Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Not a Hired Hand

Do you remember the name Victoria Soto?

Here's a reminder, from her Wikipedia entry:
On December 14, 2012, Soto was teaching her first grade class at Sandy Hook Elementary School when Adam Lanza forced his way into the school and began to shoot staff and students. After killing fifteen students and two teachers in the first classroom, Lanza entered Soto's classroom. Soto had hidden several children in a closet, and when Lanza entered her classroom, she told him that the children were in the auditorium. When several children ran from their hiding places, Lanza began shooting the students. Soto was shot after she "threw herself in front of her first grade students."
She was a true teacher.  Not a hired hand.

If she lived out the beautiful expression "my life for yours" when bullets were flying around the room, how much more do you think she lived it out when preparing her lessons?

Consider this passage from John 10, to see how Jesus contrasts the true shepherd with the hired hand:

John 10 - "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd."

What's your vocation?  What's your calling?  What's the ordinary work that the Father has given you to do?

Are you a true custodian?  A true shepherd?  A true doctor?  A true truck driver?  A true engineer?  A true teacher?  A true mom?  A true librarian?  A true physical therapist?  A true restaurant server?  A true minister?  A true carpenter?  A true law enforcement officer?  A true office clerk?  A true computer programmer?  A true screen writer?  A true hotel manager?  A true husband?  A true student?

Or are you living as merely a hired hand?

My life for yours.

This is what living "in step with the truth of the gospel" (as Paul says in Galatians 2) looks like.  My life for yours.

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."
~Jesus of Nazareth

Also to be considered here... how does this shape what it looks like to be a true church?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Holiness of Jesus

In a Bible study this week the question of the sinlessness of Jesus came up.

How could he be sinless, if he were indeed a true man?  Men are, by definition and universal experience, sinful.  Being a sinless man is like being a round square... or a yucky piece of bacon.  It's unthinkable.

This is a great question, and there are a few different ways to come at it.  And all of them are edifying.

First of all, remember that man as he was originally created was actually not sinful.  Not at all.  Man was originally created in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.

The corruption and shame and guilt—with which we are now sadly well acquainted—came later, when man "fell" into sin.  This story is told in Genesis 3.  That's when our very nature ("human" nature) was corrupted.  

But originally Adam and Eve were pure and innocent, walking with God (and with one another) in the garden, naked and not ashamed.

This sense of intimacy and freedom and natural dignity and instinctive obedience are some of the many important things that were lost in the Fall.  When we turned away from God, it was all shattered.  It all fell into ruins.  And we've been longing for a return to that state ever since.

But back to Jesus... how was he born into the history of humanity unscathed by the Fall?

That takes us to Luke 1.35: "And the angel answered her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.'"

It is the virgin birth that makes it possible for Jesus to be truly human, but without Adam's inherited sin.

I inherited Adam's sin.  So did you.  And that sin has two parts: legal guilt and a corrupted nature.

(To think about the difference between legal guilt and a corrupted nature, consider this: oak trees do not have legal guilt... but they do now have a corrupted nature—because of creation's bondage to the curse of sin.  That is to say, all oak trees will die.  See Romans 8.20-22.  They will die because of Adam's sin.  But we, Adam's unruly descendants, not only have that corrupted nature; we have also inherited his legal guilt.)

But the fact that Jesus was virgin born—without a human father—means that that line of descent from Adam was partially broken.  Jesus did not descend from Adam in the same way I did or you did.

This is why the legal guilt and corrupted nature that belong to us did not belong to Jesus.

As the angel said to Mary, "therefore the child to be born will be called holy."  It was the Holy Spirit that brought about the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, not a descendant of Adam.

By the way, I'm not saying that the transmission of sin only comes through the father.  Scripture does not make that claim, and neither will I.  But in the case of Jesus, the line of descent from Adam was broken.  It was interrupted.  Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

In Luke 1.35 that is the event that's bound up with the holiness of Jesus.  He inherited no legal guilt.  He inherited no corrupted nature.

And yet, he was fully human.  As Adam and Eve were fully human, before the death and decay of sin.  He assumed the "true" human nature; not the false and guilty and corrupted one.

And by the way... because he assumed a human nature... he could now redeem it.  He could redeem it from both the legal guilt and the corrupted nature.

And he did.

Praise be to Jesus, "the Sovereign Lord, holy and true" (Revelation 6.10).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Scholar & pastor & seminary president & evangelical leader Ligon Duncan was once asked what ministry counsel he would like to give to pastors and other church leaders.

He said:

First, be patient. 

Second, preach the Word from the pulpit with fervency, clarity and power, and let the prime means of grace do its work. 

Third, emphasize the importance of a weekly prayer meeting. 

Fourth, invite a core group of potential leaders in the congregation to study the Bible and pray with you, weekly and personally. Meet as a small group and do a Bible survey, and lead them in prayer. Model for them how to do it. Make them take part and be active participants. Watch the contagion spread among them for the study of God’s Word and prayer in the church, homes and their personal lives. Let them become recruiters and encouragers of others to study the Word and pray for themselves. 

Fifth, in the course of your teaching/preaching the Bible in the local church, spend time explicitly and specifically on explaining why it is important for Christians to study the Word and to pray, and how one ought to do it. 

Sixth, get your people to read good books about Bible study and prayer. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

the Kim Davis conundrum

There has been a great deal said and implied about the Kim Davis conundrum, and I won't pretend to have the wisdom to warrant a long post.

But imagine the precedents being set here; precedents that could exponentially multiply conundrums for our children and grandchildren.

What Peter Leithart says HERE is very much worth careful consideration.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

This trailer is strong... don't know about the movie yet

Just saw this.  Most movies targeted to Christians strike me as weak stuff.  

But this... this has potential.

Click HERE to see the trailer.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Thank you, Yolanda.

Yolanda Adams recently went on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, in order to introduce & explain one of the key application points of our upcoming sermon on Psalm 16.

You can hear her analysis by clicking HERE.

Thank you, Yolanda.

To hear more, come join us at Decatur Presbyterian Church on Sunday.