Archive for April 7, 2012
Tags: Christ, Christian, Christianity, God, Gospel, Jesu, Jesus Christ, Lord
On this special season of the year when Christians celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, I always seem to stop early in the day to recognize that there are many that don’t know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
There are multitudes that think Christianity is a bunch of bunk – first that there is even such a thing as a God – let alone a God that sent His only begotten Son to come into the world to be sacrificed for the sins of a wayward, lost, sinful, corrupt people like you and me.
Millions have grown to detest the Christian faith because of its exclusivity. They hate and detest that for it degrades and diminishes their bent toward godlessness of many strips (Islam, Mormonism, Christian Scientist, Jehovah’s Witness, etc. There is only one true God and there is only one way to get to Heaven – through faith in Jesus Christ. We must acknowledge that we are sinners in need of a Savior and believe that His shed blood on the cross of Calvary cleanses me of all unrighteousness.
I remember such a day in my years as an under graduate at Michigan State University.
I was above all of that. I was a part of the intelligentsia. Christianity was a crutch.
I had a pastor once make a special trip to talk with me and tell me about Christ. He tried to show me my need. He was a nice guy but I remember laughing (though not at him) at his supposition that I was a sinner. “I’m not a sinner,” I said.
A few months went by. Little by little I began to recognize that clearly despite my self-righteousness, I had done a lot of rotten things. I had stolen, I had lusted, I had taken the Lord’s name in vain, etc.
I began to go to church (begrudgingly) with a gal that I was interested in. As we sang those songs of faith, I found myself unable to sing because tears were choking me up. God was moving upon my heart, soul, and spirit. I didn’t understand it much but I began to realize that something was going on that was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
God began to move upon my heart wooing me to be His child. I went to the Lord in prayer, confessed my sins and acknowledged my need of Him as Savior and Lord.
All of that self-righteousness was stripped away. All of that unbelief little by little turned into faith. I had spiritual eyes that were able to see and hear and believe and trust. He began a good work within me that has continued every day now through thick and think over these 44 years of being a new creation in Christ.
To God be the glory great things He has done. Though I’m far from perfect, I see more and more clearly the spiritual evidence of His hand upon my life!
It is sad to see our once spiritual nation turn its back upon the Lord. So much could be said here.
I think of the ABC/Disney show GCB [Good Christian B—-es) that so outrageously demeans our faith by making Christian women look like bimbos, hypocrites, perverts.
Our Lord suffered, was persecuted, laughed at, mocked, cursed, rejected, murdered. He tells us in His word “they hated me. They will hate you, too.”
He also reminds us through the Gospels that broad is the way that leads to destruction. Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life. Take up your cross and follow me. He who is last is first. He who is first is last.
For those of us who know Him, who have seen so clearly and fully His life in ours, have experienced His resurrection power through heartache, trial, tribulation, roadblocks, defeats, illness, death, and loss, we know that our faith is real. He lives. My Saviour lives. How do I know? He lives within my heart!!!
Tags: Apostle, Bible, Christ, God, Jesus, Lord, Salvation, Truth
Sometimes the Lord, without applying his word with any very great and distinguishing power to the heart, makes his truth to drop with a measure of sweetness into the soul. This is as rain or dew, according to his own gracious declaration, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain; my speech shall distil as the dew” (Deut. 32:2). The dropping, then, of his doctrine, or, as the word means, his “teaching,” as rain, and the distilling of his gracious speech as dew, kindle in the soul a love of the truth, and wherever this is felt there is salvation, for we read of those who perish that “they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). There is a receiving of the truth, and a receiving of the love of the truth. These two things widely differ. To receive the truth will not necessarily save; for many receive the truth who never receive the love of the truth. Professors by thousands receive the truth into their judgment, and adopt the plan of salvation as their creed; but are neither saved nor sanctified thereby. But to receive the love of the truth by the truth as it is in Jesus being made sweet and precious to the soul, is to receive salvation itself. It is in this way that the gospel is made the power of God unto salvation; and therefore the Apostle, speaking of “the preaching of the cross,” says that “it is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” Now it is impossible that this power should be felt without its having an alluring effect upon the soul, whereby it comes out from every evil thing and cleaves to the Lord with purpose of heart.
Tags: Anxiety, Book of Proverbs, First Epistle to the Corinthians, God, holyspirit, Jesu, Lord, Unconditional love
Is it possible to be too helpful? Can our helpfulness actually make life more difficult for others? Yes, if we’re being bothersome, intrusive, smothering, manipulative, or controlling. If the help we are giving is driven only by our own anxiety, we may be just trying to help ourselves.
In prayer we can ask God to show us any way we are hurting or hindering others (Ps. 139:23-24). We can ask God to help us show love that “suffers long and is kind; . . . is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil” (1 Cor. 13:4-5).
Our efforts to help others, especially those we love the most, will never be completely free from anxiety. But we can, by God’s grace, begin to love freely with no strings attached, as God Himself loves. The test, of course, and the measure of our progress, is the way we react when our “helpfulness” is unrecognized or goes unrewarded (see Luke 14:12-14).
Lord, help us to love with pure motives and for the good of others. Help us to love unconditionally, expecting nothing in return.
Tags: Christ, Christian, God, Jesu, Joseph, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene, Stations of the Cross
Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning.
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.
After Jesus died, his body was placed in a tomb. This was better treatment than many crucified people would have received. Their bodies were often discarded by Roman soldiers and left exposed, unless they had families or friends nearby to care for them. The body of Jesus was fortunate enough to receive unusual attention from a man named Joseph, who was both a member of the Sanhedrin and a follower of Jesus. He made sure the body of his Master was appropriately buried, so that, later, the bones of Jesus could be finally interred in an ossuary (a special box for bones). Little did Joseph know that God had other plans for the body of Jesus.
In most human societies, appropriate burial of dead bodies is a sacred tradition. It matters profoundly that we ensure the proper resting place for those who have died. Yet, after burials happen, we don’t generally mention them specifically. For example, my father died in 1986. I’ve spoken of his death probably 500 times since then, but I don’t think I’ve ever said “My dad died in 1986 and then he was buried.” Burial, however significant to us, is something we assume and don’t need to point out specifically. If I say “My dad died,” you rightly assume that he was buried.
Therefore, it’s notable that all four biblical Gospels describe the burial of Jesus and the help of Joseph of Arimathea. Moreover, the very earliest summary of the Christian message also contained explicit reference to Jesus’ burial. The Apostle Paul, writing to Christians in Corinth about twenty years after Jesus’ death, summarized the basic Christian good news in this way:
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Cor. 15:3-5)
There it sits, unadorned but essential: “and that he was buried.” Why? Why did the earliest Christians, and then why did the writers of the Gospels, consider it so important to mention the actual burial of Jesus?
To put the question in a different way, what does “and that he was buried” add to the essential Christian message? For one thing, it prepares the way for the affirmation of the resurrection. To say that Jesus died and was raised without mentioning his burial could lead to a misunderstanding of the story. One might think that Jesus was immediately brought back to life from the cross or that he was immediately jettisoned to heaven. “And that he was buried” eliminates these options and explains the place from which Jesus was raised.
But, more important by far, the mention of the burial of Jesus makes it absolutely clear that Jesus really died on the cross. He didn’t just appear to die, as was once proposed by Hugh Schoenfield in his bestselling book, The Passover Plot. Schoenfield’s “swoon theory” has been discredited by scholars of all theological stripes. Whatever else can be known about Jesus, all the evidence, from both biblical and extra-biblical sources, points to the simple fact that he really died upon the cross. When the earliest Christians proclaimed the burial of Jesus, they were saying, in effect, that he really, really died. Had Charles Dickens been among the first Christians, he might have written that Jesus was a dead as a doornail, just like Jacob Marley.
I don’t mean to suggest that Jesus’ death, a fairly mundane historical fact, is easy to parse out theologically. After all, Jesus was not just a man, but the God-man. He was the Word of God in flesh, the One in whom was life and who was the source of all life (John 1:1-14). Jesus died physically, and that, in the process, he suffered the penalty of spiritual death for sin, are mysteries far beyond our ability to fully fathom. How could the One who was the Way, the Truth, and the Life actually die? How could the Author of Life lose his own life?
I don’t propose to answer these questions. I’ve been a Christian for over almost fifty years and they still perplex me…and call me to wonder…and invite me to worship. Perhaps one of the best responses to the mystery of Christ’s real death was penned by Charles Wesley early in the eighteenth century. I’ll close with the words of his beloved hymn, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” I can think of no better way to finish this reflection on the fourteenth station of the cross and, indeed, to wrap up this series. The main purpose of The Stations of the Cross is to draw us more deeply into the reality, mystery, and mercy of the cross, so that we might experience the love of God more truly and powerfully.
And can it be that I should gain An interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain– For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
‘Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies: Who can explore His strange design? In vain the firstborn seraph tries To sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore, Let angel minds inquire no more. ‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore; Let angel minds inquire no more.
He left His Father’s throne above So free, so infinite His grace– Emptied Himself of all but love, And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free, For O my God, it found out me! ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free, For O my God, it found out me!
Long my imprisoned spirit lay, Fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray– I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Still the small inward voice I hear, That whispers all my sins forgiven; Still the atoning blood is near, That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart; I feel the Savior in my heart. I feel the life His wounds impart; I feel the Savior in my heart.
No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; Alive in Him, my living Head, And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own. Bold I approach th’eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How does the fact of Jesus’ burial impress you? Have you ever thought about its significance before? How do you respond to the amazing love of God in Christ?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, today we remember the fact that your death wasn’t some charade. Rather, you really died. Thus, you experienced the ultimate penalty for our sin…for my sin.
I’ll never be able to understand fully the wonder of your death. But I can grasp the fact that your real death opened up the door for me to experience real life. Face with such a merciful mystery, I cry: “Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
To you be all the praise and glory! Amen!
Tags: Apostle Paul, Christ, Ephesus, God, holyspirit, Jesu, New Testament, Religious text
The doctrine of the divine indwelling is one of the most important in the New Testament, and its meaning for the individual Christian is precious beyond all description. To neglect it is to suffer serious loss. The apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith. Surely it takes faith of a more than average vitality to grasp the full implications of this great truth. Two facts join to make the doctrine difficult to accept: the supreme greatness of God and the utter sinfulness of man. Those who think poorly of God and well of themselves may chatter idly of “the deity within,” but the man who trembles before the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, the man who knows the depth of his own sin, will detect a moral incongruity in the teaching that One so holy should dwell in the heart of one so vile. But however incongruous it may appear to be, in the Holy Scriptures it is taught so fully that it cannot be overlooked and so plainly that it can hardly be misunderstood. “If a man love me,” said our Lord Jesus Christ, “he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). That this abiding is within the man is shown by these words: “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (14: 20). Christ said of the Holy Spirit: “He … shall be in you” (14: 17), and in His great prayer in John 17 our Lord twice used the words “I in them.”
Tags: Adam, Blood of Christ, Christ, Crucifixion of Jesus, God, Jesu, New International Version, NLT
Observe: (1) You have been reconciled to God. God wants unbroken, intimate friendship with us, as with Adam in Eden. But sin made us enemies of God. “You who were once far away from God…enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions” (v.21 NLT). Yet He never stopped pursuing that relationship, sending Jesus to restore it. He “made peace by means of Christ’s blood on his cross” (v. 20), resulting in your reconciliation to God. The Greek word for “reconciliation” means “to be friends as we once were.” Now you can walk and talk with God as Adam did. Now God sees you as “holy and blameless… without a single fault!” (v.22 NLT). (2) You are the Lord’s redeemed. At the Jordan River John saw Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn1:29 NIV)—Jesus, “In whom we have redemption through his blood” (Col1:14). The word “redemption” means “liberation from captivity by a ransom paid.” Not only are you purchased at the cost of Christ’s life, you are also adopted by blood into God’s family. (3) You are forgiven of all sins. “In whom (Jesus) we have…the forgiveness of sins.” How did He accomplish the total removal of all our sins? “Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us…he took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:14 NIV). He wrote in His blood, “paid in full” across your outstanding bill of indebtedness to God, nailing your “canceled debt notice” to His cross. You are forgiven. You owe nothing!
Tags: Alliance Defense Fund, Christian Legal Society, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito, Supreme Court, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Vanderbilt University
If we follow the logic of the Supreme Court, a Muslim could lead the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship club on your local campus. As absurd as this sounds, it is the very real, potential outcome of some recent Court rulings, and it is in keeping with the decisions made independently by a number of colleges and universities.
In June, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the “University of California’s Hastings College of the Law acted reasonably, and in a viewpoint-neutral manner, in refusing to officially recognize and give funds to a campus chapter of the Christian Legal Society because the group refused to abide by the school’s requirement that student groups open their membership to all” (as reported by Peter Schmidt for The Chronicle of Higher Education).
The university had been sued by the Alliance Defense Fund when, “The school refused to recognize the campus Christian Legal Society chapter, Hastings Christian Fellowship (HCF), because it [would] not agree to a non-discrimination policy that would require the group to admit homosexuals and non-Christians as members and officers.”
In expressing the majority opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that it is “hard to imagine a more viewpoint-neutral policy than one requiring all student groups to accept all comers,” noting that, “Hastings, caught in the crossfire between a group’s desire to exclude and students’ demand for equal access, may reasonably draw a line in the sand permitting all organizations to express what they wish but no group to discriminate in membership.”
In a strongly-worded dissenting view for the minority, Justice Samuel Alito claimed that “the majority opinion rested on the principle of “no freedom of expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning,” warning that, “The court’s treatment of this case is deeply disappointing” and its decision “arms public educational institutions with a handy weapon for suppressing the speech of unpopular groups.”
The court’s decision also opens the door for campus lunacy. What if a bunch of ardent Republicans decided to take over the campus’s Democratic club? Or atheists decided to take over the Hindu club? Or Jews for Jesus decided to take over the Hillel club? Or Greenpeace devotees decided to take over the hunting club? Or meat-lovers decided to take over the PETA club? Or gay activists decided to take over the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship club? Or evangelical Christians decided to take over the LGBT club? (Oh wait. I’m sure someone would find a way to stop that.)
Is it unreasonable that campus groups would require members – let alone officers – to adhere to their values and beliefs? Isn’t that the purpose of the club?
Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on the decision by Vanderbilt Catholic (a campus group with 500 members) to leave Vanderbilt University “in a dispute over the school’s non-discrimination policy that bars student groups from requiring their leaders to hold specific beliefs.” (All students are allowed to attend meetings but the leaders must adhere to specific beliefs.) As P.J. Jedlovec, the group’s president, stated, “If we were open to having non-Catholics lead the organization, we wouldn’t be Catholic anymore.” This is not exactly rocket science.
While Vanderbilt Catholic has simply chosen to buck the system, other Christian groups still trying working within the system at Vanderbilt have been suspended. (For the record, Vanderbilt was founded as a Methodist institution.)
The Post article noted that, “Similar disputes have taken place in California, New York and North Carolina. The University of Buffalo suspended the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in December after a dispute over a gay student member. The University of North Carolina-Greensboro refused to recognize a Christian group called Make Up Your Own Mind because it discriminated on the basis of faith for leaders. The school relented after being sued.”
Note carefully the words “discriminated on the basis of faith for leaders.” How can it be called “discrimination” when a Christian group requires its leaders to hold to Christian values and beliefs? Rather, it is “discrimination” when the university refuses to allow a Christian group to be Christian.
Last month, the Supreme Court turned down an appeal brought by the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of Christian groups challenging the policy at California state universities which did not allow them to restrict “membership in their groups to people who agree with their Christian values and beliefs.” Unfortunately, as noted by ADF attorney Jeremy Tedesco, “one of the key points in the whole case is that every other group on campus is allowed to restrict their membership and their officers to people who agree with the values the group was formed to advocate on campus.”
So, according to the court’s decision, it is not discriminatory for the College Democrats to require that its leaders be Democrats, but it is discriminatory for a Christian group to require that its leaders be Christian. How remarkable.
It appears, then, that a PETA campus group might not be overrun (or run) by cheeseburger-munching students but a Christian group just might be overrun (or run) by Muslim students. I can hear Justice Alito (and the other dissenting justices) saying, “I told you so!”
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries. He hosts the nationally syndicated, daily talk radio show, the Line of Fire, and his latest book is The Real Kosher Jesus.
Tags: Christ, Conditions and Diseases, God, Health, Heart Disease, Heaven, Jesu, Peace
I heard God say, when I was still,
“There’s a place in your heart I alone can fill.”
And with His voice, so tender and calm,
He said, “Only you can fill the hole in My palm.”
He holds us in His hands, it’s true.
That’s why He died for me and you.
A wretched, wounded death died
He Upon that barren, lonely tree.
With outstretched arms He showed His love
So we could dwell with Him above
In Heaven where there is no fear,
No pain or sorrow, sickness, tears—
But only joy divine for endless days
As we bestow our endless praise
On Him, who holds us in His palm,
Who in this wretched world brings calm
And peace and joy. Our only part
Is to let Him fill the hole in our heart.