Archive for March, 2016

What is the Bible all about?

“Jesus” (Luke 24:27, 44-47)

“-Jesus is the true and better Adam; Who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is now imputed to us
-Jesus is the true and better Abel; Who though innocently slain has blood now that cries out not for our acquittal, not for our condemnation but for our justice
-Jesus is the true and better Abraham; Who answered the call of God to leave all of the comfortable, familiar home; And go out into the void not knowing where He went to create a new people of God
-Jesus is the true and better Isaac; Who is not just offered by His Father but sacrificed by His Father; And when God said to Abraham, ‘now I know you love me because you did not withhold your only Son whom you love from me.’ Now we can say to God, ‘now we know you love us because you did not withhold your only begotten Son from us.’
-Jesus is the true and better Jacob; Who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us
-Jesus is the true and better Joseph; Who at the right hand of the King forgives those who betrayed and sold Him and uses His new power to save them
-Jesus is the true and better Moses; Who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant
-Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses; Who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert
-Jesus is the true and better Job; The truly innocent sufferer who then intercedes for us and saves His stupid friends
-Jesus is the true and better David; Whose victory becomes His people’s victory even though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves
-Jesus is the true and better Esther; Who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace but lost the ultimate heavenly one; Who didn’t just risk losing life, but it cost His life to save His people
-Jesus is the true and better Jonah; Who was cast out in the storm and the deep so that we could be brought in
-Jesus is the Real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us
-Jesus is the true Prophet, the true Priest, the true King, the true Temple, the true Sacrifice, the true Lamb, the true Light, and the true Bread.”

-Sinclair Ferguson

Is There Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection?

Did Jesus truly rise from the dead?  Did Jesus’ biographers—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—record actual historical events?  Were they capable historians?  These are just some of the many questions that arise in our minds as we read the Bible.

Check out this video by Dr. Peter Williams as he gives a summary of the biblical evidence for the heart of the Christian faith – Jesus’ bodily resurrection.  Dr. Williams is the Warden of Tyndale House in Cambridge:

As we read the Scriptures, it is evident that the gospel writers had access to eyewitness testimony.  We are to read the gospels as historically accurate and reliable documents.  As Christians, we rejoice in the promise of the historic, bodily resurrection of Christ each Lord’s Day.

The gospel itself is the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.  If Christ did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is a sham.  But if Christ did rise bodily on the third day, then as Christians we have a certain hope that death has been defeated and we have the promise of the resurrection of our bodies and life eternal.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says:

13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.

14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Good Friday Service: this Friday, March 25, at 7 pm

You are warmly invited to attend our Good Friday service this Friday, March 25 at 7 pm at Emmaus Road Reformed Church in Eden Prairie, MN (meeting at Eden Lake Elementary School 12000 Anderson Lakes Parkway, Eden Prairie).  In this service, the Scripture readings in John’s gospel will trace the events of the final hours of Christ’s passion. Through the service we ponder the cost of our salvation by meditating on the depth of Christ’s suffering, his crucifixion, death, and burial. Though the Friday evening service is filled with solemnity, we know also of Sunday’s resurrection morning. Thus we may call the evening “Good.”

What really happened on the cross of Christ?

“[Crucifixion] was a death that many others had also suffered. In fact, it was an event so common in the first-century Roman world that Jesus’s crucifixion almost passed unnoticed. For the soldiers who carried it out, it was an unexceptional part of their routine. As for the Jewish leaders who had opposed Christ, it was a fitting end to their problem. Soon, they were back to business as usual. And although the resurrection was to happen shortly thereafter, and although the disciples were to be emboldened in their preaching, and although the Holy Spirit was to authenticate what they said by miracles, the historians of that day also missed the significance of this event.
There is a distinction between the crucifixion and the cross. The former was a particularly barbaric way of carrying out an execution, and it was the method of execution that Jesus endured. The latter, as the New Testament speaks of it, has to do with the mysterious exchange that took place in Christ’s death, an exchange of our sin for His righteousness. It was there that our judgment fell on the One who is also our Judge. Indeed, He who had made all of creation was dishonored in the very creation He had made. And yet, through this dark moment, this fierce judgment, through this dishonor, there now shines the light of God’s triumph over sin, death, and the Devil. And in this moment, this moment of Jesus’s judgment-death, God was revealed in His holy-love as nowhere else.
This, however, was not seen from the outside. Besides Christ’s cry of dereliction—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)—there was little to indicate what was really happening. For that we need to think back to the Old Testament with its prophetic foretelling of the cross and to Jesus’s own expressed understanding of it, and we need to look on to the apostles for their more complete exposition of it. Without this, the meaning of Christ’s death is lost on us. We would see the execution but, without God’s explicating revelation, it would remain mute. It would be a death like any other death except for its disgrace. God must interpret His own actions, and so He has. Without this, we too are mute.
At the cross we encounter something no picture can tell. Its reality cannot be displayed. Even the eyewitnesses of the cross, those who saw it all unfold, walked away ignorant that day, needing words to explain what had happened there. When we see the crucifixion, our eyes see excruciating physical suffering; when we read about the cross, our hearts recoil at soul-crushing spiritual suffering. When we see the crucifixion, our eyes see soldiers punishing an innocent man; when we read about the cross, our minds grapple with God the Father pouring out His wrath upon His sinless Son. When we see the crucifixion, we see a man stripped naked and slowly dying; when we read about the cross we see Christ Jesus clothed in our unrighteousness. When it comes to understanding the cross, only words will do, only words are sufficient.
That is why dramatic presentations of Christ’s death, such as on TV and in movies, so often miss the point. They give us the crucifixion, not the cross. They show the horrifying circumstances of His death. These circumstances may be shown accurately. But this can take us only so far. It leaves us with only a biographical Christ, who may be interesting, but not with the eternal Christ whom we need for our salvation. The crucifixion without the cross is an incomplete picture, a half-told story. What is omitted is the meaning of the event. We do not carry this meaning within ourselves, nor can we find it in this world. What eludes us is something we have to be given by God Himself, for only He can say what was happening within the Godhead as Christ was killed and, in His death, atoned for our sin. This is indispensable to the meaning of Christian faith. Without it, Christ’s death is only a martyrdom and Christian faith is just a nice, moral religion but one that is neither unique nor uniquely true. The cross of Christ is not less than the crucifixion, but it is certainly far, far more.”
-David Wells, from “God in the Whirlwind”

True wisdom is…

“Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”

-John Calvin

The God Who Declares the Guilty Just

“At a certain level, the title above almost seems perverse.  The following is how we would prefer that things work:

Members of the jury, I am not asking for mercy or pardon.  I want justice.  I am demanding full acquittal.  Yes, I committed the murder of which I am accused.  But I am not guilty.  Members of the jury, you must consider all my good deeds—not merely as mitigating circumstances but as reason for exonerating me.  The goodness of my other deeds outweighs the crime I committed.  My good deeds require a “not guilty” verdict.  If justice is to be done, you must find me innocent.

We grin as we read the paragraph above because the argument is so ridiculous.  Yet suddenly we see that an approach to God that depends finally on our balancing of good deeds and bad deeds must be no less ridiculous.  For this is the lamest of all forms of self-justification—yet this is the case we want to make before God.  This argument is not a plea for leniency; rather, it is a bold assertion of innocence.  It assumes that guilt is cancelled by good deeds.  God must acquit us and declare us “not guilty” because we have done enough compensating good things.  This is self-justification.  And it is no more believable before the bar of God’s justice than it would be in a contemporary court.

So how should we think that God looks at things, this God who is himself spectacularly holy and who does not see our good deeds as things that are weighed in a balance against bad deeds but sees even this futile effort at self-justification as one more example of our moral defiance against him?  What is the Bible’s solution?  God does not pretend that good deeds make up for bad deeds.  Rather, he has found a way to declare the guilty just—and retain his integrity while doing it.  Instead of self-justification, he finds a way to justify us.

Do you want to know where God’s justice is most powerfully demonstrated?  On the cross.  Do you want to know where God’s love is most powerfully demonstrated?  On the cross.  There Jesus, the God-man, bore hell itself, and God did this both to be just and to be the one who declares just those who have faith in him.  God views the Christian through the lens of Jesus, who absorbed the white-hot wrath of God that we deserve.  Your sin is now viewed as his, and he has paid for it.  And his righteousness, which he earned by perfectly obeying God’s law, is now viewed as yours (2 Corinthians5:21).  God looks at you and declares you to be just, not because you are just (you are guilty, as Romans 1:18-3:20 says) but because he has set forth his Son to be the propitiation (wrath-appeasing sacrifice) for your sins (Romans 3:21-31).”

-D.A. Carson

Word problems are heart problems…

“Christ said, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
Our problem with words is not primarily a matter of vocabulary, skill, or timing. Have you ever said, “Oops, I didn’t mean to say that!” Often it would be more accurate to say, “I’m sorry I said what I meant!” If the thought, attitude, desire, emotion, or purpose hadn’t been in your heart, it wouldn’t have come out of your mouth. Christ isn’t saying that people never put their feet in their mouth and say something stupid. We all have. But he is asking us to own the connection between our thoughts, desires, and words. The real problem with your communication is what you want to say and why you want to say it, which ultimately has nothing to do with your language skills. Christ reveals that the what and the why are shaped by the heart. Therefore, if we hope be transformed in the way we talk with one another, the heart must change first.”
-Paul Tripp