Monday, April 28, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I’m not one to take one verse in the Bible and use it alone to make a point. I’m more about using as much context of a passage as possible to ensure the complete meaning is understood. But I believe the Bible is perfect, without error or contradiction, and so were I to use other verses, passages, or even the entire book of John to drive home my message, it would only add to, and reinforce my point, and not conflict with it. So for simplicity I will explain my understanding of The Gospel using a verse that you’ve probably heard before, unless you have been living under a rock – John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I should start by saying that I could not possibly understand the circumstances of your life. The pain, the struggles, the temptations, the sin. I could not possibly understand the tragedy, the confusion, or the joy that you have experienced. But I know that The Gospel is the perfect message for any and all of the circumstances of your life. That is bold for me to say. I don’t say it with arrogance, insensitivity, or any authority at all in and of myself. There is an eternal Word that has said it, and with that, and only that, do I say it without shame.
I should also start by saying that very little of what I write is original. In this case, it is basically a summary of a sermon series by John Piper, who I have quoted before. More on that (and Piper) in future posts.
Back to John 3:16. There are 4 components to this verse that make far more difference in your life than what you will wear to work, what you will eat, where you will live, who will become President of the United States, what will happen with the economy, the price of gas, the status of the Iraq war, or who wins American Idol. Do you want to hear what they are?
1) There is a DANGER
2) There is a DESIGN
3) There is a DUTY
4) There is a DESTINY
First, there is a danger. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not PERISH. There is a danger of perishing. More personally, you have a danger of perishing. To perish, biblically, means not to cease to exist; it means eternal conscious separation from God, who is the most glorious and satisfying being in the Universe. You ask, why so grave a punishment as eternal separation? I answer, because to reject an eternally perfect, sovereign, holy, glorious God is to choose to be separated for eternity from that God. This is not a good choice, and we all have made it (Romans 1:18, 3:23, 6:23). And Hell is real. Piper says in Let the Nations Be Glad, “I know of no one who has overstated the terrors of hell.” John Owen asks in The Mortification of Sin, “Can you look without terror into the abyss of eternity?” We are in danger of perishing in that way.
Second, there is a design. For God so LOVED the world. God designs to rescue us from perishing. He desires that no one should perish but that all would come to repentance. God’s love is a marvelous, mysterious thing. I could never fully explain it (or understand it). But the Bible basically teaches that it has two main parts: love for the world, and love for the called. God loves the world in that He allowed the sun to rise this morning (even if there is cloud cover). God allowed a race of people whose hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately sick, to have life, and even sun, today. That is love. And God loves the called, in that he sent His one and only Son to earth (fully God and fully man) to live the sinless life we couldn’t, and then die; taking our place and absorbing the just wrath of God that we deserve, and allowing us to be justified and reconciled with Him through Jesus Christ. This is love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave us His Son as a propitiation for our sins. Yeah, I know, that’s a big word. But I already told you what it means above. Isn’t it great?
Third, there is a duty. For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever BELIEVES. God allows for our justification, forgiveness of sin, and reconciliation to Him, if we BELIEVE. Think Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Remember when he was on the last leg of his journey for the Holy Grail, hurrying to save his father Sean Connery, and he races through obstacle after obstacle and runs into the abyss. He has no hope of jumping over the abyss, flying, or doing some acrobatic somersault to get across. All he can do is close his eyes, put out his foot, and in faith, believe that an unseen bridge will be there to grant him entry to the other side. Do you see the metaphor? But remember, even the demons believe in God, and tremble. We are not to believe that way, and expect to have hope for forgiveness. We are to believe as an ongoing condition of our heart. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and the condition of your heart and the evidence of your life is such that you believe Jesus rose from the dead, you will be saved.
And fourth, there is a destiny. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have EVERLASTING LIFE. Everlasting. Eternal. That is a long time. You say, “I’ve heard that before, I even believe it. God promises it. But it is a long time – do I want to be in heaven for that long? What if it gets boring?” I said in an earlier post that we shouldn’t find ourselves wondering if eternal life is an unending church service with out-of-key organ music and monotonous readings: eternal life is the summation and sanctification of everything we’ve ever enjoyed, appreciated, honored, sought, loved, desired or embraced in our whole life, whether family, friends, status, wealth, or materialism; in Jesus Christ. That is an attractive destiny. And eternity is a long time; but it will take that long (forever!) to experience the inexhaustible glory that is in Christ.
So there you go – the best I could do. There is so much more I could say. But that is enough for today. Thanks for reading; we’ll now take you back to your regular broadcast.
Monday, April 7, 2008
- Is this biblical? If so, why does it sound so radical? If not, what about it is not?
- Is this applicable? If so, what am I doing about it? If not, why not?
- What does "holiness that hurts the eyes" mean? Does my holiness do this?
- Do I "pray as if it all depends on God and live as if it all depends on me"? Should I?
Take some time with this. I know I have. The main challenge I'm dealing with is how much of my comfortable lifestyle is God's blessing, and how much of it is my unwillingness to take risks for Jesus; even if taking risks is as simple as being bold in conversation, or sacrificing Saturday mornings for service, or trading my next new DVD to feed the poor. To quote John Piper in response to 2 Timothy 3:12, and the general fear of persecution in the Church today: "We have so domesticated the concept of godliness into inoffensive middle-class morality and law-keeping that this verse (or this concept) has become virtually unintelligible to us."
Not only does society, or even the Church, shy away from such radical talk as it relates to risk-taking faith, but also, it shys away from the idea of hell or the wrath of God. We don't worry about taking risks for Jesus, because life is easier and safer as it is, and the consequences aren't that big a deal anyway. So if we accidentally waste our life or our time on temporary pleasures or luxuries, God will understand and forgive us and we'll still end up in heaven. Or so the mindset goes.
In outrageous form, Piper says, "There is no radical Jesus without hell. Everything becomes Milquetoast without the wrath of God. He came into the world to rescue us from the most horrid thing in the world. And once you get that straight, then having your head chopped off is minor. (Matthew 10:28) ... Who talks like that in America? If you strip that away from Jesus, he's a local guy. He's just no big deal."
The Lord and Savior I worship is a big deal. People know Him.