Monday, May 31, 2010

The Reason for Grace

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

4 ἢ τοῦ πλούτου τῆς χρηστότητος αὐτοῦ καὶ τῆς ἀνοχῆς καὶ τῆς μακροθυμίας καταφρονεῖς, ἀγνοῶν ὅτι τὸ χρηστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰς μετάνοιάν σε ἄγει;

Paul is building his argument about the sinfulness of mankind and the desperate need we all have for God's grace.  Here he asks something of a rhetorical question because the answer should be "no."  Of course, it's not.  It's not for his readers and it certainly isn't for me.

God's grace must lead us to repentance.  If we call ourselves saved and stay exactly where we are then we do not really understand salvation.  We may have drawn a "get out of hell free" card, but we don't really understand salvation.  That is not to say that God demands perfection.  We are always going to be works in progress.  However, we must not be stationary in our pursuit of godliness.  It just is not meant to work that way.

Some of you may wonder why I harp on this so much.  One of the few practices in professing Christendom that upsets me as much as the prosperity gospel is the quest for decisions.  Charles Finney really popularized this.  The idea is to get people to make decisions for Christ and then assure them of their eternal future with God.  That is the most extreme version of decisionism, but it is still quite common in some circles.  Salvation is not a purely emotional decision.  If we are going to make a decision to walk with Christ it has to come with counting the cost of that decision.  Nothing is ever the same once we decide to walk with Him.  Repentance is a part of salvation.  Paul makes that clear here.

I am not saying that works have anything to do with our salvation.  They are a result of it.  They are the fruit that shows what kind of tree we are.

What kind of fruit are you bearing?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Truth and The Lie

Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

24 Διὸ παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις τῶν καρδιῶν αὐτῶν εἰς ἀκαθαρσίαν τοῦ ἀτιμάζεσθαι τὰ σώματα αὐτῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς· 25  οἵτινες μετήλλαξαν τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ ψεύδει καὶ ἐσεβάσθησαν καὶ ἐλάτρευσαν τῇ κτίσει παρὰ τὸν κτίσαντα, ὅς ἐστιν εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ἀμήν.

This passage comes just before the well-known passage where Paul condemns homosexuality.  Make no mistake, Paul would go ballistic if he were to read some of the arguments put forth in defense of that perverted lifestyle today.  But that's not what I want to write about as that is far too easy and obvious.

Mark Driscoll makes a big deal out of the articles in the phrase τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ ψεύδει.  One could very easily translate this as "the truth of God for the lie."  What would the lie be?  I think it is the same lie that Eve fell for back in the garden.  We have this tendency to put the creature ahead of the Creator, which is to our destruction.  Instead, we must put God first.  We do not do this naturally, but we do after God saves us from ourselves.

What do you worship?  Is it the truth of God or the lie?  Which do you believe?  Obviously there are times when I believe the lie.  That's what sin is.  It is believing the lie rather than believing in the goodness of God.  The good news is that the more we trust God the easier it is to keep trusting Him.  Believe the truth!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tending the Sheep

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.

15 Ὅτε οὖν ἠρίστησαν λέγει τῷ Σίμωνι Πέτρῳ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Σίμων Ἰωάννου, ἀγαπᾷς με πλέον τούτων; λέγει αὐτῷ· ναὶ κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ· βόσκε τὰ ἀρνία μου. 16  λέγει αὐτῷ πάλιν δεύτερον· Σίμων Ἰωάννου, ἀγαπᾷς με; λέγει αὐτῷ· ναὶ κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ· ποίμαινε τὰ πρόβατά μου. 17  λέγει αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον· Σίμων Ἰωάννου, φιλεῖς με; ἐλυπήθη ὁ Πέτρος ὅτι εἶπεν αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον· φιλεῖς με; καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· κύριε, πάντα σὺ οἶδας, σὺ γινώσκεις ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ [ὁ Ἰησοῦς]· βόσκε τὰ πρόβατά μου.

This is a fairly heavily-preached passage at the very end of John's gospel.  Here Jesus restores Peter after Peter's denials on the night of Jesus' betrayal.  This is a powerful passage that displays God's grace.  I know that I am thankful for it because of my many failures.

Much is often made of the difference between Jesus' question ἀγαπᾷς με πλέον τούτων; contrasted with Peter's response of ναὶ κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε.  It is usually preached something like Jesus asking Peter if he loves Him and Peter responds, "You know that I consider you a close friend."  This is because of the supposedly great difference between αγαπη and φιλεω.  Don't let anyone fool you.  It preaches well, but the differences aren't that great.  Not enough to warrant a sermon anyway.

This is a beautiful passage.  I love how it demonstrates God's persistent grace in our lives.  He loves us when we do not deserve it.  He restores us when we think we can do nothing for Him.  But don't make too big of a deal about these words.

Profession of Faith

 John 20:28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

28 ἀπεκρίθη Θωμᾶς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου. 29  λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ὅτι ἑώρακάς με πεπίστευκας; μακάριοι οἱ μὴ ἰδόντες καὶ πιστεύσαντες.

If you want to get a moniker hung on you for eternity, just doubt who Jesus is.  "Doubting" Thomas refused to believe in the resurrection of Christ until he was able to touch the wounds himself.  This is his response to doing just that.  There is nothing fancy to point out in the Greek other than to say that ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου is written as explicitly as it can be.  Putting μου on each side of the καὶ removes all doubt about what Thomas was saying.  Jesus is both his Lord and his God.

There are those who say that Jesus was the son of God, lived a perfect life, was crucified, and on the third day rose again; however, they also say that He was not God.  Let's assume that they are correct for a minute.  Take a Rabbi who was perfectly devout.  If He was not truly God then Thomas just committed blasphemy here.  Jesus rebukes Thomas a bit, but not for blasphemy.  He simply makes a point about how weak Thomas' faith was and how much more blessed those who would know Him later (read: us) would be because they required a measure of faith.

It is inconceivable how Jesus' would let such blatant blasphemy slide if He was not God.  By His silence Jesus gives tacit approval to Thomas' statement.  In fact, He also gives implicit agreement by what He says.  In other words, Jesus says, "You believe rightly, but only because you have seen me.  Those who believe rightly without the physical benefits you just enjoyed will be even more blessed."

Jesus is God.  I don't see how else you can read this with integrity.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No Accusation

John 18:30 They answered him, "If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you."

30 ἀπεκρίθησαν καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· εἰ μὴ ἦν οὗτος κακὸν ποιῶν, οὐκ ἄν σοι παρεδώκαμεν αὐτόν.

Pilate had just asked the crowd for their accusation against Jesus and this is what they came up with.  If you want to be a bit more wooden and literal you could translate εἰ μὴ as "except" or even "unless."  Either way, you get the idea.  They didn't have a true charge against Jesus, but they wanted Him to die.

On the other hand, God the Father does have a true charge against God the Son.  On the cross He took on the sins of mankind.  Therefore, there was a just reason to kill Him.  The problem is that He did not have any sin on His own, so it was only through God's (the whole Trinity) mercy that He went to the cross.

Sinner, do you marvel at this?  Do you realize that there would be no accusation for Jesus' death but for your sin?  I hope you do.  I know that it is something I need to dwell on more and more.  I take this for granted far too often.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Those That are His

John 17:9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

9 Ἐγὼ περὶ αὐτῶν ἐρωτῶ, οὐ περὶ τοῦ κόσμου ἐρωτῶ ἀλλὰ περὶ ὧν δέδωκάς μοι, ὅτι σοί εἰσιν, 10  καὶ τὰ ἐμὰ πάντα σά ἐστιν καὶ τὰ σὰ ἐμά, καὶ δεδόξασμαι ἐν αὐτοῖς.

This is part of what is known as Jesus' High Priestly Prayer.  I think that this is a section that merits some time camping.  But for now I want to focus on this part of the prayer.

Jesus' language is curious, isn't it?  Well, it's curious in light of how most evangelicals tend to think of Jesus.  The idea is that Jesus loves the whole world so much and wants the world to come to Him, but they just won't do it.  Now of course there is an element of truth to that.  But on a deeper level it seems clear here that not everyone is His.  Experience in the world bears this out, doesn't it?  Not everyone knows Jesus.  Not even the so-called "good people" out there.

There is a subset of humanity that is sometimes called "the elect," to use a biblical term.  Here Jesus refers to them as ὧν δέδωκάς μοι.  The relative pronoun ὧν is where we get "those."  The word δέδωκάς is a perfect active indicative second person singular.  Generally speaking, the perfect has the idea of "past event with present effect."  In other words, some time in the past there was a group of people that God the Father gave to belong to God the Son.  Those people are called the elect.

I love the book of John for a lot of reasons.  I didn't when I was first coming to know the Lord as I was stuck in my sin.  I just wanted the facts about Jesus.  But John gives us more insight into the character of Jesus and more of a spiritual look at Him and His ministry.  Plus, the more I become convinced of the truth of election, the more I enjoy these passages in John.  You don't even need to go to Paul to find this doctrine.  It proceeds from Jesus' own lips.

If you are part of the elect I hope that this passage fills you with awe and wonder that God would choose someone like you.  I can't believe that He chose a sinner like me.  If you don't know Jesus, but wonder if you're part of the elect then I would submit that you probably are.  If you weren't then you just wouldn't care. But if you feel this nagging inside your soul like there is a void that nothing seems to fill then God is calling you to Himself.  Answer the call sooner rather than later.  You'll be glad that you did.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Right Pneumatology

John 16:14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

14 ἐκεῖνος ἐμὲ δοξάσει, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λήμψεται καὶ ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν.

I met a hospice chaplain a few weeks ago who taught me something really powerful about this verse.  Here Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit.  On a side exegetical note, you may notice that ἐκεῖνος is masculine rather than neuter.  The Holy Spirit is a He, not an it as some would say.  He is as much a part of the Godhead as Jesus and the Father.

So what of this verse?  This man was raised Catholic, and he came to know Christ after his parents were saved at a charismatic prayer meeting.  This man is a charismatic in the vein of C.J. Mahaney.  The point he made to me is that, unlike the "charismaniacs" who jump around and look for ecstatic experiences all the time, he understands the Holy Spirit's role as being there to glorify Jesus.  As I came across this verse today it really clicked for me.

I am not a cessationist, but I am very cautious about the charismatic gifts.  I have never personally experienced them, but have heard stories that seem legitimate.  I am very zealous about the fact that we have a closed canon with the Word of God.  We do not need to go beyond that for any instruction.  I do not think that it is reasonable to go through the New Testament and come to a cessationist position just based on what you read.  It takes a systematic theologian to get us there.  Yet we do need to be cautious.  By "charismaniac" I refer to the types of services where deacons are on hand to stretch people out before the service so they don't pull a hammy while jumping around.  I think that there is a reasonable middle ground here.  Just don't try to add to Scripture.

The point is that it all gets back to Jesus.  Are your charismatic experiences glorifying to Jesus?  In this man's case, they certainly were as the Spirit saved his family so that they may give glory to Jesus.  The Spirit regenerates the hearts of sinners so that they might believe in Jesus and be saved.  Salvation is a supernatural work to be sure.  Let's give the Spirit His due.  I'm afraid that in my circles He is often given short shrift.

Abide in Him

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

5 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος, ὑμεῖς τὰ κλήματα. ὁ μένων ἐν ἐμοὶ κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ οὗτος φέρει καρπὸν πολύν, ὅτι χωρὶς ἐμοῦ οὐ δύνασθε ποιεῖν οὐδέν.

It's very difficult to isolate just one verse from this chapter.  It has been a very powerful influence on my life, but I'm afraid that I am just now starting to understand it.  Here Jesus uses some imagery that would have been very potent to folks in that time.  He compares us to branches on a vine.  Anyone who has done anything with plants can certainly relate to this.  We have a couple of bushes that grow like crazy in the summertime.  I prune them frequently as they tend to get overgrown.  No matter how lush the branches are they wither and die once they are cut off from the main bush.  So it is with Christians.

The reason that I feel like I am just now starting to get this is because I think I have used obedience as a substitute for abiding.  Certainly that is part of it as the surrounding verses show (look it up).  But merely reading the Bible, attending church, keeping my nose clean, etc is not enough.  I must truly abide in Him.

I have lost sight of this as of late.  It's easy for me to be distracted by the cares of life and the temptations of the world.  I find myself clicking on links that I know will lead me towards danger and then run away after I "stumble" upon something I shouldn't see.  I eat more than I need.  I dutifully read my Bible every day, but I do not necessarily abide in Him.

My exhortation to everyone starting with me is that we need to take this passage seriously.  We need to abide in Him.  Don't just know about Him, know Him!  Abide in Him.  Be someone who ὁ μένων.  That is a present active participle.  Be in a continual state of remaining or abiding in Him.  That is where we find life.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Whom He Has Chosen

John 13:18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, 'He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'

18 Οὐ περὶ πάντων ὑμῶν λέγω· ἐγὼ οἶδα τίνας ἐξελεξάμην· ἀλλ᾽ ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ· ὁ τρώγων μου τὸν ἄρτον ἐπῆρεν ἐπ᾽ ἐμὲ τὴν πτέρναν αὐτοῦ.

This statement comes after Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, including Judas'.  Could you imagine knowing that you were performing such a menial task for one who would betray you to your death in a few hours?  I don't know if I could do it.  In fact, I'm sure that I couldn't apart from the Holy Spirit.

But what really impresses me with this is the statement that Jesus makes about how ἐγὼ οἶδα τίνας ἐξελεξάμην.  The word ἐξελεξάμην is an aorist middle first person indicative.  It is from εκλεγω, which means to choose.  The translation is just fine.  I take this to mean that Jesus specifically chose His disciples.  He still does this today.  We may think that we are in control of this, but it was done from before time began.

Nevertheless, I do not know who He chose.  Therefore, I keep issuing the call to salvation.  Repent and believe in Christ and you will be saved.  My prayer is that those who read this would either take heart in their salvation or else be saved for the first time as they read this.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Loving Life

John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

25 ὁ φιλῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἀπολλύει αὐτήν, καὶ ὁ μισῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον φυλάξει αὐτήν.

In my opinion, this is one of Jesus' hardest sayings.  It stands in stark contrast with how we tend to look at the world.  We think in terms of our life and our stuff, etc.  We get very hung up on possessions, particularly in affluent America.  Not only that, but we also get very concerned about our rights.

The follower of Christ can't think that way.  Of course we should enjoy life.  I don't think that this verse is a call to asceticism.  However, I also don't think that it means that we are to seek the pleasures of this world.  We can enjoy them as we have opportunity, but we do not live for them anymore.  Instead we are to effectively die to ourselves so that we can live for Jesus.

I like to think that I do this well.  I think about how I exercise regularly or how I deny myself various things out of discipline.  Well whoopee.  I think I've really only scratched the surface on what it means to die to myself.  I love my life out of proportion with the call of this verse.  How about you?  Do you love your life?  Or are you ὁ μισῶν (one who hates)?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Care for the Poor

John 12:8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me."

8 τοὺς πτωχοὺς γὰρ πάντοτε ἔχετε μεθ᾽ ἑαυτῶν, ἐμὲ δὲ οὐ πάντοτε ἔχετε.

This was Jesus' rebuke at Judas Iscariot's false piety.  Judas wanted to rebuke Mary for "wasting" the perfume on Jesus' feet.  He suggested that they sell it for 300 denarii (roughly a year's wages) and use the money to help the poor.  Of course, Jesus knew Judas' heart and that Judas wanted to pocket his normal take of the till.  This is the reason Jesus gives him in defense of Mary's act.

I think this is an oft-abused verse among American Christians.  A lot of us tend to vote Republican for various reasons, many of them good.  The Republican party does a better job on the issue of abortion, for example.  And I don't think that it is the government's job to take care of the poor.  It is the church's job.  However, this verse is sometimes used to absolve us from our duty to care for the poor.  It is true that the poor will always be with us, but that does not mean we should sit idly by.

I have used this verse in defense of Capitalism against Communism.  In a sense, it is true.  Yet I can't help but think that one of the implications of this verse is that our care for the poor is a form of worship of Jesus.  This is very convicting to me.  How about you?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Alive Again

 John 11:44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

44 ἐξῆλθεν ὁ τεθνηκὼς δεδεμένος τοὺς πόδας καὶ τὰς χεῖρας κειρίαις καὶ ἡ ὄψις αὐτοῦ σουδαρίῳ περιεδέδετο. λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· λύσατε αὐτὸν καὶ ἄφετε αὐτὸν ὑπάγειν.

This is the result of the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  Jesus intentionally delayed so that there would be no doubt about what He did.  Clearly something supernatural was at work in the resurrection of Lazarus.  Jesus simply commanded Lazarus to come out and this was the result.

As we will discuss in the Pauline epistles, we are naturally dead in our sins.  We are like Lazarus in a tomb and rotting.  We cannot save ourselves, but when Jesus calls us forth we come out.  At the risk of over-spiritualizing this text, I can relate to the imagery of the grave cloths.  We may be regenerated with new life, but we still have all the encumbrances of the grave on us.

In other words, Jesus calls us to new life, but that does not mean we immediately stop looking at porn, overeating, lying, etc.  We still need Jesus to unbind us.  That is the process of sanctification and it happens after regeneration.  Don't let anyone make you think that you need to be perfect or you are not a Christian.  That would certainly be damnable heresy.

On the other hand, don't let anyone tell you that you can stay just as you were.  It doesn't make sense to keep rotting in the grave once we are made alive.  Therefore, we need to be constantly working out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Sanctification should be ongoing.  If it is not then we misunderstand grace.  Our personal scales will always tip too far one way or the other.  Let's remember grace, but press on toward sanctification as well.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Following the Shepherd

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

27 τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἐμὰ τῆς φωνῆς μου ἀκούουσιν, κἀγὼ γινώσκω αὐτὰ καὶ ἀκολουθοῦσίν μοι, 28  κἀγὼ δίδωμι αὐτοῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον καὶ οὐ μὴ ἀπόλωνται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ οὐχ ἁρπάσει τις αὐτὰ ἐκ τῆς χειρός μου.

Jesus continues the shepherding metaphor that He began in yesterday's passage.  Here He describes the nature of His sheep.  If I were preaching this I would point out three areas of action.  We see what the sheep do, what Jesus does, and what others cannot do.  The sheep hear and follow.  What does that mean to us today?  It means that we read God's Word and we obey it.  In other words, we fear God and keep His commandments.

What does Jesus do?  He gives us eternal life.  The phrase καὶ οὐ μὴ ἀπόλωνται describes what it means to give eternal life.  It is as if to say, "I give them eternal life.  That means that they will never perish."  Jesus uses the construction οὐ μὴ, which is the strongest way to negate something in Greek.  He is saying that there is no way that His sheep will ever perish.  We have had discussions on this blog about the future of the soul.  It seems pretty clear that there is a way to eternal life and a way to eternal destruction.  I suppose an argument could be made for annihilationism, but I think that only works if you take this passage out as a proof-text.

Finally we get blessed assurance of what Calvinists call "perseverance of the saints."  It is impossible for someone to be snatched out of Jesus' hand once they are His.  This means that someone living in wanton sin is either regenerate and backslidden, but will return or that person was never regenerated.  Many college students "recommitting their lives to Christ" are in this latter category, for example.

Where are you?  Are you one of His sheep?  If so, does this passage fill you with hope?  Are you blessed with the assurance that comes from being one of His sheep who He holds steadfastly in His hand?  Or are you one who will perish apart from Him?  If so, I urge you to become one of His sheep.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Door

John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

9 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα· δι᾽ ἐμοῦ ἐάν τις εἰσέλθῃ σωθήσεται καὶ εἰσελεύσεται καὶ ἐξελεύσεται καὶ νομὴν εὑρήσει. 10  ὁ κλέπτης οὐκ ἔρχεται εἰ μὴ ἵνα κλέψῃ καὶ θύσῃ καὶ ἀπολέσῃ· ἐγὼ ἦλθον ἵνα ζωὴν ἔχωσιν καὶ περισσὸν ἔχωσιν.

Jesus uses some interesting imagery here.  I can't really relate to what a sheepfold looks like beyond what I saw in the movie "Babe".  It seems that sheep go into a pen and they need a trustworthy shepherd to take care of them because they aren't real bright or self-sufficient.  They need to have a good shepherd and the shepherd may use a good dog to help protect the sheep and keep them together.  They can't live in the sheepfold because they need to pasture.

Jesus provides the gate for us.  We want to be in His sheepfold.  He is the good shepherd that will take care of us.  In Him is not just life, but abundant life.  His promise is that  ἐγὼ ἦλθον ἵνα ζωὴν ἔχωσιν καὶ περισσὸν ἔχωσιν.  The adjective περισσὸν refers to excessiveness or abundance.  What a glorious promise!

Keep in mind that this does not necessarily refer to material wealth.  I suppose that God could do that, but that is not what this verse is about.  It is about the very foundation of our lives.  Whether you live in a palace or a cardboard box this refers to you if you know Christ.  The abundant life is within.  Plus, as we die we move on to more abundance that we can possibly imagine.

How is your life?  You may have a fine one on the outside, but how is it on the inside?  Is there abundance in your heart or is there a constant nagging for something more and something bigger?  Check out this video for a great example.  Here is someone married to a supermodel who has 3 Super Bowl rings and he knows that there is something greater out there.  The answer that he's looking for is Jesus.

Empirical Evidence

John 9:24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, "Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner." 25 He answered, "Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see."

24 Ἐφώνησαν οὖν τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐκ δευτέρου ὃς ἦν τυφλὸς καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· δὸς δόξαν τῷ θεῷ· ἡμεῖς οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἁμαρτωλός ἐστιν. 25  ἀπεκρίθη οὖν ἐκεῖνος· εἰ ἁμαρτωλός ἐστιν οὐκ οἶδα· ἓν οἶδα ὅτι τυφλὸς ὢν ἄρτι βλέπω.

I have always loved the interaction between the Pharisees and the man born blind.  This statement is one of the most practical handles I have for my theology.  He was begging on the side of the road, he met Jesus, and now he saw.  He didn't know anything about Jesus, but he knew what happened.  He makes the statement ἓν οἶδα ὅτι τυφλὸς ὢν ἄρτι βλέπω.  The ESV renders this perfectly, in my opinion.

Most of us have sung the first verse of "Amazing Grace" at least once.  The last line refers to this.  We start of spiritually blind in our sin.  It takes the grace of God to give us sight.  And then once we see we have a story.  Having a story does not make the gospel true, but we have a story because it is true.  We really don't have to know a lot about Jesus to be saved.  We don't need to be able to articulate the mystery of the Trinity.  We don't need to be able to quote all the parables.  We don't need to have a firm answer on what His childhood was like. What we need to accept is that we are blind and need help.

Where are you?  Were you blind and now you can see?  Or are you still on the side of the road looking for the answers?  Come to Jesus.  He will give you spiritual sight so that you may see.  Life will never be the same again, but it is so much better than what you know now.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Great I AM

John 8:57 So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" 58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

57 εἶπον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι πρὸς αὐτόν· πεντήκοντα ἔτη οὔπω ἔχεις καὶ Ἀβραὰμ ἑώρακας; 58  εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί. 59  ἦραν οὖν λίθους ἵνα βάλωσιν ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν. Ἰησοῦς δὲ ἐκρύβη καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ.

This is one of Jesus' clearest identifications with His divinity.  This is the end of a rather contentious discussion with some Pharisees.  They thought they had Him in verse 57.  Then He hit them with an incredible statement in verse 58.  I love the phrase πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί.  There are two different verbs here, though the English doesn't bring this out very well.  You could be very wooden here and say something like, "...before Abraham came into being, I am."  Of course, when the Jews hear ἐγὼ εἰμί it takes them straight to Exodus 3:14.  Since this was blasphemous they decided to stone Him.

The New World Translation used by the Jehovah's Witnesses renders this as "I have been."  This is a terrible translation because that is not what the phrase ἐγὼ εἰμί means.  In fact, that puts this phrase in a tense that doesn't exist.  However, it is vital to translate it this way so as to sever the link with Exodus 3:14.  It is also interesting to note that all other uses of ἐγὼ εἰμί in John are translated as "I am."  But here they feel liberty to change it to suit their theological purposes.

This may seem unnecessarily harsh, but it is vital that we understand who Jesus is.  If you get Jesus wrong you get the gospel wrong.  I rejoice in both Jesus' divinity and His humanity.  He can relate to me as a man, but He is also worthy of worship as divine.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


 John 8:14 Jesus answered, "Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.

14 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· κἂν ἐγὼ μαρτυρῶ περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ, ἀληθής ἐστιν ἡ μαρτυρία μου, ὅτι οἶδα πόθεν ἦλθον καὶ ποῦ ὑπάγω· ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐκ οἴδατε πόθεν ἔρχομαι ἢ ποῦ ὑπάγω.

This is a very bold statement, though it may not seem that way at first glance.  Jesus was teaching in the temple and the Pharisees challenged His testimony.  After all, it doesn't make sense for anyone to testify about himself.  Of course he is going to validate what he is doing.  That's what men do.

But what if the one testifying is not just a man?  What if He is fully God and fully man?  That changes everything. Then we can trust ἀληθής ἐστιν ἡ μαρτυρία μου.  His testimony is true because He is God.  God cannot lie.  This is of course still self-affirming.  However, as we put it together with everything else we see about Jesus in Scripture, we see this as yet another reference to His divinity.

There are many who say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  Those folks have to spend more time reading what He actually said.  We can confidently worship Him knowing that He is indeed divine.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sure of What We Know

John 7:47 The Pharisees answered them, "Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed."

47 ἀπεκρίθησαν οὖν αὐτοῖς οἱ Φαρισαῖοι· μὴ καὶ ὑμεῖς πεπλάνησθε; 48  μή τις ἐκ τῶν ἀρχόντων ἐπίστευσεν εἰς αὐτὸν ἢ ἐκ τῶν Φαρισαίων; 49  ἀλλὰ ὁ ὄχλος οὗτος ὁ μὴ γινώσκων τὸν νόμον ἐπάρατοί εἰσιν.

There were folks in charge who started to believe in Jesus.  At least they were giving Him the benefit of the doubt considering what He taught.  Yet the Pharisees were resolute.  They refused to believe no matter what.  Their authority was in themselves and their knowledge of the Law.  It was clear to them that there was no way for the crowd to have an insight that they did not have.

I have one year to go before I finish seminary.  As I finish this year I see the need to guard against having the mindset of the Pharisees.  If I become a pastor I will have a much better theological education than most of the folks in my congregation.  It is easy to get into the mentality that they are mere sheep and I am a shepherd with a form of magisterial authority.  That is true to a degree, but it walks dangerously close to a line that is normally reserved for Roman Catholics.

While I think that ordination is a fine thing, I also have a problem with the title.  "Reverend" is short for "revered one."  If there is one thing that I want to communicate through this post it is that I am just a guy like anyone else.  I am a sinner who desperately needs God's grace.  The only thing separating me from some others is that I have a better education in languages, history, and theology.  That does not give me magisterial authority.  It is possible that they would understand something that I do not.  The last thing I want is to be like the proud Pharisees who were sure of their own righteousness and the crowd's sinfulness.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.

7 οὐ δύναται ὁ κόσμος μισεῖν ὑμᾶς, ἐμὲ δὲ μισεῖ, ὅτι ἐγὼ μαρτυρῶ περὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ πονηρά ἐστιν.

I've always found this verse to be a bit convicting.  I don't really enjoy being hated.  Jesus didn't seem to mind.  He loved the world and knew that it hated Him.  Why did it hate Him?  He testified about it that τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ πονηρά ἐστιν.  No one likes to hear that his works are evil.

This is the lot of the preacher.  He is going to have times where he ruffles some feathers because he stands behind the truth of God's Word.  In fact, this is really what should happen to every professing Christian, but it will certainly happen to the preacher as he unpacks God's Word for his congregation.

This passage also explains why someone walking in holiness upsets those walking in evil.  He doesn't have to say or do anything.  His very presence will upset folks.  Take someone who used to drink to excess and bring him back to the bar.  His old friends likely will have a hard time with him because he silently convicts them of what they're doing in their drunkenness.  The same goes for the man who repents of gluttony and then hangs around his old friends.  His newfound fitness silently convicts them.

Yet we are to be witnesses.  Let us not shy away from our stories if God has transformed our lives.  However, let us also be careful because of the truth of this verse.  Whether we say anything or not we are going to get some hatred from the world.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Being Rational

I haven't posted any Tozer in a while, so here you go. We should get back to John tomorrow. This fits in so well with that I thought I'd just post it up here. Enjoy!

And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human
wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your
faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
--1 Corinthians 2:4-5

There is today an evangelical rationalism not unlike the rationalism
taught by the scribes and Pharisees. They said the truth is in the
word, and if you want to know the truth, go to the rabbi and learn
the word. If you get the word, you have the truth....

But revelation is not enough! There must be illumination before
revelation can get to a person's soul. It is not enough that I hold
an inspired book in my hands. I must have an inspired heart. There is
the difference, in spite of the evangelical rationalist who insists
that revelation is enough....

In His days Christ's conflict was with the theological rationalist.
It revealed itself in the Sermon on the Mount and in the whole book
of John. Just as Colossians argues against Manichaeism and Galatians
argues against Jewish legalism, so the book of John is a long,
inspired, passionately outpoured book trying to save us from
evangelical rationalism--the doctrine that says the text is enough.
Textualism is as deadly as liberalism. Faith Beyond Reason, 23-24.

"Lord, I believe strongly in the inspiration and authority of the
Scriptures; I am committed to expository preaching. So I see the
danger and pray that You might keep me from this error of
textualism. Amen."

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Driven Out

Exodus 11:1 Now the LORD said to Moses, "One more plague I will bring on Pharaoh and on Egypt; after that he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out from here completely.

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה עֹוד נֶגַע אֶחָד אָבִיא עַל־פַּרְעֹה וְעַל־מִצְרַיִם אַחֲרֵי־כֵן יְשַׁלַּח אֶתְכֶם מִזֶּה כְּשַׁלְּחֹו כָּלָה גָּרֵשׁ יְגָרֵשׁ אֶתְכֶם מִזֶּה׃

There is something that I think we tend to miss when we consider the Exodus account.  It is certainly difficult to pick up from the movie with Charlton Heston.  But here we really see it brought out with the construct גָּרֵשׁ יְגָרֵשׁ .  The use of the infinitive emphasizes a point here.  Pharaoh was ready to drive the Israelites away.

It is easy to think of Pharoah begrudgingly letting them go.  However, the language throughout the account is of sending the people away, not merely releasing them.  Here we actually have something translated "drive them away."  In other words, by this time Pharaoah was ready to drive them away so that the plagues would stop.

Why do I mention this?  It really underscores the power and majesty of the Lord.  He is not just tinkering with a big Rube Goldberg machine.  He is directing the world.  He really does have it all in His hands.  This is the God that I worship and serve.  What a privilege to know this awesome God!

Friday, May 07, 2010


This blog will be on a brief hiatus while I travel this weekend.  Given where I am in John I don't want to do anything halfway.  I've been looking forward to these chapters for months!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

I Am

John 6:20 But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."

20 ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς· ἐγώ εἰμι· μὴ φοβεῖσθε.

The disciples had gone ahead of Jesus in a boat.  They were a few miles from shore and suddenly Jesus came to them.  Since this was night they were understandably afraid.  They thought that they were seeing a ghost of some kind.  Jesus reassures them with this short statement.

This is one area where it really helps to know at least a little Greek.  Jesus makes the statement ἐγώ εἰμι.  He could have simply said εἰμι, but He chose to add the pronoun.  This would likely make the disciples think of:

Exodus 3:14 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸς Μωυσῆν ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν καὶ εἶπεν οὕτως ἐρεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς Ισραηλ ὁ ὢν ἀπέσταλκέν με πρὸς ὑμᾶς

See what God told Moses?  His name is simply ἐγώ εἰμι.  The same goes for Jesus.  While this is not necessarily an explicit claim to divinity it is certainly an implicit one.

What does this mean for us?  It means that we need to get Jesus right.  We need to rightly understand who He is if we are to worship Him.  Either He is divine and part of the Trinity or the Arians are right.  You can't have it both ways.  Choose this day whom you will serve.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Reading the Pentateuch

John 5:46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.

46 εἰ γὰρ ἐπιστεύετε Μωϋσεῖ, ἐπιστεύετε ἂν ἐμοί· περὶ γὰρ ἐμοῦ ἐκεῖνος ἔγραψεν.

Jesus here makes a very important statement for how we treat the Old Testament.  It is easy for us to just forget about the Old Testament.  After all, we have the New, so why bother?  What value does the Old Testament give us?  Here we see that the Pentateuch in particular speaks to us of Jesus.

This is certainly interesting reading, but what value does it add?  Personally, it increases the faith I have in the God who can make all things happen according to His will.  Moses wrote of Christ thousands of years before the incarnation.  This is not a God who leaves things up to "chance," whatever that is.  No, He is a God who has a plan for the fullness of time, as Paul told us in Ephesians.

This statement εἰ γὰρ ἐπιστεύετε Μωϋσεῖ, ἐπιστεύετε ἂν ἐμοί is a second-class conditional statement.  What Jesus is saying is, "If you had believed Moses, and I know that you didn't, then you would believe me."  Or, put another way, "Since you didn't believe Moses you don't believe me."  This is a stinging rebuke to the Jews.  They were sure that they had got Moses right, but Jesus turned that upside-down.

Where are you?  Are you living in certainty that you have God figured out?  If you are sure, what are you sure about?  Hopefully your certainty comes from knowing Jesus and not from something you have decided on your own.  The Bible is a big book about Jesus.  Let's remember that and rejoice in it.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Answered Prayer

John 4:53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." And he himself believed, and all his household.

53 ἔγνω οὖν ὁ πατὴρ ὅτι [ἐν] ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἐν ᾗ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ὁ υἱός σου ζῇ, καὶ ἐπίστευσεν αὐτὸς καὶ ἡ οἰκία αὐτοῦ ὅλη.

A man came to Jesus asking for healing for his son.  Jesus told him that he simply had to go home in faith and the man's son would be well.  As he was going home he was met by his servants with good news -- his son was well!  He asked when the fever left him and then put 2 and 2 together.  He realized that Jesus did indeed heal his son.

As someone who aspires to be more of a praying man this convicts me.  I tend not to have a long litany of prayers because I don't think that God works that way.  I don't think that healing or revival are contingent on gathering enough signatures on a petition to take to God.  Based on passages like Ephesians 1:10, I don't think that God changes His mind.  He has a plan for the fullness of time and we're not going to change that.  I also know that God uses means to do His will and the prayers of the saints are one of those means.

The conviction comes because I often do not put 2 and 2 together.  I don't reconcile the answer with the prayer. This is a shame because I lose an opportunity to give God thanks and praise.  The work He does in our lives is for the glory of His name.  Let's be sure to pay attention to how He works.

Plus, this can be a boon to our own faith.  Let us remember what He has done as that will increase our faith and trust in Him.  I know I could use more of both.