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A tremendous story about a radical, Lebanese Muslim finding Jesus – and becoming a conservative Lutheran pastor to boot! I was struck by the close similarities he drew between the works righteousness of Islam and the old Roman bondage from which Luther was set free.  “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

golden-wheat-field-1354390133xGa“When our Savior speaks to us concerning what constitutes our true blessedness He is simply describing His own experience. The beatitudes are not the immediate revelation of His Godhead, they are much more the impressive testimony of His manhood. He knew the truth of what He was saying because He had verified it all in Himself for thirty experimental years.”

-quoted by Alexander Whyte

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The Beatitudes

 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

– Matthew 5:2-12

‘The end and intent of the Scripture is to declare that God is benevolent and friendly-minded to mankind; and that he hath declared that kindness in and through Jesu Christ, his only Son; the which kindness is received by faith.”

-from Protestant martyr George Wishart’s (1513-1546) translation of the First Helvetic Confession (1536)

St_georges_church_graveyard_Carrington_Greater_ManchesterThe [Apostles’] Creed next mentions, that he “was dead and buried”. Here again it is necessary to consider how he substituted himself in order to pay the price of our redemption. Death held us under its yoke, but he in our place delivered himself into its power, that he might exempt us from it. This the Apostle means when he says, “that he tasted death for every man,” (Heb 2:9). By dying he prevented us from dying; or (which is the same thing) he by his death purchased life for us. But in this he differed from us, that in permitting himself to be overcome of death, it was not so as to be engulfed in its abyss, but rather to annihilate it, as it must otherwise have annihilated us; he did not allow himself to be so subdued by it as to be crushed by its power; he rather laid it prostrate, when it was impending over us, and exulting over us as already overcome. In fine, his object was, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” (Heb 2:14-15).

-John Calvin

Here is a short clip from our recent morning sermon, “The Announcement of the Lamb,” an exposition of John 1:29. For the complete sermon, click here

Sacrificial_Lamb_of_God_006The lamb is a symbol of everything tender, innocent, and wholly dependent. As an urbanite from boyhood, I have only seen lambs occasionally. My last lamb sighting was on a trip in England. While running through the beautiful countryside, some of these absolutely adorable little creatures arrested me on the roadside. The aww-factor was off the charts!

John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ, when seeing him among the crowds cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Now, the above symbolism rang true for Jesus. He was the epitome of harmless good. He was the man of peace, through and through. But there was much more to the lamb-symbolism for Jesus.  The image God gave in the lamb-symbolism was also one blood and gore, because the Old Testament lamb was raised to be a victim. A sacrificial victim.

Why? Is this just a crude hold-over from primitive, superstitious peoples? Are we moderns right to say we have moved on from these gruesome ideas? Really, is the meaning of the cross still meaningful?

Join us as we consider these issues in our Sunday morning service on May 6. 

 

untitled“Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons” (Ruth 1:1).

It was once asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” So in the same way, one might ask, can anything good come out of such dark, evil days, the days “when the judges ruled?” After all, though the era of the Judges was marked by heroic underdog-victories and feats of superhuman strength, yet they were spiritually and morally backwards. The days of the judges were days in which “there was no king in Israel,” and when “everyone did what was right in His own eyes.”  Those were days of gross idolatry, of tribal civil war, days of foreign invasion and occupation, and of shocking moral abominations. But in these days, there was a great story, the story of Ruth.  Following the Book of Judges is this small, precious pearl, the Book of Ruth. Like a diamond shining in the rough.

Really, it is the answer to the book of Judges! “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” Though Israel had sunk so low, yet God stepped in.  Through Ruth the Moabitess, the unlikely convert to the God of Abraham, God restored life. He revived a family on the brink of extinction. And he established the house from which David came – and David’s seed, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Can anything good come out of such evil times?  “Come and see.”

“He manifests his comparative glory; “Thou art more excellent than hills of prey: fairer than the sons of men;” the bride, the believer sees him as the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, every way incomparable. Whatever he be compared to he excels it; if he be a lily, he is the lily of the valley; if he be a rose, he is the rose of Sharon; if he be a plant, he is the plant of renown; if he be a physician, he is the physician of value; if an advocate, he is an advocate with the Father; he is represented without any parallel.”

-Ralph Erskine (1685-1752)

Close-up_of_Sirius“What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.”

-John Chrysostom (c. 349-407)

“Find the door of your heart, you will discover it is the door of the kingdom of God.”

-John Chrysostom (c. 349-407)

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