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Posts Tagged ‘Work of Jesus’

A colleague and I were discussing some of the challenges and emotional oscillations of our lives and work. She pointed out that we as Christians focus on our sin far too much and that we should focus on the victory we have in Jesus. I agreed and referenced a number of verses in support of focusing on overcoming sin.

Later I reflected on the conversation, finding nothing amiss, but still having some small discomfort over what was not said. You see, we live in a culture at large and Christian with many voices.

I read Puritan prayers, fully concurring with their attributing to themselves, and by extension me, actions, thoughts, intentions, and omissions no better than a worm. I am a sinner by nature and a sinner by practice. Job’s false comforter, Bildad the Shuhite, says truly, ““How then can a man be just with God? Or how can he be clean who is born of woman? If even the moon has no brightness and the stars are not pure in His sight, how much less man, that maggot,
and the son of man, that worm!” (Job 25:4-6) We are promised that we will be made perfect in heaven (Hebrews 12:23), but we fall far short, as it says in Romans 7:18-19, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” I have this fallen nature, but that is not who I am in Christ. I am a new creation, the old things passed away. (II Corinthians 5:17) I have the mind of Christ. (I Corinthians 2:16)

But more prevalent in our society than the worm mentality are voices that proclaim either overtly or by implication that each person is or can be perfect or powerful or in control, being or having god within us. These voices, though many proclaim to be, are not Christian. They are Humanist and counter to the Scriptures, attributing to man god-like qualities. Power of positive thinking gurus hawk self-improvement books and faith healer-prosperity gospel preachers tickle ears (2 Timothy 4:3). Whereas the Scripture teaches that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV) Therefore “Thus says the Lord, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5, NASB*) And we struggle, as it says in Romans 7:18-19: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”

Being neither worthless and unable to respond nor godlike and supremely powerful, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price, therefore, glorify God in your body. (I Corinthians 6:19-20) We are “called as saints” (Romans 1:7), that is, sanctified or made holy. We called beloved: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (II Corinthians 7:1) Because we are loved by God, we are both motivated and enabled (II Peter 1:3) to cleanse ourselves. That means avoiding sin (I Corinthians 10:13), quickly confessing sin (I John 1:9), and perfecting holiness are top among our duties. Don’t focus on your sinful tendencies; focus on your ability in Christ to daily overcome those tendencies. In balance, pursue victory, but take heed lest you fall (I Corinthians 10:12, KJV), informed by the Word of God and led by the Spirit of God.

*NASB is what I almost always quote from, but I use other versions on occasions for emphasis.

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“Low in the grave He lay
Jesus my Savior!
Waiting the coming day
Jesus my Lord!

Death cannot keep his prey
Jesus, my Savior!
He tore the bars away
Jesus my Lord!

Vainly they watch His bed
Jesus, my Savior!
Vainly they seal the dead
Jesus my Lord!” (1)

What was He doing? He had suffered but was now at rest, but He was not idle. The Bible says, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” (Now this expression, “H e ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)” Ephesians 4:7-10 “made alive in the spirit, in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark” I Peter 3:18-19 I don’t fully know what this means, that He “led captive” and “made proclamation”, but it certainly did and will bring glory to Him for His power over death and grace toward sinful man. The next verse may or may not relate to this scene in The Grave where He descended. It may mean that they had the Gospel preached to them during their lifetime, but it may also mean they were preached to in The Grave. “For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.” I Peter 4:6

Back on the top side, “Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” Matthew 27:65-66 But it was in vain, for He arose, the stone was rolled back, and the guards were as dead, fully fainted away. Death could not hold its prey, nor could the government seal and secure His grave, nor could the religious leaders lie Him out of existence and influence, nor could the crowd crying, “Crucify, crucify Him!” thwart His purpose to rescue His people. The mystery of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, how God died, how sinners were rescued, the timing, the scope, the suffering, and the victory were a mystery to all, even prophets and angels:

“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.” I Peter 1:12

His victory was not merely His and our joy, but our assurance and proof to anyone willing to look that He is who He says He is and accomplished what He says He accomplished.

“Up from the grave He arose
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with His saints to reign
He arose! (He arose)
He arose! (He arose)
Hallelujah! Christ arose!” (1)

  1. Hymn by Robert Lowry, 1874

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I only visit with my brother about once or twice a year. He is kind to let my wife and I stay in his house when we come to town for family functions. It was Thanksgiving week and we sat reading in the living room, and my daily reading was Psalm 116. When I read verse 13, “I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord,” I mused that I did not know what the psalmist was referring to. Up to this point in the psalm there is not the least context hint of what the psalmist is doing or where he is. The rest of the psalm does give hints but could be taken several ways. So, I asked my brother if the cup of salvation was a celebratory cup at a feast or a cup of oblation before the altar. He whipped out his laptop and went commentary hunting on his Bible software. A number of commentators offered both possibilities as explanation, but there began to be a weight of evidence from the cross-references to other Scripture passages that leaned heavily toward cup of oblation. Scripture is always the best way to interpret Scripture, because it never contradicts and always tells the truth. Psalm 16:4-5 says, “

“The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;
I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, nor will I take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.”

David gives hint at two types of cup here, both the drink offering of idols he will not sacrifice and the cup of abundant supply he has been allotted by God. A quick survey of the uses of cup throughout the Bible reveals that cup is a symbol for God’s provision. The majority of its uses are for the provision of wrath and judgement for the wicked. Other uses include drink offerings of idols, abundant provision of health and supplies for living, and soul salvation.

In Leviticus 17:11 it says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” Here God is explaining why the blood is drained out of a sacrifice and why He commands that blood be drained out of a slaughtered animal before cooking and eating it. The priest would lift up the cup of blood collected from the sacrificed animal, sprinkle some of it on the sacrifice on the altar, and pour most of it at the base of the altar. (ex. Leviticus 4:7,18,25; 5:9) Some small amounts were used for various ceremonies of sanctifying (setting apart) by sprinkling or rubbing some the blood on the the person or object (ex. Leviticus 1:5, 9:12, 14:14, 16:14). This cup of blood is very significant to the understanding of the sacrifice and its symbolic nature. God clearly explains why a sacrifice is accepted in place of the death of the sinner: “to make atonement for your souls” (v.11). God is accepting a life sacrifice in place of the life of a guilty sinner.

But, “Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.” (Hebrew 9:9-10) Old Testament sacrifices were temporary “sweeping sins under the carpet” as it were. A better sacrifice was needed.

David mentions the context of the cup. He is fulfilling a vow in a certain place and way, in the temple:

“in the presence of all His people,
In the courts of the Lord’s house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.” (Psalm 119:18-19)

It seems that His vow is to publicly thank and worship God as David raises the “cup of salvation”, the blood to be sprinkled by the priest on the offering.

And this cup of salvation has its fulfillment in Christ, who “not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”(Hebrews 9:12) The blood of Christ is an abundant supply that satisfies the wrath of God for everyone who believes. At the Passover meal, the Last Supper, Jesus “took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Jesus raised the cup of salvation which He explains symbolizes His blood.

Our worship is a raising of the cup of salvation in thanksgiving for what He has accomplished. David raised it before the fact. Jesus raised it just before the fact, then raised it by His own sacrifice. We raise it in memoriam of what Christ did for us.

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The Word of God is one whole story written by an Infinite Author. Therefore, it should not surprise us when we study it, it yields ever more connections and truths about anything and everything. So, great is the Lord, His name, and His works. As it says in Psalm 111:2:

“Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them.”

I was reading Psalm 149. It calls loudly for the praise of God. It has a secondary theme as to why “His godly ones” should praise Him: “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people.” (v.4) Is “His people” all Israel, godly Israel, or all His people for all time? It certainly is not all Israel for He says through Isaiah the prophet,

“Therefore the Lord does not take pleasure in their young men,
Nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows;
For every one of them is godless and an evildoer,
And every mouth is speaking foolishness.” (Isaiah 9:17)

I don’t believe that He is speaking of merely godly Israel either. Here is the reason. Because He “takes pleasure in His people” the psalm reports two results: 1) “He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation” (v.4b), and 2) “This is an honor for all His godly ones” (v.9).

Oh, what a privilege and joy to be beautified with salvation. I am afflicted and needy and unworthy and sinful, and yet He has lavished His grace upon me, and all those who submit to His rule and trust in Him, by beautifying me, us, with His salvation. Praise God!

But then comes the deep and glorious connection to future events. What is this “honor for all His godly ones”? This phrase is the conclusion of verses 5-9:

“The high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand,
To execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,
To bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,
To execute on them the judgment written;” (v.6-9a)

God is going to lead them in judgements. I see here some detail filled in for a verse in Revelation 19:

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

Obviously, the emphasis is and should be on Jesus, but verse 14 includes us: “And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.” I believe that Psalm 149: 6-9 is telling us what we shall be doing as we follow “Him on white horses”. Even as Christ has had us, “the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions,” so He will have us fill up His judgements at the end. And it will be an “honor for all of His godly ones.” We follow Him through thick and thin for He is worthy.

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Preachers love “p’s”, because there are such a variety of meaningful words, and particularly theological words, that begin with p’s for those three point sermons. One of those very memorable “triple p’s” concerns the progress of salvation in a person’s life that is summarized in Romans 8:28-30. Salvation has sequential nature to it.* My experience of salvation is past, present, and future. At the moment of my believing in Jesus, God justified me. Now He is sanctifying me. In the future He will glorify me. In the Romans passage, Paul speaks of all three of these in the past tense. I think there are two possible reasons for the past tense. For one thing, these events are so certain that they are completed even though not presently carried out. Secondly, it seems like to me, that since God is eternal and timeless, He sees the whole progress of the salvation He is bringing about in us as one event. He has accomplished it, it is complete, and it stands fast. Frequently this sequence of salvation is taught as God saving us from the penalty of sin in the past, the power of sin in the present, and the presence of sin in the future.

As I was reading in the Scripture yesterday, this triplet of penalty, power, and presence came afresh to my mind. Then I paused for a moment and reflected on the fact that this view of the work of God centers on His process to remove sin from us and us from sin. That is a good emphasis and right. But with what was it replaced, I mused? The answer is not hard; it is righteousness. And how might we think of His imputation of righteousness to us in terms of the progress of salvation?

In the past, we were saved for (by) the provision of righteousness. “ He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) This verse most clearly communicates the great transaction, the glorious transfer. Jesus provided me with His righteousness, therefore, I am justified in His sight.

In the present, we are saved for (by) practice of righteousness. “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13) As God is at work, he calls us to work along side Him in the power that He provides. He gets all the glory and we get the benefit of being changed and participating. As one of my pastor’s favorite** verses says, “…seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3) Perseverance of the saints is not merely hanging on by fingertips, but the ability to fully succeed as a believer.*** God and we are active in our sanctification.

In the future, we are saved for (by) perfection of righteousness. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2) If you want to understand better what glory and glorification will be like, dwell on Jesus. (John 1:16-18) This realization is a great motivation to live a more godly life, as the next verse in 1 John 3 confirms: “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (v.3) God will one day glorify us so that we may see Him (Matthew 5:8).

In summary, and more concisely,

     I am saved from the

            penalty of sin (past),

            power of sin (present),

            presence of sin (future),

                         and

     I am saved for (by)

            provision of righteousness (past),

            practice of righteousness (present),

            perfection of righteousness (future).

*I do not say a “time element” because God’s predestination before time and our life in Him for eternity are timeless. However, there is both an order (sequence) and a time element to the moment of salvation, the process of sanctification, and the inception of glorification.

**And it is quickly becoming one of mine, given the great encouragement it gives that God cares and has already cared enough to provide all that we need to please Him and succeed.

***Those few who would shame Him by consistently only surviving are disciplined. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

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I could see this backyard lawn without any detail other than the fairly short grass. As I observed, I* walked over to the center of the yard and drove a narrowly triangular stake into the ground. Then I tied one end of a small rope that was curled up on a spool onto the stake and began unwinding it as I moved away from the stake. I always kept the rope taut but it danced up and down as I went. After a few moments I paused and looked back at the rope and the stake. As my eyes focussed on different segments of the rope, I saw knots tied at irregular intervals. I compared these knots to their distance from and similarity to the stake. Only in daydreams and dreams can Physics laws be overcome. For then I released the rope, which stayed taut, walked back to several of the more noticeable knots and drove stakes into the ground through the knots. I stood back, observing, as the rope continued to unfurl for what, with a pause**, would be eternity future. 

When the scene vanished from my mind, I immediately realized that it was a metaphor for my life and salvation. The ground, which like a plane, receded off infinitely forward and backward, but unlike a plane had depth of soil, represented salvation. I was being grounded in a salvation that was decided in eternity past and would be executed throughout all of eternity future.

The stake was my moment of salvation. And here is the reason that I believe this line of musing came upon me. I had been considering Jesus’ words to Zaccheus, “Today salvation has come to this house, because, he, too, is a son of Abraham.” When I read “today”, I understood that Jesus meant that in that moment, in space and time, Jesus had come to Zaccheus in salvation. I have been among varying brothers over time as concerns their understanding of Jesus’ work of salvation. Some say you must receive Jesus; it is your choice. Others say that to ask someone to receive Jesus is wrong and counter to God’s ordaining of salvation in a person’s life. Salvation is wholly of God and “it is your choice” puts man in the driver seat of a vehicle he can’t control. It is wrong. But God is both eternal and transcendent while personal and present. He works in eternity and He works in time. He has predestined those who will be saved and brings it about- all glory to Him. But we do not know the when, the how, or the who, so we plead with people to believe and receive Jesus. When they do, God has accomplished in that moment what He ordained long ago. There is a stake planted in time and eternity. 

Some people know when that stake was planted; some do not. It is planted nonetheless. When a person does not know, perhaps it is obscured by the fog of life or the mysterious moment and work of God was not by Him revealed to that person. When a person knows the when, it may be a helpful source of assurance. Our little rope is firmly attached there and our life is subsequently unfurled. But the main source of assurance is those ancillary stakes in our lives resulting from knots or difficulties in our lives. When we continue to believe and act on that belief throughout our life, we confirm and deepen that faith by driving another stake into salvation. We become more assured. God provides the event in our lives, the stake of faith, the hammer of confirmation, and the strength of remembrance. He animates every part of our faith, but He involves us. All of those stakes ground the rope of my life in the ground of eternal salvation. Jesus holds them firm in Him.

I feel certain that someone could punch holes*** in my metaphor, but the the points I intend are 1) God accomplishes salvation in time and eternity, 2) God involves us, and 3) We have assurance through faith in God throughout the events of our lives. That assurance is described in the letter of I John. One phrase, “by this we know”, occurs 8 times in the book along with other similar affirmations of assurance God gives us that we belong to Him. The best way to have assurance that you believe is to believe right now, which builds more assurance for those trying times when it is harder to believe. “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31) is a stake in the ground of salvation then and again and again and now and in the future. Faith does not provide salvation; Jesus provides salvation. Be always clinging to Him.

*It is weird to think of yourself as watching yourself in a dream or daydream.

**For the believer death is not an annihilation of life but a mere transition or pause.

***That pun has holes all in it, but I’ll stake my writing on the truth of it.

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Some things you learn through “book learnin'”, and I’m not adverse to that since I can’t be everywhere at once or in one life time. But learnin’ by experience is better when you can get it. I have a friend who is a very talented artist. He produced several insightful and intriguing stippling pictures (check out “Business on Parade”). And at one point when I was underemployed, he gave me a little work. One of the projects he gave me for some graphic design work he was doing was a stippling of a 8 1/2 x 11 sheet from white graded to black. I guess we would produce that by a digital method now, but he said at the time that the random process of poking a pen at a paper produced a far better picture.* I think that I remember it taking about 10 hours overall.

On my way to church this morning, I was praying that God would give me something to make the Sunday School lesson more interesting. As I drove the interstate the drizzle (or mist) slowly intensified and then later let up. I turned on the intermittent wipers to a slow setting, but I did not increase it as the rate of drizzle increased. I began to notice what reminded me of stippling on the windshield and every 5 seconds or so it got wiped off and started over. Artists that stipple use different sizes of pen tip for a given picture or on different elements of the same picture. The windshield stippling was far more complex in its randomness, utilizing multiple droplet sizes and some streaked upon impact. The effect was quite interesting. To our eye randomness brings some level of pattern. Three dots even nearly in a row look like a line and catch the attention. Four dots can suggest a square, rectangle, or rhombus. But looking at the individual dots is not the point (or points? ha ha). One must step back to see the artistry. The windshield would still look random, but when an artist is involved the result can be detailed beauty and communicate mood.

There is a metaphor here. Our lives are stippling drawings. Each strike of the pen can seem random for which we are thankful or annoyed or perplexed or overwhelmed or exited or challenged. But from these many seemingly random events God is designing a beautiful picture that reveals the Artist’s involvement in the process. Randomness alone cannot produce ordered beauty.** God is giving glory to Himself and benefiting us and others through controlling each strike of the pen on the paper of our lives. No unforeseen events ever mar the picture He is making.

I began the Sunday School lesson with this illustration and then in Luke 9 showed how Jesus was sovereignly controlling every detail of the events before, during, and after the feeding of the 5000, including what details were recorded. Jesus tested Philip’s and Andrew’s (indeed, all of the disciples’) faith when He knew what He was about to do. Every detail filled out the picture He was painting. Before the big reveal of everyone satisfied and 12 baskets full of leftovers, the questions and commands must have seemed trying and confusing. God, give me patience and perseverance as the pen contacts my paper in seemingly random spots and ways, knowing You are in control and this process is for Your glory and my good.

A stippling ball

A Stippling Ball****

*Yes, I enjoyed making that predominantly “p” phrasing.

**Crystal patterns in rock or snow flake form randomly but have underlying chemical design. I could get into the whole evidence of design argument, but you should read my blog entries because it is a frequent theme.

***In fact, the painting seemed to be focused on an extended metaphor of bread. Let’s talk about that another day.

****It would take more time and far more dots to make a good picture of a ball and its shadow, but I feel like it represents the intended purpose.

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There is so much to be thankful for. James 1:2 says we should “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials”. God’s ways are consistently counter and frequently appear odd to us. But accepting and even giving thanks during trials produces “endurance” and renders us “complete”. (James 1:3,4) The trials of Jesus were for our good (Hebrews 5:7-10).

Can scars be beautiful?
My Lord's certainly are
So rich in mercy full

Can troubles lend a hand?
My Lord's saved me from hell
By His strength I now stand

Can temptations bring good?
My Lord's perfected Him
I cling more as I should

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I don’t deal well with time stress. Have I said that recently? I alternately repeat what I just got through saying and forget what I just said which is a degenerative form of circular reasoning that I am convinced is not solely due to age, but rather to stress. More on that later, IF I get the time. So, this is a short blog entry to say that I am thankful for my six Sunday School students who were singing out on “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” this morning, participating in prayers of thanksgiving, playing a review game on biblical concepts, reading the Scriptures out loud, and dutifully filling in their table of biblical facts that they promised to review with their parents. Well, it doesn’t always go quite that well, but they are children who want to know what the Bible says, and that is exciting. I prayed for them this morning that God might make them leaders in their future families, their churches, their communities, and their nation for the glory of God. 

Our lesson was concerning the verifying and differing testimonies to who Jesus is and what He came to do as presented in the Gospels. Should you be interested in looking it over, following is the table I had them take down as we read and discussed the Scriptural passages:

Gospel Themes
Comparison of the Gospels

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I haven’t blogged for one month now. I dislike not putting my thoughts down, but the last month has been an wholly unexpected whirlwind. Added to my absence from the blog was the 3-week loss of my journal. I use composition notebooks of the kind you might use in a science lab. This morning I found it. I decided that as time allows I will read back through it. The second entry was concerning a Bible study I had done about Jesus reading in the synagogue, His inaugural speech as it were. He read Isaiah 61:1-2a:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord…”

Then He stops, mid-thought, mid-sentence, and hands the scroll back to the synagogue official, saying, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21). Jesus was proclaiming the purpose and purview of His ministry. The reason He stopped at this exact place in the passage was “Today”, namely His 1st advent to Earth, it was “fulfilled”. The next parts, “And the day of vengeance of our God, …to comfort all who mourn, …they will rebuild the ancient ruins, …everlasting joy will be theirs,” (Isaiah 61:2b&c, 4a, 7d) refer to His second advent, followed immediately by the Millennium and Eternity Future. 

Now, I know that this points to a certain theological perspective, but I am neither ashamed of it nor have any particular doubts about the general outline of it. In fact, my more than usual intense reading of the minor prophets this summer solidified and deepened my conviction that God still has a plan for physical Israel both to judge the majority and to save the remnant in order to fulfill all of the promises He has made and not yet completed. Many of these prophecies are just too clearly oriented to the blessings of land and nation to be spiritualized away. We who are spiritual Israel, which I believe includes the saved remnant of physical Israel, will participate in those blessings during the Millennium.

I had a small diagram in my journal that shows how prophecy frequently teaches us about future events. It is not at all new to me, but I like to put things down and add detail as I am able.

Prophetic View

No diagram, analogy, type, or metaphor can ever be a complete explanation of  the reality, but they may be accurate to the extent they are intended to explain the reality. The prophet is thought to not be able to see the valleys, because God is just revealing the mountaintops of future events. However, some of the events of the Inter-testamental Period (Silent years) are revealed in Daniel’s vision in chapter 11. Antiochus Epiphanes (though not named) is given as a type of the the Antichrist. So, the Inter-testamental Bad Guy and the “Day of the Lord” Antichrist are featured in the same prophecy.

This is a frequent pattern in prophecies. There is a near or historical (from our perspective) fulfillment and a future and/or spiritual fulfillment. David can truthfully groan, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1), and yet be simultaneously and more completely revealing the crucifixion of Christ a thousand years later. So, the prophet Isaiah proclaims that “The Spirit of God is upon me,” and God is saying that Jesus will say and do these things later over several periods of time.

To place this Isaiah 61 passage on my diagram above, I would understand to to look something like the following:

Prophet          Near Fulfillment        1st advent           2nd advent     Millennium             Eternity

Isaiah 61:1-9      good news to the   “The Spirit…          “day of           “comfort            “everlasting
……………………………..afflicted              favorable year”      vengeance”  all who mourn…          joy” .          portion in                                                                                                                                                                                their land”

If I were to add or change anything in my diagram, it would be to add some labeled glasses on the prophet which read, “Holy Spirit vision”. We all need discernment and discretion and these come solely from God (Proverbs 2:1-12).

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Recently, I gave each of my older grandchildren (that’s 4 out of 6, who are old enough to understand what I am saying) a polished black rock. I told them that every time they look at it or rub it with their thumb to keep it shiny, they should think, “Jesus is  like a rock that is unchanged.” He is firm. He is sturdy. He is dependable. He provides for us. The Scripture describes Him as a rock in I Corinthians 10:4: “and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from the same spiritual rock which followed them, and the rock was Christ.”

The illustrations for Paul’s comments in I Corinthians are found in Exodus 17:1-7, Numbers 20:1-13, and Deuteronomy 8:15, 32:1-43 (The Song of Moses). If you read the Numbers passage, you will see that God got angry with Moses and Aaron for striking the rock this second time instead of speaking to it as God had commanded. Even though Moses’ anger showed a presumption on his part, what God says to them reveals the source of God’s anger as resulting from them not treating (or representing) God as holy before the congregation. They had disobeyed God’s direct command. I have long wondered why God got so angry. I believe ultimately it may be because Moses’ careless and angry action destroyed a symbol God had designed to explain His work with man. The first time before a rock (Exodus 17), God commanded Moses to strike the rock. The second time (Numbers 20), God commanded Moses to speak to the rock. The first time Christ came He was struck on the cross to deliver us from sin, for “in that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.” (Zechariah 13:1) Just as the rock poured forth life giving water for the people when Moses struck it, so Christ poured forth life giving blood when the nails were struck into his hands and feet. The second time Christ will come “having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await him.” (Hebrews 9:28) He will gladly provide all we need and more for those for whom He was struck to rescue them. “Ask, and it will be given unto you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the it will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened to him.” (Matthew 7:7-8) 

In Deuteronomy, Moses teaches Israel a song about the dependability, consistency, strength, perfection, faithfulness, righteousness, and jealousy for His people of Israel’s God, their Rock.

David helps to solidify our understanding about God as our Rock. His most direct explanation of the rock metaphor comes in Psalm 18. In verses 1-3 he sets forth the idea of the Lord as his rock:

“I love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

The rock metaphor becomes a shorthand for David of security, protection, salvation, strength, victory, and all else that God means to him regarding physical, mental, and spiritual rescue from all variety of enemies. God is for him a firm place where his foot doesn’t slip and his enemies don’t overcome him (v.36-37)

I know that my grandchildren can’t understand all of that right now, but learning dependence upon God is a good lesson to begin early. We will always need to come around to learning it at a deeper level and life provides many opportunities to review that lesson.

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On the drive to church this morning,
I wrote the first verse of the following poem.
Hands free communication (as with a cellphone) disallowed me
to write it down, so the beginning of the second verse was lost
to me before I could write it down. But the direction in which
I was thinking remained for the rest of the poem to come this afternoon. God’s grace and goodness are so great, especially in contrast to our inability to comply to His commands and wishes.

So much wickedness in my heart
Made in God’s image, tarnished art
Frequent failings, falling away
To often straying from the way

Desire to follow ever grows
Distracted by pleasures and woes
Many small failings of the heart
Who will give me a brand new start?

Jesus only, beginning, end
Power to enable, transcend
All my failings and weakness
Distracted thoughts and selfishness

All by grace He has given me
From Him any good that you see
This fragile glass His strengths reveal
Demonstrates His goodness is real

One day my faulty service gone
Perfect obedience will dawn
In good time I will be steadfast
Then I will see God at long last

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The first advent we celebrate
As babe in flesh we can relate
Without a sin He lived His life
Through all temptation, pain, and strife

Miracles He performed with ease
Controlling nature as He please
To His deity these pointed
And with the Spirit anointed

Taught us of the Father’s kindness
Of religious leader’s blindness
God’s kingdom come in hearts of men
Of wrath to come, the cost of sin

His most amazing, gracious toil
His death that sin and death did foil
For those who believe and submit
Eternal life He will commit

He rose from the grave on day three
From sin’s power He set us free
Now we serve Him with joy and peace
Seeking for others sweet release

He returns that glorious day
His mighty power on display
The dead are raised to life anew
Trailing the Master in full view

So with Him forever to reign
His was the price, ours is the gain
With joyful hearts we’ll worship Him
The saints singing eternal hymn

In His life and death is our hope
Eternal in extent and scope
What assurance it is to know
The One from Whom all blessings flow

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Frances Havergal wrote the following poem for New Year greeting cards in 1874, which later became a hymn:

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

It is a time to reflect on the past, take stock of the present, and aspire to a better future. Much if not most of life is beyond our control, but she clearly pleads God’s provision, not for an easy time, but for a fruitful time in belief and service to God. I ask that my Christian brothers and sisters be blessed with just what this poem requests, “another year for Thee”.

There are others of my friends and readers who do not yet know God through His Son, Jesus Christ. I plead with God to choose you in this new year to be His child. Though He is the one who chooses, in some mysterious and yet simple way we must choose Him as He enables us to. The offer is there; knowledge of God and life eternal awaits. Trust Jesus to take away the guilt of your offenses against God by the sacrifice He made on the cross. It is not a complex choice, but it is a definite one. Do not reject Him for some misguided sense of fairness:

“Give us fairness,” said many voices.
“You don’t want fair,” he said,
“For then we would all be dead.”

Grace that will set you free,
Mercy to pardon, can’t you see?
You have no other choices.

And why would we all be dead? “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) There in the same sentence with the bad news and death, is the good news and eternal life. 

May your New Year be blessed with the knowledge of God and joy in serving Him.

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains