You Are Not Christ’s Plunder

Christ’s present role in glory is referred to as his “heavenly session.” Session means “sitting.” Presbyterian churches have a form of church government led by elders, who collectively constitute the session. The body of elders is known as the session because when they meet to deliberate, to establish policy, and to give supervision to the spiritual lives of the Christians under their care, they sit down and discuss these things. Likewise, when we say that Congress is in session, we mean that our representatives are assembled, and in their seats, ready to transact the business of the United States. The word session is appropriate to describe these situations because it is derived from the Latin sessio, which simply means “the act of sitting.” The most important session of all is the session of Jesus Christ in heaven.

In Psalm 110 God sets the Messiah at his right hand as king and priest—as king to see all his enemies under his feet, and as priest to serve God and channel God’s grace forever. This picture is applied directly to Jesus Christ, who since the Ascension actively reigns in the mediatorial kingdom of God. This was the early church’s confession and framework for Jesus’ rule.

Ephesians 1:20–23 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Acts 2:34–35 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Hebrews 1:13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 1 Peter 3:21–22 through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

In the NT world the triumphal procession was developed by the Romans to celebrate the occasion of a major victory. The victorious general or ruler in ceremonial dress would drive his captives – usually those of high status – and the spoils of war before him through the outer districts and into the very heart of Rome. When the victor arrived at the god’s temple, the prisoners, or representatives of their number, would be executed. In this processional the glory and power of Rome was celebrated, with the triumphant general playing the role of Jupiter, the god who had blessed the warrior with victory in battle. Then distribute the wealth to his followers. Paul employs the image of the Roman triumphal procession to depict the victory of Christ on the cross. Ephesians 4:7–8 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

How does Paul understand his own Christian life amidst these realities? 2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. Continue reading “You Are Not Christ’s Plunder”

Are You Stumbling?

1 John 2:9–11 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

In John 8:12, Jesus says that he is the light of the world. Romans 6:12 says those who believe in Christ are alive in Christ. If we abide in Christ, we abide in the light. Love for your brothers and sisters is one of the primary ways that you know that you are abiding in the light, abiding in Christ. The one who is in darkness has no capacity to love because his eyes have been blinded by the darkness. If you are walking in the light, then you have no cause for stumbling.

On Good Friday I called our current circumstances a hearing test. Faith comes through hearing and so circumstances that test our faith are a test of our hearing. Likewise, if loving your brother is how you know you are abiding in Christ, then circumstances that test your love for the brotherhood are a test of your life in Christ. Grumbling, complaining, Judging, avoiding, back-biting your brothers and sisters to whom Christ as united to you in Himself? Are you stumbling over your brother’s theology? Over what he calls clean and unclean? Are you stumbling over what your Sister isn’t saying? Are you stumbling over your brother’s foolishness?

Whatever we may personally think of the social distancing standards, the six-foot rule really is too shallow a grave for our unity. If you are stumbling, then you are walking in the dark. You are not walking in the light of a Gracious God. You are not walking in the light of the love that you have received.

Love is not an emotional response to beauty, merit or kindness, but a moral attitude dedicated to another’s good, whether or not that other is lovable, deserving, or responsive. Divine love means to love the undeserving, despite disappointment, worthiness or rejection.

1 Corinthians 13:4–7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The circumstances we find ourselves in are the judgement of a good God. The chastisement of Christ. It is discipline for our lack of wisdom. As I said, long before Gov. Inslee said all Israel to her tents in division and confusion – we had already made it a way of life. What confirmation bias is being revealed in your brothers and sisters as these events unfold? Do you love them enough to say something about that confirmation bias? Do you love them despite it? What ignorance, presuppositions, foolishness and worldliness is being revealed in your brothers and sisters? What is likewise being revealed in you? Because your sin is showing.

Jesus associated with the foolish things of the world to humble the wise. That means you. So why are you looking across the aisle thanking God for not making you like that fool over there? The unity of every fool who is hearing my voice right now, and we are all of us fools – our Unity is Jesus Christ.

The moon reflects the light of the sun. It is the lesser light. In the dark of night, the moon is a guiding light. The church is the lesser light that reflects the light of the sun of righteousness. In these dark times are we fulfilling that role? That calling? Showing that we stand in the light of God’s unconditional love? Or is the sky clouded by the billows of our own judgements, preferences and suspicions. Our cumulus clouds of self-righteousness?

John says that those who walk the light know where they are going. Do we know where we are going?  Where we will stand together, eyes fixed, not on one another, but on Christ for eternity? Is there anything so vile, so foolish, so selfish, so unholy that your brother or sister can do – to fall from Christ in whom they abide? So how can they fall out of fellowship so easily with you?

Do we remember where we are headed?  Where we will stand together, eyes fixed, not on one another, but on Christ for eternity? John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Let us repent of our lack of love for one another, our lack of abiding in the light, our lack of abiding in Christ – and get started, together, today.

A Death Sentence

Why does God allow suffering and difficulty in our lives if He loves us?

2 Corinthians 1:9-11 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

The circumstances of Paul’s life felt like a death sentence. Why would God allow one of His loving servants to suffer in this way? What was the point? 

Calvin wrote, “we are not brought to real submission until we have been laid low by the crushing hand of God.” 

Truly, we often need a bout of helplessness, to reduce our self-reliance and strip us of all false confidence, so that we might learn humility and open ourselves to the deep realities of God’s power. 

A severe threat of death led Paul to a deeper trust in God. 

When we rely on our own strength, righteousness and wisdom, we are unable to depend entirely on God, dooming ourselves to frustration, fear and moral failure. Romans 10:3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

An Object of Scorn

Jeremiah 6:10 To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.

On Good Friday, the Christian Church gathers to commemorate the murder her king. This is our unique calling as Christians, to be a very different kind of people, following a very different kind of King.

Jesus, the word of God, allowed Himself to be held up as an object of scorn so that we would have our ears opened and cease to hold His words up as an object of scorn.

Jesus descended from heaven to make a way back to God, the Father, for us all.

Consider the messianic promise of Isaiah 40:3-5 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Imagine the word of God booming out over a rough land and in response, the valleys rise while the mountains recede, as the great voice crushes every rough rock and levels every forest, creating a straight path back to the Father in Heaven.

Job’s Response to a Pandemic

When trial and tragedy came to Job’s house, it is startling to consider its source. 

Job 1:12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

So, Satan sets out to fulfill his own evil will on Job, within the bounds set for him by God. But Satan uses means. 

The Sabeans murder Job’s servants and slaughter all his donkey and oxen.

A fire falls from heaven and consumes His sheep. The Chaldeans raid the camels and murder Job’s servants. 

Finally, a wind came and knocked down the four corners of the house in which Job’s children were having fellowship, killing them all.

But Job does not curse the Sabeans or Chaldeans or impersonal “natural forces,” that brought destruction to Job’s household. 

Job turns to the heavens. Job 1:21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

But he knows who is behind it all. Who governs it all? Who is in control of the seemingly chaotic forces at work to trouble him?

Job reasons further in Job 5:6–9 For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. “As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.

Job does not blame God but knows that God is the one to whom he must turn. God is the one to whom he must commit his cause. 

Job knows that man was born to trouble. And that trouble is not mere sport or sadistic torture. It is the discipline and instruction a father gives His children.

Continue reading “Job’s Response to a Pandemic”

Trained by Grace

Grace appears, A Cornucopia of Blessings.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11–14 ESV)

 In verse 11 it says the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people. The grace of God that brings salvation for all people is obviously Jesus Christ. God so loved the world, He gave us His son. God restores man through Jesus. Truly this is unmerited favor, which is what grace means.  This is Good news.

The grace of God that saves us has appeared. We need to look at what this word appear means. The word in Greek is where we get our English word epiphany, which means “a striking revelation.” This Greek word is most frequently used in reference to the sun, as in; when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned (Acts 27:20 ESV). 

But the word is also used poetically in reference to Jesus, as in; because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78-79 ESV)

“To give” light, there is the same word translated as “appeared” in Titus 2:11. To appear is to spread light. This is predicated on John 8:12 when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”

So, going back to Titus 2, Paul is telling us something else that God’s grace does. The grace of God has dawned; it has lit up the world. The grace of God, in a sudden burst of illumination, has come onto the scene of human history like the sun at sunrise. The grace of God is the light we see by. Believers see by Grace. C.S. Lewis wrote at the end of his essay, Is Theology Poetry; I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”[1]

Lewis means that he sees the light of Christianity, but he also sees or understands everything else by that light. Continue reading “Trained by Grace”