Categories
Life

Day 6: The Word Became Flesh

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The unique thing about John’s Gospel is that it predates the birth narrative of Jesus. Not just by a few years or decades. It goes back before the foundation of the world, into the annals of eternity.

John introduces us to the Word—logos in the Greek language. Logos does not really mean “word,” as we know it in English. We simply don’t have another word that expresses its meaning. In Greek philosophy, logos carried with it the idea of a central, divine, organizing principle of the universe. What John does is connect this idea to the beginning of creation (“In the beginning…”, Gen. 1:1) to convey the notion of God’s divine self-expression. Thus, John goes beyond the Greek philosophers who came before him. The logos is indeed central to the origin and purpose of the universe. But it’s not an impersonal force or an idea. This Word, this logos, this self-expression has found fulfillment and completion in a person. John identifies this person as the “the only Son from the Father” (v. 14), the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.

God’s solution to the brokenness of this world was not to ignore it, start over, or let us fend or ourselves. He entered. The God who created the universe and everything in it, took part in his creation. It’s like Shakespeare entering Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth and participating in the story he’s writing. Can you believe it? A Creator who lives not only among created things but partakes of flesh and blood, skeleton and muscle, tendons and ligaments? One who gets hungry, stubs his toes, enjoys sunsets, and, yes, even goes to the bathroom? It seems to good to be true.

But it’s not too good to be true. It’s the miracle of the incarnation. Advent means the end of vague spirituality, it also means the beginning of God-in-the-flesh spirituality. Christmas is the celebration that God has acted in time and space. And this changes everything.

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read John 1:1-18

  1. How should the fact that God enters creation in flesh and blood change your outlook on the physical and material?
  2. Read v. 11. Who are Jesus’ “own”? Why didn’t they receive him? How is that a warning to you?
  3. Have you received Jesus and become a child of God? If not, what’s holding you back? If so, how should your life be different?
  4. If you know grace and truth through Jesus, how then should you live today?
  5. Read John 14:9. How can you cultivate a desire to look at Jesus, and therefore God, more and more?

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent

Categories
Ministry Theology

Review: Preaching: A Biblical Theology

Jason Meyer. Preaching: A Biblical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013. $16.73 (Amazon). 368 pp.

Some of the best books on preaching contribute to the larger conversation with one or two insights that no other book seems to make. That’s why most preachers have several books on preaching on their shelves.

Those who are familiar with evangelical preaching know that there is a “crisis” in preaching today. Preaching often looks like a collection of random Bible verses, some self-help advice, and cute stories. Jason Meyer, lead pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, has written a new book to fortify the evangelical church against this kind of preaching. In Preaching: A Biblical TheologyMeyer has provided a wonderful addition to the preaching conversation.

As the title indicates, the book is a biblical theology of preaching, or more broadly, of the ministry of the word. A “biblical theology” means that Meyer analyzes what the Bible teaches about Scripture as redemptive history progresses (e.g. the ministry of the word will look different in Genesis than in does in Isaiah or John). This is the vital insight Meyer adds to the preaching conversation. He knows this book is different. Appendix 2 was written to tell the reader why his book is different.

The book separates into five parts. Part one covers a brief summary of the ministry of the word in Scripture. Part two digs into more detail and covers each epoch of biblical history. Part three addresses expository preaching today. Part four seeks to synthesize biblical theology with three elements of systematic theology. Part five closes the book with some applications for today. From start to finish, here’s what Meyer wants to accomplish: he wants to prove that “the ministry of the word in Scripture is stewarding and heralding God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word” (21, his emphasis).  This is also Meyer’s definition of preaching. The “encountering” piece may either bring a sweet aroma of life or a stench of death. I think preaching can be defined many ways, and I find Meyer’s definition very helpful, particularly for my preaching ministry, for it encapsulates its primary components: faithfully handling the word of truth (stewarding) in order to passionately and appropriately communicate it (heralding) so that hearers come face-to-face with the living God (encountering).

It’s these three “suitcases” that Meyer unpacks throughout the book. As Meyer moves through the history of redemption, he reflects upon each of the main stewards of God’s word, how they heralded the word, and what happened after the word was preached (or what happened after it was not preached rightly). Embedded in this reflection is a look at the call and fall narratives for the respective preachers. Meyer does this to reveal the biblical expectation of a true steward and herald will climax in Jesus Christ.

Section three on expository preaching is perhaps the most immediately practical portion for the preacher/reader. Here Meyer discusses the what, how, and why of expository preaching. For those more inclined to topical preaching, I highly encouraging you to ponder chapter 19 on “Why Expository Preaching?” He argues that it is thoroughly and demonstrably biblical and he provides six arguments to prove it. Perhaps his greatest argument is that “God did not give us a topical [Bible]. He gave us specific books, such as Isaiah and Romans. We must give the a voice, not compile them into topics or ten-step plans” (279).

For those who are already convinced of expository preaching, the what and how chapters will be helpful. What expository preaching should be is God-centered and gospel-saturated (251ff). In other words, preachers must exalt the glory and grace of God and always draw a line to the redemptive work of Christ from any text. How does expository preaching work? The preacher shares the point of the passage, shows why that is the point, and shepherds the flock to wherever the text leads (258ff).

Finally, let me say that this is not just a good preaching book, it’s a good theology book. Section two on the paradigm shifts in the ministry of the word is theological gold. Meyer writes in the introduction that he knows pastors are busy, therefore he encourages readers to “choose their own adventure” by either reading or skipping over section two (14-15). You may skip it initially, but come back to it. This section, in particular, will not only help preachers get better; it will sharpen their theology (namely, their biblical theology). And that’s always a good thing for preachers.

I plan on turning to this book for years to come, and I highly recommend it to you if you are a preacher or even if you are a curious sermon-hearer.

Categories
Theology

Jesus: The Word Made Flesh

Part 6 in a 10 part series. View series intro and index.

The phrase “the word of the Lord” occurs 256 times in the English Standard Version. That clearly communicates that God’s word is a big deal.

By his word, God created the heavens and earth and all that fill them (Gen. 1:1-27). By his word, God proclaimed the protoevangelium (“first gospel”) to Adam and Even after the fall (Gen. 3:15). By his word, God promised to make Abraham a blessing and great nation (Gen. 12:1-3). By his word, God showed Moses his glory by proclaiming his name (Ex. 34:6-7).

By his word, God spoke to kings and priests through prophets in Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.  By his word, God promised a Messiah, a new kingdom, a new covenant, and a new people through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah.  By his word, God declared disaster on Israel and Judah, and by his word he provided hope of mercy and renewal.  By his word, God pledged to “send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes” (Mal. 4:6).

There is no doubt that God speaks to his people through his word.

The author of Hebrews recognized this, but he also recognized something that is pivotal for Christians and absolutely essential to gospel-centered Bible study:

Long ago, at many times and in may ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb. 1:1-3a).

What the author understood, and wanted to communicate, was that the ultimate expression of what God is like is found in the person of Jesus Christ.

Beginning his gospel account in similar fashion, John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (1:1-2, 14).

Jesus, God’s perfect word, was not simply content to be communicated throughout history. He became flesh and dwelt among us.

Because Jesus is the exact representation of God in his being, nature, and character, he is the best possible medium through which God can speak to his people. Paul writes that there is “one mediator” between God and man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5). Another name for mediator is a “go-between communicator.” How do we primarily communicate? With words. God is no different. Jesus is God’s word in the flesh. You want to know what God says? Look at Jesus.

At this point, you may ask, “What does this have to do with me studying the Bible?” I admit, this does not appear immediately practical. In reality, this is a mindset and personal culture you have to build.  It’s not a “sit-down-and-do-it-thing.” If you can shape your mind to think this way, you will be more engaged when you study the Bible study and it will be more fruitful and fulfilling. When you begin to see all the words of the Bible as pointing to Christ, you will no longer be lost in commands, laws, rituals, and ancient Jewish customs. It is important to know those aspects of the Bible, but the sum of Scripture is Christ. Even Jesus said that all the Scriptures (referring to the Old Testament) bear witness about him (see John 5:39).

In the next three posts we are really going to dig deeper into what it looks like to study the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) within a gospel-centered framework. Before you build the body of a vehicle, you really need to make sure the engine works.  This post, and the previous four are the “engine” that drives this car.

Categories
Life

Time With the Lord, Part 1: Why We Study the Bible

In American Christianity, there is no doubt a lack of knowledge when it comes to knowing the Scriptures.  I don’t know the statistics about how many American Evangelicals read their Bibles on a daily basis, but from my short experience in college ministry, I can only guess the numbers are low.  Some may say that college students aren’t a good sample to examine, but I would argue that in college, one has more free-time available than any other time in life.  If a person won’t take intentional time to be with the Lord on a daily basis when there is much free-time, what would change when a person works full-time, is married, has kids, and other responsibilities?

With that said, I want to begin this short series of posts with the question, “Why do we study the Bible.”  I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’ll discuss what a time with the Lord looks like, but we’ll do that in a couple of days.  Today, the question I just asked needs to be answered.  We won’t know how to read, what to read, or what to do when we sit down to spend time with Jesus if we don’t even know why we study the Bible.

Let me first say that I ask this question because studying the Scriptures is essential to how we know God.  Second Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”  Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  And Psalm 12:6 says, “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.”  Prayer, singing, fellowship, evangelism, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines are all good and essential, but they are void of power and effectiveness without the word of God.  We study the Bible because, after all, Jesus is described as the Word itself in John 1.  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14)

So, why do we study the Bible?  If God’s word is true, lovely, and righteous, then we should read it everyday. If God is truly who he says he is, then we should take heed and read his word. We should make it our lifeblood. We should make it a priority to spend time with him by reading it. In Christianity today, we talk so much, we utter senseless prayers so often, and we seek so much advice from “experts.”  Perhaps, if we were connected to Christ at the root — his holy word — then perhaps we would be more devoted to him and we would kill more sin and we would have so much more joy in evangelism, discipleship, and missions.

Jesus said eternal life is knowing God and knowing himself (Jn. 17:3).  Jesus is the word (Jn. 1:14).  Knowing the word means that we know more of Jesus and will experience the abundant life that he came to give.