Job is faced with the undeniable truth of his own futility and humanity as God rants, "Where were you..." (Job 38:4 et al).

For the seeker who is trying to grasp the riches of God's glory and struggles with the perceptions of the things around him, God shows Himself merciful and good through the compassion and love of Jesus Christ. But for anyone among His own household that would question the motives and desires of God, He charges:

"Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right
way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of
understanding?" (Isaiah 40:14)

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

1 Peter 4:7-11 - Love That's Out of This World

This Sunday we'll be studying a small passage from 1 Peter that follows-up on the last lesson, Christ's Vindication. When you read the Bible in snippets, as most people do, you sometimes fail to find the connectivity and lose context from the topics that led up to the text at hand. That is the case with this text. Taken by themselves, they're very helpful instructions for day-to-day living as a loving Christian. When linked to the concepts of Christ's second coming and the much-prophesied days leading up to that event, this text becomes all the more poignant.

In prep for this Sunday's lesson, I've been reading Mark 13. I've just been pondering what these times will feel like. What it would be like to live in a day where being a Christian was an open invitation to discrimination, ridicule, torture or death. Sadly, many places in the world are already in this state of existence. If we take Mark 13 literally, I believe all places on earth will one day present this same unfavorable climate for believers.

I'm reminded of an observation that one of my friends made many years ago. The husband of a professional child-birthing coach, Chip cited Romans 8:22 and commented that every minute of labor, the mother-to-be thinks it's the worst pain she's ever had. Then the next minute, it's even worse. He then added his observation that the generations of mankind have been the same way. Every generation there are preachers that talk about how awful and sinful our generation has become, and therefore conclude that the end must be near. I cannot think of a more crystal-clear way to understand this metaphor.

So, are we in the last days? As a mother in labor, we may certainly feel that this generation is the worst the world has ever seen. Maybe the next will top it, who knows. What we do know is how Scripture tells us to deal with the ever-increasing pressures against our faith and difficulties of this world, and it's not to worry or speculate. It's to love!

We are told in this passage and elsewhere that our love should be out of this world... literally. It should come from the strength of God. Which is convenient because as I read the instructions in 1 Peter 4:7-11, I'm struck at how unable I am in my own strength to accomplish it. But, so God may be praised, He empowers us to live in loving community so great that it's out of this world.

By God's strength, we're to face the adversity this fallen world has for the Church with open hospitality, taking care of brothers in more dire need than us. We're to take on an attitude of love toward others, which will cover the rough edges that our sin one-to-another creates. We are to serve one another and speak to one another as though we were representing God to them—the God of mercy and love who has poured out His grace on His elect.

Because after all, Christ for whose name we suffer will be vindicated, the first born among many brothers. "To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11)

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wives & Husbands - Part II

A few weeks ago I wrote about a topic that is constantly on the forefront of doctrinal battles: The roles of Wives & Husbands. As a follow-up to that post, and to that topic in general, I just wanted to take a few minutes to share something that I found very moving during one of my recent times in the Word.

I love to write. So, often times as I'm doing self-study I end up writing thoughts. Some day, they may be compiled into a book. Who knows. In any case, there are those rare times when my fingers move faster than my mind and I just get passionate about a topic and "on a role" so to speak. Now, there are two possible outcomes of those excited and unbridled ramblings. It's either extremely inspiring and a magnificent art of writing or extremely undecipherable and worthy of a good hack at the backspace key. I'd like to think that this was the former.

I was considering the concept of a "treasured possession" and its significance in theology. Without really thinking, I began to type. I'd like to share with you the ramblings that left me with no other thought at the end other than to truly treasure my wife and to commend her publiclcy for the ways she honors me:

Like the Sons of God in Genesis 6, God chose a people with whom to initiate a covenant of love, and this covenant was also likened to marriage. God spoke to Israel, "Your Maker is your husband—the Lord almighty is His name" (Isaiah 54:5).

Why would God "marry" mere mortals? What prompts Him to display such amazing love and mercy? To be sure, we can never understand precisely why He chose to do so. What we do know, however, is that it was not based on Israel's merit. They did not deserve this covenant. God says, "It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity" (Deut. 9:5).

We also know God's intended effect for His choice. We know why, if not for their merit, He treasured His possession, Israel. "You will be my treasured possession," said the Lord, "…you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6). A kingdom of priests, made holy and consecrated for His worship, Israel would bring praise to God on earth. They were instruments of His praise and worship. Just as a good wife reflects well upon the husband who loves her, so would the world look to Israel and see the glory of the one who "treasures" her.

Husbands, if you desire honor and respect from your wife, treasure her! Wives, honor your husband who treasures you.

For more detail, listen to my expository teaching on 1 Peter 3:1-7 in mp3 format.

Labels: , ,