Identity

The Resurrection: Respect to Worship

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As discussed previously, belief in the resurrection must not rely on the fact that it is mentioned in the Bible and therefore must be believed. We must look at how the resurrection is described, how that moment changed the attitude of the disciples and the course of human history forever with the emergence of the Christian Church. Along with the analysis of the before-and-after behavior from the disciples, in regards to their hope in Jesus being the long awaited Messiah, we must analyze their behavior in regards to the reality that Jesus was in fact the Messiah they had been waiting for. More specifically, one must observe how their attitudes shifted towards Jesus, alive as the human Messiah, and Jesus, alive as the risen Lord.

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, the disciples were faithful in their loyalty to Jesus as their leader and teacher (that is, until his arrest and crucifixion, where only one disciple that we know of was present at Golgotha to witness his actual death). They spoke deep belief in Jesus as the true Messiah and son of God. However, according to their sheepish actions in the face of trial and persecution, these words of  faith prove shallow, spoken out of excitement and naivety.  Against Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion their words are little more than well-meaning lies, their faith in him quickly reduced to respect for him as a great teacher, or possibly a prophet, as believed by the disciples on the road to Emmaus. However, their faith in him as the Lord himself, as the creator God, as Yahweh, is a difficult argument to make.

The disciples’ belief in and understanding of Jesus Christ’s true identity did not settle at the stage of respect. The disciples quickly began to worship Jesus as the risen Lord himself, come down from Heaven as the Son of God. They also began to observe the resurrection as the culmination of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Following the resurrection, the disciples had no doubt that Jesus was exactly who he claimed to be. With that truth, their faith exploded and the course of human history was forever changed. Even Peter, who denied Jesus repeatedly before the resurrection, overcame his fear and was convinced of what the resurrection meant:

Acts 2:14-36

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
   and your young men shall see visions,
   and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants[b] and female servants
   in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above
   and signs on the earth below,
   blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness
   and the moon to blood,
   before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
   for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
   my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
   or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
   you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
   “Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
   Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

In the face of the resurrected Christ Jesus, the attitude of the disciples changed dramatically from respect and honor to unparalleled and unprecedented worship of a human teacher who suffered, died, was buried and then resurrected, as God himself.

Hell: A Place of Delusion

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This reflection series deals with the topic of Hell. Using Jesus’ illustration of the Rich Man and Lazarus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, this week we’re reflecting on hell as a place of delusion.

Read Luke 16: 19-31

Most people can relate to chasing the elusive, longing for more and settling for less. We desire fellowship, love, and presence, and often drive it away or can’t hold on to it when we have it. The tragedy is that for all our awareness of our problems, most of us do little to change the state we find ourselves in. We go year after year chasing things that repeatedly leave us dissatisfied. We go year after year making choices that do more to isolate us from others than unite us with them. If we know this to be true, why don’t we do anything to change and stop the cycle?

The answer lies at the center of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. While the Rich Man is open to his suffering and loneliness, what he isn’t open to is his desire to leave the place he is in, or to admit to where he is. Not once does he ask Abraham to take him out of hell. He instead requests satisfaction be brought to him in hell. He even believes that he remains the master to Lazarus even after Lazarus is in the Kingdom of God and the Rich Man in hell. The Rich Man is hopelessly delusional about his problems and his fate.

The terror of hell does not end suffering and loneliness. The scariest aspect of hell is that the Rich Man is hopelessly delusional about himself and his condition. In the same way an addict will deny the damage they have caused to themselves and others, an occupant of hell is forever in denial. The nature of sin is such that a person bound in it is so obsessed with, so fixated on themselves that although they suffer and although they are unhappy, they are addicted to the very suffering and loneliness they want to escape.

Sin tempts us with things that God knows will not satisfy us. But under the influence of sin we are willing to damage anything, anyone, even ourselves to have them. Sin creates delusion, and hell is the end result of sin in a human life, cementing eternal delusion on what is good for them and what they actually need.

Only Lazarus is named in Jesus’ story. This detail is not subtle at all, if one sees that the choice to only name Lazarus was made in the context of a lesson regarding hell. The named man Lazarus has an identity. He is real. He is accepted. He is loved. He is forever at peace with the Father, as Lazarus. The unnamed “Rich Man” is eternally anonymous. He does not know who he is. He does not know what he needs. He does not know how to fix what he knows is wrong. He is eternally separated from the God who gave him life, left to live out eternity in isolation, forever searching for what he will never find. His life was consumed by wealth that replaced God as the focus of his worship. Thus, his eternal state in hell echoes the priorities of his worldly life. In eternity as in life, he was simply “the Rich Man.”

Tuesday Devotional: Proverbs 19

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Desire without knowledge is not good—
how much more will hasty feet miss the way! -Proverbs 19:2

A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will not go free. -Proverbs 19:5

A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will perish. -Proverbs 19:9

A corrupt witnessmocks at justice,
and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil. -Proverbs 19:28

 

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. -Acts 1:6-9

Do you call yourself a Christian?  Why?

A Christian identifies with Jesus Christ and believes confidently in his claims.  While those who actually saw Jesus in person have long since passed away, to be a Christian is still to be a witness.  A Christian is convinced in head and heart that what they have seen in the Bible and in their own life is evidence that Jesus Christ is who He said He is, and that His Spirit remains with us in the person of the Holy Spirit.  To be a witness, a person has to have seen someone or something personally.  To be a witness of Jesus Christ, and therefore a Christian, a person has to be a witness of His presence in history and in their own life.  Before you answer “yes” to the question “Are you a Christian?”,  ask yourself a much more important question: “Am I a witness?”

Have I personally witnessed the presence of Jesus Christ in my own life?  Do I believe that the Holy Bible testifies to the evidence of Jesus Christ in history as a man and the incarnation of the living God? Are YOU a witness?  If the answer is still yes, we must then understand and count the cost of what it means to be a witness.  We must understand that we have been shown the living God in Jesus Christ, and that we are commanded to testify to our experience in His life, death and resurrection and what we hear Him say in the Gospels.  Just as a witness in a court proceeding puts their right hand on the Bible and promises “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”  This oath poignantly and convictingly speaks from the place of Christian identity.  Jesus identifies Himself as, “the truth and the life.”  Therefore, as Christians we are not only proclaiming to the world that we have seen and believe in the presence of Jesus Christ, but we are also promising to share only what we’ve seen and heard, so help us God.  We not only share what we’ve witnessed in the Word, but we primarily show what we’ve witnessed in bearing the Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.  Our faith in Jesus Christ MUST replicate His spirit in our own.  If we allow His spirit to become our own, we provide the world with the most honest and powerful testimony to what we’ve witnessed.  If our lives bear witness to the life of Jesus Christ, we are loved by God as a true witness.  But if our lives conflict or contradict the life of Jesus Christ, we stand condemned before a God who warned us not to bear false witness, so help us God.

 

 

Tuesday Devotional: Colossians 1

Read Colossians 1:1-15bible

We live in a world of abundant and overpowering distractions.  Take a moment to count how many different voices are calling out to you to do, to see, to go, to buy, etc.  Sadly, the God of all creation has a tendency to blend too easily into this crowd of voices.  We are busy beings, trying to do as many things as we possibly can every day, week, month and year.  Found within this busyness is, for many, a Sunday morning church service.  Within this service is a language so grand and powerful that for an hour we forget the limitations of this world and our spirits are infused with a hopeful confidence that seems strong enough to do just about anything.  Within that church we speak of God as the creator of the heavens and the earth.  Within that church we speak of God as the first and the last and the beginning and the end.  Within that church we speak of Jesus Christ as the redeemer who pays our debts and gives us rebirth.

This tone and these words are not normal.  We often don’t use them outside of the church walls.  In our daily lives we display an insultingly lackadaisical approach to the presence of that tone or the meaning of those words.  Do we really understand what it means to say that he was the beginning and will be the end?  Do we really understand what it means to profess faith and submit to the creator of the heavens and the earth? Do we really understand what it means when we bear the name of Christ? Are we truly identifying ourselves with the cross where Christ became the ransom for our sins?  The truth of the Gospel is extreme. It is unreasonable and illogical to react to it in any other way.  The reaction to the Gospel has to be extreme. Hearing its claims must move us to fall to our knees in complete submission.  If we profess faith in the Gospel yet live in a way not far removed from the life that preceded the encounter with the Gospel, we have misunderstood that Gospel.  If we profess faith in the God of the Bible and are yet convinced of our own power, or yet in control of the direction and course of our lives, we have misunderstood the Gospel.  If we profess faith in the cross of Christ and continue to strive for perfection, to attain salvation through our personal record, we do not understand the Gospel. 

The Gospel of Christ is extreme in its claims concerning the nature of the living God.  This God does not need us for anything, nor does he have to listen to our opinions at all.  However, he continues to use us, bless us, and listen to us because he loves us.  The Gospel of Christ is extreme in its claims about the life and sacrifice of Christ.  The message of the Cross does not give us new guidelines to improve our lives or free passes to find peace with the daily sins that plague us.  The message of the Cross is that faith in the sacrifice of Jesus creates a being different from the old, that can never go back.  There is always movement with the cross of Christ, but just as Christ carried his cross forward and never back, forward motion into deeper union with Christ is the only acceptable outcome of our faith.  The Gospel is not just another idea, voice or message amongst the thousands of messages we receive on a daily basis.  It is THE message.  It is THE good news.  To understand it for exactly what it claims requires us to broaden our scale of measurement to a point so big that at a certain point we disappear, and only Christ remains