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Life Theology

Psalm 96 and Jesus

I don’t often share my journal entries from my times in the word, but I am compelled to today. Here are my thoughts/notes on Psalm 96.

This Psalm is a celebration and proclamation of how great God is.  He is worthy to be sang to and worshiped and praised and adored.  The Israelites–and we–are told to sing three times in the first 2 verses and we are told to declare his glory and works among the nations and peoples.  Why do we sing and declare? For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods (v. 4).  All other gods are idols but the LORD made the heavens (v. 5).  Unlike other gods who are surrounded by sinful and fragile men who made them, the LORD is surrounded by splendor and majesty…strength and beauty (v. 6).  Man can only create what he knows, which is why idols are always something that has already been created. Man never worships an original idol. The Israelites worshiped a golden calf.  Americans worship money and nice cars.  There is nothing new under the sun.

The psalmist then bursts out into exclamatory praise/exhortation to the people of God: Ascribe…to the LORD glory and strength…the glory due his name (vv. 7-8).  The word “ascribe” in Hebrew means “to acknowledge or give what is due.”  Acknowledge God, with my being, not just my mind, that he is worthy of praise for his glory, strength, and name.  He is worthy, because he has created the heavens and because he is holy (v. 9).  And because of this picture of who God is, the nations are called to tremble before him (v. 9), not out of paralyzing fear, but in humble reverence and awe.

The LORD, Yahweh, is also due praise and worship because the world has been founded on his unchanging character (v. 10).  Because of this, he is able to judge with equity. A God who could change and did not stand for righteousness would not be worthy of glory, strength, and honor, for he would not be holy. If God could change, then what he is tomorrow could be better than today (or vice versa), and therefore, he might not be “the best” thing in the universe. He would be at the whim of his emotions or desires.  But our God is not changeable, and because of this truth–that God has founded the earth and will judge it according to his unchanging character–there is a worshipful response in creation. Let the heavens be glad…let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar…let the field exult…all the trees of the forest sing for joy (v. 11-12).  The reason for this singing and praise is that the Lord judges the world in righteousness and faithfulness (v. 13).  If inanimate nature is called to sing and be glad, how much more God’s people, who wait with anticipation and expectation for his coming!

Now we ask, “How will God judge the world?”  Ultimately, he will judge the world through Jesus.  Paul writes in Acts 17:30-31, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (my emphasis). And lest I think this is a Pauline construction, Jesus himself says in John 5:25-29:

Truly,  truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now where, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (my emphasis).

But what about what Jesus said in John 3 to Nicodemus?  “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (v. 17). If Jesus were to judge, wouldn’t he be obligated to condemn, too? But look at what Jesus does. He puts the correct framework on “judgment.”  He says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” (vv. 18-19, my emphasis).

Jesus judges, not as a cruel, unjust, bloodthirsty dictator, but as one who identifies what is already in the heart of man. Jesus doesn’t make up a judgment on a whim on that “fixed day” Paul describes. No, he already knows the judgment. The judgment is the answer to: “Do you believe?  Do you believe that Jesus is King, Lord, Savior, Treasure, Judge, Creator?  Do you believe Jesus’ name is due glory, strength, and honor and have you worshiped him–not other gods of your own making–as your supreme delight because of who he is and what he has done?”

God will judge the world in righteousness and faithfulness someday. I will die, and I will rise again and give an account to a Man, the only one who fully and completely gave God’s name the glory he deserved. He is the only one who perfectly embodied righteous and faithful living. And it is he who took all of my unrighteousness and unfaithfulness to the cross, becoming my substitute, absorbing the wrath of God in judgment, reconciling me to God, and making me his friend, not an foe.

I ask myself, and you the reader: Will you have Jesus today?

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Life Theology

Dwelling With God through the Gospel

I am not very old. But with each passing week (more accurately, with each passing failure) I am reminded more and more of how I need the gospel. The gospel is my only hope.  Without the gospel, I would be damned.

This morning I read Psalm 91, and I focused on verses 1-2. The Psalmist writes, “He who dwells in the shelter of the most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'”

When I read words like “dwells” and “abide” my mind ponders what it means to be in the presence of God.  Jesus said, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:6).  Jesus is my life-source. If I trust in him, I will grow. If not, I will die.  Jesus says, “To dwell or abide with God–to be in his presence–is to be connected to me in a saving way, a way that declares me as your refuge and fortress.”

But there is a problem. The problem does not exist outside of me–in my circumstances or trials or enemies or annoyances. That is what I want to believe.  But really, the problem exists inside of me–in my pride, rebellion, self-righteousness, and a thousand other things the Bible calls sin. My sin keeps me from dwelling with God. My sin keeps me from experiencing God’s presence in a harmonious, perfect, continuous way even as a Christian. And there is only one solution.

The gospel.

The gospel tells me that though I am wretched and vile and unworthy of a holy God’s actual and real presence in my life, it is provided for me by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is also called Emmanuel, which means God with us. He is the presence of God in the flesh: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14a).  Jesus bore the wrath of God, taking our punishment and undergoing separation from God’s presence on the cross in order that we might have relationship with God. This only comes through faith in Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin, so that we would no longer be enemies with God, for enemies are not welcome in God’s presence (Rom. 3:23; 5:8, 10).

This is not just for unbelievers.  This is for Christians.  If you want to experience God’s presence (albeit not perfectly on this side of eternity) you must continually preach the gospel to yourself. You must realize that your sin is your greatest hindrance to being near God. You must take that sin to the cross, lay it on Jesus, and despair of any merit to dwelling with God. This happens by grace, and when it happens, it is a sweet thing.

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Life

Why should judgment cause rejoicing?

The fact that God will judge the world should cause his people to rejoice. Why? God’s judgment proves that he is a God who cares about justice, righteousness, and holiness. Psalm 98:4, 8-9 reminds of of this:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

…Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

Going beyond this precious fact, what truly grips my heart and causes it to rejoice even more is that Jesus Christ, the God-man, is the One who will be judging the world.  In John’s gospel, Jesus said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (5:24-29).

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Life Theology

Jesus: The Greater David

Jesus isn’t just the greater Moses. He is also the greater David. In Psalm 78, the psalmist is reflecting on Israel’s rebellion against God after they were saved from slavery in Egypt. God was so gracious to his people despite their unfaithfulness. “Yet,” the psalmist wrote, “they sinned still more against him” (vv. 17, 40, 56).

Later in the Psalm, the writer tells us that he chose a shepherd from the tribe of Judah to lead his people back to God. This shepherd is David. The psalmist tells us:

He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand (vv. 70-72).

You might be thinking, “David had an upright heart?! What about that whole Bathsheba and Uriah thing? That wasn’t so upright!” And you would be right. Of course David had his moral failures. He was human. And that’s the point: as great as David was as shepherd-king of Israel, he still fell short of the perfection that God’s people needed.

That’s where Jesus comes in. In John 10, he said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (v. 11).  In saying this, Jesus claims to be the long awaited heir of David who would lead God’s people perfectly. He would be the ultimate shepherd-king who would never have a moral failure or a bad thought toward his flock.

When we read the Old Testament, we cannot look for examples in men like David and Moses. We need to see them as imperfect men who could never fully be what God’s people needed.  They should not inspire us to be better people. They should leave us longing to be saved by the greater Man who did and said all that God wanted with complete perfection.

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Life

Jesus Dies on the Cross

Part 5 of a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

When Jesus hung on the cross, he had enough breath to speak even though his skin was ripped from his bones and his face was so disfigured that we wouldn’t have been able to tell who he was. He had enough breath to speak despite the weight of his body hanging by two railroad spikes nailed into the most sensitive nerve centers in his body.

At the very end of his crucifixion, around 3 pm, he cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” That means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some have said that this means that God turned his back and couldn’t look at Jesus because of the sin he bore. The Bible, however, doesn’t say that’s why Jesus cried out these prophetic words.

We all know that Psalm 22 begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In those days, when a teacher quoted the first line of a particular passage of Scripture, his intention was to reference the whole section. We know this must be the case because verses 16-18 say, “They have pierce my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”  This is exactly what happened to Jesus.

But that’s only three verses of the psalm. Toward the end of the chapter, David writes, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations” (vv. 27-28).  Although God did in fact “turn his back” as Jesus drank the full cup of God’s wrath on the cross, that is not the main point.  God turning his back on his Son led to something greater.  Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, says, “Could it be that Jesus on the cross [when quoting Psalm 22:1] is saying, ‘Here we go. Here we go’?”  In saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus is pointing to the whole Psalm, which ultimately points to God’s universal redemptive plan to save a people–a family–for himself. The point then is that this world-wide revolution of bringing all kinds of people to worship God is about to begin. It is only because Jesus took the wrath of God and died in our place as our substitute Savior that the nations–we Gentiles–will be welcome at God’s table.

Just a chapter later in Matthew 28:18-19, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”  The promise to Abraham from Genesis 12 has arrived and the gospel is primed to be spread to all the families of the earth.