Justified Journal

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Category: Bible structure and theology

Jesus is the Gospel

The gospel is not:  a decision to receive, believe, retrieve your own personal Jesus.

The gospel is not: making Him Lord, re-dedicating your life, saying a “sinner’s prayer”

In fact, the Gospel is completely outside of your (or my) activity.

The Gospel is ALL God’s activity through Jesus Christ.

What is ‘Gospel’?  It means ‘Good News’.

It is Jesus dying on the cross for your sin and my sin, and being raised in resurrection, so we can have the gift of resurrection in Him.

What’s the bad news?

First, the world is fallen and it can’t get up

Second, the devil is a fallen angel, not an archaic, pre-logical myth

Third, we have fallen into our coffin, and are bound to a horrible eternal end unless there’s an intervention

In other words, the situation is hopeless.

God loves hopeless situations.

God loves hopeless sinners.

Because Jesus was given as a sacrifice for sin.  He came to seek and save that which was lost.  Jesus came for sinners (including me).

And, He continues to be the good news for us.

When we confess our sin (not a feeling), He is faithful and just to forgive us based on His bloody death.

When we have doubt (by the way, doubt means you have faith to begin with), He remains faithful as a priest before the Father in Heaven.

When we are hungry for good news, we can find it in the promise that God has sent a deliverer in Jesus.  He hasn’t come for “good people”, but for those who have no hope in themselves.

He is hope fulfilled.  Both now and forever.  Amen.

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Working out your self-deification with arrogance and boasting

When I was in high school, I worked as a stage hand one semester.  I was in the background, helping to move stage elements.  We changed backdrops, moved furniture, and moved props.

We got to see everything back there.  The audience, though, was unaware of anything but what they saw in front of them.

This is true for our view of the world, too.  Most people are largely unaware of what “backdrops” are behind their thinking.  It’s too much work to figure it out.  It’s more fun just to watch the play.

Our view of the purpose of the Bible is also influenced by our background beliefs.  Everyone comes to it with beliefs/perspectives of what it’s about.  And, if they don’t have any prior experience with it, they soon become aware that it talks a lot about commands, God, promises, war, sex, death, resurrection, angels and other “religious stuff”.

This helps to explain the differences in denominations.  If you go to a church, you probably accept their “backdrop” explanation of the purpose of the Bible.

But, is it correct?  Have you ever considered that conservative Christians (not talking politically here) have legitimate and valid differences concerning the purpose of the Bible?

One of the current “backdrops” is called “Lordship Salvation”.  It assumes that the Bible is a book of rules that we must follow perfectly otherwise we are not true disciples.  Christians in these churches assume that their church is “Biblical”.  They assume that Christians in other churches are weak or disobedient.  They assume this because this is the result of what they believe about the Bible and the Christian life.

Where does this belief come from?  Why do people believe that once they “receive Jesus” or “repent and believe” (as the Lordship Salvation camp would say), they must “get to work”, “live obediently” and “put your nose to the grindstone”?  Why does the Christian life return to me and my works?

Simple.  This is the theology of the Old Adam.  It is a theology that denies  the Lordship of Christ.  The Old Man denies that Christ is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  He denies John 6:28-29 which the disciples ask, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” The Old Adam denies Hebrews 10:10 which states, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

And in so denying that these verses are for Christians, the Old Adam denies Christ, Himself.  The Old Adam replaces Jesus with his own works, effort and obedience.  The Old Adam works to keep himself alive rather than submit to the crucifixion of Jesus as both the one who births faith in us and feeds faith through the means of grace.

The Old Adam is busy keeping himself as god.  He is his own lord.  He lives a blasphemous life.

And because of the extreme moral demands of Lordship Salvation, Christians under this theology can go only three directions:

In the first option, they can become self-righteous, arrogant about their relationship with God, and in denial about the depth of God’s demands on their lives.  This person is willing to judge others harshly and never examine his/her own life in light of the “full thundering” of the Law.  They become deeply judgmental, lacking any love.

In the second option, the Christian of sensitive conscience is thrown into despair about their salvation.  Martin Luther, the great reformer, fell into this camp when the terrors of Roman Catholic theology scared him into a monastery to find peace.  Eventually, these Christians will either leave the church, or have their faith shipwrecked.  Some of these people become hopeless and becomes agnostics/atheists because of the lack of mercy in these church bodies.

In the third option, they can remain superficial, never taking any of it seriously, and covering up with a false edifice.

There is a fourth option, however.  Along with many other who have escaped the clutches of Lordship Salvation, I encountered a completely different backdrop when I read Martin Luther.  Because I had lived in both the first and second options, Luther’s Bondage of the Will was like a key to open the prison door I lived in.

His view was that we begin and end with Christ when it comes to the Christian life.  In Biblical terms, that means that Jesus retains His lordship as the Alpha and the Omega.  We are to come to church to hear “Christ crucified” rather than the “ten steps to overcoming sin”.

This is a theology of reception.  It is a theology that believes that God is at work on and in us, and that it is His pleasure to do so.

It is a theology that views the Scripture as the manger in which we find the Christ-child.  He is the heart of its meaning, purpose and proclamation.  Read Hebrews.  Is it about you or about Jesus?  Read the Gospel from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.  Is it about you or Jesus?

And, having this “cross theology” also means that we interpret the Bible as being Law or Gospel.  This means that God’s demands reveal our inherent sinfulness, but God has provided His own Son to fulfill ALL of these demands and cleanse us from ALL sin.  Even the sin of trying to be your/my own God.

Why does He do this?  Look at Romans 3:

 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

 Acts 4:12 states; “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” No other name, not even your own.

To the Glory of His Holy Lordship, Amen.

Herd mentality

The Bible has many calls and echoes that run through it.  One of them is ‘shepherd’.  This seems strange because it is such a lowly and lonely occupation.  It is filled with danger, exposure and exhaustion.  A shepherd must be watchful and aware, looking out for sheep who are getting lost and also for wild animals who might attack.  They cannot sleep too deeply because nocturnal predators are on the prowl.

Perhaps the clearest report of this aspect of shepherding comes from David.  David’s own report about himself appears in 1 Samuel 17:

34But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear;  (NASB).

It’s hard to imagine a young boy taking out a lion or a bear.  It seems like he has a vivid imagination.  Perhaps David is trying to “pad his resume” to Saul as he presents his qualifications for killing Goliath.

Of course, we know how the story ends.  David not only proves to be lethal, but perhaps more importantly, fearless.  David really did take down lions and bears.

David also had the responsibility of feeding the sheep.  He had to find pastures for them to graze so they wouldn’t be hungry.

Finally, if the sheep got lost, David had to take the risk of finding the one(s) who were lost.  And, he did.

David was a good shepherd.

David was a type.  This means his life was a model of what Messiah would be.  If you want to check on this, just read John 10.  Whereas David was the shadow, Jesus Christ is the reality.  David shepherded sheep, Jesus shepherds people.

How is Jesus a shepherd?

1. He “brands” people with his name on our forehead through the waters of baptism  (this finds connection to the Old Testament in circumcision; see Colossians 2:11-12)

2. He feeds us His own body and blood (this occurs when we hear from the Scripture and when we receive the bread and wine at communion)

3. He searches for us when we are lost (Matthew 18:12)

4. He searches the world for His sheep: “16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10)

5. He kicks the crap out of the Devil and the world  (In fact, at His cross, He already did.  Now, we wait for the full consummation of His Kingdom at His second coming.  The final victory will be His).  The tools of these adversaries include heresy from within and without, persecution, and vain philosophies of every kind.

6. Some of the sheep will be hurt or killed in the field.  He heals the ones who are injured and gives eternal life to those who lose their lives in this world.

He does all of this for you.  He is all of these things for you.  He has not spared his own life, but seeing that lion, the devil approaching you, He went to the cross and ripped his fangs out and tore out his claws.  This is most certainly true.

And, He continues His mission as shepherd through the pastor and the church.  We are called to continue calling for the lost and bring them into Christ’s sheepfold, the church.  Because, we are not just sheep; we have been given this shepherding responsibility too.  As Merkens notes, “We are truly saved to serve” (Organized for Action, 1).

Matthew’s Moses

The author of the first Gospel account was attempting to reach an audience who was keenly aware of the life of Moses.  Matthew saw Jesus as the new Moses to such a degree that he even patterned his book with a structure of five discourses (see Scaer’s commentary on Matthew), reflecting the five books of Moses (Torah).

Additionally, James B. Jordan  has discovered (On the Biblical Horizons Website) that the entire book is in the form of a Chiasm.  “Chi” is the Greek letter which looks like our “X”.  It is a poetic pattern familiar to the Bible, and certainly to the Jewish people.  Here is the pattern of the Book of Matthew:

The Structure of Matthew’s Gospel

Here is the overall structure of Matthew, as I see it:

A. Genealogy (past), 1:1-17
B. First Mary and Jesus’ birth, 1:18-25
C. Gifts of wealth at birth, 2:1-12
D. Descent into Egypt; murder of children, 2:13-21
E. Judea avoided, 2:22-23
F. Baptism of Jesus, 3:1–8:23
G. Crossing the sea, 8:24–11:1
H. John’s ministry, 11:2-19
I. Rejection of Jesus, 11:20-24
J. Gifts for the new children, 11:25-30
K. Attack of Pharisees, 12:1-13
L. Pharisees determine to kill the innocent Servant, 12:14-21
K’ Condemnation of Pharisees, 12:22-45
J’ Gifts for the new children, 13:1-52
I’ Rejection of Jesus, 13:53-58
H’ John’s death, 14:1-12
G’ Crossing the sea, 14:13–16:12
F’ Transfiguration of Jesus, 16:13–18:35
E’ Judean ministry, 19:1–20:34
D’ Ascent into Jerusalem; judgment on Jews, 21:1–27:56
C’ Gift of wealth at death, 27:57-66
B’ Last Marys and Jesus’ resurrection, 28:1-15
A’ Commission (future), 28:16-20
In our day, it is assumed that educated people cannot be Christians.  Well, here is a highly intelligent author (Matthew) who has written a very complex literary work.  So, in the words of Bart Simpson©, tell your elitist skeptic friends, “Eat my shorts” elitist skeptics!
God Bless,
John
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