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Posts Tagged ‘jesus’

HE WAS LIFTED UP

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Those four words, “he was lifted up,” is how Luke, in Acts 1:9, describes the ascension of Jesus back into heaven. Last week, in preparation for my sermon Sunday, I explored the New Testament’s teaching on the significance of this historic event. What I found surprised me. In addition to the future implication of Jesus’ ascension (our own ascensions into heaven), there are multiple ways in which the ascension of Jesus shapes my life now.

Here are four ways that I mentioned Sunday:

  1. SPIRITUAL PRIORITIES AND THOUGHTS: Since Christ has ascended to the right hand of God, I should seek those things and set my mind on things that are above (Colossians 3:1-4).
  2. COMFORT AND COURAGE: Stephen, as he was about to be stoned to death, saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56). It was this visual reminder of Christ’s exaltation that gave Stephen the comfort and courage to persevere through persecution and be faithful to death.
  3. POWER: God’s power is at work among Christ’s followers (Ephesians 1:19; 3:20). This power is the same power that was at work when God raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand (Ephesians 1:20-21).
  4. HUMILITY: Jesus’ exaltation to the right hand of God was the fitting reward for his life of selfless obedience (Philippians 2:5-11). Those of us who desire to be exalted by God will have Jesus’ mind in us and will choose the lowly path to exaltation, which is the only path to exaltation.
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AND THE ROCK WAS CHRIST

November 19, 2009 1 comment

For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

-1 Corinthians 10:1-4

This passage speaks of four blessings the wilderness generation enjoyed: guidance from the cloud, deliverance through the Red Sea, nourishment from the manna, and water from the rock. Concerning the water, a rabbinic tradition stated that a stream of water, or rock, travelled with the Israelites during their time in the wilderness. In this passage Paul reinterprets that tradition. Whether or not a physical rock followed the Israelites, there was a Rock that followed them. And the Rock was Christ.

In other words, years before his incarnation, Christ was the source of the wilderness generation’s blessings. He was present with them. He was involved in their lives. He was showering them with blessings.

This passage suggests something marvelous about our Lord: Jesus’ involvement on earth is not limited to the 33 or so years of his earthly life. His involvement on earth began before his incarnation on earth and continues today, years after his incarnation on earth.

Jesus is still God-With-Us, present when we worship (Mt. 18:20), when we share in communion (Mt. 26:29), and when we face trials (Acts 18:10). Even more, he’s always with us (Mt. 28:20) because he’s in us (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27).

Just imagine if we were convinced of and conscious of Christ’s presence with us and in us. Imagine how that knowledge has the potential to powerfully change our lives for the better. Imagine how it would change the way we face suffering, approach worship, and pursue holiness. Imagine how it would infuse us with the courage to seize opportunities for service and trade our modest ministry plans for ones that reflect the greatness of our God–our God who is with us, empowering our efforts for him.

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TELL ME THE BACKSTORY OF JESUS

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Jesus’ story doesn’t begin at his miraculous conception and lowly birth. Before his life on earth, Jesus had a life in heaven.

SunRise

The Apostle John, at the outset of his gospel, tells of four amazing aspects of Jesus’ pre-incarnate life:

  1. Jesus (the Word) existed before the creation of the universe. In the beginning was the Word.
  2. Jesus existed in the closest possible relationship with God the Father. And the Word was with God.
  3. Jesus was not the Father, yet Jesus was God. And the Word was God.
  4. Jesus had a part in creating the universe. All things were made through him.

John’s four insights suggest a significant difference between Jesus’ birth and ours. We had no say in whether or not we were born. Jesus, on the other hand, CHOSE to be born. He made himself nothing, in the words of Philippians 2:5-8.

The motivation behind him choosing to live here? LOVE. This love is, in fact, the essence of Jesus’ being and existence.

  • He existed in a loving union with the Father and Spirit prior to creation.
  • In a great act of love, he created us to share the love that already existed in the divine Father-Son-Spirit community.
  • In love he recreated us, trading a life of extreme advantage in heaven for a life of severe disadvantage on earth.
  • In the ultimate act of sacrificial love, he voluntary laid down the life he had previously voluntarily embraced.

In love Jesus came for us. In return, he asks that we love him enough to come to him.

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YEAH, BUT HE WAS GOD

October 15, 2009 4 comments

We are studying the incarnation of Jesus this week in the graduate course I am taking. It is fascinating and mysterious how Jesus was fully God and fully man. The instructor pointed out that liberal theologians have downplayed the divinity of Jesus, while conservatives have (in an effort to defend the divinity of Jesus) downplayed the humanity of Jesus. I think that’s a fair critique of both sides. Speaking as a theological conservative, it does seem that we have a bit more difficulty coming to terms with the full humanity of Jesus than the full divinity of Jesus.

jesus-nazareth-585

Take, for example, our almost knee-jerk reaction to Jesus’ strength in the face of temptation or suffering: “Yeah,” we think in the back of our minds, “but he was God.” We take his strength as a given, reasoning in terms only of his full divinity: “Of course he was perfect! Of course he endured suffering like a champ! He was GOD on earth, after all.”

Our protecting the full divinity of Jesus (and subsequently under-appreciating the full humanity of Jesus) creates a subtle distance between us and Jesus; it weakens the full force of Jesus’ challenging example because, we reason, he had the ultimate advantage over us. We’re not like him because we’re not God.

Stressing the full humanity of Jesus is crucial, then, for at least two big reasons:

1. Because Jesus was fully human, his example of strength in the face of temptation and suffering is powerful and relevant (Heb. 12:3).

2. Because Jesus was fully human, he is able to fully sympathize with us when we face temptation and suffering (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:15-16).