Beautiful, Scandalous Night

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As the Father Sent Me

[21] Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” [22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

– John 20:19-23

When you were a child, were you told that you can be anything you want as long as you work hard and believe in yourself?  If so, someone lied to you. haha

Of course, working hard is good and having ambition is good, but I cannot be anything I want to be.  A sample of things I cannot be include president of France, an NBA player, and an astrophysics professor.

There are many, many things we can be, but we can’t be anything we want.  However, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be everything that God wants us to be and God calls His followers to be things we would never dream of being apart from Him

We are tempted to think that Jesus loves, saves, and blesses us so we can do whatever we want with our lives as long as we try to be good people.  But blessing is not to be used however we please.

Verse 21, Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  When the Father sent the Son to live among us, He said more than “Have fun!”  The Father had a purpose and plan for Jesus, and Jesus understood this.

John 4:34  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

John 5:30  “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 6:38  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

As the Father sent Jesus with purpose, so He send us with purpose.  The question, then, becomes what is His purpose?

Verse 23 reads, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus does not give Christians the power to say to those who want God’s forgiveness, “No forgiveness for you!  I don’t like you!”  Rather, this verse is saying that those who believe in Jesus are given the power and privilege of telling people about the way of salvation and forgiveness, the only path of being right with God.

What is the greatest thing you could ever accomplish?  Being a millionaire?  Being respected by all?  Being comfortable?  These are not bad goals necessarily, but if it’s the ultimate goal of our lives, it’s too small.  God Almighty invites His children to be in the business of eternal life, of calling people from every country, every race, every people group to worship the one, true, and living God.

BIG

[15] As I [Peter] began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. [16] And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ [17] If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” [18] When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

– Acts 11:15-18

The Holy Spirit, the gift of God that was given to the apostles at Pentecost, is given to Gentiles!  Peter was there, yet even he sounds shocked.  The Jerusalem church is so amazed that awkward silence fills the room before they can process what has happened and properly glorify God.

See Gentiles are people who largely did not know, let alone follow, the Mosaic Law.  Traditionally, they were actively opposed to God and His people.  For generations, Israel has assumed that the Messiah would come and crush the Gentiles.  Yet the Spirit of God falls on them; God Himself dwells in their hearts.

A few years ago, I visited the Grand Canyon with a few of my church members.  I had gone as a child and had a vague recollection of it, but when I looked into the canyon, I was stunned.  I realized I had no idea what “big” meant.

In our passage, the people of God are slowly beginning to realize that the good news of Jesus Christ is big.  Before Jesus came, many Israelites imagined salvation was about military conquest.  The Jerusalem church has a larger view, understanding that Jesus has come to grant not temporal but eternal blessing.

With the salvation of Cornelius’s household, the purpose of God extends beyond the individual or a particular ethnicity to include every tribe, nation and tongue.  The salvation of God includes even former enemies of God.  All peoples of the earth are to be a part of His Kingdom.

At times, salvation can be reduced to personal piety and well-being.  While Jesus is certainly concerned about both, His purpose is far larger.  Even as we labor in our local communities and love the people who are actually, physically present around us, we do so in light of the new heavens and new earth, the final defeat of sin and death, and the in gathering of worshipers from every era and every nation that is coming soon.

A Powerful Love

[9] In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. [10] In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

– 1 John 4:9-10

God sent His only Son to die on our behalf. He has shown us a costly love. In verse 10, we find the word ‘propitiation.’ It is an odd word and it means that Jesus has paid for our sins and made us right with God. So God has shown us not only a costly love, but a powerful love.

If you fell into the Ohio river and I jumped in to save you, it would be a costly love. But it makes a difference whether I actually do save you or whether you still drown. Jesus died on the cross and He did not die trying to save us. No on the cross He conquers sin and death and He actually saves sinners from hell.

“Jesus can help you. Trust him.”

What is the Gospel?
Bryan Chapell

The events that led to his arrest had been years in the making. When he was growing up, the polite phrase our family used to describe my brother’s mental capability was, “He has a harder time learning than most.” Though his mind stayed undeveloped, David became increasingly strong in body and will as my parents aged. Stresses of dealing with him, as well as with their own issues, led to their separation and to greater difficulties with my brother. As an adult, David’s desire for independence and his developmental disabilities were constant concerns. For friendship and thrills, he developed relationships that spelled trouble. The obvious resulted.

His arrest and confinement were more than his mind could process. He knew only the overwhelming fear that someone with a young child’s mental ability would experience in a jail cell. He huddled in a corner and trembled.

My brother’s obvious fear rekindled something in the heart of another man in that cell. And despite his own difficulties, he shared with David the message of God’s mercy: “Jesus can help you. Trust him.”

The truths of Sunday school lessons in special-needs classes that David had attended as a child rushed back to him. He prayed for God to forgive him and trusted in Jesus as his Savior.

David will be in jail for a long time. He will also be with Jesus forever—forgiven, restored, treasured, and transformed. This is the gospel for my brother and for all who trust in Jesus.

Link: Complete Booklet

Fundamental Questions

Lectures on Calvinism
Abraham Kuyper

Here four mutually dependent fundamental questions arise:

  1. Does Religion exist for the sake of God, or for Man?
  2. Must it operate directly or mediately?
  3. Can it remain partial in its operations or has it to embrace the whole of our personal being and existence?
  4. Can it bear a normal, or must it reveal an abnormal, i.e., a soteriological character?

To these four questions Calvinism answers:

  1. Man’s religion ought to be not egotistical, and for man, but ideal, for the sake of God.
  2. It has to operate not mediately, by human interposition, but directly from the heart.
  3. It may not remain partial, as running alongside of life, but must lay hold upon our whole existence.
  4. Its character should be soteriological, i.e., it should spring, not from our fallen nature, but from the new man, restored by palingenesis to his original standard.

The Storm

The Unpredictable Plant
Eugene Peterson

[4] But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. [5] Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. [6] So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

– Jonah 1:4-6

Storm is the environment in which we either lose our lives or are saved; there is no cool, safe ledge on which to perch as spectators.  There are no bleachers from which to enjoy the lightning and thunder, the waves and breakers of the storm.  We are in it, prophet and people, sailor and saints.  Nothing else matters at this point; it is life or death.  Whatever else has been on the agenda is on it no longer.  There is this single item: salvation – or not.

Money, a powerful element in human autonomy, holds a key place in [this story], Jonah using his excessively large sum of money to purchase passage to Tarshish…But the power of money disappears in the storm.  There is only a single power to deal with now: God – and God’s salvation.

StormThe only thing the sailors found useful to do in the Jonah storm was to lighten the ship, get rid of what they had heretofore assumed was their primary concern: “they threw the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them” (1:5)…As God’s action intensifies, the significance of our human lives…comes into focus as the single point of who we are, not what we have to offer him, not what we can do to help him.

If the storm sets the conditions in which these stories take place, prayer is the essential action.  In the Jonah story, the sailors pray, each crying to his own god (1:5) and then to Yahweh (1:14).  The captain asks Jonah to pray to his god, but Jonah doesn’t do it (1:6).  Jonah will later pray from the fish’s belly, but the salvation has by then already been accomplished…

Trouble, at least extreme trouble, storm-trouble, strips us to the essentials and reveals the basic reality of our lives.  In Jonah it was prayerlessness…The storm revealed Jonah to be a prophet who did not pray.