Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Michael Bird on Justification

One thing I love about Michael Bird is his balance of perspectives, old and new. I am currently reading (and loving) his book "A Bird's Eye View of Paul" published by IVP. It is a very concise book; yet I think it is one of my favorite books! Here is a quote on justification:

"First, justification is forensic: it refers to a status one has before God. A person who is justified is declared right or acquitted of wrong…God graciously justifies sinners, the wicked and the ungodly through the provision of setting forth Christ…Second, justification is also covenantal…Justification by faith implies fellowship by faith, as those who believe in Jesus are legitimated in their identity as members of the new-covenant community…Third, justification is eschatological, as the verdict anticipated on the Day of Judgment in Jewish thinking has been declared in the present…Fourth, justification is effective in that God’s transforming power to free believers from the power of sin is the logical result of the declaration of acquittal…In sum, justification is the act whereby God creates a new people, with a new status, in a new covenant, as a foretaste of the new age" (Boldface added).

Monday, December 29, 2008

Faith and Love Based on Hope

There are many ideas floating around as to what the church’s greatest need is today. Some camps insist that we need doctrinal purity; others press the need for social justice and other ministries of compassion. Perhaps it is a bit of a dead end to suggest ‘this is the greatest need of the church’. Christ’s church consists of ‘many’ local churches and all of them have their particular needs. With that said, there are some things that every church needs. Some have them and others don’t but all churches need them. I’m thinking particularly of faith and love that is based on hope.

The apostle Paul was a thankful guy. Whenever he prayed he gave thanks for what God was doing in His church. Perhaps we can learn from him in this regard. Many of us get our ‘kicks’ in complaining at what is wrong with the church. But Paul was ‘always’ thanking God for the churches that were planted and growing by the grace of God. Here’s what Paul says:

We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints. Your faith and love have arisen from the hope laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard about in the message of truth, the gospel that has come to you. (Col. 1.3-6a emphasis added).

The central thing for the apostle Paul was the gospel; the announcement that Jesus Christ died and rose again, is reigning at the right hand of God, and has accomplished forgiveness of sins for those who would believe. This is a gospel full of hope. It is the gospel of a good king who will one day put the world to rights. It is the gospel of a merciful lord who bore God’s wrath in our stead. The Christian has great hope because ‘in Christ’ he is buried, risen and will appear with him in glory. Just as Christ was declared to be in the right at his resurrection so will the Christian.

The results of this hope are continual faith in Jesus and love for all the saints. Christians who are gospel-centered will not sway in their beliefs about Jesus (i.e. that he is the crucified and risen lord of the world) but will discern between truth and error. Gospel-centered Christian’s will also love one another indiscriminately. Tom Wright says, “The solid facts about the future hope of Christians are a powerful motivation for constant faith and costly love in the present” (TNTC, Colossians and Philemon, 52).

So what is the greatest need of the church? I’m not sure. But what does the Church need? The answer is a focus on the gospel and the hope that it gives. This will give way to “constant faith” and “costly love”.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Taking a Week Off

I’m really looking forward to this week. I’ll be celebrating Christmas twice this year. And if I am so blessed perhaps by wife will join me in a little adventure to Niagara Falls. So I will not be blogging this week! Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

10 Things Part 7: The Scriptures part 2


We need story. Story explains what life means and how we are to get on in our world. Christians claims that the Bible contains the true story of humanity and it’s relation to God. It tells the story of God the creator. He made all things good and created human beings to be in special relationship with him and his created order. But Adam was deceived by the devil and sinned against God, pulling judgment down on himself and the entire human race. The fascinating thing is that although man descends deeper and deeper into rebellion God acts with mercy. He will put the world to rights. God will deal with the problem of sin and the evil where it originated.

God works within his creation by creating a covenant family through Abraham; this family will be a blessing to all nations and is promised the inheritance of a land. He shows his covenant love to his family by recuing them from slavery to evil and he gives them a law so that they can be a light to the nations. He gives them the temple as a meeting place with humanity and God and provides the sacrificial system so that a sinful people may approach a holy God.

Eventually, however, Israel is unfaithful to God. Instead of living in unique relationship with him they become just like everyone else and worship idols. The bearers of the solution became a part of the problem. This sin invokes the wrath of God and his people are sent into exile and God’s meeting place is destroyed. The people of God suffer under foreign rulers and they long for the day when they would be freed from evil, when evildoers would be judged, Israel would be given a King who would shepherd his people, they would receive God’s spirit, creation and humanity would be renewed, they would be able to meet with God again and their sins would be forgiven (and many more promises). Things ‘would’ happen. The prophets proclaimed that God had not utterly forsaken his people but that God would fulfill his promises to his people and to the whole world.

When John the Baptist came on the scene preaching that the Kingdom of God has drawn near God’s people, at least some, would have realized that God was finally fulfilling his promises. The true return from exile was happening. God was doing what he said he would do at last. Jesus came and exercised authority of all sorts of evil including demons, sickness and even ‘natural disasters’. Jesus was taking care of evil at its root. He was also forgiving sins apart from the temple and pronounced judgment on it, showing that he was himself the eschatological meeting place for God and his people. Sinner’s and outcasts were welcomed to be apart of the celebration showing that God was building his renewed people. Jesus was exiling people out of this evil age into the kingdom of God. He was at last becoming King.

Jesus didn’t meet the expectations of some, however. Many people were hostile towards Jesus because his kingdom agenda looked a lot different than what they expected. They expected fireworks but Jesus brought a mustard seed. Jesus knew that he would be killed because of his kingdom work. He was claiming that his kingdom way was the right way and that all other kingdom ways were wrong and would be judged by God. But his death was no accident. The very judgment that would fall on Israel, and the whole world, would be focused on Jesus himself on the cross. Jesus became a substitution for his people. Jesus would create a kingdom people.

Jesus did not stay dead. On the third day he rose again. Jesus is the leader of the church. He is the one who was raised ahead of the rest, thus, inaugurating God’s new creation. He ascended to the right hand of the Father and is exercising his messianic reign. This is good news because Jesus is the good King who brings justice, mercy, forgiveness and love. He will come again and complete the work of new creation fully establishing his kingdom on the new earth.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How did Satan make evil commit suicide at the cross?

John Piper explains how satan committed suicide at the cross of Jesus. I think that this is probably one of the best things I have ever heard in relation to the 'Christus Victor' metaphor of the atonement. It shows that 'Penal Substitution' and 'Christus Victor' arer not opposites but they are intertwined.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

10 Things Part 7: The Scriptures part 1

With so many ideas floating around in our world today how are we to know truth? Some would say that there is no such thing as objective truth and we ought to make up our own reality. Others think that there is ‘truth’ out there but we certainly can’t know it ourselves. Christians, on the other hand, claim that there is truth and it can be known (however, they certainly are not the only ‘group’ who believes this). But how is it to be known? The answer is ‘through the scriptures’.

The Scriptures function like a diamond. It gives us theology, instruction, and story. In other words, it tells us what God is like, how we are to live in relation to this God and answers the question, “what is God doing?” The Bible has all of these which is part of the reason why it is such an awesome book. Today one aspect of the diamond.


Where would we be if we were not told what God is truly like? How does the Bible tell us what God is like? Example: For all we know he could be an angry tyrant who punishes people just because he gets pleasure out of it. Or perhaps he doesn’t give a hoot about all the sin, evil and injustice in the world and just watches to see how we might get by on our own. No, the Bible tells us that God is a loving creator who is wrathful when we settle for less than him and is justly angry when his creation commits all sorts of injustice, sin and evil. We find in the Bible, then, a theology of the wrath of God. It is not set out in point form but it is there. The same is true of the love of God. Throughout the Bible God acts towards humanity, and his chosen people in particular, in a loving way. He does not choose to leave us to ourselves and our own destructive sinful ways but has set out to rescue humanity from its plight. The Bible tells us what God is like. So another reason why I love Christianity is because we are given the Bible which tells us the truth about God. Yea I realize this whole 10 things is a bit silly now that I am including a part 1 and part 2. Oh well.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jesus, the Pharisees, and Michael Bird on 'Reformed' Christianity

This morning I was reading through Mark 7 where you will come across a story about Jesus, Pharisees and Purity Regulations. The question that hangs over this story seems to be, "What makes a good Jew?" The Pharisees thought that they were the ones who were 'righteous' and that Jesus and his disciples were 'un-righteous'. But as Jesus points out, they defined themselves with man made rules and ignored parts of the revealed will of God. They were hypocrites. God's plan for Israel was coming true right before their eyes; but they were so committed to their 'rules' that they were failing to see that scripture was being fulfilled in and through Jesus. I wonder how much of a danger this is today. What makes a good Christian in our minds? Is it according to tradition or according to scripture?

I consider myself to be a Calvinistic Baptist. Many people today are using the term 'reformed' to refer to people who believe in the 'doctrines of grace'. But I find Michael Bird's words sobering:

"But in all the recent talk about "evangelicals" and the "reformed" I am noticing another trend. To use the same analogy, there is a group of the "reformed" out there who have basically decided to go and sit in their room, lock the door, and do nothing but than rant and moan about how everybody in the evangelical hallway is a theologically defficient turnip and only those in the room with them are among the doctrinally righteous elect. This group is typified by several traits: (1) They are more excited about all the things that they are against than anything that they are for; (2) They preach justification by faith, but in actuality practice justification by polemics; (3) They appear to believe in the inerrancy of a confession over the suffiency of the gospel; (4) They believe in the doctrines of grace, but do not treat others with grace; (5) They believe that unity is overrated; (6) They like doctrines about Jesus more than Jesus himself (and always defer to the Epistles over the Gospels); (7) mission means importing their debates and factions to other churches; and (8) The word "adiaphora" is considered an almost expletive.

Trevin Wax: Favorite Books of the Year Giveaway

Blogger Trevin Wax is giving away his favorite reads of the year plus an ESV Study Bible. There are three ways to win.

#1. THE REASON FOR GOD - Tim Keller
#2. CULTURE MAKING - Andy Crouch
#4. WHY WE’RE NOT EMERGENT - Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck
#5. HOW PEOPLE CHANGE - Timothy Lane & Paul David Tripp
#6. THE BIG PICTURE STORY BIBLE -David Helm & Gail Schoonmaker
#7. JESUS MADE IN AMERICA - Stephen Nichols
#8. RESIDENT ALIENS - Stanley Hauerwas & Will Willimon
#9. WORSHIP MATTERS - Bob Kauflin
#10. The Sermon on the Mount through the Centuries - Jeffrey Greenman, Timothy Larsen, and Stephen Spencer

Friday, December 12, 2008

10 Things Part 6: Christ Delivers His People from Slavery

In the book of Exodus we read of God’s people, the Israelites, and the terrible slavery they are facing by the Egyptians: “…The Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor…they made their lives bitter” (Exodus 1.11a, 14a). God had made a promise to Abraham that he would build a family and that through them the nations would be blessed (Genesis 12). God would remain faithful to his promises. So when the Israelites cried out to God, he heard them: “But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act” (Exodus 2.23-25).

So what did God do next? He sent them Moses, a redeemer of sorts. The Jews were promised that God would give them a land and Moses was the one who was to deliver them from slavery and lead them to the promise. They were delivered from their slavery as they passed through the waters of the Red Sea.

The story of the exodus is really a picture of an even greater act of God, a greater exodus. Baptism isn’t just a meaningless ritual (see Romans 6), on the contrary, it is a ‘symbol’ packed with rich theological truth. When a Christian passes through the water of baptism they stand parallel to the Jews, who in Moses’ day, passed through the Red Sea and were delivered from their slavery. All of humanity faces a greater enemy, an enemy greater than the Egyptians or the Romans; the enemy of evil, sin, and death. Now Jesus, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit (think the cloud in the wilderness), is leading his people to the true land of promise, the new earth. Jesus delivers his people from the ugliest slavery of all.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

My wife and I are singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel at my parents church this sunday. This version has got really great words:

1. O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel

2. O come, Thou Rod of Jesse free
Thine own from Satan’s tyrrany
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave

3. O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And be Thyself our King of Peace

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

10 Things Part 5: Jesus Conquers Evil

D.A. Carson soberingly (I don’t think that’s a word) says that if you have not yet suffered then you will. Although people suffer in different capacities, as long as we are living in the present form of the world we will experience the hardship this fallen world brings. I myself have not suffered greatly in my life but I have seen others around me experience horrible things. As I read through the opening chapters of the gospel of Mark I am comforted as we are given a ‘sneak peak’ as to the identity of Jesus. He is the true Son of God with whom God the Father is well pleased. He will accomplish what this dying world truly needs, namely, rescue!

The term ‘Son of God’ can refer to a few different things but one idea is that which is found in the Old Testament in reference to God’s people. Sometimes Israel as a nation is referred to as ‘the son of God’. In Exodus we read, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Israel is my firstborn son’ (Ex. 4.22) or, “You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. The Lord saw it and spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters” (Deut. 32. 18-19). By referring the Jesus as the Son of God, Mark is pointing to Jesus as the one who will accomplish redemption. He will be faithful where Israel was unfaithful. Jesus can be trusted.

‘Son of God’ can also refer to Israel’s king. In 2 Sam we read, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men…” (2 Sam. 7.14) or, “I will tell you the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you” (Ps. 2.7). Jesus, in other words, is Israel’s true king. He is the one to whom the Law and the Prophets pointed. He will bring to fruition all the promises that God made to his people including the defeat of evil.

Jesus is the faithful Israelite and Israel’s, and thus the worlds, true King. After Jesus is declared to be the Father’s Son with whom he is well pleased, Jesus is sent into the wilderness to battle evil. Whereas Israel succumbed to the temptation in the wilderness in the 40 year period, Jesus is faithful and does not give in during the 40 day period. Jesus assures us that evil has been defeated when he goes to the cross. When evil thought that it was doing its worst, when it was all heaped onto Jesus as he hung pinned to the cross, it was actually, as John Piper says, committing suicide. It’s as if evil gave all that it had, invested all its energy, and focused it all on Christ. But then the tomb was empty. I love Christianity because Jesus conquers evil!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Gospel According to Acts 5

Philip Proclaims the Gospel (Acts 8.4-8, 12)

Today I will be skipping ahead a little bit in Acts to discuss the proclamation of Philip.

- The scattered church preaches the word (v. 4).
- Philip proclaims the Christ (v. 5).
- The crowd listens to Philip and is filled with joy because of the miracles beings performed (vv. 6-8).
- Philip proclaims the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (v.12).

The promise that the gospel would be preached to the ends of the earth is being fulfilled through the dispersion of the disciples due to persecution. Although to many the Samaritans were not considered real Jews, the gospel is proclaimed to them. The gospel is for all people. The message that Philip proclaims concerns the Christ. The gospel is a message about Jesus. The gospel is that Jesus is the messiah. Evidence is given for this (i.e. that Jesus is now reigning) through miraculous healings and exorcisms. The language of the Kingdom has not been lost in the early church. Preaching that Jesus is the Christ is preaching the Kingdom. Jesus is the true King of the world! The proper response to this message is baptism.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Saved for Community

I've heard it many times: “I don’t need to go to church. Jesus and I are alright!” Right now I am reading, for the third time, through Scot McKnight’s amazing book on the atonement titled A Community Called Atonement. One of the things I love about this book is how he reminds us of the many purposes the atonement accomplishes.

For McKnight the Kingdom of God is a society where the will of God is established. I think that Jesus’ proclamation is all about him becoming King and that through this all the ancient promises made to Israel are coming true. However, this kingdom is realized in the context of a society. It is good news that Jesus is becoming King because that means true peace and justice for all its subjects. What the atonement is intended to do then is create this society where Jesus reigns, where God’s will is established.

This isn’t the only reason for the atonement that McKnight provides (i.e. the save us from the wrath of God, to restore cracked eikons, etc.) but I think that it is a helpful one. Salvation, to be sure, is something that happens to individuals but it is never individualistic. Our sins are atoned for so that we may be part of something bigger. We are to participate in God’s grand redemption of the whole kosmos (i.e. Ephesians 1) within God’s new humanity, the church. The church is the foretaste of what is to come and the atonement brings us into this community. The next time you want to sleep in on Sunday morning remember this: “This is what you are saved for!”

Friday, December 5, 2008

10 Things Part 4: Jesus Christ Gives Marriage It's True Meaning

I love my wife. But I’m convinced the reason I love her the way I do is because of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ alone is what gives our marriage its true meaning. The book of Ephesians has been fundamental to shaping the way we think about marriage and relationship between husband and wife. The goal of our marriage isn’t simply that people may look at us and say, “They look happy.” Yes we want people to think that about us, but more importantly we want people to look at our relationship and see a parable of Jesus Christ and his people, the church. Marriage isn’t ultimately about my wife and I, it is a pointer away from us to a greater reality. When I lead and humbly serve my wife it demonstrates the work that Christ accomplished on the cross on behalf of his people. When Alicia submits to my leadership it pictures how Christ’s church submits to him as Lord. We are both equal in that we are made in the image of God but God has designed the roles of husband and wife in a way that will magnify his grace and bring him glory. I love Christianity because it brings true meaning to marriage and enables my wife and I to live for God’s glory.

I thought that I would post the vows that my wife and I made to each other on our wedding day in August. We formed ours vows from reading Richard Baxter’s memoirs of his wife.

Nick’s Vows

Alicia, I know that God has ordained marriage to be a picture of Christ and his bride, the church. On that basis I give you these promises:

I will love you fully and will strive to avoid all things that could quench our love.
I will seek to enjoy you above all of God’s creation.
I will respect you and be the defender of your name.
I will lead you in all things pertaining to godliness through the instruction of God’s Word.
I will aim to put sin to death in my life and humbly serve you just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.
I reserve my body for you and you alone.
I will stand by you in all times, good or bad, and will help you bear your burdens.
I will never leave you but will forever be your delightful companion in Holy Love and heavenly hopes and duties when all other outward comforts fail.

I pledge you all these things before God.

Alicia’s Vows

Nick, I know that God has ordained marriage to be a picture of Christ and his bride, the church. On that basis I give you these promises:

I will love you fully and will strive to avoid all things that could quench our love.
I will seek to cherish you above all God’s creation, tending each day to our relationship so that the flame of our love does not diminish.
I will place myself under your leadership as your helper, as the church submits herself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ who redeemed her with His blood.
I will reserve my body for you and you alone, and seek to make you the happiest man on earth.
I will stand by you in all times, good or bad, and will help you bear your burdens.
I will never leave you but will forever be your delightful companion in Holy Love and heavenly hopes and duties when all other outward comforts fail.

I pledge you all these things before God.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

10 Things Part 3: God Creates a New Family Through Jesus Christ

In a sermon on the fulfilled family John MacArthur says, “[Family] is the place of intimacy. It is the place of joy. It is the place of memories that build the foundation of life. It is the place of love. It is the place of socialization. It is the place of morality. It is the place of security. It is where you build confidence.” Family is important. Humans were created not to live in isolation but to live in communion with fellow human beings.

When sin entered into the world the entire creation was put under a curse. God’s response? He creates a family. God would bring the nations to himself through the family of Abraham. But when this family fell into idolatry they went into exile and experienced God’s judgment firsthand. God promised his people that he would not utterly forsake them but they would one day return from exile, God would draw near to his people, he would forgive their sins and the nations would come to know the one and true living God.

When Jesus came on the scene summoning people to repent and believe in the gospel he was challenging them to become the new people of God, the returned from exiles ones. However, Jesus’ kingdom plans were different than other kingdom plans. Jesus’ way was the way of welcome. We see this clearly in Luke 15, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” (Luke 15.1-2). Jesus was welcoming the lowest of the low to be part of the reconstituted people, or family, of God and the Pharisees didn’t like it. Jesus responds by telling three parables. All of them speak of God’s grace in welcoming repentant sinner’s to himself.

The prodigal son, in particular, also contains hints that the return-from-exile is happening right under the Pharisees noses and they are missing out on it. Jesus tells a story about a rebellious son going into a far country and returning to his father. In Jesus’ welcoming of repentant sinner’s to himself, the ‘great return’ was taking place. He was building a family around himself.

All those who see their need of Jesus are welcomed to come. Christ builds the true family of God. So here we find true intimacy, love, socialization, morality, security, and confidence. Yet another reason why I love Christianity!

God’s Righteousness Creates God’s Renewed People

I was just reading a review of Michael Bird’s The Saving Righteousness of God and it gave me enough of a sneak peak to whet my appetite. Here is a quote from the review:

The phrase “righteousness of God” is no technical apocalyptic term (against Käsemann) but must be seen against the background of Judg 5:11; 1 Sam 12:7; Pss 51:14; 71:15–16; Isa 46:13; 56:1; CD 20:20 (14–15) as “denot[ing] the saving action of God now revealed and now manifested in the gospel of Jesus Christ” (15), whereas the verb “is strictly forensic” (17). Paul’s apocalyptic theology is based on his narrative world, that is, on the concept of God’s relationship with Abraham and Israel mediated through the covenantal promises, including the hope for the restoration of Israel and the salvation of the Gentiles (31). The unity of Jews and Christians in the body of Christ is not only an illustration of the effects of salvation but is constitutive in that God’s saving righteousness creates a new people (33).

Go here if you would like to read the rest of the review.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What I Asked For For Christmas

I think the books I am looking forward to the most are by Michael Bird. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite scholars. If you have the chance, search 'Michael F. Bird' on google and read some of his articles online. I greatly benefited from his article on the New Perspective.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Gospel According to Acts 4

Jesus, Our Leader and Savior (Acts. 5.27-32)

- The apostles are questioned before the council (vv.27, 28).
- Peter declares his faithfulness to God rather than men (v.29).
- Although these men put Jesus to death God has raised him to his right hand. Jesus is identified as Leader and Savior and Israel is now given the opportunity to repent to receive the forgiveness of sins (vv. 30, 31).
- Both the apostles and the Holy Spirit are witnesses to these things. The Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God’s message of the gospel (v. 32).

This section of Acts, again, confirms that the apostolic proclamation of the gospel centers on the fact that God raised Jesus after he was killed and exalted him to his right hand. Jesus is also identified as Leader and Savior. With his resurrection he leads his people into the new age. He is the one man who was raised in the middle of history before the general resurrection of all God’s people. He is also the Savior, delivering his people from this present evil age through the forgiveness of sins. Repentance is offered because the gospel is a message ‘about Christ’ that is ‘for us’ (although in this case it should be noted that the offer is given specifically to Israel). The apostles and the Holy Spirit are witnesses to all that has happened to Jesus. Those who obey the message of the gospel will receive the Holy Spirit; the gift of the new age.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Patiently Reading the Bible

Sometime as we read our Bibles we can bring our culture’s attitude of wanting things quick and easy. This manifest’s itself in different ways. First, we can start a Bible reading plan and soon enough it can become systematic. Although it is sometimes beneficial just to read quickly through the text we live in a world quite removed from the biblical authors and it can take time to place ourselves into the world they were writing in. Second, when we do finally get to the point where we are struggling with the text we can settle for easy answers. We can rush around trying to find immediate solutions to our problems; all the while forgetting that we need the Holy Spirit’s guidance if we are going to get to the true meaning of Scripture. In my own life, if I run into a difficult portion of Scripture I can actually lose sleep over it. My mind goes back and forth wondering which reading is correct; I even get anxious.

The Bible is a great book. There are simple truths that children can easily understand and yet the books that have been written to explain the Bible are too numerous to count. We need to keep this in mind as we come to the Scriptures. We need to be humble, recognizing that we are going to die, we will never exhaust the truth that can be found in this book, and we are not called to know ‘everything’. As long as we are human we will ‘know some’ but will never ‘know all’. We need to approach the word of God with patience.

Friday, November 28, 2008

10 Things Part 2: Jesus, the Messiah, Came to Die for the Sins of His Renewed People

Jesus’ death did not take him by surprise. There is something that gets my heart beating about the statement, “His face was set toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:53). Jesus was determined to die for his people. In his ministry the Jewish longing of the exodus was becoming a reality; he was gathering a renewed people around himself. And the Messiah would die for the sins of his people, for his sheep. Jesus warned that if people didn’t repent, especially Israel, they would face imminent judgment and would perish. But Jesus would bear the judgment of his followers on himself. He would become to true sacrifice bearing the wrath of his Father. N.T. Wright says:

"Jesus, then, went to Jerusalem not just to preach, but to die…Jesus believed that the messianic woes were about to burst upon Israel, and that he had to take them upon himself, solo. In the Temple and the upper room, Jesus deliberately enacted two symbols, which encapsulated his whole work and agenda. The first symbol said: The present system is corrupt and recalcitrant. It is ripe for judgment. But Jesus is the Messiah, the one through whom YHWH, the God of all the world, will save Israel and thereby the world. And the second symbol said: this is how the true exodus will come about. This is how evil will be defeated. This is how sins will be forgiven." (Wright, The Challenge of Jesus, 91).

I love Christianity. Through Christ I can be apart of God’s renewed people, the returned-from-exile ones, and have my sins forgiven by the penal substitutionary death of Christ. Christ is the new temple where humanity can meet with God.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

10 Things Part 1: God is Faithful to His Covenant

Jesus came with the mission of the Kingdom on his mind. He was a man that worked with a purpose (and, thus, not a unique man with an unfortunate ending). We glimpse the background for this purpose in the history of the world and the people of God, namely Israel.

Early in the Old Testament narrative a significant tragedy occurs; an event that would change the course of history forever. I am referring, of course, to the fall. God had created humanity to live in harmony with him and the created order but it was all spoiled by human rebellion, by sin. Humans and the created order were then placed under a curse by God himself.

But God in his rich grace did not respond by destroying his entire creation (as he justly could have) but would set out a plan for rescue and renewal within the created order. Specifically, he called a man by the name of Abraham; through this man he would create a nation who would be the means of fixing the problem of sin. However, all does not go well. The people who are called to be a light to the nations, who are called to be the ‘set-apart ones’, themselves fall into sin (the great sin of idolatry). They were sent into exile and it seemed as if all hope was lost.

But God is righteous (as he so often proved to be to the nation Israel). He would be faithful the covenant he made with Abraham and with his people. He would deal with the problem of sin.

The Messiah came, born of a virgin. He would be the means by which God would be faithful to his covenant. Finally God would deal with the problem of sin and death. Christ lived his life, bringing the kingdom to bear on the present, living as the faithful Israelite, and as the faithful man. He was crucified, rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God. He is the true King of all creation. In and through all of these things God has dealt with Sin (we will see how this relates to individual humans in a later post) and has inaugurated his good Kingdom where justice and peace are truly seen. This gives true hope. Sin and evil have been defeated in Christ. There is no where else to look. I love Christianity. Or should I say, I love Christ.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

10 Things I Love About Christianity

Sometimes I can be a negative person. I can so easily fall into the bitter trap of only focusing on what I think is wrong with Christianity today. So it might be beneficial if I spent some time thinking about what I loved about the faith. I just want to think about Christianity in general (i.e. the work of Christ, the gift of the church, etc) not necessarily on what is good about the state of the Christian faith in our time. It is truly a blessing to be a Christian and we need to be thankful for all that is ours in Christ. So I am going to make a list of 10 things that I love about Christianity or 10 things I love about being a Christian. O' Where shall I start?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Gospel in a Nutshell

N.T. Wright: “When Paul talks about “the gospel,” he means “the good news that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and therefore the Lord of the world.” Now, that’s about as brief as you can do it” (Interview with Trevin Wax).

Martin Luther: “The gospel is a story about Christ, God’s and David’s son, who died and was raised and is established as Lord. This is the gospel in a nutshell” (Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings).

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Gospel According to Acts 3

The Resurrection and Salvation in Christ (4.1-12)

- The apostles were preaching the resurrection of the dead in Jesus and were placed in custody for their message (vv.1-4).
- The apostles were questioned as to what power or name they had healed the lame man (vv.5-7).
- Peter explains that the man was healed through the power of the crucified and risen Messiah (vv.8-10).
- Although Jesus was rejected by his people he has become the ‘cornerstone’ and there is salvation in no other name (vv.11-12)

The early church consistently preached the resurrection of Jesus. This particularly annoyed the priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees. In his devotional commentary on Acts, N.T. Wright translates v.2, “They were thoroughly annoyed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming that ‘the resurrection of the dead’ had begun to happen through Jesus.” Of course, if you were a person in authority this could mean trouble and would leave you feeling threatened. The resurrection of this one man in the middle of history means that he is the world’s true authority, the world’s rightful Lord. Because Jesus is the one who heals it is evident that he is the one who saves, bringing people into the Kingdom of God to experience the blessings of his messianic rule. Although he was rejected God has vindicated him. Jesus is the only saviour and no one can be delivered from this evil age except through him. The gospel is a message ‘about Jesus’ that is ‘for us’.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Crowded House Statement of Faith

Trevin Wax posted a link to Crowded House's statement of faith. You can go to their website here; but I thought I would just post it here because I think it's pretty sweet!:

We are a people longing eagerly for the future

We are waiting for the arrival of a new heaven and earth, which God will bring about through his transforming power. A day is coming when Christ will come again to establish his reign of justice and freedom. He will create the home of righteousness which his people crave, banishing forever sin, Satan and death.

In renewed bodies in a renewed creation, we will live as God’s people in unbroken relationship with God and each other. At the centre of everything will be the one God, eternally self-existent as God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the creator and sustainer of all that is. His character is constant and his purposes unchanging. He will be all our glory. This will be life as it was meant to be lived – life in all its glorious and satisfying fulness.

We are a people formed decisively in the past

From before the creation of the world, God the Father chose us and blessed us in his Son, Jesus. We depend entirely upon the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, our King and Rescuer. Jesus is God-in-the-flesh, who shares our humanity, having been born of Mary. She conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit while she was still a virgin.

As the Son of God, Jesus came to make God known. As the Servant of God, Jesus came to undo the corruption of humanity and the divine curse on creation caused by the first man, Adam. He came to liberate us from our devastating self-love and to rescue us from the consequences of our ongoing wilful refusal to love God and others. Jesus fulfilled the promises made by God to Israel and realized all that Israel was called, but failed, to be. He gave us a glimpse of the world to come, calling the people of God to follow him and to demonstrate the goodness of his rule by their shared lives.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus lived the life Adam and the rest of humanity could not live. And through the Holy Spirit, Jesus died the death that Adam and the rest of humanity deserve to die. On the cross he endured and exhausted God’s righteous anger against our rebellion, paying its penalty in full. Jesus rose physically from the dead, proving the effectiveness of his death. The resurrection is the promise and beginning of God’s new world.
Jesus then returned to his Father in heaven, from where he now rules over all creation. He sent his Spirit to apply all that he achieved on the cross. The Spirit equips us as God’s people to live for Christ and speak of him so that others might submit to his gracious reign. In this way Jesus sovereignly gathers his church as he rescues those the Father has given him.

We are a people living joyfully in the present

God has given his Spirit and word to his people to equip us to serve him in the world and to bring us to his future.

God the Holy Spirit is the giver of life, the one who convicts of sin and the creator of saving faith. He is the one who opens our eyes to see the beauty of Christ so that through the Spirit we succumb willingly to irresistible grace. He is the one who gives us new hearts to turn to Christ and trust him. The Spirit sets us apart for Christ and makes us more like him through the word of God.

The Holy Spirit is the author and interpreter of the Bible, which is God’s word to his world concerning his Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible reflects the characters and circumstances of the people who wrote it, but the Holy Spirit guided the entire process. So in the Bible God reliably reveals his character and plans as he tells the story of his grace in rescuing sinners for his glory. Because it is the word of God, the Bible is the final authority in matters of conduct, questions of life and issues of truth.

We live together in union with Christ as his church. God is littering the world with local expressions of this church. We celebrate our cultural diversity while enjoying unity in Christ. These churches are a means of grace to a needy and dying world. God has given us the task of making the good news of Jesus known to those without God and without hope. Our community life points ahead to what God has in store for his world. So, by word and life, we model and offer reconciliation to those alienated from God by their wilful rejection of him. We call people to turn from despising God and urge them to trust in Christ. Without Christ, people face only the judgment of being forever cut off from God and all that is good. It is by grace that we live in the present as forgiven sinners. We never earn the right to be called children of God. The gift of faith hears the ‘not guilty’ verdict that God will proclaim for his people on the coming day of judgment and enables us to live in the light of it now.

As those welcomed, forgiven and accepted, we become a community of those who welcome, forgive and accept. We respond to the gospel in baptism, expressing that we have become part of the people of God. The Lord’s Supper is the meal we regularly share together to celebrate the work of Christ and express that we continue to be part of the people of God together. Our shared life proclaims the Lord’s death until he returns to make good the invitation to his eternal banquet.

copyright © 2008 the crowded house

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fighting Awkwardness for Christ’s Sake

“And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well” (Matt. 9.20-22).

There seems to be nothing worse than an awkward situation. We hate feeling that way. We fill up our conversations with meaningless ‘chit-chat’ so that there are no moments of silence for us to feel uncomfortable. On a trip to the local mall one day I reached for the door handle and touched hands with another dude. Boy that was awkward!

In an effort to stay comfortable we stick with the friends we have and avoid interacting with others. But Jesus wasn’t like that. Jesus was willing to put himself in situations that we would deem ‘awkward’ for the sake of the gospel of the kingdom. In his day the woman who came to touch Jesus would be considered unclean. This would make her somewhat of a social outcast since those who she came in contact with would also be seen as unclean. People avoided these kinds of women.

As Christians we are called to act as the body of Christ. Jesus’ followers are to show the world what it looks like when Jesus becomes king, tell them that Jesus is Lord and how they might come under his rule (i.e. repenting of their sins and turning to the Lord of the world in faith alone). This means that we should be willing to put ourselves in awkward situations; even if it means that we might be seen as being ‘unclean’. Jesus is our new temple where we can go for ‘cermonial washing’ so we don’t have to fear being made dirty. Worship Christ not hand sanitizer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kingdom Action: Thankfully Inconvenient

My wife and I are busy. Not as busy as some. We don’t have kids which means we don’t have to feed them, pick them up from school, drive them to hockey games, piano lessons, swim meets, etc. Nevertheless, we have enough things to do that keep our schedules somewhat full. We drive 45 mins-60 mins each way to work, work for 9 hours, Alicia cooks dinner right when she gets home, we maintain our devotions with each other, wash dishes, do laundry, and spend time with each other so that we can grow in our relationship. We thank God for all these things and we realize that one day we will be much much busier (I can see a Father smiling as he reads this).

Sometimes when we are busy it seems like we only have enough time for ourselves. Sure we go church on Sunday morning and evening and on Wednesday night but in terms of having time for others, no way! When we think of ‘doing’ anything else, driving to another place after work, then the whole thing seems overwhelming.

How are we to work for the Kingdom when we seem so busy? The Derek Webb song comes to mind, “I don’t want your cash or coins, I want your time, I want your voice, I want the things you just can’t give me.” So how can we give Jesus and his kingdom our time when it seems like we have none?

Perhaps there are 3 things we can do: 1) we can examine the way we use our time to see if we really have more time than we think; 2) we can look for opportunities to work for the kingdom of God where we are (i.e. it may not be a matter of simply adding something to our schedules; and 3) we must prepare to be inconvenienced for the sake of the kingdom.

On the last two points, sometimes we can feel that serving Jesus is a matter of adding a whole bunch of things to our schedule. However, this can, perhaps, cause a false dichotomy (or a works-righteousness) in our thinking (i.e. we go to work, church and then we do the kingdom work.). But this isn’t the way it has to be. How can we work for the kingdom at work or at church? Perhaps it means showing compassion to a co-worker that gets on your nerves and telling them about Jesus' death and resurrection; or maybe it means driving out of your way to pick your friend up for church? We can work for the kingdom where we are.

As for Derek Webb’s song, Jesus does want more than our money. He wants everything. He wants our hearts. Some people have been blessed with the ability and time to minister to the poor and needy. But I think that it does please Jesus when we give of our income, not just our time, to these causes (if our hearts are right). So let’s be generous with our money and give to those ministries and to those who minister that show what it looks like when Jesus is king. Be prepared to sacrifice your own comfort and convenience for the sake of the Christ. Most importantly, let’s invite people to come along and experience the kingdom for themselves through faith in Christ.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jesus, The World’s True Authority

A few weeks ago thousands of eager voters stood outside in Times Square awaiting the results of this years U.S. election. After the results were in, the mass erupted into celebration at the news that Barack Obama would be the new President of the United States.

Why the celebration? One of the reasons, no doubt, is that people desire change. With all the suffering in the world and all the problems that come with living this side of Genesis 3 people want someone that can help. They are looking for an authority that can make a difference. What they are really looking for is a Messiah.

However, today people are looking for a Messiah, just like in Jesus’ day, that they are comfortable with. “I want an authority that can make things better but please don’t ask me to change!” As soon as someone starts making demands on us and we are suspect of their motives and then we crucify them.

Barack Obama is not the Messiah; he is not even the ‘true’ authority (even though Americans are to respect him since God himself has given him this position). Jesus himself is the real authority. He is the Messiah who can rescue us from this evil age. He is the one who teaches with authority, has the authority to heal diseases, the authority over all evil, the authority to command the ‘natural’ order, the authority to forgive sinners, and, for that matter, he claims that all authority on heaven and earth has been given to him. He is the true authority. He is the Lord of the world.

Do you desire change? Do you want to be delivered from all the evil that surrounds us? Ultimately, no human leader can truly help. The only authority who will bring true everlasting change is Jesus the Messiah of the World. He was crucified by those who rejected his authority (at the end of the day this is you and me) but was raised from the dead by his father; this declared that he was the Son of God with power.

If you desire to be truly saved from this evil age you must recognize, as N.T. Wright says, that the ‘line of evil runs right through you’. All of us are part of the problem. We have sinned against our maker. We need atonement. Only the Christ can give this to us. Believe on him. Believe that he is the only crucified, risen and reigning Lord this world will ever know and you will be saved.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Gospel According to Acts 2

A Healing, an Explanation and an Opportunity (Acts 3.1-26)

- A man lame from birth is healed outside the temple (vv. 1-10).
- This amazing healing calls for an explanation. Where there are miracles there are chances of misinterpretation (vv. 11-12).
- They had delivered the righteous and holy servant of the God of their ancestors to be delivered over to be killed. But God raised him from the dead (vv. 13-15).
- It is by faith in God’s risen servant that this man has been healed (v. 16).
- Their ignorant actions were part of God’s plan that the Messiah would be the suffering servant (vv. 17-18).
- They need to repent so that their sins may be forgiven, times of refreshing may come, and that Christ may return and restore all things (vv. 19-21).
- These are the days that the prophets pointed to, Christ being the prophet that Moses pointed to (vv. 22-24).
- The blessings of the Messiah are for all people (vv.25-26).

The explanation that is given for the miraculous healing is that God has raised the Messiah from the dead. Jesus is the King that was prophesied in the Old Testament and this is what it looks like when he sits on the throne. Jesus’ death was not ultimately according to man but was a part of God’s divine plan to save his people from their sins. Jesus is the suffering servant whose death makes forgiveness possible. Faith is how one experiences the life of the messianic age and all the blessings that come with it. Those who repent will have their sins forgiven, experience the refreshing of the messianic age and look forward (since their sins have been forgiven and they will not be judged) to the time when the Christ returns to restore all things. The essence of this sermon is that Jesus is the risen Messiah that brings the blessing of the messianic age into the present and gives his followers great expectation of their consummation in the future. Through his death one can have their sins forgiven and experience, for themselves, the blessings associated with this glorious age.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Toronto Pastor's Fellowship

My pastor and a group of men started up what they call The Toronto Pastor's Fellowship. The Church in Canada needs prayer. So please pray for this ministry that it might be far reaching for the Kingdom of God. Check it out here.

Which Way Will You Go?

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7. 13-14).

In my marriage my wife deals with the maps; I take care of the driving. Maps confuse me with all the different colors and the crazy lines. Which way am I even supposed to hold it? When you’re in a strange place it’s important that you have two things: One, a map and; Two, someone who can understand it and tell you where to go. The reason of course is that a mistake in direction can mean disaster.

This is similar to what Jesus is telling us in this passage. There are only two ways to go: Either the narrow gate which leads to life or the wide gate which leads to destruction. He has just laid out the map for us in the Sermon on the Mount. Those who follow Jesus cannot just relax and take the easy road. But we must live our lives in light of the Kingship of Christ. When we pledge our allegiance to Jesus we start on a new road. We live our lives in the present in accordance with God’s good future. Jesus’ teaching tells us what life looks like when the Kingdom breaks into his disciples’ lives. When Jesus becomes King this is how his servants live.

But he has not left us alone on the journey. Like my wife helping go in the right direction, Jesus has given us his Spirit through which he administers his rule from heaven. He has also given his life for us, choosing the hard road of the cross, ensuring us that our sins are forgiven through faith in his name. We have amnesty with this great King and we can live joyfully as his subjects in the present world. What a gracious king Jesus is!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

He Doesn't Believe Jesus Is God But This Is What He Says...

I was reading through the book Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ and I found this surprising quote by John Hick who denies the deity of Christ:

"Traditional orthodoxy says that Jesus of Nazareth was God incarnate...who became man to die for the sins of the world and who founded the church to proclaim this to the ends of the earth, so that all who sincerely take Jesus as their Lord and Savior are justified by his atoning death and will inherit eternal life. It follows from this that Christianity, alone among the world religions, was founded by God in person. God came down from heaven to earth and launched the salvific movement that came to be know as Christianity. From this premise it seems obvious that God must wish all human beings to enter this stream of saved life, so that Christianity shall supersede all the other world faiths. They may perhaps have some good in them and be able to function to some extent as a preparation for the gospel, but nevertheless Christianity alone is God's own religion...It is therefore divinely intended for all men and women without exception. All this follows logically from the central dogma of the deity of Jesus."

He is exactly right. The deity of Christ is so offensive to our culture because it claims Christianity alone to be "God's religion". So how important is Christ's deity to us?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Christmas Tradition

I love Christmas. Yes I like the presents. I love the family. I love the food. I love going to my parents church, lighting candles and singing Christmas hymns. I love going to the Pilkey’s (family friends) on Christmas eve and thinking how it just seemed like yesterday that I was sitting in that same basement eating red Jello salad. Together all these things make up the Christmas tradition that I have come to know and I love it.

More recently, however, I have come to celebrate a new tradition. Whenever Christmas is approaching I start early with the Christmas music (Not the Santa kind but the Jesus kind. Handel’s Messiah is a favorite). I pick up a Jesus book (This year it’s Putting Jesus in His Place by Bowman and Komoszewski). I read through a gospel; and then I thank God for the Incarnation. I like this tradition and I highly recommend it!

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Matt. 1.23).
Written by Nick Mitchell © 2008 The King and His Kingdom Blog

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jesus Preached.

"And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan" (Matt. 4.23-25).

Throughout the gospels Jesus preaches. It is important to note that the gospel is a message that is to be spoken. We need to emphasize this in a culture where if you're not being 'preachy' then you're doing us all a favor.

With that said, Jesus' ministry is not characterized by preaching alone. It is often said that he heals the sick and casts out demons. In other words, he is helping those who are dealing with the sufferings due to living in a fallen world. He demonstrates, through his healing, what the kingdom looks like. This is what it looks like when Jesus becomes King.

Christians need to follow Jesus in this regard. However, we cannot say 'Im a Jesus follower' just because we do good things to people. Following Jesus does not simply mean doing good things. We need to accompany our good works with preaching. Giving food to a homeless person is not preaching the gospel. It can be interpreted a thousand of different ways. Yes, help people. Show our world what it looks like when Jesus becomes King! But then explain yourself.

The sad thing is we can give people a foretaste of the Kingdom and they can miss out on it all together if we never tell them how to enter in. As is evident in the Scriptures, people need their sins forgiven. They have offended the Lord of the world. Yet, as John Piper says, 'we can have amnesty with the King'. We can be sure that if we have faith in him that times of refreshing will come. So again, show people what it looks like when Jesus becomes King but don't let people miss out on the Kingdom.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Free Hymns

Covenant Life Church is giving hymns away for free!

Is Our Gospel Big Enough For Mary?

We need to heed the warning of Mark Dever when he asked the question at T4G 2008', "Is our Gospel too big?" We must be careful of calling everything gospel. But it seems to me that part of the good news, at least for Mary, was what Thomas Schreiner calls 'the great reversal' (as he says in his introduction to Luke in the ESV Study Bible). This is what it looks like when Jesus becomes king.

"'And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me,and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear himfrom generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm;he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thronesand exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things,and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel,in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers,to Abraham and to his offspring forever'" (Luke 1.46-55 ESV).

Written by Nick Mitchell © 2008 The King and His Kingdom Blog

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Gospel According to Acts 1

Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost (2:14-41)

  • The Spirit was a key promise of the messianic age (i.e. the last days) and this Spirit has now arrived inaugurating the last days (vv.14-20).
  • Jesus’ death did not mean that God had abandoned him. In fact, it was all part of the divine will (i.e. there is significance in Christ’s death). God was sovereign over Christ’s suffering (i.e. God is sovereign even over evil) and demonstrated his acceptance of Jesus by releasing him from death (vv. 22-31).
  • Jesus has been exalted to the highest honour in heaven and now pours out the Holy Spirit on his people (vv.32-35).
  • God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah (v.36).
  • Because of this message people must repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. They will receive the Holy Spirit. These blessings are for all people (vv.28-39).

The Messiah that was promised and prophesied in the OT has come. Jesus, the Messiah, is now reigning in heaven from his throne. The promises of the eschaton are now partially here (i.e. the Spirit is already here but the final consummation of the earth is not yet.). Jesus is the Lord and promised King who bestows end-time salvation in the present on those who call on him. Everyone who repents and turns to Christ receives the forgiveness of their sins and the eschatological gift of the Spirit. Peter’s gospel has a promise/fulfillment theme. It also highlights the Trinitarian work of God (i.e. God has made Jesus Lord and King and Jesus bestows the Holy Spirit.). We also see hints of the ‘already’ not ‘yet’. The Gospel is the announcement of who Jesus is and the salvation that is available through his name.

Written by Nick Mitchell © 2008 The King and His Kingdom Blog

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Emergent Kingdom

For a long time I struggled with the idea of the Kingdom of God. Whenever I read through the Gospels I realized just how much Jesus preached, displayed and simply talked about it and I didn't think that Christians discussed it far enough. And when they did it seemed like it was just a sentimental term rather than anything deeply theological. As time went on, sin began to creep into my heart and I would judge others and write them off just because they weren't using Kingdom language. Because of this, I actually became somewhat fascinated with emergent/emerging leaders because they were talking about the Kingdom whereas, at least I thought, other people weren't. But what I have come to see is that merely using Kingdom language does not necessarily mean that one understands or fairly represents the heart of Jesus' message.
Some people have said that we need to return to the red letters of Christianity because that's where true Christianity lies. I need to disagree with that idea. Though it is true that Jesus' words are precious, they are no more precious than the inspired words of the apostles. We need to read our entire New Testaments to understand the Kingdom, the heart of Jesus' message.

So when we turn to people like Paul, Peter, or John we need to ask the question, "What has happened to the Kingdom language?" It doesn't seem like they talk about it that much. Well, even though the language isn't there (at least as much as in the Gospels) I would argue that the concept certainly is. And I believe it is there in ways that people like Brian Mclaren miss out on.

When people like Brian Mclaren speak of the Kingdom they emphasize God's future world being brought into the present. Jesus is Lord of the world now and we ought to build God's Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. The way this works itself out for Mclaren is that Christians should do things like work to fix the physical order and make people's lives better in the present. These are all good things and I agree with a lot of what Mclaren says but I think that his emphasis of some things and his de-emphasis of other things should cause discerning Christians to read other authors when seeking to gain a biblical understanding of the gospel.

In Mclaren's writings you will often find caricatures of the Christian gospel. I am not going to quote him directly but he often says that the gospel is not simply a way to get to heaven when you die. Again, I agree with that. But what scares me is that with those statements he seems to be including the forgiveness of sins. In other words, the forgiveness of sins is not of first importance to him. Perhaps I am wrong on this; but I think it is obvious in his writings that it's not a great concern of his.

Now back to the apostles. I think that the idea of penal substitution, or the forgiveness of sins, is of great importance to them. It was central to the gospel they preached and it is something that Christians are often called to remember. In 1 Cor. 15 the apostle Paul says, "Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." The forgiveness of sins was so important to Paul; he even says that it is an essential part of the gospel in which all true Christians stand. Do you stand on this gospel?

So why are so many people preaching a gospel of the kingdom instead of a gospel concerning the cross work and the resurrection of our Lord? May I suggest it is because they have misunderstood the Kingdom. I think some are using Kingdom language but failing to preach the kingdom.

There are other ways to talk about the Kingdom of God without using the phrase itself. One of my favorite examples comes from Galatians 1:3, 4 where Paul says, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age." Here Paul displays an awesome understanding of the Kingdom yet also maintains that the forgiveness of sins is of first importance to the gospel. There is an evil age, or an evil kingdom ruled by the prince of darkness himself, and then there is the Kingdom of God. This evil age is marked by sin, evil and death where the Kingdom of God is marked by holiness, life, peace, joy, etc. Everyone living in this present evil age is under the wrath of God and needs their sins forgiven. To be forgiven is to be transferred from one kingdom to another. We can live in God's kingdom now but we await the day when it will be fully revealed. All true Christians stand on the cross and resurrection because by these the Kingdom has been made possible for them.

Yes we should display God's Kingdom to the world by taking care of people and God's created order. But we must remember that the message Jesus gave us to preach is that, "the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." This is the only message that will deliver people from this age into the age to come. This is how people truly experience the Kingdom. They must repent and put their faith in the crucified and risen Lord of the world.

Written by Nick Mitchell © 2008 The King and His Kingdom Blog