Categories
Ministry Theology

Lent 2012

Ash Wednesday begins the season the church has historically called Lent. Lent comes from an Old English term simply meaning “spring.” The church has employed the word to serve as the forty day preparation before Easter (Lent lasts for 46 days but Sundays are not a part of the 40 day observance).

I am a member of an evangelical church in the Midwest, and I am probably not too far off base when I say that many evangelicals think Lent is “too Catholic for us to celebrate.” Let us remember, however, that Lent only has meaning for those who trust in the finished work of Christ for them, and not their work for God. Lent, Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter are all about Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death to remove the wrath of God that was upon sinners and provide a way for them to be justified before him so they might be reconciled to him. The Lenten season a one of preparation. Not fish fry Fridays or boycotting bon-bons. Fasting for fasting’s sake is not the issue. Fasting is good, if it propels you toward Christ. God desires a repentant heart that is earnestly desperate for his grace (see Ps. 51:17-18). Lent is a prime season to cultivate, by God’s grace, repentance to and faith in Jesus.

As a 27-year-old evangelical, I am concerned that American evangelicals, particularly those in the 40+ generation, have little regard for church history or the great community of saints spanning the last 2,000 years. Our evangelicalism does not exist in a vacuum. We tend to lean toward the modern and contemporary and think that new is always better. There is a rich, deep tradition that we can learn from, enjoy, be rebuked by, and praise God for. I don’t claim to know the history as well as I should, but I continue to learn and relish what God has done in times past.

Our gospel is not new. It is not contemporary. It is not modern. It is ancient. In a culture inundated with gadgets and toys that have new additions and updates before we learned how to use the originals, we are boring ourselves to death. Perhaps we need a breath of fresh air, one that can only come from the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13-14).

Some resources to help you during Lent:

Categories
Theology

The Self-Substitution of God

From the Desiring God blog:

We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ which does not have at its centre the principle of ‘satisfaction through substitution’, indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution.

The cross was not:

a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one which tricked and trapped him;

nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honour or technical point of law;

nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape;

nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father;

nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father;

nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator.

Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character.

The theological words ‘satisfaction’ and ‘substitution’ need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstance be given up. The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 159-160.

Categories
Life Theology

Passion Week – Saturday

This is a re-post of the Passion series from last year.

Isaiah 55:1-3:

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

During Jesus’ ministry, he said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). When people heard this, no doubt their minds saw the words of Isaiah when he quoted Yahweh, saying, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters!”

I’m thirsty for Jesus, but I want to be more thirsty. So often I take a couple sips from the divine glass of joy that Jesus offers, only to be satisfied five minutes later by my own self-righteousness, the Internet, entertainment, or something else.  I want to delight myself in true, rich food, not worthless food that will only leave me empty.

Good Friday is about reflection and repentance. On that day, Jesus bore the wrath of God for my sins. He took all my transgressions on his shoulders. Today, Saturday, is not about hiding out and passively waiting for Sunday. It’s about expectantly waiting for Sunday to arrive.  It’s about going to the tomb and waiting up all night, holding on to Jesus’ promise that he will rise. It’s doing what God, through Isaiah, told us to do: “Come to me!”

Father God, by your Spirit, make me glad in you alone. Give me the power to come to Jesus today, clinging to the Cross as my only hope for righteousness and forgiveness. And help me celebrate Resurrection Sunday this year — and every day — as my only hope for eternal life in your presence.

Categories
Life Theology

Passion Week – Good Friday

This is a re-post of the Passion series from last year.

1 Peter 3:18:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:21:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus did not come to make you a good person with upstanding morals and decent ethics.  He came to make you a perfect person. How does he do this?  He died in our place and bore the concentrated wrath of the Father that we deserved for our sin.  Our sin was credited to him; his righteousness was credited to us. Whoever believes in him, by faith, is presented to the Father, not as a “good” person, but as a completely holy and perfected person.

Hear these penetrating words from C.S. Lewis.

God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing — or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God — the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up.  If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.

Father in Heaven, let me feel the weight of glory of Christ’s crucifixion. This is no game. My sin is serious, and it put the God-man to death. Yet that is the only way I could be made perfect, the only way I could be right with you. Thank you for your Son. Thank you for the Cross. Let my eyes always be on the Cross.

Categories
Life Theology

Passion Week – Maundy Thursday

This is a re-post of the Passion series from last year.

John 18:28-32

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

Just hours after Jesus had celebrated Passover with his disciples, washed their feet, and instituted the ordinance of communion, he was on trial before angry Pharisees and an oblivious Roman governor.  What strikes me about our passage from John 18 is one line about the Pharisees.  It’s in verse 28: “They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them.”

Though Passover was observed the night before (Thursday), it existed as part of a week long celebration that the Pharisees wanted to continue through the Sabbath (Saturday).  Jesus’ accusers, in the midst of murdering an innocent man, were never more rigid in their observance of the law.  All that mattered to them was their moral checklist.

In Matthew 23, just two days before, Jesus condemned the legalism of these same Pharisees, saying, “You have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (vv. 23-24).  The Pharisees were not just or merciful toward Jesus, and they were drastically unfaithful to God’s message and kingdom.

On the brink of murdering the Son of God, the Pharisees refused to enter a Gentile’s courthouse to discuss the case for fear of being “unclean.”  How often do I find myself in this position? I care more about maintaining a pristine image than I do about a holy heart.  We are like the Pharisees.  In their neglect of mercy and love in favor of sacrifice and external religion, they were already as unclean as they could be. So are we apart from Jesus. They did not see that the Passover they celebrated was being fulfilled before them. Jesus, the ultimate Passover Lamb, was being sacrificed for them, and for us, so his blood might cover our sins and make us  right with God.

Father, forgive me for me plastic, external religion. Help me see the big picture and know what is precious in your sight instead of simply trying to be ‘good’ and ‘moral.’  Wash me continually with your blood, Lord Jesus. Thank you for being my Passover Lamb.