Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Jesus (page 2 of 7)

A Disciple of Power & Suffering

I was really challenged in my study this week by this quote from Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, comparing the ending of Luke with the ending of Acts. I want to pause and think about what understanding this more would change in my life.

Or compare the endings of Luke and Acts. The Gospel ends with a long and detailed focus on Jesus’ passion and death. In fact, Lk 9:51 introduces the theme of Jesus journeying toward Jerusalem and the cross earlier than does any other Gospel. Acts, too, slows down its narrative substantially to focus on Paul’s final, fateful journey to Jerusalem and the sufferings and imprisonments that await him there, in Caesarea and in Rome. Luke may or may not have written his account after Paul’s eventual death, but he certainly sees parallels in the closing stages of the lives of both Jesus and Paul. These kinds of similarities between Luke and Acts suggest that Luke saw the life of a faithful disciple as often imitating that of Christ, both in its spiritual power and in the necessity of suffering. What was true for Paul should therefore be true for us. Unfortunately, we rarely find the combination of the themes “power” and “suffering” in contemporary Christianity; those who successfully emphasize the one usually tend to play down the other. 1

I pray that I would become more of that type of disciple: expecting power, enduring suffering, and reflecting Christ in all.

Notes:

  1. From Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 422.

Nagging the Judge

Try picturing yourself in a situation where you’re likely to nag. What situation is it for you?

Many wives nag their husbands about conversations they have to have, jobs that need to be done around the house, and decisions that need to be made. Many husbands nag their wives for more physical affection. Fathers are often quick to nag their children about all those ‘annoying habits’ they have.

What’s the thing that seems to make you nag, even when you’ve sworn you won’t? Why is it so hard to not nag in that situation?

Let me suggest a reason. I think it’s hard to not nag in that situation because of three things.

  1. You are experiencing some measure of discomfort in that given moment
  2. You see a way that your discomfort could be alleviated
  3. The power to alleviate your discomfort lies with another person

So the logic seemingly demands that we nag. We need to convince that other person to act so that our problems are resolved. But you know what’s fascinating about that? If we really believed God’s words the way we say we do we would be impulsively and compulsively nagging God in prayer.

And you know what? I think he’d like it.

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Eight Reasons to Study the Bible

Most Christians inherently feel the need / desire / drive to study the Bible, but a lot of times we’re not too sure why. And sadly, not too many of us stop to think biblically about why we should study the Bible.

So, from the Bible itself, here are seven great reasons, plus one ultimate reason why we should all be quick to study the Bible.

1. We must study the Bible to grow in faith

Rom 10  17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

2. We must study the Bible to grow in joy

Ps 19  8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;  …  10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

3. We must study the Bible to grow in righteousness / good works

2Tim 3  16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

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‘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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How to Love More

Last night in our small group we were talking about the ever-present problem in the Christian life of not being affected enough by the truth that we know. It’s the gap between knowing the gospel of grace and feeling the grace of the gospel. We want to be humbled by the gospel. We want to love God more. But how do we do that?

This got me thinking about a post I put up here about 4 years ago and so I decided to repost it.

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Wise Words from James

Even though we’ve moved on to chapter 5 in our study on James at GFC, I’m still marvelling at many of the things my Lord has been teaching me from his word.

Preaching big passages like I’ve had to do is great for seeing the big picture and covering more of God’s word, but it necessarily means that there are lots of stones left unturned in each passage. Particularly, I’ve been thinking through James’s promise in chapter 4: ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.’

One thing that amazed me the other night as I sat and thought this through is the similarity between this saying and that declaration of Jesus that the one who is forgiven most loves most. On the surface, they don’t seem that connected, but I think there is a profound connection.

Our Desire is to Love

Every Christian wants to know how to love God more. The first and greatest commandment we have is this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ The reason why we still sin, why we become discouraged, or why we fall back into old patterns of living is because our love for God falls short of our love for ourselves.

Our Enemy Wants to Hinder Our Love

The devil is our enemy. His greatest goal is to stop us from achieving our greatest goal, which is love for God, resulting in joy in God. We want to love God, but he’ll do anything to stop that. Every Christian wants to love God more; but how do you practically increase your love for God?

James connects resisting the devil’s work with drawing near to God. In response to our drawing near to God, God draws near to us. What kind of drawing near does James have in mind? He clarifies for us in the next couple of sentences, where he describes radical repentance, open confession of sin and sinfulness, and proper humility. In other words, draw near to God in humility, repentance, and brokenness, acknowledging the greatness of your sin.

Connect the Dots

We can begin to connect the dots here a little with Jesus’ saying. We will love God more if we acknowledge more readily the reality of what we’ve been forgiven. But our enemy will have none of that–which is why we need to resist him. How do you resist Satan? By confessing your sins and drawing near to God.

It is the work of Satan to get you to think little of your sins. He desires that you not confess specific sins, that you not be heart-broken over the ways you’ve denied God. He wants you to just ignore sin in your life and not confess to brothers and sisters. The smaller you think your sin is, the less your love for God will grow, and the happier your enemy will be. ‘He who is forgiven little, loves little.’

If your love for God has grown cold, you can probably draw a straight line back to your lack of confession of sin in your own heart, to God, and to others. When you don’t realize what you’ve been forgiven, you don’t love.

How do you grow to love more? Draw near to God in repentance. Acknowledge how horrible and ugly your sin is, and be specific in your confession. What at the things you have rejected him for? What are the things you’ve loved more than him? What are the lies you’ve believed instead of his truth? Confess to him that you deserve death and hell. The more you draw near to him, the worse you’ll see your sin is, the more you’ll see how much you’ve been forgiven and the more you’ll love — which will overflow into a life of God-glorifying joy in obedience.

What Should Motivate Humility?

What Do You Want?

Do you desire joy for yourself? Do you desire glory for yourself? Do you desire your own exaltation? Do you want to be great? Then, believe it or not, humility is your ticket. In fact, you should seek humility more than anybody!

This past Sunday I was blessed with the opportunity to preach at Grace Fellowship Church in Rexdale — the church which planted us almost a year ago now — and I had the challenge of preaching on humility. There is so much to say about a topic like this that I felt that I was barely scraping the surface. One of the places I wanted to go, but simply did not have time, was the whole area of the motivation for humility. I wanted to talk about that because biblical motivation for humility can be so counter-intuitive…

What Did Jesus Want?

In Philippians 2, the apostle Paul holds up Jesus as the paradigm of humility. He alone had equality with God, but didn’t grasp on to it. Instead he was willing to come be mistreated, rejected, despised, beaten, and murdered, bearing the hatred of people and the just wrath of his Father. That is humility. A willingness to subject himself to whatever his Father has for him; he alone models perfect humility and contrition, he alone trembles at the word of his Father (Is 66.1-2).

So if we’re to imitate Jesus it would be helpful to know what motivated Jesus, right? What moved him to go to the cross in all humility?

For one thing, he desired joy (Heb 12.1-2). He also desired glory (John 17.5). He also desired vindication and exaltation, in the view of people (John 17.24). He also wanted to be great (Mark 10.43-45). Not what you would expect to hear, right? And it begs the question…

Should I Want That Too?

The short answer is ‘Absolutely!’ The reason those things seem so wrong for us to desire is because we are so full of sin that we typically associate the desire for those things with whatever means we determine necessary to get joy, glory, exaltation, and greatness. We’re typically so convinced that God doesn’t want us to have those things that we ultimately want that we refuse to trust him to give them to us. We seek them by our own means.

But the essence of the message of Jesus is this: Trust God, he is for you. He will exalt those who are his… in the mean time, stop fretting about what other people think. Stop fighting for position here and now. Entrust yourself to God fully and be content with his providence. He will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you (1 Pet 5.10). He will freely give you all things; nothing is too good for you (Rom 8.31-32)!

So What Should I Do?

So what is the New Testament message on the motivation for humility? Stop fighting for glory and honour here and now in your time and your way; embrace God’s providence, and trust him to exalt you in his time and in his way (1 Pet 5.6-7).

Believe it or not, God wants your joy, vindication, and glory more than you do. He sent his Son to prove it. So stop contending for his supremacy and seek your exaltation through humility and service. He is for you more than you are.

On Every Page, Behind Every Line

The Big Question

Regardless of what age or part of the world you live in, one of the most central questions of the Christian faith is this: ‘Who is Jesus? Is he really God? Does the New Testament really teach that?’ While every orthodox believer quickly and heartily affirms that Jesus is in fact divine, many believers struggle with how exactly to prove that to friends & neighbours.

An ancient manuscript

While the New Testament does at times simply refer to Jesus as God (see the list here), frankly, it can be hard sometimes for many Christians to find passages that express as clearly and succinctly as we would like that Jesus is God. That’s in large part because the writers of the New Testament simply were not writing a systematic theology. They were writing to real people with real life problems and real church problems. So what we find is that more often than not the New Testament authors are addressing life’s issues in such a way that presumes the deity of Christ, without necessarily spelling it out for us.

The Basic Truth

So it’s kind of like me writing to you about how to play hockey. I may write about learning to shoot, pass, block shots, throw body checks, win faceoffs, and maybe even skate, but all the while I might not explicitly state that ice is actually frozen water. It’s understood. It’s the basis of all that we’re doing. You can’t play hockey without ice (at least not real hockey), and you can’t live as a Christian without knowing that Jesus is God.

All that being said, on every page, behind every line, this majestic truth stands: Jesus is the promised incarnation of God, the Son of God, the one who reigns. He himself is to be worshiped and served as God, because he is God. And that truth is everywhere, upholding and undergirding everything.

Here’s one little example from the passage we studied last week at GFC (1 Pet 5.1-4). In that passage, Peter admonishes elders to ‘shepherd the flock of God that is among you’ in a way that honours and pleases God, since all will be called to account. In particular, those who shepherd in this way will ‘receive the unfading crown of glory’ at the end of all things. Why? Because they have represented the true Shepherd, the ‘chief Shepherd,’ Jesus Christ.

You can read that quickly and move on, or you can stop and ponder what it means that Peter has just called Jesus the ‘chief Shepherd’ when he thought about the ‘flock of God.’ Those images are loaded with meaning from the Old Testament.

The Necessary Background

Psalm 78.52 says that, in the Exodus, ‘[God] led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.’ As you follow the Bible’s storyline it’s not long before you get to passages like Jeremiah 23-25 and Ezekiel 9 which speak words of condemnation on those who were supposed to be shepherds of God’s people (cf. Zech 10.3). Because they failed, the flock was scattered in exile. When the prophets speak of a return from exile, notice the language that is used:

I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men. (Micah 2.12)

Like the first Exodus, this return from exile will be an expression of God’s deliverance, bringing his people, like a flock, to himself. But here’s what’s so significant: It is always Yahweh himself who will come as Shepherd. It is clear that when this great Shepherd comes to gather God’s people, it will be none other than God himself who brings the deliverance.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. (Micah 5.2-4)

Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:9-11)

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ (Jer 31.10)

As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. … And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezek 34.12; 31)

So behind Peter’s simple statement that the ‘chief Shepherd’ is Jesus lies a whole theology of the deity of Jesus, the Promised Divine Shepherd, the one who brings the deliverance of God’s people in the true Exodus. It’s on every page, in every line, behind every thought. Jesus is God.

Our Big Problem

But perhaps, in light of this example (and so many others like it), the reason why we don’t see the deity of Christ in the New Testament as clearly as we ought is not because we do not know our New Testament, but because we do not know the Old Testament like we ought. So here’s a suggestion: If you want to get to know Jesus better and see him more clearly, as the New Testament authors saw him, maybe you need to read your Old Testament more.

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