Archive for the category “Scripture”

The Greatest Missions Text in Scripture: John 1:14

** As I mentioned during my message this morning here is the full version of my notes and all the questions that I did not get to. You will note that there are some variations from the actual presentation – but they are minor.

The Greatest Mission’s Text in Scripture

Intro

This is a deeply theological text but ALSO a deeply practical text. Practice should always be rooted in theology. In other words what you do should be determined by what you believe. I’m worried that this isn’t the case so much in our Christian culture. There seems to be a huge disconnect btw what we say we believe and how we behave – how we conduct out lives. And for that reason the church is in danger of being irrelevant. With that being said I hope you hear what God wants to say to you today.

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Packer, J. I.  “The divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needed to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child… The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets.”

Q#1: Why is the doctrine of the incarnation vital to the Christian faith?

Where men stand on the doctrine of the incarnation often defines the dividing line between orthodoxy and heresy, between true Christianity and the cults:

There is an inseparable relationship btw the incarnation of Christ and the atonement – can be seen at the communion table. In our church we observe the Lord’s ordinance of communion weekly. Here, we are reminded that our salvation has been obtained through the shed blood of Christ on the cross of Calvary. What two elements are used to represent the work of Christ on man’s behalf? They are the bread and the wine. Both these elements are evidence of the necessity of the incarnation. The bread is a symbol of the body–the human body of our Lord which was given for man’s salvation. The unleavened bread reminds us that His body was without sin, which was also a result of the incarnation of our Lord. And the cup symbolizes the blood of our Lord which was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Blood could not have been shed apart from a human body. Thus, the atonement which our Lord accomplished for us was dependent upon the incarnation. To put in more directly, “apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins” (Heb. 9:22), and apart from a human body, there could be no shedding of blood (cf. Heb. 10:5-10).

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

Q#2: Who was Athanasius?

In the fourth century, during the time of Constantine, the church was rocked by a controversy started by Arius, a deacon of the influential church of Alexandria in Egypt. Arius denied that Christ was truly and fully God, arguing from the Bible that only the Father was truly God, and the Son was the firstborn of creation.

Athanasius was his arch-enemy – and a deacon in the same church. His main disagreement with Arius concerned salvation: we are saved because in Christ God himself became a human being and died a human death. the immortal became mortal to raise mortals to immortality. No mere creature could achieve this but only the very Word of God.

The Incarnation of the Word is Athanasius’ most famous writing, and his most celebrated statement of his case against the Arians. His theology was recognized by the Council of Nicea as being the true Gospel of Christ, and as such it has been passed down the centuries.

Q#3: Why does John refer to Jesus as “the Word”?

A practical logical explanation….  Words communicate. A talkie movie is better than a silent movie. A good book is so much better than the movie. Words have the power to teach us truth, to move us emotionally, to bring healing, to empower us… to hurt us, to destroy us.

“Sticks and stones…” Bull. Words are POWERFUL.

A hermeneutical explanantion

Answer: The answer to this question is found by first understanding the reason why John wrote his gospel. We find his purpose clearly stated in John 20:30-31.

“Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Once we understand that John’s purpose was to introduce the readers of his gospel to Jesus Christ, establishing Who Jesus is (God in the flesh) and what He did, all with the sole aim of leading them to embrace the saving work of Christ in faith, we will be better able to understand why John introduces Jesus as “The Word” in John 1:1.

By starting out his gospel stating, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” John is introducing Jesus with a word or a term that both his Jewish and Gentile readers would have been familiar with.

The Greek word translated “Word” in this passage is Logos, and it was common in both Greek philosophy and Jewish thought of that day. For example, in the Old Testament the “word” of God is often personified as an instrument for the execution of God’s will (Psalm 33:6; 107:20; 119:89; 147:15-18). So, for his Jewish readers, by introducing Jesus as the “Word,” John is in a sense pointing them back to the Old Testament where the Logos or “Word” of God is associated with the personification of God’s revelation.

PS 107:20             Hesent out his word andhealed them, anddelivered them from their destruction.

For his Greek readers the use of the term Logos would have likely brought forth the idea of a mediating principle between God and the world.

So, essentially, what John is doing by introducing Jesus as the Logos is drawing upon a familiar word and concept that both Jews and Gentiles of his day would have been familiar with and using that as the starting point from which He introduces them to Jesus Christ.

John1:1-18 is known as the Prologue. It is designed to stay in the mind and heart throughout the subsequent story. Never again in the Gospel of John is Jesus referred to as “the Word,” but we are meant to look at each scene—the call of the first disciples, the changing of water into wine, the confrontation with Pilate, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection—and think to ourselves: This is what it looks like when the Word becomes flesh. This is God Incarnate.

Q#4: Why was it necessary for the Word to “become flesh”? or, why was it necessary for God to become a man)

Plain and simple… we just didn’t get it. God had given His people the Law to explain our need for an atoning sacrifice but His people didn’t get it. He sent the prophets, but they didn’t get it. So He sent His Son, hoping to win again the hearts of the people He created and loves but who betrayed and turned away from Him.

Perhaps you’ve heard this story:

A man did not believe in all that incarnation stuff that the Churches proclaim at Christmas time, so he stayed home while his family went to church on Christmas Eve. Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier, then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper.

Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another and another. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. Well, when he went to the front door, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter they had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze. He remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter — if he could direct the birds to it. He quickly put on his coat and galoshes, trampled through the deepening snow to the barn, opened the door wide, and turned on a light. But the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in and he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow making a trail to the yellow lighted wide open doorway of the stable, but to his dismay the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them, he tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms — instead they scattered in every direction except into the warm lighted barn.

Then he realized they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature, if only I could think of some way to let them know they can trust me. That I’m not trying to hurt them, but to help them. How? Any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him. If only be a bird myself he thought. If only I could be a bird and mingle with them and speak their language, and tell them not to be afraid, and show them the way to the safe, warm barn. But I’d have to be one of them, so they could see and hear and understand. At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sound of the wind. He stood there listening to the bells. “Adeste Fideles.” Listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

So why did He come?
To reveal God to men – Jn 1:17-18, Jn 14:9
To provide a sacrifice for sin – Lk 19:10, Heb 10:1-10
To destroy the work of the devil – 1 Jn 3:8
To set an example for believers – 1 Jn 2:6 

Incarnational Ministry – our job is to “flesh out” Jesus to the world. Q. What do people learn about the Savior both by listening to you speak and watching the way that you live?

Q#5: What is the Old Testament allusion that is inferred in this verse?

Don’t see the allusion??? To me its probably the most interesting thing about this great verse.

And the Word became flesh, and made His dwelliing among us…” John 1:14

Botswana. Camping.

The Greek word skenoo used in John 1:14 literally means “to pitch a tent.” In Greek, the word for tent is skene —

This word skene (tent) is the very word used in the New Testament to refer to the tabernacle of God used by Israel in their early worship of God.

If you remember, the tabernacle was a wooden structure with a tent pitched over the top. (In the Greek New Testament therefore, the word translated “tabernacle” is skene — “the tent” (Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:2, 5, and chapter 9). Hence, when the glory of God descended to the earth to take up residence in the midst of Israel as described in Exodus 40:34-38, it could be said that God “pitched His tent” among men. The glory of God went camping with Israel as Israel wandered in the wilderness.

Years later when the temple of God was about to be destroyed by the Babylonians, Ezekiel described how the glory of God left the earth and went back to heaven (Ezek. 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-25). Six hundred years later, the apostle John wrote that the glory of God had come back—this time in a new tent — in the body of Jesus Christ. “…and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…” (John 1:14).

John is saying, “He’s back! God is pitching His tent among us once again. Jesus Christ, who is the Word, DWELT [skenoo] among us.”

This is how John describes the birth of Jesus Christ . Then, as the tabernacle of old, John takes us to the brazen altar to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

You see, the tabernacle of the OT was a foreshadowing of the Son Incarnate:

The “tabernacle” was a temporary structure
Outwardly the “tabernacle” was humble, and unattractive in appearance
The “tabernacle” was God’s dwelling place
The “tabernacle” was, therefore, the place where God met with men. It was termed “the tent of meeting.”
The “tabernacle” was the center of Israel’s camp
The “tabernacle” was the place where sacrifice was made. In its outer court stood the brazen altar, to which the animals were brought, and on which they were slain. There it was that blood was shed and atonement was made for sin.

Q#6: What does “we have seen his glory” refer to?

 We walked with him everday for over 3 years believe me when I say he is the glorious One. John details a few specific stories:

-Jn 2:11 Water to wine. “This is the first of the miraculous signs Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him.”

And then there was that time up on the mountain… The transfiguration. 

Q#7: Why did John add the phrase “the glory of the one and only”?

The glory that belongs to the one and only Jesus. We have a tendency to ascribe glory to those things that don’t deserve it and fail to give glory to the only one who does.  You know what the Bible calls that? Idol Worship!

And we often done flippantly – “Praise God the devils pulled out another one.” Listen to what John is saying…

Q#8: What is meant by ‘one and only”, i.e. “only begotten”?

Unique – one of a kind:
He is the ONLY way to heaven – Jn 14:6
He is the ONLY one to be tempted and yet be without sin
He is the ONLY one that can satisfy the cravings of the human heart

Q#9: What are the implications of the phrase “full of grace and truth”?

Jesus came full of grace AND full of truth – just as He was fully God and fully man. He was a man of GRACE. He gave to us when we did not deserve anything but judgement and wrath and condemnation.

But he also boldly tells the TRUTH. Sermon on the Mount, Word to Pharisees (Mt 23)

We must do the same.

The Grace and Truth Paradox – Randy Alcorn

Truth-oriented Christians love studying Scripture and theology. But sometimes they’re quick to judge and slow to forgive. They’re strong on truth, weak on grace. Grace-oriented Christians love forgiveness and freedom. But sometimes they neglect Bible study and see moral standards as “legalism.” They’re strong on grace, weak on truth.

Countless mistakes in marriage, parenting, ministry, and other relationships are failures to balance grace and truth. Sometimes we neglect both. Often we choose one over the other. (p. 17)

*****
If we minimize grace, the world sees no hope for salvation. If we minimize truth, the world sees no need for salvation. To show the world Jesus, we must offer unabridged grace and truth, emphasizing both, apologizing for neither.

Truth is quick to post warning signs and guardrails at the top of the cliff. Yet it fails to empower people to drive safely–and neglects to help them when they crash.
Grace is quick to post ambulances and paramedics at the bottom of the cliff. But without truth, it fails to post warning signs and build guardrails. In so doing, it encourages the very self-destruction it attempts to heal. (p. 87-88)

Q#10: What does this passage have to do with missions?

EVERYTHING!

-God sent His Son who made himself nothing, taking on the appearance of a man, humbled himself and became  obedient  to death – even death on a cross.

-He pitched His tent right in the middle of a culture that for the most part wanted nothing to do with Him.

-He revealed God to them by reflecting His glory, by showing them what grace was AND by telling the Truth.

How do you respond to a message like this:

  • Incarnate the Incarnation
  • GO – just as Jesus was willing to go and leave behind…
  • Demonstrate grace. Speak Truth.

Don’t let your faith be an irrelevant part of your life.

Thoughts On Eternal Life

John 17:3 says, “ Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Eternal life is about knowing our God and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not just a get out of hell free pass. It is not just a ticket into heaven. It is so much more. If we can begin to know the One who has rescued us from the dominion of darkness, know the One who was the ransom for the debt we owed God –  then not only will it make us achingly yearn for heaven but it will also make life on earth really worth living.

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is one of the greatest classic series ever written  On the final page of the final book (The Last Battle) of the series, some of the children who have been to Narnia are very sad that they once again must return to their homeland—called the Shadowlands. Aslan (the lion who represents Jesus) asks them about this:

[Aslan spoke to the children,] “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”

Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”

The point here is that the children of Narnia dreaded the idea of going back to the Shadowlands and leaving Narnia – not because they didn’t like their home but because it meant leaving Aslan. Whereas we, for the most part, dread the idea of leaving this world for the next. Lets face it, we like it here. We’re comfortable here. We have our stuff here. This world is known. We don’t generally get excited about the unknown. We don’t like the idea of either dying or being dead. Contrast this with how the Apostle Paul felt about facing death and leaving this world:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain….I desire to depart and be with Christ which is better by far… I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil 1:21, 22; 3:8)

Perhaps he knew something that we think we know but don’t really know: that knowing Christ is what we were made for and what we were saved for. That knowing Him is what makes heaven worth waiting for and life worth living. That knowing Him is the secret to experiencing eternal life in the fullest sense of the term.

So here’s the question that I have to ask myself: Do I know Him like this? Not just know know about Him. Not just believe in Him or even trust Him for my salvation. But do I know Him? Know Him like Paul knew Him. Know Him like the children of Narnia knew Aslan.  The answer to this question will determine whether I merely have eternal life or whether I am enjoying and savoring the eternal life that I have been given. And if you’re reading this, maybe these are good questions for you to think on as well. Grace and Peace to you as you think on these things! And while you’re thinking on these things, perhaps you can ponder this question as well: How do you get to know Jesus the way that Paul knew Him? Mmmm… I sense another blog post at some point.

Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

Reading this morning in Colossians and came across this verse: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ.” (2:9-10). In thinking about what this means and how it applies to me – how I have been given fullness in Christ – this is the best illustration that I can come up with….

Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

My wife and I love to go out to supper together. We don’t do it all that often but we really enjoy it when we do. As I’m sure you have experienced, when the meal is over the waiter will ask, “Would you like to see our dessert menu.” Now I don’t know about you but it is not uncommon for me to look at the dessert menu before I ever look at the regular menu. And if we happen to be at Chili’s then I am already plotting my dining strategy. You see they have a Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie that I love. If I were to finish my meal without having the pie this is what I would be thinking: “That was a really good meal. But something is missing. I just don’t feel completely satisfied yet. There’s got to be something that could appease this unfulfilled longing that I have.  Oh – how about a piece of pie!”

This is basically my life story. Growing up as a teenager I had a lot going for me. I had a lot of friends, I made really good grades, I was a decent athlete, I had a supportive family and I never even knew that my life was not as complete as it could be until I was introduced to the person of Christ. In Him I found fullness. In Him I found completeness. In Him I found exactly what was missing from the “meal” of my life – which was a very good meal. But in Him I found complete satisfaction. I no longer had to wonder “is there something more”, because He was the something more. And He continues to be the something more. If for some reason you have not experienced this kind of “fullness” and completeness  then give me a holler – I would be thrilled help you understand how Christ can give you the satisfaction that you are longing for.

Life Verses Part 2

20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

So back to that passage again that I love so much. I want to write about those two bold words above… “and hope.” I don’t think that this was just wishful thinking on Paul’s part. Wishing that perhaps he might in no way be ashamed. I think there was a certainty about his hope. Faith is the “assurance of things hoped for.” There is a certainty about biblical hope. A certainty that is rooted in the foundational event of biblical Christianity – the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul had an unshakable hope because he had an unshakable certainty in his future. Listen to some of the things he says about “hope.”

  • 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2
  • May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
  • I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you… Ephesians 1:18
  • To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27
  • That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10
  • 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
  • Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23
  • Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

(I realize there is some debate as to whether or not Paul is the author of the book of Hebrews)

Hope is a wonderful thing. I’m not sure how people can live without hope. At least live intentional and purpose-filled lives. If for some reason you are feeling hopeless (without hope)  – then I encourage you to think on these verses and let God begin the process of filling you with a hope that will transform you and give you a life and a future that you can be excited about.

Without Faith

One of the great chapters in Scripture is Hebrews 11. It gives example after example of men who walked the walked and talked the talk – of men who genuinely lived by faith. Verse 6 says:  “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” What does it mean to live by faith day in and day out? I was pondering this a few years ago and wrote a song that helped me to think about the practical implications of living by faith. (I know, I know – you didn’t know that I was a song writer. You probably also don’t know that I am a poet) What would it be like if believers lived by faith in everything they do? How would it change us? How would it change the church? How would it change the world? I’m gonna try ( by the power of the Spirit) to intentionally live by faith – I’m gonna need your help. Feel free to ask me about anything you see me doing – is it faith generated and how so. Here’s the song, enjoy!

WITHOUT FAITH

Faith is the assurance of the things you’re hoping for;

Faith is when you act upon the facts you can’t ignore;

Faith is when you wait upon the future that’s in store;

Faith is when you pray because you’re in a holy war.

Refrain:

And without faith it is impossible

To please our God who set us free

And those who say that they love Jesus

Must live and follow faithfully

Faith is when you stand against the fears that are within;

Faith is when you’ve fallen down but rise to stand again;

Faith is when you boldly stand beside a fallen friend;

Faith is when you stand alone while others choose to sin. (Refrain)

Faith is when you’re watching for the coming of the King;

Faith is when you lose your grip on all your worldly things;

Faith is when you’re not afraid of what tomorrow brings;

Faith is when you feel depressed but still you choose to sing. (Refrain)

Life Verses Part 1

If any one were to ask me if I had a “life verse” I would say no – but I do have a life passage. It is these verses from Philippians chapter 1:

20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

From time to time I will use this blog to unpack why these verses mean so much to me. Today I want to comment on the first 3 words: “I eagerly expect…”

I have always been optimistic – a glass half full kind of guy rather than half empty. But I’m not sure that I have eager expectations the way that Paul did. I want  there to be an eagerness in the way that I approach life.  A hungry anticipation of what is to come. One of my favorite quotes is by William Carey – generally thought of as the father of the modern missions movement. He said:

“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God”

Eager expectation will be followed by courageous attempts! That’s the kind of man that I want to be. Living with eager expectations and acting courageously. I’ve got so very far to go to get there but by God’s grace maybe one day. If you want to pray for me this would be a good way to start. I’m going to eagerly anticipate the transformation.

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