Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Reformation Day 2016

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Romans 4:1-3 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Note to Readers: You are invited to listen to a podcast on Reformation Day at the Growing Christian Resources Podcast site: For those wanting to know more about the Reformation, read a review of an excellent book by Erwin Lutzer on the subject at


October 31 is a landmark day for Christians throughout the world. This particular year marks the 499th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting of the 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, wherein he was airing his grievances against the Roman Catholic Church's system of indulgences. With the then newly invented printing press, Luther's document spread like wildfire throughout Germany, sparking a sociological, theological and spiritual revival. All Bible believing groups, including Southern Baptists, are deeply indebted to what God did through the Protestant Reformation that began on October 31st, 1517. 

In a 2007 sermon, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Dr. Paige Patterson noted the following about Reformation Day for Southern Baptists link:

“If you want to be faithful to the Book, and if you want to be faithful to that part of the Reformation that died on every hand (for teaching believer’s baptism) … then stop being ashamed of being a New Testament Christian and a Baptist,” Patterson said. “You are not judging anybody else’s eternity. Many other folks who are not a part of our movement are born-again believers. Praise God for that. All we are saying is that the best way to be faithful to the Lord Jesus is to keep the whole of the Great Commission.”

Today's post is aimed at issuing forth two direct challenges to Southern Baptists and all other Bible believing groups about Reformation Day, October 31st: A rejoicing challenge and a take back challenge. 

The Rejoicing Challenge: 3 reasons to rejoice on Reformation Day, October 31st 
So why rejoice over Reformation day, October 31st? 

1. First of all, the root or formal cause of Luther's call for Reform had to do with ultimate authority in the Christian life and church.  The big question Luther needed to answer was: is the Pope and his statements concerning who went to heaven and who did not the ultimate authority for the church, or is it sacred scripture that God alone revealed to communicate matters pertaining to this life and the one to come? As Martin Luther wrestled over such questions, his conclusion was - Scripture alone! 

2. The second reason to rejoice over October 31st and Reformation Day is due to the fact that the Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone was recovered. In contrast to the man-made traditions of the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, Luther and those after him re-asserted the Biblical truth that faith alone is both the necessary and sufficient means of receiving the gift of salvation.  Thus Justification by Faith Alone became the central doctrine or material cause driving the vehicle of the Protestant Reformation.  The doctrine of scripture alone (sola scriptura) was Luther's fuel in the engine that drove His call for reform - Justification by faith alone (sola fide).  Luther himself noted that Justification by Faith is the one article upon which the church rises or falls.

3. Then the third reason to celebrate Reformation Day, October 31st, is because the Biblical concept of the church was recovered. As Martin Luther denounced the Catholic Church's system of indulgences, a second question emerged: how is a man or woman made right with God? A church that does not derive its authority from the scriptures nor teaches the Biblical concept of the Gospel - justification by faith alone, cannot be deemed a true church. 

Roman Catholicism of 16th century Europe, as well as today, communicates faith to be necessary for salvation - however it teaches that faith by itself is not sufficient.  According to Rome, one must participate in the Roman Catholic church system of baptism, confession, penance and Mass to be deemed right by God and to stay right.  

The Gospel in the Reformation's recovery of the church shined forth not as a candle but as a brilliant sun, outshining all other would be contenders. If God had not raised up men like Martin Luther to spark the Reformation movement, then perhaps you nor I would be here celebrating the revival of Biblical authority, justification by faith in the Gospel and the necessary truth of the local church committed to both those truths. The church today still needs to heed the cry of reform uttered back in 1517. Moreover, the Word of God is the standard by which all churches need to yield, thus requiring each church to check its practice and theology against that standard. 

So we need to answer the challenge to celebrate Reformation day due to what God did in calling us back to the Bible, the Gospel and the Church. But now let me issue a second challenge, a take back challenge if you will...

The Take Back Challenge: Let's take back October 31st and celebrate God's Word, the Gospel and Jesus' mission for His church
It is time to take back October 31, and use this day to proclaim the truth of scripture and the reformation, sparked on October 31, 1517. Truly the message of the Reformation is a message about "after darkness, light" (post tenebras lux).  Gospel Light, not darkness, should characterize our lives as Christians.  October 31st has been for years by Wiccans and people of the Pagan/Witchcraft worldview to observe one of the so-called "spirit nights" on their yearly calendar. Christians need to take a God-centered event like the Reformation and remind themselves of how God led His church back to the Bible and salvation through faith alone in Christ alone. 

Closing thoughts:The Reformation was about calling forth people from spiritual darkness into the light of Jesus Christ.  Someone once said: "It is more effective to light a candle than merely curse the darkness".  Let's light the Gospel light and shine the glory of the Gospel.  As Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 - “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

Saturday, October 29, 2016

An overview of Matthew's Gospel

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Matthew 21:5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”  

Recently I have been eating lots and lots of apples. In the area and region where we live, apple picking season means trips to apple orchards or events associated with apple picking. A few weeks ago my family and I went to two orchards and picked enough apples to equal out to roughly ten bags that one might purchase at a supermarket. My wife told me we would never eat all of the apples before they were spoiled. I took that as a challenge and as of this writing, I'm working on the final big bag. I've eaten a lot of apples in the last three weeks. Do you know though, I still like apples and look forward to eating another one? Yep. I know. Its weird. What can I say, I can't seem to get enough of fresh-picked apples!

When it comes to Jesus Christ, can we ever get enough of Him? At least it ought to be the case for the Christian. Whenever we consider the opening portions of the New Testament, four biographical, eyewitness narratives are dedicated to Him. Today I want us to consider Jesus Christ as He appears in Matthew's Gospel. 

Jesus Christ is the King in Matthew
Per the testimony of church history, Matthew was the first Gospel composed by the Apostle Matthew under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. According to scholar Robert L. Thomas in his book: "Charts of the Gospels and Life of Christ", Matthew 21:5 is key to understanding Matthew, since in it we find the phrase: "behold your King". 

Further inspection of Matthew 21:5 will reveal that Jesus' Triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a Donkey was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, which reads: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Matthew's pattern throughout his Gospel is to quote Old Testament passages as proof of Jesus Christ as the Messiah King. One source has counted 50 Old Testament verses quoted in Matthew and 75 allusions, making it the Gospel which refers most often to the Old Testament. 

As we consider how Matthew unfolds the theme of "Jesus is King", we can note the following observations:

1. The birth narratives of Matthew 1-2 include a genealogy featuring Christ's bloodline back through King David and Abraham, as well as a visit from the Magi to worship the "King of the Jews" in Matthew 2:2. The birth accounts in Matthew and Luke pertain to Jesus' human nature, since He is God as pertaining to His Divine nature. 

2. Jesus opening sermon, the "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5-7, is His Kingly address outlining the life of the disciple and what discipleship ought to look like with respect to conversion, growth and maturity and how the Christ-follower treats others and follows after Him. There are a total of five sermons or "discourses" of Jesus recorded in Matthew. Dr. Walt Kaiser of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has pointed out that at the end of each major teaching block in Matthew, we read the following refrain: "and it came to pass when Jesus had ended these things" (Matthew 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). 

3. We see Jesus entering into Jerusalem in Matthew 21 as the "King of the Jews" presenting Himself to Israel. He is also the "King of Kings" in what would be His final closing public sermon, the "Olivet Discourse", which features Him as the Judge of the nations, or "King of Kings". 

4. The superscription on the cross in Matthew 27:37 reads: "This is Jesus, King of the Jews."

5. Following His resurrection from the dead, we find Jesus stating to his disciples in Matthew 28:18 that "all power in Heaven and on earth" had been granted to Him. 

These are some of the key texts in Matthew which unfold for us the Kingly identity of Jesus Christ. As the King of Israel, Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies that predicted a Divine and human King that would issue forth from David's bloodline and set Himself up over Israel and what will be ultimately, the whole earth (2 Samuel 7:13-16; Psalm 2; Psalm 110). The humanity of Jesus is highlighted in several spots in Matthew, such as the birth narratives (Matthew 1-2); His baptism and temptation (Matthew 3-4) and of course His crucifixion and resurrection (Matthew 27-28). 

More next time...

Friday, October 28, 2016

How the Old Testament anticipated Christ's ascension

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Philippians 2:8-11 "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

The last couple of posts have featured passages of scripture that speak of the event of Christ's ascension. Much like His cross and resurrection, the ascension can be discussed in terms of the event itself and then the meaning of the event. 

Generally speaking, passages in the Gospels and the opening chapter of Acts record for the reader the event of His ascension. The ascension of Jesus Christ literally refers to His "lifting up" or "ascent" into the clouds - but it is far more than just stating that Jesus "went up" into heaven. In today's post, we want to consider how the Old Testament anticipated this event, and how the rich meaning of Christ's ascension is drawn from key Old Testament texts in the mouths and writings of the New Testament Apostles.

The Apostle Peter quotes David as referring to the ascension of Jesus
The Apostle Peter gives us the earliest recorded statement of the meaning of Christ's ascension that follows from that event in Acts 2:32-36 

"This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 35 Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’ 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Peter's words are said in a context of explaining the events of the first day of Pentecost and evangelizing his Jewish audience. He is urging them to look up in faith to this exalted Jesus. Remarkably, Peter's quotation of Psalm 16:18 tells us that Christ's ascension was already anticipated and predicted in the Old Testament. 

The Apostle Paul quotes Isaiah 45 with reference to Christ's coronation as the truly Divine King Who is also man
Paul's reference to Christ being exalted to the Father's right hand in Philippians 2:10 is a quotation of Isaiah 45:23, which remarkably speaks of the Uniqueness of the One true and living God as the One and only Savior, as quoted in the context of Isaiah 45:21-24:

“Declare and set forth your case;
Indeed, let them consult together.
Who has announced this from of old?
Who has long since declared it?
Is it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A righteous God and a Savior;
There is none except Me.
22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.
23 “I have sworn by Myself,
The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness
And will not turn back,
That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
24 “They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.’
Men will come to Him, And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame."

The Philippians 2:10 reference squarely places Jesus Christ, in His ascension, as being in the same category as Yahweh spoken of in Isaiah's recorded prophecy. Amazingly, Paul's emphasis is on the Deity of Jesus and His humanity which He had taken unto His Person in the course of His incarnation in Philippians 2:5-8. Philippians 2:9-11 functions as a mirror contrast to Philippians 2:5-8. telling the complete account of the Son's humiliation and "descent" from eternity into His incarnation through the virgin birth-conception. As the incarnated God in the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth, He would live, die and then (per Philippians 3:10) rise from the dead. 

Jesus of Nazareth's rising from the dead would have Him make nine post-mortem appearances, all in preparation for His ascension and thus, heavenly coronation. The exaltation of the Son of God as God in human flesh signaled the "return of the Son" into heaven as exalted Deity and glorified, physical, resurrected humanity. 

The Apostle John alludes to the Old Testament anticipation of Jesus' exaltation as to being the Mediator between God and man
Normally when we speak of the Apostolic witness of the New Testament, we typically look to what I call "the Big Three": Peter, Paul and John. We've seen Peter and Paul's references to the ascension of Jesus and how they connected Old Testament anticipation of that event. Now we find John making reference to Jesus' ascension by way of how the Old Testament understood His activity as the heavenly mediator. The Apostle John records Jesus stating His mediatorship as "the way, the truth and the life" in John 14:6. Then, in 1 John 2:1, we find John speaking of the ascended Jesus as our exalted Advocate: "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Jesus Christ as eternal God, prior to the days of His flesh, was the Divine mediator for His people. As the Old Testament revelation progressed, there became a faint-outline of at least two-Divine personages sharing the One-Divine nature (see Psalm 110; Proverbs 30:4). A remarkable passage in Zechariah 3:1-5 records what appears to be a pre-incarnate vision of the Son in heaven:

"Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. 4 He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” 5 Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the Lord was standing by."

As a result of the incarnation, death, resurrection and exaltation of the Son of God, per John's writings, we now have this same heavenly, truly Divine Mediator who operates as the exalted human representative on behalf of believers (see Revelation 5). 

Closing thoughts
Today we considered how the ascension of Jesus Christ was anticipated and foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The above referenced texts by the Apostles comprise only a sampling of the mountain of scriptures that both anticipated and explained the meaning and significance of Christ's ascension. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A closer look at the key texts of the event of Christ's ascension

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Acts 1:11 "They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

In our last post we began considering an introduction to the event in scripture that is known as "Christ's ascension". We commented on a few Bible verses and how this event relates to His resurrection and to our lives. In today's post we want to take a closer look at more key passages that refer to the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Taking a closer look at the key texts which record Jesus Christ's ascension 
Jesus Himself had predicted during His trials and journey to the cross that He would ascend to be seated at the right hand of God the Father in Luke 22:69 "But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” Such a statement is important and reminds us that Jesus' ascension into heaven was only possible because of His willing "descension" from heaven to earth. As the eternal Son came from eternity into time, He did so by means of in the virgin birth/conception - resulting in His incarnation or assuming unto His Person true and total humanity. Then of course, the point of His incarnation was to live and enter into His passion or sufferings on the cross, followed of course by His resurrection from the dead. 

The ascension as an event is recorded in the Gospels and in Acts. For now I just want to list the scriptures that record this event. Why? To remind the reader that this was no myth or fictional hallucination in the minds of the New Testament authors. This event really happened, in time and space, in history and among eyewitnesses.

Mark 16:19 "So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. "

Luke 9:51 "When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem."

Luke 24:50-51 "And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven."

John 6:62 "What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?"

John 20:17 "Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”

Acts 1:9 "And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight."

Acts 1:22 "beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

Thus we see that according to Jesus Himself, the New Testament scriptures and the testimonies of the early Christians, the ascension functioned as a watershed event that would fix the identity of Christ's exaltation forever in the full testimony about Him.  

Closing thoughts:
I thought I would close out this post with a statement from the SBC "2000 Baptist Faith and Message". With other Bible-believing Christian bodies throughout the world, Southern Baptists strongly affirm the reality and significance of Christ's ascension.  Consider the following statement: "He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man." May we all think on the event of the ascension and why this event is so crucial to our understanding and worship of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Introducing Jesus Christ's Ascension

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Luke 24:50-53 "And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising God."

Philippians 2:9 "For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name."

In the retelling of the facts surrounding the Person and work of Jesus Christ, Christians will usually speak of His remarkable life, His atoning death and His glorious resurrection. Sometimes too, Christians will add that they look forward to the time, yet future, when Christ returns. The Old and New Testaments both abound with numerous scripture references pertaining to these events. However, there is one particular event that few Christians ever mention and yet is vital to our understanding of Jesus Christ: namely His ascension. 

What is meant by "ascension"?
When we speak of Christ's ascension, we refer to two things: first, the event of Jesus being caught up into the clouds or "ascending" before His disciples on the 40th day following His resurrection from the dead; then second, when we say "ascension", we refer to Jesus' inauguration to cosmic kingship, priesthood and prophet-hood over His church. 

Both the event and meaning are entailed in conversations about Christ's ascension. The above two opening verses (Luke 24:50-53 and Philippians 2:9) respectively refer to the historical event of Christ's ascension and one of the key descriptions about the meaning of the event. The ascension, in the words of Bible teacher R.C Sproul, puts an exclamation point on entirety of Christ's first coming. In today's post we will consider some key Biblical texts that refer to the event of Christ's ascension, followed by some suggested points of application.

Getting a handle on the relationship of Christ's ascension to that of His resurrection from the dead
Two scriptures give us the beginning and ending points of the forty day period of time between Jesus' resurrection from the dead and His ascension into Heaven. Matthew 28:1 states: "Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave." According to Acts 1:1-3 "The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. 3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God." 

Much of course occurred in that nearly six week period of time. In harmonizing all four Gospel accounts together in regards to their reports of Jesus' subsequent appearances, The NIV Harmony of the Gospels gives the following scriptural references for Christ's appearances leading up to His ascension:

1. Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18
2. Mt 28:9-10
3. Mk 16:12-13; Lk 24:13-32
4. Lk 24:33-35
5. Mk 16:14; Lk 24:36-43; Jn 20:19-25
6. Jn 20:26-31
7. Jn 21:1-25
8. Mt 28:16-20; Mk 16:15-18
9. Lk 24:44-49

Christ's ascension caps off and concludes the flurry of events issuing forth for 40 days following His resurrection:

10. Mk 16:19-20; Lk 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12

Closing thoughts for today
Thus we can observe the relationship between Christ's resurrection, His post-mortem appearances and His ascension.  
By beginning to focus upon the scriptures that speak of the event of Christ's ascension, we can begin to see why this event is so crucial to our understanding and worship of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Unless Jesus had ascended, there would be no grounds for neither our worship of Him nor for His present ministry of mediator between God and man. Moreover, Christ's ascension bridges the conclusion of Christ's first coming to the anticipation of what will be His second coming. Finally, Christ's ascension marks what would be the culmination of His earthly ministry and the beginnings of His heavenly ministry as the One Who is truly God and truly man for us. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Prequel to Exodus and its significance for today

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Exodus 1:1-7  "Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them."

I'll never forget watching the Star Wars original triology as a child. I was thrilled when the series was re-released in "enhanced digital" in nineties. Numerous times throughout my college experience, I can recall staying up through the night with my friends as we engaged in a "Star Wars marathon". What came as a surprise and shock was to hear that there was going to be a new "trilogy" released to tell how the original "trilogy" all began. Where did Darth Vader come from? was he always Darth Vader? what about the rebellion? the empire? and other sundry details? As I would come to find out, this new "trilogy" would come to be known as a series of "prequels". A prequel's purpose is to tell the story of the origins and historical narrative that leads up to a current state of affairs. The new "trilogy" did achieve its purpose in filling in the gaps that would make viewing the old "triology" a more complete experience. 

When it comes to the first five books of the Bible, the book of Genesis functions as the "prequel" of prequels, functioning as the prequel to not only Exodus through Deuteronomy, but ultimately the whole Bible. 

How Genesis functions as the prequel to Exodus
To just focus attention on the book of Exodus, we find that the first seven verses of Exodus 1 assume familiarity with the Book of Genesis. Moses, the author, is filling in the gaps for his readers who were the generation of Hebrews rescued out of bondage in Egypt. We see mention of Jacob and his sons in the opening verses. Jacob's historical journey down to Egypt is contained within the so-called "Joseph cycle" of Genesis 37-50 (particularly Genesis 46). Jacob's story of course begins in Genesis 27 and winds its way into the Joseph cycle of Genesis 37-50. 

Going from Jacob, back to Isaac
As one goes backward through Genesis, we find Jacob's father Isaac was promised by God to Jacob's grandfather, Abraham. Jacob and his twin brother Esau scraped and fought their way through the so-called Jacob-cycle of Genesis 27-36. Jacob would steal his older twin-brother's blessing. Undoubtedly Jacob's conniving was truly his doing, and yet it fit within the permissive, Sovereign plan of Almighty God (see Malachi 1:1-2; Romans 9:13). 

Isaac, Jacob and Esau's father, was the original child of promise who would function as a continuation of Abraham's bloodline and the promise of God. Although Isaac would be born in Genesis 21, the focal-point of his adult life would be found in the so-called "Isaac cycle" of Genesis 24-26.

So then, what about Abraham? Abraham's story stretches from Genesis 12-25. For nearly the first century of Abraham's life (known originally as "Abram"), we find this "patriarch of patriarchs") living as a gentile in Ur of Chaldees (Genesis 11:27-32). God called him out of darkness to travel some 800 miles to the land of Canaan. His story and God's promises and covenant would provide a template for the fulfillment of such through his descendants (Isaac, Jacob, Jacob's sons and the Hebrew nation in Exodus) and ultimately Christ Himself (see Galatians 3-4).  

Abraham's story of course represents the focal point of all the prior history leading up to him in Genesis 1-11. Millennia of history passed from Adam to Noah and then from Noah down to Abraham. God's purposes and plans would funnel down from all of humanity (Genesis 1-9) through one branch of humanity (from Noah's son Shem in Genesis 9) to Abram in Genesis 11. 
The audience in Moses' day needed to be told the prequel of their story so that they would realize that God, not Egypt, and not Pharaoh, had called them and created them. 

Application and final thoughts
As we find ourselves living here in the 21st century, how familiar are our children, grandchildren and up and coming generations with the Bible? I'm certain that more kids are familiar with the prequels of Star Wars than with the book of Genesis. Just as Moses wrote Genesis under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to inform his audience of how God had redeemed them and where they fit in His grander plan, we today need to bring our children and grand-children "up-to-speed" on where they fit in today's world. Books like Genesis and Exodus remind us of what can happen when one generation (or several in the case of the time-frame that transpired between Genesis 50 and Exodus 1) goes without familiarity with God's revealed purposes in His Word. May we be faithful to our task to pass down the truths of God's word to the next generation (see Deuteronomy 6 and Jude 1:3).

Monday, October 24, 2016

The fruit of self-control

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Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law."

Whenever it comes to spiritual matters pertaining to the Christian life, we need to have minds open to God and the ability to know when to sometimes keep our mouths shut. There are those other occasions of course when we need to reign in our fear of rejection and tell others about what Jesus has done for us and what He can do for them. Self-control is a virtue that is absent in our culture and sadly, sometimes among Christian people. Whenever we speak of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, the term "discipleship" is used by the New Testament (see Luke 9:23-24; 14:27-33). 

Contained within that word "discipleship" is the idea of "discipline". Jesus taught His disciples the need to "deny oneself daily" and "to take up one's cross daily" as requisite to following Him. Whenever we consider the ninth virtue mention by Paul concerning the so-called "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5:22-23, we discover the ultimate goal of His instruction: to communicate discipleship or followership of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit. Elsewhere in the New Testament we find this quality of self-control being extolled as central to what it means to be a Christian. Today we want to understand two reasons why self-control is a needed virtue in today's Christian.

1. Necessary for a solid testimony of the Christian life. 
In Acts 24:22-27, we pick up an episode where the Apostle Paul began sharing His Christian faith with a secular public official by the name of Felix. Their conversations would last over a period of two years. What is interesting is what Paul emphasizes in his opening address to Felix:

"Since Felix was accurately informed about the Way, he adjourned the hearing, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered that the centurion keep Paul under guard, though he could have some freedom, and that he should not prevent any of his friends from serving him.
24 After some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Christ Jesus. 25 Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I find time I’ll call for you.” 26 At the same time he was also hoping that money would be given to him by Paul. For this reason he sent for him quite often and conversed with him.

27 After two years had passed, Felix received a successor, Porcius Festus, and because he wished to do a favor for the Jews, Felix left Paul in prison."

If the reader will take note of the words I underlined in verse 25, they have to do with the beginning, middle and end of the Christian life here and into eternity. One begins in righteousness, which is to say, the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to that person at saving faith and they in turn living out the Christian life in practical righteousness. The end of course is referred to by Paul with the term "judgment". Thankfully, in that resurrection, the Christian has no fear of condemnation. But as one can see, the middle word that Paul uses to summarizes the entirety of Christian living here and now is the word "self-control". Being able to fight the world, the flesh and the devil is the fight of faith prescribed for all Christians. Such "self-control" is necessary for a solid Christian testimony of the Christian life. But notice what else self-control is important for...

2. Necessary for spiritual growth in the Christian life.
The Apostle Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:5-8 "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." 

The Apostle Peter lays out what we could say is his version of the fruits of the Spirit here in 2 Peter 1. Eight virtues are listed in all, with self-control being among them. Notice the benefit that comes in excelling in these virtues in verse 8: "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." We are commanded to grow deeper and higher in our Christian walk (Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 12:1-3; 2 Peter 3:18). Such a virtue as self-control enables us to "fight the good fight of faith" and to not give-in to every whim and wave of doctrine (see 2 Romans 13:14; Timothy 4:7-8; James 1:3-7). 

Illustrating how both of these thoughts can go together
Perhaps as a way of tying both of these thoughts together: namely, solid testimony of the Christian life and spiritual growth within such, we only need to turn to Paul's analogy if the athlete in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 "Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified."  Just as a runner or any athlete practices self-control to ensure a solid life in athletics as well as to increase one's progress in their athletic ability, Christians need this Spirit-wrought virtue of self-control to run the race of faith for Jesus (see Hebrews 12:1-3).  

Closing thoughts
So in today's post we looked at why the fruit of self-control is necessary for the Christian in today's world. We noted to necessary reasons:

1. Self-control is necessary for a solid testimony of the Christian life

2. Self-control is necessary for spiritual growth in the Christian life

Friday, October 21, 2016

Summarizing the eternal, embodied, exalted and experienced Christ in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000

Image result for baptist faith and message 2000
Acts 10:38-42 "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him. 39 We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem, yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree. 40 God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by us, witnesses appointed beforehand by God, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to solemnly testify that He is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead."

Today's post aims to summarize the Baptist Faith and Message's statement concerning the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. As the opening text for today's post demonstrates, the Apostles in the early church were already proclaiming and summarizing the life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and second coming of Jesus. Such summaries derived from a combination of their reflections on an already complete Old Testament and the remarkable life of Jesus Christ. By seeing how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament expectation, the Apostles preached Him throughout the Mediterranean world. 

As the Gospel spread, the demands of such a ministry demanded additional scripture, which is why the New Testament Gospels, Acts, the Epistles and Revelation would be eventually composed. In Peter's summary above, we find a skeletal outline for what would become the Gospel of Mark years later. In seed form at least, the Holy Spirit was working forth through Peter what would be the composition of Mark's Gospel. Early church history records how Peter preached Christ years later in 62 A.D from the Gospel of Matthew and a then newly completed manuscript of the Gospel of Luke. His protege, Mark, copied down Peter's sermons under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - resulting in Mark. 

What we want to do today is understand the "high-points" of Jesus' life and ministry both then and now. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 has a marvelous summary that lays out the key "high-points" we find in the authoritative sacred and inerrant text of the Old and New Testaments. Below we will simply offer some headings along with statements from the BFM 2000. 

1. The eternal Christ
"Christ is the eternal Son of God. 

2. The embodied Christ
In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. 

3. The exalted Christ
He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. 

4. The experienced Christ
He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The embodied Christ working through the Christian

Image result for threading a needle
Philippians 2:1-5 "Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus."

Have you ever tried to thread a needle? Such an effort requires patience and good eyesight. Once the needle is threaded, clothes can be sewn or repaired. The eternal Son of God came as the needle of Deity, thrusting His way into time and history through the needle of the virgin's Mary's womb. His aim was to take unto His Person the slender thread of true, sinless humanity. Having achieved that work by the agency of the Holy Spirit, the Son became incarnated or embodied as the man, Jesus of Nazareth. He as the Divine needle would from then on include the slender thread of humanity. Jesus Christ, as the embodied Christ, is the only One who can repair and replace the dead spiritual hearts of sinners. Those sinners that respond through the Spirit's working in saving faith have their humanity joined to His and get to enjoy His Divine presence in their lives. 

The embodied Christ provides the grounds for the believer's sanctification Not only did the eternal Son become embodied to provide the grounds for salvation, but also for the ongoing work of the post-conversion Christian-life - i.e sanctification. Truly the eternality, embodying, exaltation and experience of Jesus Christ comprises the way in which any Christian or church can carry out what is urged in this text. Today we want to conclude what we began focusing upon yesterday, namely how the eternality and embodiment of the Son in true humanity (i.e the incarnation) has practical, real-world significance for readers. 

The embodied Christ and the Christian
When the Son would come to be embodied as Jesus of Nazareth, He would remain truly God, while voluntarily choosing not to exercise the privileges that come with being God. The Baptist Faith and Message notes: 

"In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin."

In His human life as Jesus of Nazareth, the Son chose to experience and express His existence through the "demands and necessities" of frail humanity in preference to the full and complete benefits that are and always will be His by virtue of being truly God. 
By being truly God and truly man, Jesus Christ connects all redeemed people in saving faith to His humanity and Deity (see 2 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 2:12-17).

When the Son came to be embodied as Jesus of Nazareth, the humanity He assumed unto His Person would ever remain His even following His resurrection and ascension. This is important, since this means that as a Christian, one has in heaven the Perfect Mediator Who represents human interests to the Father and Who also reveals Divine life to those human persons who are His in faith. Philippians 2:7-10 summarizes the journey of descent and ascent of the Son from eternity, into His incarnation, to the cross, from the empty tomb and back up to the right hand of power at the Father's throne:

Philippians 2:7 Humiliation/incarnation, beginning with virgin birth

Philippians 2:8 Earthly life and crucifixion

Philippians 2:9 Exaltation due to resurrection and ascension

Philippians 2:10-11 Ascension/enthronement/2nd coming as God and man.

Application: The eternal, embodied Christ desires to embody in you His eternal power and purposes
So why is Paul laboring to connect the moral and spiritual life of the Christian to that of the incarnation of the Son of God - Jesus Christ? Remarkably, the eternal embodied Christ, ever remaining God and man, aims to embody His eternal power by the Person and power of the Holy Spirit. Paul notes on the heels of this incredible revelation of Christ's incarnation in Philippians 2:12-13 "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." 

As the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 notes: 

"He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man."

As the eternal, embodied Christ is now the exalted Christ, He desires for His people to enjoy their experience of Him that begins at saving faith. Jesus Christ occupies three offices at this time: prophet, priest and king. As prophet, He reveals God to us by His Word, giving us the responsibility to make known His Person and work from His word. As High priest, He has made Christians His kingdom of priests to represent Him in this world and pray on behalf of others (see 1 Peter 2:9-12). As King He exercises Sovereign rule over His church and spiritually has inaugurated His reign over our world, indicating that the Christian is redeemed royalty, seated with him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6-9). Today we will close out with a verse that clearly describes how Jesus Christ as embodied Deity desires to embody His power and purposes in and though us. Note 1 John 4:17 "By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The eternal Christ and the Christian

Image result for old t.v's
Philippians 2:1-5 "Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus."

On January 26, 1926, John Baird was regarded as the first man to publicly demonstrate a machine he had designed to transmit a motion picture via the air-waves. This device was the precursor to what we know today as "television". Today nearly 80% of households in the world have televisions. People marvel still at how these familiar devices bring in picture and sound. Even more remarkably, mediums such as "face-time" and "Skype" enable people to keep in touch with friends or relatives via video and sound. Whenever we speak of what happens in the Christian at salvation, we can liken it somewhat to this modern marvel. The Holy Spirit transmits the Person and work of Jesus Christ into our spirit. At saving faith, we "tune-in" and are able to hold conversation with and fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit and the scriptures. Indeed, the eternal Christ became embodied in true humanity so that He could die and rise from the dead. 40 days following His resurrection, Jesus ascended or "went up" beyond the sight of his disciples to be exalted and seated at the right hand of the Father. This exaltation of Jesus Christ resulted in the sending of the Holy Spirit, Whose task is to bring Jesus to sinners, to call them forth from spiritual death and to "broadcast" Jesus Christ in "live-stream" to such souls that embrace Him by faith. Today we want to begin considering how the eternal Christ relates to the moral and spiritual responsibility of living the Christian life.  

Considering the urgency to live the Christian life
Paul's words in the opening verses of Philippians 2 urge his readers to be some things and not to be other things. As a church family, the Philippians are to be in Philippians 2:1-2 and 4: of the same mind, love, spirit, intent on one purpose, have humility and regard one another above themselves. In contrast, the Philippians are "not to be" in Philippians 2:3-4: selfish and conceited. These opening commands and prohibitions are tall orders for any Christian or for any church. Thankfully, Paul hitches these series of commands to extraordinary theological statements about the Person and work of Jesus Christ. 

Truly the eternality, embodying, exaltation and experience of Jesus Christ comprises the way in which any Christian or church can carry out what is urged in this text. Today we want to begin focusing upon how the eternality and embodiment of the Son in true humanity (i.e the incarnation) has practical, real-world significance for readers. 

The eternal Christ is the power source of the Christian life
Philippians 2:6 opens up Paul's grand theological tour de force about the Lord Jesus Christ. We read in Philippians 2:6 "who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped". This statement begins with the Son as He was in eternity prior to His incarnation. The phrase "form of God" pertains to the Son possessing the very properties of Deity (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, eternality, immateriality, necessity, aseity and so forth). 

Whenever we see the Son by Himself described as "God" in the New Testament, we often find the word "God" as a predicate or word equating the Son as possessing all the qualities and properties that involve being God. In other places, whenever we see "God" described as doing something to or with the Son (as in Philippians 2:9, where, "God highly exalted Him"), the name "God" implies the Father, with both the Father and the Son sharing this same Divine nature. Bible scholar John S. Feinberg notes on page 459 of his book: "No one like Him": 

"The NT clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is God. In various, NT writers show that He is as fully God as the Father." 

When we talk about Jesus Christ as He is presented in Philippians 2:6, we see Him as the eternal Christ, existing in eternity with the Father and prior to His incarnation. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 begins its article on "The Son" with these words: "Christ is the eternal Son of God." The 6th century writer Boethius gives the following definition of eternity: "eternity, then, is the whole, simultaneous and perfect possession of boundless life." The Son, on Boethius definition of eternity, could be easily described as possessing this quality of simulataneous and perfect, boundless life. Hebrews 1:8 sheds much light on what we've noted thus far: "But of the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom."

The Son's desire to be hitched to true humanity, and to your humanity
So, the Person of the Son in Philippians 2:6 has possessed all the properties that one associates with the Biblical concept of "God". But then Paul makes an interesting statement at the end of the verse: "did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped". Other English translations render this phrase accordingly:

NKJV: "did not consider it robbery to be equal with God"

NIV & HCSB: "did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage"

NASB & ESV: "did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped".

As the Son has always been in eternity with the Father, the sense of the verse here indicates that His own equality with the Father as God is being viewed in terms of all the benefits, privileges and unimaginable experience of being unending Deity. 

This first insight brought out in Philippians 2:6 hitches the commands given in Philippians 2:1-5 to what the Person of the Son has always been in Philippians 2:6 - namely the eternal Christ. The humility of the Son possessed in eternity is and will be shown to be accessible to the Christian who attempts to exercise the humility commended in Philippians 2:1-5. 

The Son's humility, union with the Father and moral perfections are to be reflected in a creaturely way by the very ones who claim Him as their Savior and Lord. The Son did not begin being humble at His incarnation. Instead, humility occupies the multitude of moral attributes that one associates with the Divine nature. The Father demonstrated such when He chose to reveal His glory in His creation - in effect stooping to make Himself known in the heavens. Further reflection shows the Son possessing this same quality as the Father - with God's actions of humility referred to as being likened unto a parent lisping softly to their child. As we will see next time, the Son's incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth would provide the proper human expression of Divine humility, an expression which is the basis for Christian life and living. The eternal Christ came to be the embodied Jesus of Nazareth, thus hitching humanity to His Person so that in His humanity, He could hitch people to Himself who receive Him in saving faith. 

More next time....  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Four more practical reasons for the doctrine of the Trinity

Image result for Trinity in stained glass windows chartres cathedral

2 Corinthians 13:14 "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all."

Yesterday's post considered four reasons why the reality of the Trinity is life-practical for the 21st century. In today's post we will consider four more reasons why the doctrine of the Trinity is highly practical for daily living.

1. The truth of people needing God
Was God lonely before He created anything? Did God create out of a need for having a creation and human beings? What makes God, well, God versus creation? God is complete and sufficient in and of Himself, with or without creation. When God created the universe, nothing was added nor subtracted from His being. Such a property of God's being is what theologians call "Divine aseity", referring to God's self-sufficiency. Creation, on the other hand, is incomplete without God. God's creation of all things was a choice, rooted in God's desire to share the overflow of love and trust shared between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Without the Trinitarian revelation of God, we couldn't make sense as to why God is complete in-and-of-Himself and more to the point: why we need Him.

2. The truth of salvation. 
John 3:16 is perhaps the most familiar verse in the Bible on the subject of salvation. Without the doctrine of the Trinity, we would not be able to make sense of John 3:16. The first phrase: "For God so loved the world" seems clear enough. But, the next phrase then states: "that He gave His One and only Son". This most familiar of all passages would not work without the reality of the Triune God. God the Father sent the Son. The Son, being God, provides salvation that is sufficient to redeem sinners. This same Son came to partake in true humanity, thus making Him capable of accomplishing the purchase of salvation through the shedding of His innocent blood. The verse then close out, reminding us of the only way anyone can receive what Christ achieved as God and man: "whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

3. The truth about the Bible
The Bible is a product of the Holy Spirit, is focused upon the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and is intended to point the way to the glory of the Father. This Trinitarian understanding of the plot-line of the 66 books of the Bible is what makes the Bible so unique. Whether we speak of the Father, Son or Holy Spirit, we are speaking about God. Each of God's two main names: "Yahweh" and "Elohim" are each found thousands times in the scriptures. These two names indirectly point to the two primary truths about God: Yahweh is a singular term, emphasizing that God and God alone is the "I AM"; whereas "Elohim" is a plural noun, underscoring how God is a plurality of Persons, strong and mighty as the Creator and Redeemer. There is scarcely a verse of scripture that is not somehow impacted by the truth of the Trinity.

4. The truth about the church
We could go on with so many more "truths" which only make sense in light of the fact that God is the Triune God. Undoubtedly we could comment on how true worship, true prayer, true evangelism, truths related to suffering and other "rubber-meets-the-road" issues are made more understandable in light of the Triune existence of God. We will however close out with how this crucial doctrine sheds light on the church. When we come to the New Testament teaching of the church, we often will find the imagery of "the body" being used with reference to Jesus' humanity and in analogy to the human body as being "one body, composed of many members" (see Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12-14). 

However, in thinking about what we saw earlier regarding the "truth about love", 1 Corinthians 13 unfolds in the greatest detail the nature of Divine love expressed through the church body. God's love is a self-giving love, dispensed for the sake of another's enjoyment. Unless God is Triune, with each Person of the Trinity giving of their love and reciprocating such to one another, we really don't have an adequate way of describing what church-life ought to be. Church members ought to show love to one another (see John 13:34-35). When the church operates in a comparative manner of love and self-sacrificial giving to one another and those around them like God does within Himself, the world will see tangible evidence of God's activity in and among the church.