Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Christ (page 1 of 4)

We Killed the One Who Gives Life

They exalted him on a cross. They crowned him with insults. They mocked him in the very moment that Jesus mourned for them.

The Creator appears weak. The creation claims his power.

He is silent as a lamb before its shearers. The foolish sheep slay the Shepherd who feeds them.

They cried out to him, calling on him to pray to God to save him. But Jesus prayed to God to save them, crying out to his Father as he gave his soul for theirs.

They told him if he was God to come down from the cross. He proved he was God by staying on.

They laughed at his death. He lamented their sin.

He breathed life into them. They cheered his last sigh.

He is living water. They made his blood flow.

He loved them to the end. They didn’t know who he was.

The darkness of death spread across the land so that the brightness of the light of life might fully boast its blinding beauty when it overcomes. With the dawn, the resurrection.

He is alive. I live.

‘Good Friday’

Imagine knowing you’re right, but having no one believe you. Imagine having the power to stop something evil from happening, but the wisdom to let it happen.

Imagine knowing that you are about to undergo indescribable pain and eternal torment, but you cannot express it; no one understands. Imagine needing your friends in an hour of great distress and having every single one of the people you have trusted and loved and helped abandon you.

Imagine being utterly alone and misunderstood. Imagine enduring the mocking of people who are blind, but mock you, the only one who can see. Imagine standing trial, accused by liars while embodying truth.

Imagine being rejected by your own people—the very ones you came to help. Imagine being falsely judged guilty by a ruler desperate to keep his authority, all the while realizing that you are the one who gives him his authority.

Imagine being condemned for your claim to kingship when you actually are the King. Imagine being whipped and beaten, crowned with thorns, and mocked by soldiers while the armies of heaven stand, awaiting their orders from you, their Great Commander.

Imagine having the power to uphold the universe, but not the strength to carry a cross because you’ve been wounded so badly by your own creation. Imagine seeing your mother weeping and your ‘believers’ not believing as you approach the hill of your imminent death.

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Does the New Testament Refer to Jesus as ‘God’?

Does the New Testament ever simply refer to Jesus as ‘God’? Absolutely! Though it is not the usual manner of asserting the divinity of Jesus (see here for a discussion of the diverse ways the NT speaks of Jesus as God), yet the NT does on several occasions simply ascribe to him the title ‘theos’ (the Greek word for ‘God’ typically reserved for God the Father).

Many texts are debated as to whether or not Jesus is referred to as theos (θεός), but the ones which most certainly do refer to Jesus as  are as follows (taken from the ESV):

John 1.1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 20.28: Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Rom 9.5: To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Titus 2.11-13: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Heb 1.8: But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

2 Pet 1.1: Simeon a Peter, a servant b and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

There are, of course, more texts which are debated, as to whether they refer to Jesus as Theos or not. The ones listed above are, however, the most certain grammatically, logically, and theologically.

I hope that bolsters your faith. The one we worship and serve, the one who saved us, the one for whose return we wait — he is true, Almighty God!

For more discussion on the texts above and several other debated texts, see Murray J. Harris, Jesus As God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Baker Academic, 1998).

Is It Arrogant to Preach Exclusivism?

Bryan Chapell offers this important and instructive insight into whether it is more arrogant to preach the exlusivity of Christ, or to not preach the exclusivity of Christ. The criteria for whether the real arrogance is in preaching or not preaching, he argues, is whether or not the proclamation is true.

Proclaiming the message of eternal salvation in Christ alone unquestionably evidences undiluted arrogance, gross insensitivity, and religious bigotry—unless the message is true. Then, proclamation of the only true hope is the most important and loving message that a person can communicate, and failure to do so evidences incomparable callousness, gross negligence, and reli­gious selfishness. The determination of whether evan­gelical preachers who proclaim salvation through Christ alone are guilty of religious bigotry or are admirable for religious altruism hinges entirely on the question of the truth of their message. That question Jesus answers with clarity: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The apostles faithfully maintain this mes­sage: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

May God give us preachers grace to humbly continue in the pattern that has been set for us.

——

Quote taken from Scott M. Gibson, ed., Preaching to a Shifting Culture (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 66.

Remembering: A Means of Grace

Last night I was blessed to be able to open the word of God from Psalm 77 to the saints at Grace Fellowship Church. The message was titled ‘Remembering God.‘ As I reflected on Asaph’s experience in battling with discouragement and despair, this one thought overwhelmed me: Rememrance is a means of grace.

God knows our frame. He knows that we are weak and prone to forget the most important things in the most important times. In his grace, he gives the church rites of remembrance so that we will always be forced to remember the most important things.

In the OT, they celebrated Passover once per year. Each year the Israelites were to ‘act out’ that fateful night again. By taking the Passover in the prescribed way, they were to participate in the greatest event of God’s deliverance all over again. They were to remind themselves and their children of the reality of God’s deliverance.

In Psalm 77, Asaph displays the fruit of this type of Exodus-centred worldview. When he faced discouragement, doubt, and despair, he reminded himself of who God is by reminding himself of What God has done. The despair of the first nine verses disappears once he encourages his heart with the ‘years of the right hand of the Most High’ and all his works.

In the NT–as is always the case–it only gets better. Where the OT saints remembered once per year, the Christian is called to use the Lord’s Supper to remember all the time (at GFC we do it every two weeks).

More than just increased quantity of remembrance, the Christian has increased quality of remembrance. We don’t look back on a physical deliverance from a physical enemy, that never finally delivered the people (they left Egypt to die in the desert!). The Christian looks back to God’s greatest work of deliverance: the cross. At the cross we see an eternal deliverance from the greatest enemy, which has finally and completely delivered all God’s people for eternity.

Just like the Israelites were to look back at God’s work to behold God’s character, the Christian looks back to Christ’s work to remember God’s character in the hardest times of life. That’s what it means to be ‘cross-centred’ in our lives.

When we are weak, uncertain of the future, despairing of hope, doubting God’s goodness, or whatever our trials, we must remember. We must remember the cross and see a God who is holy, who has an eternal wise plan, who loves sinners, is strong enough to accomplish whatever he wants, and who is ultimately committed to the good of those he loves.

This gives my soul good comfort! Remembering God and his work is a wonderful and merciful means of grace.

Daddy, Did Jesus Do That?

My daughter Susannah is almost two. I love her just about to death. One of her favourite things to do (just like her daddy) is to go outside in the rain. It thrills her to no end to run around and splash in the puddles and get soaked by the falling rain.

A few nights ago when it was raining, we stayed outside and talked about where the rain comes from, who makes it, and who sends it. The answer, of course, is that the rain comes down from heaven and is sent by God. Throughout the Scriptures rain is a picture of God’s faithful provision even for unfaithful people.

Like most conversations with Susannah, I really didn’t think she was listening too carefully. She was wanting to get down and run around some more, not sit with daddy and philosophize about the biblical-theological import of rain. But as it turns out, she was actually listening closer than I thought.

Today, as we were outside (playing in the rain again), I pointed to ‘Auntie Janis’ car’ and said, ‘Look, Susie, it’s wet!’ As she always does, she reached out and touched the car to make sure daddy wasn’t pulling her leg. She looked at her now wet hand, then at me, and said, ‘Daddy, did Jesus do that?’

It’s a funny thing how words just sometimes have more impact when a child speaks them. 

The rain we were experiencing today was a result of Hurricane Ike. The answer to Susie’s question is the answer that so many people need to hear in this world today. ‘Yes, Jesus did that.’

Ah, to have the faith of a child. For us adults, there are a million follow-up questions. We are quick to try to justify God and show all the reasons why we would deny the plain truth that Jesus sent the storm: he would never desire suffering; he can never cause evil; he would never want anything bad to happen. And it goes on and on.

But the reality that we must face is that God controls the weather. God appeared to Job in a whirlwind. When Elijah prayed, it didn’t rain for 3.5 years. Jesus calmed the stom on the Sea of Galilee with zero effort. He reigns providentially over all creation and all weather-patterns. Whether you want to say ‘God sent it’ or ‘God didn’t stop it’ really makes no difference (although one is much truer than the other). Either way, it’s from the hand of God.

When God sends storms, it is mercy. It is mercy because it proclaims to all that the real storm of final judgement is coming. None of us can escape it. No early warning system or evacuation plan could ever save us from this. This very minor, very localized display of the power and the fury of God should cause us all to question, ‘Am I prepared to face the real thing?’

Survival kits, flashlights, thousands of jugs of bottled water will do us no good. When the end comes (and it will come in a flash, without TV networks showing us radar images days and weeks ahead of time), the only thing that will matter is whether we’ve trusted in Christ or something else. The storm is coming, and only the Christian, with his house built on the rock of Christ’s teachings will be able to withstand it. When the fury of God’s wrath beats on our shores, and the anger of his judgement floods our houses, only the Christian will escape.

The Christian is the one for whom there is no more wrath. All of it–the full storm front–has all been borne on Christ, and we are safe. The fury of the storm has been sated, and only the peace and calmness of God’s goodness remains for us.

Praise God for his merciful reminders in storms. Praise him for his mercies in Christ.

Beware the Pendulum

It seems that in theology, as in the rest of life, we’re constantly riding a pendulum. The more we run from doctrinal error that we see in others, the more likely we are to fall into the opposite error ourselves.

If we reject an over-emphasis on God’s love as the basis of his character, we run the the risk of focusing too much on his justice or transcendence. If we seek to reject the feminist tide of our culture and hold to biblical distinctions between male and female, we run the risk of keeping women back from the legitimate ways that they are to serve and minister in the body of Christ. The examples are endless, and for every false doctrine there is an equally-wrong opposite reaction offered in an attempt to correct it.

Tim Challies made a comment once, when reviewing a Brian McLaren book, that McLaren appears to love Jesus, but to hate God (i.e. the Father). Bruce Ware made a nearly identical statement in a theology course I took with him recently. They both made the statement because… well… it’s true. But here’s what concerns me–I wonder how far we are from being the same.

I would never suggest that anyone at GFC or in our circles hates the Father. But I do wonder how our love for him compares to our love for Christ.

For whatever reason, the tide of our Christian culture seems to be waxing strong in our love for and devotion to Christ. Perhaps because of the resurgent emphasis on biblical as opposed to systematic theology. Maybe it is the fact that we tend to focus more on the fulfilment of our salvation, rather than the promise and story leading up to it. Maybe it is our culture’s disdain of authority (and especially authority held by a male, patriarchal figure). Maybe it is just the fact of Christ’s ‘like-us-ness’ that makes it easier for us to imagine him. Regardless of the reason, it is far more common to hear a Christian these days talking about their love for Christ than it is to hear a Christian talk about their love for the Father.

Growing in our love for Christ is always a good thing. But growing in our love for Christ at the expense of our love for the Father is not a good thing. But is this a genuine problem?

Think through the songs you sing in church. Think through the Bible reading you like to do most. Think through your conversations you’ve had recently with fellow believers. How central to your conversation, your reading, or your worship is Father himself, distinct from the other members of the Trinity? Are the affections of your heart warmed the same way when you think of God the Father as when you think of Jesus?

It was the Father’s will to create. It was the Father who chose us to be in Christ before the foundations of the world. It was the Father who planned in eternity past to send Christ, the Father who promised Christ, and the Father who carried out that plan. It was the Father’s will to crush Jesus to save you. It was the Father who had to withhold his wrath for thousands of years and then bear it all on his only true Son, thus breaking an eternity of perfect union and unbroken fellowship. It was the Father who looked away from Christ in anger in order to look to you with grace.

It was the Father’s plan to send his true Son to make you an adopted Son. It is the Father who gives you his Spirit. It is the Father who holds the king’s heart in his hand, who governs all this according to the counsel of his will, and who will bring about the end of all things in the fulness of time. It is the Father’s throne on which Christ sits, and to whom Christ will return the kingdom at the end of time. 

How is your love for the Father?

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