Justified Journal

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Springs of life

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” ― Martin Luther

These words were penned by the church reformer, Martin Luther, about 500 years ago.  Since then, spring has come every year, without fail.  Maybe some springs were warmer, some were cooler, and some were rainier, but spring always came.

And with it came the birds, flowers, and animals.  New life!  This is what led Luther to declare that ‘the promise of the resurrection’ was not confined to ‘books alone, but in every leaf in springtime’.  Spring is a new beginning.

Winter comes first, however.  It is the time where everything goes dormant, hibernates, or just dies.  We don’t really look forward to winter (I’m sure those who were living in Boston this year won’t look forward to winter next year!).  If we could do things our way, autumn would change straight to spring, and we would skip winter altogether.

So it is with the Lenten season.  We would rather avoid this somber period in the church calendar altogether.  Why can’t we skip it and go from Christmas to Easter?

The answer goes all the way back to a leafy garden.  In this garden, God instructed Adam and Eve, “…you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”  We know that they did not follow this rule, but ate the fruit of the tree in defiance.

Thus, Paul tells us in Romans 6:23, ‘For the wages of sin is death …’ Death is the consequence of sin. Its finality is absolute. Its sentence is sobering.

But, that is not the end of the story.  In fact, it is just the beginning.  The latter half of Romans 6:23 tells us, “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 5:17 states, ‘For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!’

God didn’t wait until spring came to bring life.  The Son of God came during the season when sin and death reigned.  He came and lived during this winter season and was crucified.  But his cross put an end to winter forever.  His cross is the beginning of an eternal spring!

Upon a tree barren of leaves, the crucified one was put to death to face eternal death for us.  He paid for our sin and the consequence of our sin; death.  At Jesus’ resurrection, that mustard seed sprouted.  Eventually, it became the largest tree in the garden, and it’s still growing.

As the Easter season begins, we can point to this new life that is not merely declared in books, but also by God’s creation.  This creation replays the story over and over again, declaring, “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!”

Pastor John

Gospel healing

By Alice Gallagher:

“But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” Malachi 4:2 “. . . Through the progressive worsening of my seizures, God has continued to provide me with comfort and strength through the love of my friends and brothers and sisters in Christ: they have made great sacrifices with unrelenting kindness- from helping to fund a trip for me to go see a specialist in California and then actually traveling there with me, to simply being there for me so constantly, such acts reflective of Christ’s love have finally allowed me to rest in the knowledge that I am not unwanted. Most essentially what has brought hope to the tangle of fear and frustration that the seizures have cast on my life is the verse Matthew 17:23: And while they were there gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. It struck me one day that if the disciples had understood at that time what it meant that Jesus was explaining to them how the reconciliation of mankind to God was going to take place, or if they had at least had the retrospect of knowing about the resurrection event, they would have been able to see how pointless it was for them to become so “deeply grieved.” Following that train of thought, I believe providentially, it occurred to me that I have no need to feel so helpless about my seizure disorder and its consequences on my life. I have the retrospect that the disciples had not: the knowledge of Christ’s saving grace. Likewise, I can take the seemingly hopeless situation of my seizures in retrospect: my soul, once broken, is healed by the mystery of Christ’s redeeming work. In the same way, so is my body destined to be healed, whether it be on earth or after, at my ascension to be with Christ. So even though God has chosen, at this point, to withhold healing of my seizures, I can rejoice in the hope I have in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that he has made my soul new and someday I will have a new body to match. In the meantime, when I feel grotesquely unlovable, like a burden to others, God loves me with an incredible love,so much that he gave Himself to DEATH to save my soul, and he continues to sustain and protect me in ways that never cease to amaze. S.D. Gl.

Testimony

What do you think of when you hear the word testimony?  Perhaps you think of a court case where a person is called on to testify about their observations of a crime.

In modern evangelical circles, a person might tell the story of how they ‘made a decision for Christ’ publicly.  That person would talk about the darkest aspects of their past in order to highlight the change they went through as a result of that decision.  People who had the worst stories are often considered pseudo-celebrities for coming to Christ after all they’d been through.

The point of this exercise is to encourage the Christian audience that God is still at work.  Additionally, the ‘unchurched’ might feel that the person who is giving the testimony is a kindred spirit, and feel motivated to make a decision for Jesus just like s/he did.

For those of us who were raised in the church, we might feel that we haven’t had such a dramatic conversion.  We went to church on Sundays, attended Bible study and went through confirmation.  Our testimony seems rather weak compared, to say, a drug-addicted mother of fourteen who found the Lord and reformed her life.  Let’s face it, we’ll never end up on the lecture circuit with a resume of lifetime church-going.

But is our testimony the one that matters?

The apostle John’s account begins with testimony after testimony about Jesus.  He begins this account with what the Holy Spirit inspired him to write:

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.d 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1, ESV)

John disappears into the background.  In fact, except for the phrase “The disciple whom Jesus loved”, John is hardly seen in his testimony about Jesus.

As the first chapter progresses, John writes of John the Baptist’s testimony:

29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (ESV)

What an incredible declaration!  And that is not the end of it.  Jesus talks of himself in the “I am” statements made throughout John’s account.  These statements would have clearly reminded the Jews of Jesus’ day of Moses encounter with God in Exodus 3:14 at the burning bush:

13Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” 14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”

Jesus is declaring that He is the self-existent God!

For you and I, this is good news.  We don’t have to worry about the relative strength or weakness about our personal testimony, instead, we can repeat the testimony of John the Apostle, John the Baptist and the all of the disciples who declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

This leads us to God’s testimony about us in 1 Peter 2:

9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

No matter what your background is, Jesus has made you his own.  Through Him, we have become one people, united through His death and resurrection.  ‘You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession’ through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  That is God’s testimony about you.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Pastor John

Hide and go seek

I ran across a term that I hadn’t heard before in the book, “Left Behind and Loving It”.  The term was ‘epistemological crisis”.  It is when you learn something that turns your whole world upside-down.  It’s not just a paradigm shift, but it is a moment when your belief system is challenged by a truth discovery.

How do you respond in such an instance?  Perhaps the better question is, “How many time have you changed political positions, religious conceptions or intellectual positions when something challenging has been presented to you?”

The Scriptures can effect such a crisis.  Actually, that is what Scripture should do.  The individual should be confronted by issues, problems and confusing texts.

How do you respond to Scripture which challenge your belief system (even a ‘Christian’ belief system)?  Do you ignore it, shut it down, rely on cultural Christianity to save the day?  Or, do you just say, “That must be wrong”, and forget about it?

Maybe you decide to look for answers from someone else.  You look for someone who is ‘on your side’, and who you can trust.  You reinforce your beliefs to defend yourself against the troubling questions Scripture brings up.

These are simply the efforts of the Old Adam to avoid the onslaught of the challenging propositions in Scripture.  The Old Adam can hide behind ignorance, other people’s knowledge, avoidance, or changing the subject.  This is all rooted in fear.

We are afraid that God will kill the Old Adam.  We identify so closely with him, that we find fig leaves to protect our vulnerability from a God who is trying to expose it.  Ultimately, this means we fear the cross.

You see, the cross is not just for Jesus.  It is for us, too.  We use our strengths, resources or other means to defend us against a God who inspired the authors of Scripture to put some challenging things before our eyes.

However, once the text troubles us to our core, then God is able to make us new; to re-birth us through the process.  If you allow this to happen, it is scary.  You will have to depend on the Holy Spirit to help you understand the Scripture.  He will have to be your guide as you try to distinguish between Law and Gospel.  He will have to guide you to find Christ in the passage that troubles you.  He will have to be the one to hold your hand as you are transformed from arrogant to humble.

Church plays a vital role in this process of ‘letting go’.  You may experience a crisis of faith (this is not necessarily a bad thing).  Without the guidance of your pastor, you can end up in heresy or agnosticism.  The pastor is concerned with your eternal salvation, and can be a support as you struggle to understand, reflect, and ultimately, grow through the reading of Scripture.  Forsaking the assembling together would be foolish and dangerous.

May God keep you in His will,

John

free-alarm-clip-art

A couple of weeks ago, one of the Sunday readings (periscopes) was from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  I spent a considerable amount of time working through the text, because it is from this text that some theologians developed the concept of a rapture. I came to understand a great deal, and as it is with any […]

Rate this:

To promote greater understanding

If you want to understand the differences between Arminian, Reformed and Lutheran Theologies, read the following book:

That is all.

Don’t worry if you don’t have faith in Christ …

When I studied Greek, I learned that the -ou endings meant possession.  For example, we say, “That’s Bart’s Car“.  In Spanish, you would say, “That the car of Bart“.  So, the -ou means ‘of (name)’.

So what?  Why should I care?  Because the New Testament that you’re holding is a testament to the efforts of the Old Adam to resist Grace Alone through Christ alone.

Here are my two examples:

1. Galatians 2:16a:     “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ

Here’s the Greek:

πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ   – “faithfulness of Christ Jesus”

Now, the corrected translation mash-up – yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through the faithfulness of Christ Jesus.

That’s a shift from man-centered religion (and worrying about the quality of your faith) to Christ centered religion which is what Christianity is.

The same translation choice was made in Philippians 3:9a:

“not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ”

The following is a better translation:

“not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through the faithfulness of Christ.”

His faithfulness trumps yours.  Sorry.

Paul wrote the following: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). 

Check the translation against the overarching message of these letters.  Is the author (Paul) concerned with the strength of your believing in a “You just gotta believe bro” way, or is He focused on setting you free from the navel-gazing religion by looking up at a cursed man on a tree who was faithful to the end?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: