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The Image of God and the Firstborn over all Creation: God must be all in all

It is only fitting that in all things good God should reign supreme, that everything that is not rebellion, that is, defiance against His nature and law, God should fill. There shall be no goodness had by any creature, no good role held or enacted by any creature, that does not belong to God!

This is fulfilled in God’s Messiah. You may say that it is against God’s nature to obey, to submit, to suffer limitations or pain, to die. I say that it is against God’s nature for there to be any goodness which is not His – in fact, I say that it is downright impossible for there to be any goodness which was not first God’s (don’t worry about time and chronology right now – God is immutable in eternity, and there is a sense in which one can say that anything God will do He has done from eternity; though Jesus died on Calvary outside Jerusalem just under two thousand years ago, He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world). You see, God’s nature is the rule of goodness and the measure of all things, and so there can be no goodness which is not found in Him. God is God and we are not, and there are goodnesses which are His to which no creature can aspire, and to which if any creature tries to aspire, that creature then becomes bad and a rebel and falls from any nearness to God, but there is no goodness which He does not have, which is not found in Him. In all things, God must be All in All, God must fill all things, all things must be summed up in God, all things must be by Him and for Him and through Him and in Him. Because of God’s absolute perfection, supremacy and authority, it is against His nature for there to be anything good which is not His and does not source from Him.

In the very beginning, before even time or space came to be, God submitted to God, and so consecrated submission. There is no doubt that submission and obedience is often good, and not a sign or cause of inferiority. Children are to obey parents, but such submission and obedience does not mean that children are less human than parents. Wives are to submit to husbands, but such submission does not mean that women are not human as much as men, or that they have less dignity, or even that their minds are inferior. Employees obey their bosses, but no one thinks that this is because they are somehow less human or inferior humans or have less dignity (doubtless, often enough a boss is better at one thing and his employee at other things, though human society is very marred, and sometimes people are in places it seems backwards, according to their natural talent or their moral character). However, it is obvious that submission or obedience is not bad, or even a sign of inferiority. So it is that, from the days of eternity, the Son, who is Himself the radiance of the Father, submits to the Father in perfect freedom and love, not because He must or because He is in any way inferior, but because He is the Son and the Father is the Father and so it is in accord with their perfectly united nature and will. The submission of the Son is an act as free, as voluntary, as uncoerced, as deliberate and chosen, as is any other act of God, be it speaking the world into existence. In the same way, the Father seeks, from the foundations of eternity, to glorify His Son and exalt Him over all and in all.

So, also, Jesus the Messiah became a man, the man (God created man to be His unique and crowning work and ruler over creation, as it were, to represent God to the rest of the creation, almost, in a way, one might say, as the ultimate or best creation). If there is any goodness ever found in being weak, suffering, or dying, it must be because God has done them all, and they are consecrated by Him. If suffering is to be consecrated, God must become a man, for in His own nature He can not suffer. Jesus Christ is perfect God and perfect man. He is the consummation of all things. He is perfect, uncreated, the Glory of Eternity, the image of the invisible God, and He is also the firstborn over all creation, the firstfruits of all creation. Christ must be, in all things, the Best and the Fullness, for He is the image of His Father and the One God loves to glorify and glory in. Creation must be offered to God in Christ, its best must be Christ and all that is good in it must be in Christ. Christ is God and Man, All in All; He descended into the depths in order that He might also rise to the heights, as the One who fills all in all.

Jesus the Messiah is really, truly man, and all that is good in man He is in perfection, as well as being the very Glory of God, the fullness of God, the One and Only Son of God, possessing perfectly all the attributes of the Divine Nature. Jesus the Messiah is the King; He rules all things, His kingdom will never end, nothing happens that He does not choose to permit, and one day God will establish His throne in the sight of the nations so that every knee will bow to Him and all will know that He reigns and none will have strength to defy His commands. Jesus the Messiah is the Prophet; He gives to men the very words of God, He tells them the decrees of the Most High. He teaches to humans the things of God. Jesus the Messiah is the Priest; it is He who offers the sacrifice that atones for sins and appeases the wrath of God and gains His favor. It is He who, by virtue of that sacrifice, pleads with God on behalf of His people and obtains mercy for them. It is through Him that humans can approach God and can find mercy, grace, and help in time of need. Jesus Christ is the Sacrifice; the sacrifice He offers is Himself. He it is who purchases forgiveness and appeases the wrath of God, it is the offering of His body that satisfies the demands of justice against us and gains for us favor from God. It is by virtue of the sacrifice of Himself, by virtue of His own merit and His own suffering, that He pleads with God, and that we can approach God in Him and find mercy and help. Jesus the Messiah is the Judge; it is He who will judge the nations, it is through Him that God will render and pronounce judgment on every human being and on every word, deed, and action. He is the Man God has anointed for all these roles, since He is His perfect and beloved Son. All that He is, I cannot tell. Ten thousand glorious names would not be enough for all He is and does.

To be our Prophet, the Messiah must be both God and man. He must be God, because otherwise He cannot enter God’s presence to receive God’s decrees and revelations, and neither can He properly teach them. He must be man, because otherwise He cannot teach men in a way that will not overpower or overwhelm them, nor can He come close to sinners. To be our Priest, the Messiah must be both God and man. For He must be a man to understand the weaknesses of humans and to empathize with us, and also to offer sacrifice in our stead, and He must be God, for He must be able to enter the blinding and unapproachable light of the Presence to present the sacrifice. To be our Sacrifice, the Messiah must be both God and man, for unless He is man He is not a suitable sacrifice for the sins of humans and in the place of humans, and unless He is God He has neither the worth required to atone for our sins nor the strength to bear them before the wrath of God until all is accomplished. His anointment as Judge too is related to His being Son of Man as well as Son of God; perhaps that fallen humans might be judged by the Man, the perfect man, the man who has withstood all the temptations that have ever befallen the human race, the man who has borne and expiated sin and extended salvation to them for so long, that it might be clear to all how atrocious, abominable and unjustifiable is the sin of the judged and how appropriate is the judgment, and that the One who gives the prize to the saved and purified should be the very One who both won and is that prize. The Messiah to be King must be both God and man, for God made man to rule over His creation, and He promised David that one of His descendants would reign on his throne and on the earth forever, and so a man must be king over creation, and a descendant of David (a man) must be king, and who but God can be the Supreme and Everlasting King?

So, Jesus is the all in all. In Jesus, all is God’s. For there can be no glory or goodness which is not God’s and does not source from Him and find its completion in Him. His Son has become a man, that in the person of Jesus our Messiah, the perfect Son of God and the perfect Son of Man, God would redeem for Himself a people, and the perfection of every goodness, whether Divine or human, would be found in the person of the Man Jesus, so that all creation would be consecrated to God, and God’s glory should be over all and in all, and all goodness should belong to God and be found in Him! Jesus, the God and the Man, has been found perfect in all things – in power, in authority, in glory, in wisdom, in all that pertains to God, and as Man, our prophet and priest and king and judge, perfect in living and in dying, perfect in suffering, perfect in all that human life entails. He is the Son of God and the ultimate and perfect Man, the second Adam, the glory of God and the glory of creation, so that all glory and every goodness is God’s forever, blessed be His name. And in His glory and exaltation, the Father is glorified, for He is the Son of the Father and the radiance of His image.

A few of the Bible verses relevant to the topic above:

Ephesians 1:9-10, 20-23, and 4:10.

Colossians 1:15-20, 2:9.

1 Corinthians 15:28.

John 5:27.

Copyright 2017 Raina Nightingale

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The Crucifixion and the Meaning of Compromise

“Let us go, therefore, to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt, who trust in horses, who rely on chariots because there are many of them, and on horses because of their strength. YHWH also is wise and can bring disaster; He will not retract His word and will destroy them. Now, their horses are flesh and not spirit. They will stumble and there will be no one to help. They will fall, and there will be no one to raise them up.”

“The wisdom of the wise I will confound.”

“I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came in weakness and trembling. My words and message were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power… We do teach a wisdom, but it is not the wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away, but the secret wisdom of God… None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.”

“I rejoice… in insults.”

I am clueless, as to why the sentiment these verses express is so much missing in American so-called Christianity. As Christians, we follow the crucified Lord of Glory. We are identified with Him – is His name not ours? The world crucified Him; it is ours to rejoice when it excludes us! “It is enough that the servant should be like His Master, and the disciple like His teacher. If they have called the Master of the House Beelzebul, how much more the members of His household!” I always thought that verse must have a tone of encouragement and joy in it! It is, plain out flat, an honor to be treated like your King. It is, plain out flat, a cause of rejoicing to be like the one you love and want to be like. It just is. Joy in exclusions, and insults, and reproaches, and, when it comes to that, crucifixions, makes plain, common sense, if you take one of the first tenets of our faith: they crucified the Lord of Glory. First, they called Him a devil. It only doesn’t make sense if you imagine that the old has not gone, that Christians are not new creatures in Christ. If He isn’t really your King, if you don’t really love Him, if you aren’t really an enemy of the world, why then, of course you want to be friends with the world! But, if He is your King and God, wouldn’t it be an outrageous honor to be treated like Him? Wouldn’t it be a little worrisome if the world didn’t, at the very minimum, insult, exclude, or lie about you?

So, after that introduction, let me give an example or two of compromise. I’m not claiming the compromises I will show are compromises that clearly deny the essentials of the faith, or that deny the commands of God. I’m simply claiming that they ignore the meaning of the essentials of the faith even while they “defend” them. If you keep the previous paragraph in mind, this should all make sense. I will also need to do some clarifying. Try to pay attention to the words I use, and not impose some idea you were taught or heard somewhere else on what I am saying.

I am not here to attack all uses of apologetics*. To make this clear, I have used apologetics at times. I have looked up ancient manuscripts for people who claim they are all corrupted. Of course, I mostly simply counter apologetics. I use some knowledge of the Greek to counter objections that what John 1:1 really says is something other than, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” If you want to call an essay on how thoroughly everything in the entire Bible testifies that Jesus Christ is the One True and Eternal God, apologetics, then you can see this. I am sometimes a little confused by what is meant by what by whom. As should already be evident, though, apologetics can, at times, be used to throw away an objection. However, apologetics will never bring someone to Christ; that must be a work of God, through the drawing of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit of Truth. Becoming a new creation in Christ is too radical a change of being (it truly is crucifixion with Christ and resurrection with Him). To rely on apologetics, to put any trust in apologetics, is wrong – it is going to the world, like going to Egypt. We must never take any kind of tactic or ideal and put any trust or reliance on it, but must always be open to the will of God, trusting and relying only on Him, walking by faith and not by sight. We should relate to human beings, to persons, in love: we must never use the wisdom or understanding of the world, for it is a weapon of the enemy.

As I have often seen it used (note: often does not mean always; there are people who do not use it in this way), apologetics is a form of compromise. I found a statement, in the first chapter of a book on apologetics by a rather prominent apologist, that runs something like this: “If Christians learn and use apologetics, then Christianity will become a reasonable option for people. We can shape the culture so that we can win converts to Christianity much more easily.” “We need apologetics so that people will think that Christians are reasonable, intelligent, respectable people, instead of lunatics and crazy people.” Much of apologetics seems to be made to convince semi-intellectuals and others that Christianity is reasonable, that it is respectable to be a Christian, that believing in Jesus is not absurd.

Is Christianity reasonable?

Do you think that God, YHWH Himself, nailed to a cross, crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and dying for the very ones who crucified Him, is reasonable? Do you think that rejoicing in insults, and persecutions, and humiliations, and beatings is reasonable? Do you think believing that one who was crucified in weakness is the God of strength is reasonable? Do you think that loving your enemies and blessing those who persecute you is reasonable?

If this is reasonable, then, Christianity is the most reasonable thing that ever happened on the earth. If this is insanity, then Christianity is the most insane thing that ever happened on the earth.

Trying to make the world that crucified your King think that it is reasonable and respectable to follow the crucified King seems like treason to me. Either, treason or a veiled denial that the crucifixion ever happened, a veiled denial of sin, a veiled denial of who God is. They hung Him on a tree – I do not want their recognition! They mocked Him while He died – I do not want them to think me respectable! If they called Him a Samaritan and one possessed by devils, and He told me the commonsense bit of information, that if the King was called such things, surely His subjects will be called the same, then I will be very worried if I am not insulted and spoken all kinds of evil against (sooner or later). If we are the Body of Christ on earth, will we not all, to varying degrees, experience in our own lives and bodies the hostility of the world against Christ?

I will now address some verses that many use to support the use of apologetics, and to claim that the use and study thereof is necessary and commanded.

“But, if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats, or be troubled. But, in your hearts, sanctify Christ as Lord, and always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you, to anyone who asks, but do this with gentleness and respect.”

I don’t care whether you translate it as “reason” or as “defense.” I cannot even see how it makes a difference. The context is clear. When you are persecuted for righteousness, you are blessed, and you will not fear or be dismayed; indeed, you must not, for it would be a denial of your blessing. Instead, you must set apart Christ as your only Lord – to do otherwise would be to compromise and deny Him – and so, when you are asked why you have hope, then you must always be prepared to give the reason: that the Son of God was crucified to take away your sin, and He has risen from the dead and reigns; because He lives, you also live. You must always be prepared to do this, because Jesus is your only Lord, and you want to exalt Him, even though it may mean insults or worse.

“Contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.” This is a command to guard against heresy. It is not apologetics, but theology, that is plainly commanded here. This means, that you give no foothold to any form of denial of the Resurrection, or the Godhead and Manhood of Jesus Christ, or any other essential, such as the Holiness of God. If you read the entire book of Jude, you find that he is urging us not to permit the denial of the Lord Jesus Christ through the perversion of the grace of God into a sanction for idolatry of various forms. It is not about convincing those outside the Church, or even keeping people inside a so-called Church, but about guarding the beliefs and practices of the Church and thrusting all who deny the faith outside.

It is plain that neither of these verses have anything to do with apologetics.

I’ve also seen people say that you should study apologetics to get to know God. It will not work. I’m not sure how anyone even came up with that. If you want to know God, pray. Ask God to show you Himself. Make your whole life about knowing God. Seek His face in everything. Learn theology by praying and obeying, by living in His presence, both taking time aside to be alone with Him, and living your entire life before Him. Be silent in His presence. Read the Bible (and other books by saints of God who have truly known Him) and resolve that you will know nothing except what God reveals to you. Do not seek second-hand knowledge, or believe interpretations and ideas because you have been taught them or managed to think of them, but seek to know God Himself and His Truth in everything. Wait on God to reveal Himself to you, and everything else, too. Put into practice what God tells you, and obey Him though it may not make sense or may disrupt your “life” – Jesus Christ is the Life and your life.

“Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things of heaven, not on the things of earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, you also will appear with Him in glory.”

 

Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale

 

*I choose apologetics for an example, an illustration, because I know it best and can most easily illustrate what I intend here, using the use, or rather mis-use, of apologetics. There are other ways in which compromise occurs, that are similar to the issue with the mis-use of apologetics (apologetics DOES have a place). I cannot find out, think about, and explain all forms of subtle or accepted compromise. Also, I bring this out because I think many are led astray through no fault of their own. This does not make them inferior Christians.

Asking God “Why?” and Declaring His Goodness

Some people think that one should never ask God “Why?” about anything. Others seem to be very interested in asking God “Why?” about all kinds of things.

Asking God “Why?” is not necessarily doubting His goodness or His love. It depends on why you are asking “Why?” and on what you are asking. Sometimes, asking God “Why?” is actually declaring that you believe that God has a good reason for what He is doing: that He is in control, that He is wise, that He is loving. Sometimes, you may ask God, “Why do you allow me to sin?” – because you hate your sin and want to be delivered from it, you know this desire comes from God, and you know He has a reason – which you would like to know. When you ask God this, or why He allows others to defile the reputation of His Name, either by their blasphemous words or by their blasphemous actions, you are not doubting that God is good, that He is holy, that He is in control, or that He has a reason for all that He does – and all that He does not do. Rather, you are expressing your confidence that all these things are true. Sometimes, you may even ask God why He gives you so many pleasant things that you can enjoy, like water, or why He made something wonderful. You can also ask God why He allows terrible things or horrible suffering without doubting His sovereignty, His goodness, or His love: you would not be asking Him if you doubted His sovereignty, for He were not sovereign, what sense would there be in asking Him why He allows these things or makes the world so? You ask Him “Why?” because you know that He is good and loving, and so you know that He must have a reason for allowing these things: He must hate them as much as you do, in fact, infinitely more! So, He must have a good reason.

In your personal life, when something affects you very closely, you may ask because you want to know His will for you: you want to know what it is in you that He wants to show forth or change. You may want to know how He wants you to pray, or to pray for those around you, who are either suffering more than yourself, or with you, or causing your suffering (or all three). You may not know what you want, or why you are asking “Why, God?” but that does not mean that you are asking “Why?” because you doubt Him in any way. As long as God has not told you not to ask “Why?” – as long as you do not know that your asking is sinful – I believe it is quite acceptable. God may want to reveal His reason to you, and He may want to do it through your asking for it. At times, it may even be sinful not to ask God “Why?” However, sometimes He may want you not to ask Him, or you may be asking nonsense or a question to which you should not or cannot know the answer. We should always obey God.

On the other side of things, I shudder when people say, “Don’t be afraid to ask God! He can take your anger and your doubt.” In fact, I cringe even having written that. God is infinite Love and He is patient beyond measure: but we must never try Him: His love is Holy love. Do not, I implore you, ever give that advice to anyone: how do you know that he or she will not die for testing the Living God, as the Israelites fell in the desert? It is a sin to doubt God’s goodness or love (though it may not be a sin to suspect that something you have been taught about God is not true and is evil: certainly if what you have been taught – or what you have understood or misunderstood – is not right). It is a sin to doubt God: it means you accuse Him of being unfaithful, of being like a man, a creature: it is a blasphemy.It is a sin to be angry with God. It means that you accuse God of sin: it means that you blaspheme. Nor does the fact that God knows how you feel mean that it is all right to accuse Him, to tell Him, not with shame, trembling, trusting in the blood of Jesus and praying to God to change you, in confession of sin, but with boldness. If you tell that to someone, you are leading them to damnation: for God is holy, and in the end He will judge all who hate Him, and all who are angry with Him will be put to shame. If you tell that to someone, you are dissuading them from repentance, from turning to God: you are attacking the conviction of sin, the shame at sin and the shame in the presence of God, which sinners rightly experience and is actually a gift, meant to lead to Jesus.

On a slightly different note, I am amazed at the questions people ask and at the ways people try to answer them. People ask why God allowed some Christian to be persecuted, or any other number of things. I cannot think of any “Why?” that can be more easily answered from the Bible than why God permits Christians to suffer for Christ. The verses answering this are numerous. Through such suffering, we are identified with Christ, we experience a special joy in our union with and blessing in Him, and we offer a witness to the world. To some extent, these purposes – identification with Christ, joy in our union with and blessings in Christ, and witness to the world – are fulfilled whenever Christians suffer and look to their Savior. This is all over the Bible. (These purposes, in some way, whenever Christians look to their Savior, but that is not a topic for this post. See One Body, Many Members or Together and Alone and All Things Are Yours: Knowing and Praising God in Pleasure and Pain)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men insult you, and slander you, and speak all kinds of evil against you for My sake. Rejoice and be glad in that day, for great is your reward in heaven.” “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God, having obtained access by faith into this grace into which we stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Moreover, we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured His love into our hearts by His Spirit which He has given to us.” “Beloved, do not be surprised at this fiery trial which is among you, but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, that you may exult in His glory when He comes. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of God and of glory rests on you.” “Though they slander you, they will see your good conduct, and glorify God in that day when He comes.” “Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of various sorts, knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance have its work in you, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may comfort those who are afflicted with the same comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by Him. For just as our afflictions abound, so also our comfort through Christ abounds. If, then, we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation, and if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort, which is evident in the same patient endurance of the afflictions we ourselves suffer.” “We encountered such fierce opposition… we felt in our bodies the sentence of death, so that we despaired even of life. This was so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.” “They went forth from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the Name.” This is what came to mind quickly.

On another note, we cannot expect to know why God does what He does, let alone all that He does. We can expect to often not understand: God is God, and we are creatures. His wisdom is infinite, and we are finite, so we will not always understand, though we can always understand that His love is behind all He ordains and all that He ordains to allow. If we cannot expect to understand why God acts in our own lives, we can expect to understand even less about why He acts in the lives of others.

 

Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale

One Body, Many Members or Together and Alone

This article is probably not what you might expect from the title.

There is a very real sense in which all Christians understand all other Christians. Most truly and most importantly, we live the same life, which is Christ. We were baptized with one baptism into one body. We are indwelt by one Holy Spirit, children of one Father, God, with one Lord, Jesus Christ, and one faith. We, who are many, are one body, because we partake of one loaf, which is the Lord Jesus, and one cup, which is His blood. This is truth, and it evidences itself.

Each of us is alone before God. We stand naked before Him, not merely as a member of a group but as one person, and some day we will realize our nakedness before Him: hopefully, we realize it more and more as our lives go on. We are in His presence as we can never be in the presence of any other.

Both these truths are evident in the Christian life. You will read the writings of some other Christian, and often enough you may think to yourself, “Oh! I know I don’t understand all he meant. I also know that I understood more of what he meant than even he could put into words!” Continue reading “One Body, Many Members or Together and Alone”

The Gift of God: The Worthiness of Christ to Eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood

“The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had blessed it, broke it, saying, ‘This is My body.’ In the same manner, after supper, He took the cup and said, ‘This is My blood of the new covenant; do this as often as you drink it.’ For whenever you eat this bread or drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. For this reason, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. But whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup should examine himself, and in so doing he is to partake of the body and blood of the Lord… If we judged ourselves, we would not be judged by the Lord, for when we are judged by the Lord we are disciplined by Him, so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”

This passage is a beautiful promise, very much like other passages, such as, “Whatever you ask in My Name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” and, “Until now, you have not asked for anything in My Name. Ask, and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” When we partake of the bread that is His body and the wine that is His blood, we are pledging ourselves to Him: we are acting our desire and request to be made one with Him and in Him, as He prayed for us in John chapter 17. We are proclaiming the death of the Lord – that Christ died, and that we live by His death, and that all our hope is in the return in glory of this same Living Lord, of which we have no doubt. So, when it says, “When we are judged by the Lord we are disciplined by Him, so that we will not be condemned along with the world,” it is saying that when we seek this union with His Son, when we accept the union Jesus prayed for us, God will fulfill His promise, He will unite us with Christ, He will fulfill the desire of our hearts. Continue reading “The Gift of God: The Worthiness of Christ to Eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood”

Grace and Truth: Perfection and Joy in Jesus and His Finished Work

“Be perfect, therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

“What shall I render to YHWH for all His benefits to me? I shall take up the cup of salvation and go into the House of YHWH.”

“The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

“God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

“If we confess our sin, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

“Rejoice in the Lord. I will say it again, rejoice.”

“Your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and the pharisees.”

“I press forward to the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

“All things are lawful, but not all things are edifying.”

“For them I sanctify Myself, that they too may be sanctified in Truth.”

As Christians, we are not content with anything less than spotless holiness. What we want is to be like Jesus Christ, our Master and Redeemer. The Holy Spirit lives in us, and we hate sin – we hate sin to the death, literally. We would crucify the flesh and its passions. Indeed, we want to be perfect for our God: anything less than absolute, pure perfection is abominable to us, as it is to Him. It is for this reason that I hate the term ‘Christian morals.’ There is no such thing. Christianity is not about morality. Even the strictest code of morality is minimalistic from our perspective; we do not want to be moral, but holy. We are not content with rules we can pass; it is our desire to be spotless, perfect and righteous throughout our entire being, in our thoughts, in our attitudes, in our words, in our actions, in all things. The absolute holiness of Jesus Christ Himself is our standard and our desire. Continue reading “Grace and Truth: Perfection and Joy in Jesus and His Finished Work”

All Things Are Yours: Knowing and Praising God in Pleasure and Pain

One of the beautiful truths about the Christian life, is that God always gives us His absolute best – which, of course, points us to His Son, because it is for us in His Son that He gives us His absolute best, which is Jesus Christ Himself, in Jesus the Son. All things He makes, in our lives, to be very good. Not a single hair of our heads will perish. That is, nothing will be lost. Nothing will turn out to the worse. Nothing will be less than the absolute best and perfect. The statement that not a hair of our heads will perish was made in the context of being persecuted, hated, and killed, and it holds for all of life. “What, then, shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son for us, but freely gave Him over for us all, how will He not, with Him, graciously give us all things?” writes St. Paul, and in another place, “For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Cephas, or Apollos, or the world, or the present, or the future, or life or death – all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” Everything was made for us. Pleasure is made for us. Suffering is made for us. Life is for us. Death is for us. Continue reading “All Things Are Yours: Knowing and Praising God in Pleasure and Pain”

Love’s Wounds in Beauty Glorified: The Christian’s Comfort in the Scars of Christ

“And in the midst of the throne, there stood a Lamb, standing as if slain.”

“Put your fingers here in my hands and your hand in my side.”

“Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, let us hold firm our confession of faith. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we ourselves, yet without sin.”

“It was fitting for the Messiah to suffer these things, and so to enter His glory.”

“He who descended to the depths is He who ascended to the heights, in order that He might fill all in all.”

Enthroned in heaven, His humanity glorified with the glory of God, Jesus bears the scars of His crucifixion. God is everywhere, and all of God is everywhere. “All things were made through Him, and apart from Him was made nothing that was made.” Again, it is spoken of the Word, “Who upholds all things by the word of His power.” Again, it is written, “In Him all things hold together.” In a beautiful psalm, we read, “If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. Behold, if I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will uphold me.” Continue reading “Love’s Wounds in Beauty Glorified: The Christian’s Comfort in the Scars of Christ”

What’s Amazing is What God Does: The Place Where Courage Is Impossible

“If we live, we live to the Lord and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or we die, we belong to the Lord, for to this end Christ both died and lives again, that He might be the Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

“You will be betrayed even by friends and family, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all men because of Me, and not a hair of your heads will perish.”

I’m writing this right now because I read a line about how someone was an amazing hero of the faith one too many times. People talk so much about how amazing some martyr was; how heroic some missionary was. They talk about being inspired by the courage of the “heroes of the faith,” and other such things. They talk about how, unlike how the world thinks, meekness isn’t cowardice, but strength under control, a form of courage. I remember once, years ago, when I said that I enjoyed reading about the lives of other Christians and God’s work through them to a lady who had been telling me about someone who was preaching the Gospels to thousands at once in one of the many countries where this is often rewarded with persecution, torture, and death. She said to me, “Yes, it’s amazing what these people are willing to do.” I almost stepped backwards. “No, actually,” I said. “What’s amazing is what God can do.” Continue reading “What’s Amazing is What God Does: The Place Where Courage Is Impossible”

The Glorified Humanity of Christ

In the first chapter of Romans, there is a verse which some translations render, “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection,” and which another renders, “by the resurrection, appointed to be the Son of God with power.”

I am not here interested in which is the more faithful translation of the Greek, for both emphasize different truths (if they are, indeed, different truths). The resurrection is the greatest proof of Jesus’ deity; it is the greatest proof that He is indeed, who He claimed to be, one with the Almighty and the Almighty Himself; the Son of God who will come on the clouds of heaven at the right hand of the Majesty; the one whose acknowledgement is eternal life and whose disregard and condemnation is everlasting death. When God raised Jesus from the dead, He proved to the whole world that Jesus is His beloved Son and said to humanity with a voice louder than that with which He spoke at Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan and on the mountain of transfiguration, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased: listen to Him!” Continue reading “The Glorified Humanity of Christ”

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit and Our Daily Bread

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

To be poor in spirit means to recognize that we are creatures. This may well be a description of repentance, for sin began when Satan told Eve that if she ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil she would be like God and she and Adam ate the fruit. Sin is creatures trying to be self-sufficient, trying to be their own creator, and so repentance means turning from this desire and insistence on being our own and our own creator and recognizing that we are creatures.

It is because we are creatures that we are completely dependent on the grace of God. Continue reading “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit and Our Daily Bread”