The Virgin Birth: Crucifixion and Resurrection

Reflections

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. 

(source)

Support for belief in the Virgin Birth can be traced backwards through five important events in the history of the Christian Faith:

  1. The Ascension
  2. The Resurrection/The Crucifixion
  3. The Gospel
  4. The Virgin Birth

This week, let’s consider how the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus support our faith in the Virgin Birth.

The Crucifixion and the Resurrection provide similar ideas and thus will be discussed together. Just as the previous post referenced the discussion of the Virgin Birth as being less important than the discussion of Christianity in general, the same point applies to the Resurrection and Crucifixion. While Jesus never personally wrote anything down, and while we do not have physical proof of his body or a tomb, his name has come down to us as arguably the most important in human history. Debates about Jesus are typically over whether or not he was divine, or thought of himself as divine, or if his followers applied those attributes to his name only after his death. However, historians and scholars alike agree that there was, in fact, a man named Jesus Christ, who lived in Israel at the time that the Gospels place him there and that this man was crucified.

Just as the discussion of the virgin birth leads one to belief in the Ascension, the same applies to the discussion of the Ascension leading one to belief in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In order for there to be Ascension, there must be a place from which to ascend. As history brings Jesus to us a real man who was crucified under Roman governor Pontius Pilate, this man named Jesus must have died under this punishment, and that death should have ended his followers’ allegiance. With crucifixion a death reserved to torture and execute the worst of criminals, the followers of Jesus must have been, and were, as stated in the Gospel of Luke, in utter grief and confusion at the time of his death on the cross.

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
Luke 24:13-24

The fact that grief of these disciples became devotion, worship, and belief gives us a story of a man that was completely man enough to die but likewise God in his power to rise and ascend in victory. At this point, as we trace the story of Jesus backwards from the Ascension, we are left with the man of Jesus: clearly in this world, but not from this world.

Reflection: The Virgin Birth and the Ascension

Reflections

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. 

Support for my belief in the virgin birth can be traced backwards through five important events in the history of the Christian Faith:

  1. The Ascension
  2. The Resurrection/The Crucifixion
  3. The Gospel
  4. The Virgin Birth

This week, let’s consider how the Ascension supports and fulfills our faith in the Virgin Birth.

Debate about the origins of Christianity and its various doctrines often dominate, and at times tend to hijack, opportunities to share and witness the Good News to believers and non-believers alike. While debate often arises over certain topics like the Virgin Birth, in some ways this becomes the classic example of putting the cart before the horse. Instead of arguing or debating the historicity of the virgin birth, we should be asking a much more important question: “Why are we discussing Christianity in the first place?” The mere fact that Christianity is being discussed is a much more important topic for discussion and inquiry.

The only reasonable explanation for the emergence and survival of the Christian faith is that a man named Jesus Christ actually lived, died, was buried, resurrected and then ultimately ascended into heaven, out of the sight and reach of his believers, only to then bless them with the power necessary to teach and physically heal the world through the power of his name. The mere fact that the Christian faith has survived persecution, outlasted empires, emperors, tyrants and wars is an almost unbelievable historical fact. The fact that men and women throughout history have affected the world the way they have, in the name of Jesus Christ, is evidence that they were touched, healed and gifted with extraordinary abilities that are inexplicable even to the persons who received them except by the one Name: Jesus. The fact that there is a debate about the virgin birth is proof that Christianity is a faith worth discussing.  Jesus did not live and die an old, wise man in the arms of his faithful followers, but, after a violent death, he resurrected and ascended as he promised, and is currently seated at the right hand of the Father.

Serving the King: Change

Reflections

Many characteristics may define a Christian life.  Many things may be signs that someone truly lives their faith in correspondence with the Gospel.  In this reflection series, we’ll explore how different Scriptures emphasize service as a defining character trait of the Christian.

Service can be defined as what you do for something or someone.  But in the Gospel context, service is much larger than that.  Service, according to the teaching of Jesus, is a way of life.  More than an aspect Christian character, it IS Christian character.  In these reflections, we’ll discover five elements of service that please God.

Serving with Change (Ephesians 4)

The apostle Paul left behind a lasting legacy in the many letters he wrote to churches and individuals important to the early Church.  While at first glance all of the letters seem to discuss the same topics and ideas, as one devotes more time to them, the diversity within each letter separates them into distinct messages, rather than one massive “Paul Letter” section of the Bible.

The letter to the Ephesian Church expresses sound Christian theology; however, its purpose-driven nature sets the letter apart from the others.  Throughout the letter, Paul not only reminds us of the things that have been and will come as we continue to walk in the light of Jesus Christ, but also devotes significant attention to the idea that falling back into a previous way of life is no acceptable option if the experience of meeting Christ was true and Spirit-led.

The idea of “genuine change” is best expressed in a different letter: Galatians 5.  Paul compares this change in a person’s life and character to a fruit tree. Paul used the idea of “Christian Fruit,” first taught by Jesus throughout his lifetime.  As a person begins to change their life in Christ they witness the emergence and growth of “fruit,” namely love, joy, patience, kindness, faithfulness, self-control, peace, gentleness, and goodness.  It is in the discovery of this fruit that, Paul explains, a follower of Christ will become aware of the change promised by Christ emerging in their character as a Christian.

A theme of Paul’s letters, including the letter to the Ephesian Church, is the notion of a “new life” and an “old life.”  This idea is far from original with Paul as it was first and best explained by Christ himself in the Gospel of John where Jesus talks with the Pharisee, Nicodemus.  According to Jesus there was a clear difference between a person’s old way of living and their new life as his disciple.  Just as a baby, once born, does not return back to the mother’s womb, likewise a new Christian does not return to their “old life.”

However, this desire to stay away from the “old life” does not come through force or insistence by anyone but the person directly involved in the change.  There must be some experience that plants the seed of this desire in the heart of the individual, a seed that continues to grow over time. Awareness of the distinction between the two lives emerges within a person, along with the desire to maintain the newly found direction of this “new life.”

When we are children there are many instances where we are headed straight for a mistake or a bad situation.  Parents may try with all of their might to prevent children from experiencing the predictable outcome that might bring harm.  However, there are also times where the parent knows that to allow the child to experience disaster may be the most effective decision. It may be that allowing the child to fall, so to speak, and allowing the child to experience falling will prompt an experience, not rules, that will encourage a change.

For example, when I was young I loved to play in the sink in our kitchen as my mother cooked or did housework.  My mother would fill up the sink for me and then allow me to play in the water with my favorite toys, clad in a raincoat to protect me from the violent splashing that would ultimately ensue.  However, one day my mother was not around to ask to fill the sink, and I saw an alternative in a large pot of water atop the stove.  Unaware that the pot had been left to boil in preparation for pasta, the only thing I saw was an opportunity for me, along with my toys, to explore new and exciting waters.  Needless to say, what followed was a massive burn that left a sizable scar on my left hand that is still with me.  As a result of this experience, I did not stop my fun water game of splashing, raincoats and toys. What I came away with was a cautious awareness of pots and boiling substances on the stovetop.  That burn gave me enough to know that I never wanted to make the same mistake again.  The scar was a visible reminder of my decision and its consequences.

When Christians, like Paul, discuss the idea of a new life, many people assume that this is just cheap Christian lingo, something we know is in the scripture but don’t know how to experience.  Reading Paul’s desire for the Christians at Ephesus to “put off the old self” makes us aware that there’s something to be done there, but defining the “old self” can seem complicated and discovering the “new self” can be rather ambiguous and hard to comprehend.  What is not difficult to understand is that both Jesus and Paul took this “new life” extremely seriously.

Jesus himself made it perfectly clear that to be a Christian and to represent his name in our new identity means carrying the burden of a cross that accompanies this “new life.”  For some, this cross is heavy, splinter-ridden, and a burden.  This perception of the “new life” can soon make returning to the “old life” without the cross look pretty appealing.  Assuming that the cross means judgment, rules, and impossible expectations makes burning oneself in the boiling water of the “old life” almost desirable.  The difference between the Christian who has not truly encountered the living God and the Christian who has been born of the Spirit, is that the first has not truly understood the dangers of the boiling water, and the second has found that one burn was enough.  The first saw no reason to change; the second saw that change was the only option.

Being changed by God is not something that happens to you but something that happens within you.  The change is supported by the awareness that ahead of you is a well-lit path, and behind you the dark ground already traveled.  Someone who has truly met Christ recognizes that in the darkness exists a world of mistakes already made and desires left unfulfilled.  For this person, walking ahead into the well-lit path of “new life” with Christ is an opportunity to enter into a world of hope and promise.  From this place, the decision to place the hand in the boiling water a second time would seem insane.

At the heart of the Christian’s transformation is an inner acknowledgment that to “go back” is not only counterproductive but counter-intuitive.  Going back is never an option.  Service, bearing the cross in the new life, becomes a part of who you are, and less a list of things you are required to do.  Service becomes more of an instinct and less a choice to be considered.  Serving the king, the suffering servant, the great Teacher, becomes your lifelong desire, the essence of who you are and everything you do.

To know Jesus is to be made like him.  By serving him and serving like him we truly find union with him.  This union establishes us firmly on the rock that is Jesus Christ.  It is then on this rock that we can honestly and confidently refer to ourselves as Christians.

Serving the King: Priorities

Reflections

Many characteristics may define a Christian life.  Many things may be signs that someone truly lives their faith in correspondence with the Gospel.  In this reflection series, we’ll explore how different Scriptures emphasize service as a defining character trait of the Christian.

Service can be defined as what you do for something or someone.  But in the Gospel context, service is much larger than that.  Service, according to the teaching of Jesus, is a way of life.  More than an aspect Christian character, it IS Christian character.  In these reflections, we’ll discover five elements of service that please God.

Serving with Priorities (Matthew 5)

The teachings of Jesus Christ, found throughout the Gospel narratives, are the foundation on which a Christian builds her life. These teachings are most concentrated in the Sermon on the Mount.  This sermon holds such well-known commands as, “Do not judge,” “Love your neighbor,” and “Turn the other cheek.”  The teachings of Jesus come fast in this passage, and are overwhelming in their expectations.  If you don’t read it carefully, the famous sermon may be nothing more than a peaceful evening with the “good shepherd” on a grassy hillside, everyone holding hands while breathing deep sighs of contentment.  But if we really consider the life this sermon called Jesus’ disciples to live, one can imagine that those sighs of contentment as shocked gasps.   How could anyone be expected to live that way?  If we realize this, Jesus might possibly respond, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God,” as he does in Mark 12.  The reason being that to understand these standards are impossible leaves room to believe that the only way to achieve such impossible standards is through power greater than our own.  In fact the only way to meet the standards found in this famous sermon is to be drawn to the power of God, not the power of self-will.

Matthew 5:23-24

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

In the previous three readings we explored three issues directly pertaining to the idea of serving God.  First, we found that we must serve with obedience.  Second, we must serve recognizing God’s power.  Third, we must always be prepared to suffer in service as our “suffering servant” served and modeled before us.  In all of these scriptures, what we read were descriptions of what God wants from our service.

The fascinating aspect of Matthew 5 is that here we finally hear the voice of God speaking through Jesus Christ about service. God says that when we come to serve him, we must be motivated, inspired and focused on serving God alone, devoted to serving him and nothing else.  Jesus tells the people that if there is anything else that occupies any space in our hearts or minds, we might as well take the offering, set it down, go take care of our “more important business” and then come back and serve.

Today, it is not unusual to find a church on any given Sunday at any given location filled with people who have set aside a one or, for the “high-level Christians,” a two-hour block in their weekly schedule for God.  Our world is fast-paced and full of obligations.  We have many things to do and have little time to get anything done.  In this environment people find it increasingly difficult to “make time” for God.  Unfortunately, this includes our time as we take our seats at church.

While many of us face schedules and commitments that require much of our energy, time and attention, we pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task.  Multi-tasking is a great skill when the objective is to complete several tasks in the least amount of time.

But the danger of becoming a professional multi-tasker is that we become so proficient at occupying our time with multiple tasks at once that we lose our ability to determine when one task deserves our complete and undivided attention.  For example, the idea of ” family time” has suffered increasingly over the past 20 years.  The amount of quality time that families spend with one another with no distractions whatsoever has been on a steady decline, a trend that may be attributed in some ways to “busyness” and “multi-tasking.”

When you don’t give your undivided attention to something or someone you hold to be important to you, the quality of that relationship will suffer and the relationship will ultimately lose that sense of importance.

From this perspective we can better understand the demand of Jesus that we take care of certain issues before approaching the altar with offerings.  When we come to God preoccupied with a thousand different things, we are doing the equivalent of starting an important discussion with a close friend and then immediately answering a seemingly trivial phone call while “sharing” this “quality time.”

Being raised in a Christian household gave me many impressions, assumptions and ideas about how to live a Christian life.  However, what I understood was superficial at best when it came to who God actually claims to be and what he specifically desired from me as a Christian.  I believed God was the egotistical, power-hungry “man upstairs” who, without much proof or explanation of his true existence, wanted me to trust him with everything and believe that the basis of this demand was loving and in my best interest.  I believed what he wanted from me was regular church attendance, prayer and the practice of impossible standards, many which are noted in Matthew 5.

When I at last read through the entire Bible, I did not find the God I expected to find.  This God was not obsessed about the things I thought he would be.  In regards to service and worship, like the verses in Matthew 5, God clearly states that he would rather have no offering, no church attendance and no money from a so-called “Christian” if those things came with a divided focus and a divided heart.  I discovered that God’s desire was to have all of my heart, but not if I was unprepared and unwilling to give it all away.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demands many things from those who choose to follow him.  He desires service, a level of commitment to his promise of transformation that seems impossible.  However, without a fully prepared heart and mind to pursue this new life, Jesus would rather we not accompany the offering into his presence.

 

Serving the King: Suffering

Reflections

Many characteristics may define a Christian life.  Many things may be signs that someone truly lives their faith in correspondence with the Gospel.  In this reflection series, we’ll explore how different Scriptures emphasize service as a defining character trait of the Christian.

Service can be defined as what you do for something or someone.  But in the Gospel context, service is much larger than that.  Service, according to the teaching of Jesus, is a way of life.  More than an aspect Christian character, it IS Christian character.  In these reflections, we’ll discover five elements of service that please God.

Serving with Suffering (Isaiah 53)

In the first section, in 1 Samuel 15, we met Israel’s first king: Saul, a king with human tendencies and human abilities.  Saul demonstrates so well the potential of the human heart to fall victim to power, success, temptation and glory.  In this section we will read one of the most powerfully prophetic scriptures about the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Isaiah 53 shows another sort of king, a “suffering servant” who is the complete opposite of Saul.  This individual, innocent of sin, is the most glorious and most praiseworthy figure in history, yet received nothing but suffering, disgrace and shame in his mission to save the world.

The Bible can be difficult to digest because it is an ancient text, but it also can be difficult because of what it demands of us.  The Bible and, more specifically, the teachings of Jesus Christ, establish a bar of behavior that is intimidating at best.  Christians are called into a life of service that no human being could ever live up to. Jesus Christ’s depiction of true Christian character seems superhuman and impossibly unrealistic.

Unfortunately, many Christians and non-Christians leave the expectations and frustrations there.  They see expectations and demands and never move beyond the daunting realities that those demands present.  But this mistake can be resolved if we understand Isaiah 53.  In the Gospels we don’t encounter a list of demands and orders from a distant and judgmental deity.  Rather, we meet Jesus.  The suffering servant came into our world and lived alongside us in order to model a way of life so that we could follow him and not simply the commands.  Jesus never preached orders.  On the contrary, Jesus preached repentance, change not to harm us but change that can free us.  Jesus announced “good news,” not “new rules.”

Jesus preached himself because only in him can we truly live the way he expects us to.  He is the savior of Isaiah 53 who did far more than we will ever be expected to do, simply so that we wouldn’t have to.  In Jesus we have a God that suffered, felt pain, and understands us completely.

Why did Jesus choose to come into the world? The question can be confusing.  If we view his life as a platform by which to give orders and make demands, then his sacrifice and the way he lived falls out of order and lacks purpose or rationality.  For thousands of years God spoke through the prophets, like Isaiah, to deliver important messages to his people.  Therefore, what necessity would there be to send someone as valuable as his son to do the same job?  However, if we think about the life of Jesus as he himself proclaimed, his purpose begins to fall into place.  The mission of Jesus Christ was not only to save his children, but to be with them and love them by living alongside them, and finally, by dying for all of them.

In our social lives, the people that we are closest to are typically people who share the most in common with us.  We are drawn to these people; we depend on and trust them.  Therefore, knowing our hearts, God knew that the only way to reach us was to be a “God with us.”  He came as a servant to show us that he was willing to serve in a way we could never serve.  Only through the reception of his life and service as a free gift, undeserving and unearned, will we find the ability to live the life that he desires for us.  Jesus Christ came into our world to serve us with only God’s approval in mind.  Through the life of Jesus we see that God understands us: our trials, our sorrows, our tribulations. Not only has he experienced them all himself, but he can truthfully say that he was tested beyond anything we can possibly compare with.  Lack of understanding and empathy does not emanate from a God who demands too much from us without knowing us.  The lack of understanding is ours, directed toward Jesus, who gave more for us than we could ever give him in return.  He suffered in ways we never will be required to.

Jesus was the teacher of all teachers for many reasons, but one of his most powerful qualities was his ability to lead by example.  He led us into salvation by his example.  All that is left for us is to do is be moved by his life and begin to follow in his footsteps one step at a time.

Tuesday Devotional: Colossians 1

Devotional

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

Tuesday Devotional: Philippians 2

Devotional

bibleRead Philippians 2:1-11

The nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is displacement.  It is shifts and redirection.  There is nothing stationary or static about the Gospel, nor the life of one overcome by it.  The gospel moves and initiates movement.  This motion begins with the radical dislocation and displacement displayed by Jesus Christ.  The Gospel is anchored in the fact that God himself was dislocated from his rightful place of dominion to a place of disgrace, humiliation and suffering.  Jesus Christ came into this world as a servant. It is then impossible and contradictory for any who profess faith in him to model a character different from his.  As Christians, our lives are anchored by the fact that God humbled himself to be what others needed him to be, and rather than what he knew he deserved. It runs in the face of the Gospel to expect anything different in our own lives.  As Christians, the source of our faith begins with Christ’s service.  It is then reproduced in our lives in service to others.  This service then unites us with Christ and his character, fueling us with daily perseverance to overcome the suffering in this world by knowing that we are of one mind with him.  If division or disunity exists in a fellowship of believers as a result of selfish ambition or vain conceit, Christ no longer has a place in that fellowship and it can no longer rightfully claim to bear his name with any integrity to the Gospel.  The church cannot disconnect itself from the life of Christ nor can it survive without him.  The church ceases to exist if the spirit and character of Christ ceases to exist within it.  One cannot enter into fellowship with Christ or other believers and remain unchanged or unmoved.  At the heart of Christianity is the shift from what we feel we deserve, to what we know he deserves.  It is complete submission to his character and the power of the Holy Spirit to recreate that character within us.  This submission requires the willingness to be dislocated from places to which we have so firmly planted ourselves in the past.  Service to others essentially has nothing to do with whom you are serving and everything to do with why you are serving.  You are serving each day because the God of Heaven and Earth came into this world and served in a way we could never serve.  Therefore, service is not humility to what is being served.  Service is humble acceptance of the truth of Christ’s service and the need for service to be present in our lives if we expect God to be present in our lives.

Tuesday Devotional: Galatians 1

Devotional

bibleRead Galatians 1:6-10

The power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is unique and unparalleled.  The power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ not only has the ability to heal the brokenness of a single human life, but can also heal the brokenness of the world.  This Gospel can and will reverse things we believed irreversible.  To those who have experienced this strength of the Gospel, it is a direct encounter with the living God.  However, due to the sin in our lives, this experience can become overpowered by temptations. We are called out of his presence into a life willing to forget the power we were once so overcome by.  The world allows for and often encourages compromise.  In many instances, compromise is not only welcome but necessary to function as loving neighbors and stewards of the peace in Christ by which we live.  However, to compromise the integrity and truth of the life and message of Jesus Christ is to reject it entirely.  If we compromise the truth of the Gospel we alienate ourselves from the truth that saves us. We take up a position of opposition to the message of salvation, and take on the role of opposition to the mission of Christ and his Church.  The power of the Gospel can and will heal, but only if left in its original state.  The moment the message is doctored in even the slightest way, the power of the message of the Gospel is removed.  Jesus lived and spoke truth. Only the truth he spoke will set us free.  There is no power in a half-truth Gospel.  As Jesus taught his disciples, we as Christians are in this world but are not of it.  As we profess our faith in the cross, we do not identify with this world.  The life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ were of a world of righteousness, justice, love and truth.  This is not a truth we contribute to, or respond casually to.  This truth is the bedrock upon which our entire being is built, and that foundation, once compromised, will ultimately result in the collapse and destruction of everything built upon it.

The church must always welcome and embrace all who come to seek the face of God as it has always been, with love and gentleness.  However, the church must reject entirely those who seek to redefine the Gospel as something it never claimed.  To preach the Gospel in truth is to preach the power of God that can and will change and heal what is broken.  To preach the Gospel of half-truth is to remove God from the equation, and to become a proponent for the advancement of sin and its destructive power in this world.

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Corinthians 2-3

Devotional

Read 2 Corinthians 2:12-3:18bible

The human heart longs for beauty.  We seek it every day of our lives, and we recognize it when we see or experience it.  It is no coincidence that we are taken aback by the beauties in nature or in the human spirit.  While many differences separate us, we all find a commonality in this search for and discovery of beauty.  Found in the message of Christ is the epitome of beauty.  At the heart of the Gospel is the story of a God who has never given up on his children. Due to his desire to witness his love for them manifested and recreated in their relationships with each other, he even sacrificed his own Son to accomplish his objective.  The message of the Gospel is radical and incomprehensible love.  It is heart wrenching self-sacrifice for the undeserving and unfaithful.  It is intimacy, healing and peace.  This Gospel in its essence unaided, unaltered and uncompromised is beautiful and sweet to the one who finds it.  Every human being is seeking this message in the deep recesses of the heart.  But our every attempt to fulfill our desires through worldly means fails, leaving us rethinking our plans to fill this void.  Like a hole in a leaky roof, this void in the human heart can only be filled by something its precise shape and size.  The void is the result of our rejection of the Father’s love, and therefore the only thing that can heal that void is precisely that, the Father’s love.  Other solutions will temporarily mend the wound, but over time weaknesses will cause the gradual deterioration of the heart.

The message and life of Christ is “a sweet fragrance”: however, this fragrance is a delicate one.  In the control of our sinful tendencies, the sweet aroma of the Gospel can quickly become the stench of something we would rather avoid.  The aroma of the Gospel is only preserved through the Word of God, handed down to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The aroma of the Gospel, represented in the lives of those who profess faith in it, will only be sweet if the Holy Spirit has transformed those lives as well.  Anything short of this will result in sinful men speaking to sinful men as sinful men, incapable of spreading a message that was not from men to begin with.   Allowing the Holy Spirit to speak for himself, allowing Him to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, will unleash that beautiful aroma that we all crave.

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Corinthians 1

Devotional

bibleRead 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

It is far too easy for us to place unjustifiable importance and honor on those men and women who lead us, while forgetting the role they play within the framework of spreading the Gospel of the one and only Jesus Christ.  There was only one sacrifice.  There was only one redeemer.  There was only one who became a servant to all in a mission to save all.  Church leaders, called to instruct others in the Gospel, are by nature sinners like you and I.  They could not save themselves, and required the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Becoming distracted by leaders and forgetful of the man Jesus Christ bypasses the necessity of faith in the life of a Christian.  Following a human requires little to no faith in the gospel: they are physically in our presence, we can hear their words directly as they speak them, and they can likewise hear ours.  We are tempted to accept these leaders as advisers with good stories and useful life lessons, and not representatives of Jesus Christ.  In fact, it is quite possible for one to attend church, read the Bible and pray without the deeply personal need for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  When we hope in man and not Christ alone, our transformation in the image of Christ is cut off at the source. We will never truly change, we will never be free and we will never truly have life in its purest form.  No man can change another man and make him new.  Only the work of Jesus Christ, and faith in Him as Savior, Lord and God can do that.  Church leaders are stewards of this love story of God and his children, but they are not characters in the story.  They, like us, have been given the story, blessed by it and now share it with others.  We must never forget the purpose of this story, that its focal point is always Jesus. By His name and by His stripes we are healed.