No Mere Man

Napoleon Bonaparte

I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of people would die for Him.

Advertisements

Remember to Whom You Are Speaking

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

Several recent books would have us believe that all we have to do is follow certain steps and God will give us whatever we ask. The authors say, in effect, “Follow this procedure or use these specific words and know for certain that God will give in to your requests.” That’s not prayer; that’s magic. That’s not faith but superstition. These are gimmicks intended to manipulate the sovereign God. But the one who prays like this forgets the One to whom he is speaking.

A Kind of Death Which Leads to Life

John Stott

Romans 8:13

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

…there is a kind of life which leads to death, and there is a kind of death which leads to life…What the world calls life (a desirable self-indulgence) leads to alienation from God which in reality is death, whereas the putting to death of all perceived evil within us, which the world sees as an undesirable self-abnegation, is in reality the way to authentic life.

Respect Makes the Task Easier

Does Prayer Change Things?
R. C. Sproul

Before I can be motivated to do something difficult for someone, I need to have a certain amount of respect for that person. When someone asks me to go out into the world and endure persecution and hostility from angry and contrary people, I have to respect that person deeply. Only then does that task become easier.

The Divine Warrior

Show Them No Mercy
Tremper Longman III

The first voice we hear in the New Testament is that of John the Baptist, sounding remarkably like the Old Testament prophets of phase 3:

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matt. 3:7-10; see also vv. 11-12)

John expects that the one coming after him will fill the role of the violent warrior who will rid the land of its oppressors. Imagine his shock later when the one he does recognize through baptism preaches the good news, heals the sick, and exorcises demons. As a matter of fact, we have a record of his reaction in Matthew 11:1-19. John is now in prison and hears reports about Jesus’ ministry. His doubts lead him to send two of his disciples to Jesus to ask the skeptical question: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (11:2).

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Matt. 11:4-6)

Through his actions, Jesus informs John that he has in fact chosen the right person. However, Jesus is also subtly changing – indeed, enriching – John’s understanding of his mission. In a nutshell, Jesus is the divine warrior, but he has intensified and heightened the battle. No longer is the battle a physical battle against flesh-and-blood enemies, but rather it is directed toward the spiritual powers and authorities. Furthermore, this battle is fought with nonphysical weapons.

The exorcisms of the New Testament are a case in point. Here we see the violent nature of the conflict. Matthew 8:28-34 (see also Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39) narrates the story of Jesus’ ordering the demons in two demon-possessed men to enter into pigs, which then throw themselves into a lake and are destroyed. The climax of phase 4 is violent but in an ironic way. Paul looks back on the crucifixion and pronounces it a military victory over the demonic realm:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col. 2:13-15)

Jesus’ ascension into heaven is also described in military language, indeed by the citation of a holy-war hymn from the Old Testament, Psalm 68:

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (Eph. 4:8)

Jesus defeated the powers and authorities, not by killing but by dying!

Courage IS Love

Motivating Soldiers
Henry Abbott

Junger cites 49 research papers from the last 50 years in the section of his book called “Love,” and he affirms the researchers’ findings in anecdotes from World War II, Vietnam, Afghanistan and beyond. He summarizes:

The army might screw you and your girlfriend might dump you and the enemy might kill you, but the shared commitment to safeguard one another’s lives is unnegotiable and only deepens with time. The willingness to die for another person is a form of love that even religions fail to inspire, and the experience of it changes a person profoundly. What the Army sociologists, with their clipboards and their questions and their endless meta-analyses, slowly came to understand was that courage was love. In war, neither could exist without the other, and that in a way they were just different ways of saying the same thing.

Link: Complete Article

Sober Reminders

Joel Kim

I, along with my colleagues, decided to visit Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery.  As the name indicates, this is where 145 foreign missionaries to Korea and their family members are now buried and remembered.  Among them were the families of Horace Underwood (1959-1916), the first Presbyterian missionary to Korea (northern Presbyterian), and W.D. Reynolds, a southern presbyterian (1867-1951).  While engaged in many ministries, these two missionaries are best remembered for their work in producing the first Korean translation of the complete Bible in 1910, but this was not without great cost.  Soon after their arrival in 1982, the Reynolds gave birth to their first son, William Davis.  Their joy was soon followed by grief as little William Davis died the same year he was born, and is now buried alongside many other children of missionaries who have died in Korea.  The graves of these missionaries are sober reminders of the sacrifices many missionaries (and their children) have made in their desire to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world.

Authentic Humanness

Believing and Obeying Jesus Christ: The Urbana ’79 Compendium
Edited by John W. Alexander

Chapter 4: God’s Judgment
John R.W. Stott

Romans 2:14-15

[14] For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. [15] They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them…

Paul is saying neither that the Gentiles always know what is right, nor that they always do it, still less that they can earn salvation by doing it.  He is saying rather that on those occasions when they fulfill the requirements of God’s law (which everybody does sometimes), they give evidence that they know it by nature.

This teaching has great importance.  It declares that the same moral law which God revealed in Scripture he has also stamped on human nature…

In consequence, the moral law is not an alien system, which it is unnatural to expect human beings to obey.  The opposite is the case.  God’s moral law perfectly fits us, because it is the law of our own created being.  There is a fundamental correspondence between God’s law in the Bible and God’s law in our hearts.  Hence we can discover our authentic humanness only in obeying it.  If we disobey it, we contradict not only what we know to be right, but we are contradicting our own human being.

Manute Bol: A Fool for Christ

Manute Bol’s Radical Christianity
Jon A. Shields

Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: “Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals.”

When his fortune dried up, Bol raised more money for charity by doing what most athletes would find humiliating: He turned himself into a humorous spectacle. Bol was hired, for example, as a horse jockey, hockey player and celebrity boxer. Some Americans simply found amusement in the absurdity of him on a horse or skates. And who could deny the comic potential of Bol boxing William “the Refrigerator” Perry, the 335-pound former defensive linemen of the Chicago Bears?

Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.

During his final years, Bol suffered more than mere mockery in the service of others. While he was doing relief work in the Sudan, he contracted a painful skin disease that ultimately contributed to his death.

Bol’s life and death throws into sharp relief the trivialized manner in which sports journalists employ the concept of redemption. In the world of sports media players are redeemed when they overcome some prior “humiliation” by playing well. Redemption then is deeply connected to personal gain and celebrity. It leads to fatter contracts, shoe endorsements, and adoring women.

Yet as Bol reminds us, the Christian understanding of redemption has always involved lowering and humbling oneself. It leads to suffering and even death.

Link: Complete Article

For the Sake of His Name

Believing and Obeying Jesus Christ: The Urbana ’79 Compendium
Edited by John W. Alexander

Chapter 3: God’s Gospel
John R.W. Stott

Romans 1:1-5

[1] Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, [2] which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, [3] concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh [4] and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, [5] through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…

If it is God the Father’s purpose that every knee and every tongue should acknowledge the supremacy of Jesus, it should be our purpose too.  We should be “jealous” for the honor of Christ’s name, troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed and all the time anxious that it should be given the honor and the glory which are due to it…

This is the highest missionary motivation.  It is neither obedience to the Great Commission, nor love for perishing sinners (right and strong as these incentives are), but rather zeal for the glory of Christ.  Some missionary endeavor has been a thinly disguised form of imperialism; that is, a hunger for the prestige of our country or our church or our organization or ourselves.  Only one imperialism is Christian, and that is concern for Christ’s empire or kingdom.  “For the sake of the name” is the missionary goal which causes all unworthy motives to wither and die.