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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:

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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.

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Life

How do born again people love?

In 1 John 3:11-18, John gives us two ways that born again people love.

  1. Humbly rejoice at the greatness of others.
  2. Humbly sacrifice to meet the needs of others.

In verses 11-15, John tells us to rejoice at the greatness of others (especially Christians).  He also tells us how not to love.  He writes, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (vv. 12). Cain was jealous and was completely unable to rejoice with his brother Abel for his sacrifice offered to God.  John continues in verse 15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” When others succeed, the born again don’t murder them. They rejoice for them. I especially need grace in this. Lord, help me to celebrate the greatness of others instead of envying them!

In verses 16-18, John adds that a born again person loves others (especially Christians) by sacrificing to meet their needs.  He writes, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (vv. 16-17). The question is rhetorical. John says, “If you ignore the needs of people you don’t really have God’s love in you!” Lord, help me give sacrificially to others who are in need!

John ends with this tender, yet firm, command: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (v. 18). This doesn’t mean that we only love through actions. It doesn’t mean you are excused from saying to a Christian brother or sister, “I love you” (in a non-romantic sense!).  It also does not mean that people get saved because we give them food or drink.  Don’t mistake John: gospel people speak loving words, and the gospel message still needs to be spoken to non-Christians. Without loving, sacrificial actions (like rejoicing for people and providing for their basic needs), the gospel will not be taken seriously.

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Update: To clarify, when I say “greatness of others,” this may refer to whatever reflection of our Creator you see in others. No one has inherent greatness (see Rom. 3:10-12), but God bestows upon his people a taste of his glory in our character, personality, talents, abilities, etc. As for non-Christians, they are also made in the image of God and still have amazing talents, abilities, and creative capacities.  We should celebrate these things in them as well and help point them to their Creator who gave them these gifts.

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Theology

Passion Week – Maundy Thursday Meditation

Part 4 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

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, 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.

Categories
Theology

Sermon 10: Three Big Words

Somehow I forgot to record my notes for Sermon 9 last week.  I think I lost my notes on the bulletin.  Sorry about that if you are really following along!  Let’s continue though with sermon 10.

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Three Big Words
Series: Redemption
Pastor Steve Moltumyr

Romans 3:21-26

  • What’s so great about Romans?  It shows how sinful, inexcusable, guilty, and speechless people are before God and then shows God’s solution to this mess.
  • When you read the first two chapters of Romans, someone may object, “There is so much wrong with the world, I don’t want to hear bad news about myself.”  But the truth is that there is bad news about us, but God has provided a way through his Son to be reconciled to him.
  • The three big words in this section are Justification, Redemption, and Propitiation.
  • Justification (v. 22-24): God declares you righteous because of his Son Jesus.
    • Paul writes that we are “justified freely by his grace.”  How is this possible?  It is possible “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”
    • This separates Christianity from all the other religions of the world.  Every other religion requires a moral performance record that God must accept.  For the Christian, Jesus is their perfect moral performance record.
  • Redemption (v. 24): To buy back or liberate through a purchase.
    • What Jesus is for us is a kinsman redeemer.  This has Old Testament roots in the book of Ruth.
    • There were three requirements for a kinsman redeemer in ancient times.
      1. You must be a relative.
      2. You must love the person.
      3. You must bear the cost of their debt.
    • Boaz did this for Ruth.  Everything he owned became hers.  His name became her name.   His life became her life.  Jesus is the ultimate Boaz for us — the ultimate kinsman redeemer.
  • Propitiation (v. 25): To satisfy anger; to turn away from wrath.
    • The wrath of God is not emotional crankiness.  It is legitimate, holy anger against sin.
    • Some people say that God should just be loving and good and not angry at sin.  It is love and justice that makes God angry at sin.
    • When wrong is done to you, either you make the offending person suffer or you suffer in forbearing their sin and forgiving them.
    • Some people get in a huff about God requiring a blood sacrifice.  They say it’s primitive or gross.  But Christianity is the only religion in which God himself shed his own blood.
    • God is more loving than man’s view of God.  God gave his own life for us.  The next time someone says the God of the Bible is not loving, ask them, “What did it cost your God to love you?”  More often than not, they will not have an answer.