The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 10 Review

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away..."

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…”

Having reviewed nine weeks of our reading plan let’s turn to the final readings we finished for week ten, New Creation.

In those readings we see the final stages of God’s plan–a plan that has been in the works since before the world was created. It is a plan for restoration and newness. Christ has reversed the curse that Adam had brought and now we can look forward to life everlasting. We, along with the entire creation, will be remade and raised to a life that is lived fully in the presence of God.

In Revelation there is a moment of concern for the author John because the scroll, the plan of God for this world, is sealed and there is no one that can open it. He despairs that the good work of God is being halted. As he weeps someone comes to him telling him to weep no more, for in fact there is one who can open the scroll. It is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the conqueror, who can open the scroll.

This Lion is the one who can carry out the plans of God.[1] Jesus has been on the move in a powerful way throughout Scripture and he takes center stage in Revelation. But there is a fantastic twist that follows. As John turns he doesn’t see a Lion, but a Lamb. It is the Lamb of God that takes the scroll and is able to open it.

This is a great, quick illustration of the way in which God came in a way that was not what people expected. Jesus is the Lion of Judah, but the way in which he conquers is not like others. Our Lion is the Lamb, the one who would be the sacrifice for our sins. He conquers by means of his own death.

It is the death of God who would comes to earth to save sinners that is able to break the curse of our sin and reverse the damning effects of our sin not just in ourselves, but in all creation. We trust our life over to the Lamb that was slain, but who now lives and reigns forevermore. And if our life is now in him, in Jesus Christ, we follow his lead and live for him now as we eagerly await his return.

  1. With this imagery in mind I had this 10 Week plan use a picture of a lion for its logo.  ↩

The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 9 Review

"And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Although the reading plan only took us 10 weeks, it seems I’m stretching it out a little further with review. We’re almost finished as we now look back to week nine, The Body of Christ.

God had chosen for himself a people a long time ago and there were always particular traits for that community. There were themes and practices and boundaries. But in the history of God’s people certain events would shake the foundation of the community and alter its makeup.

God chooses Abraham and gives him a great number of descendants whose names were synonymous with their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When God frees the people from slavery in Egypt the people reconstitute themselves to a certain degree around the practice of Passover, always remembering that their God is the God of the Exodus. When Moses receives the law it organizes the people differently giving them new practices and understandings of how to relate to God. The twelves tribes look one way in the time of wandering and another when they settle in the promised land. There is another shift when Israel becomes a kingdom, when the temple is built, when they are in exile, and when they return.

If those events determined new ways for the people of God to exist, then there is no doubt that the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ would be nothing less than transformative. God came to earth and revealed himself most perfectly in Jesus Christ, his son. If the church believes this then everything is different. The people of God need to look to Jesus to find its foundations for all practices. To build upon anything else would be folly.

As we read the letters of the New Testament you see this concern about the basic question, “How do we live now in light of Jesus?” People question old covenant practices. They wonder about pagan practices. What does this mean for Jews and Gentiles? How does Jesus’ life come to bear upon my relationships?

People like Paul seek to draw their attention in all his answers to Jesus, pushing for the nature and character of the church to correspond to Christ. The church should be a place of humility, seeking others needs above our own. And why does Paul say this in Philippians 2? Because of Jesus. Because Jesus is the one who instead of pride humbled himself even to the point of death on the cross. The church should be a place of love because Christ has loved us, even while we were enemies! The church should join in the work and rule of the kingdom, for Christ is our king and he is reigning now.

It is challenging to know the church should seek to be Christ-like because his life on this earth led to the cross. Likewise the church should be a people willing to suffer and sacrifice, just as Jesus Christ did for us all. Not just as individuals but as worshipping communities we need to be able to heed the call of Jesus Christ, pick up our cross, and follow him.

As it was the question during the time of the New Testament, it should still be the question today. How do we live in light of Jesus Christ? Are our churches living out his mission? Are we doing those things he calls us to do? Are we willing to suffer? Do we seek, like Paul, to point others to Jesus at every opportunity? Or do we answer the questions of how to do church apart from the life and work of Jesus Christ? Thankfully these New Testament books and letters offer us guidance today by the Holy Spirit just as they did thousands of years ago. We needed it then and we still need it today as our default seems to be a subtle drift away from Jesus’ mission and character. We always need to turn to God’s word to be called back to faithful ministry done in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 5 Review

"That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful..."

“That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful…”

Israel has been on the receiving end in their relationship with God. They have received a promise, they received the good work of God that freed them from captivity, and they received the promised land. It was not earned nor deserved. Rather God had chosen them to be his people and in his grace he has blessed them. But part of the promise to Abraham was for the people to be a blessing to the world, and that is not something the people always excelled at.

Having been transformed from one man receiving a promise to a powerful nation, Israel is now in the position to be a blessing for others, but they keep their blessing to themselves. The leadership hoards and the rich become richer. Even when God makes it explicitly clear that he has a plan for Jonah to go to a rival city, Nineveh, Jonah flees acting as though he’d rather die than give the Assyrians a chance to repent. This is not the way God wants his people to act and it certainly isn’t the way that God has treated them.

God shows his love to us even while we were his enemies. But too often we will only love those who already love us.

What’s the Difference between Confidence and Arrogance?

I saw this video today and it got me thinking a bit about the nature of confidence, and I think it can tie in nicely with what we’ve been reading about and the confidence we can have as we look ahead to our future. So I thought I’d share.

While I may want to quickly define the difference between confidence and arrogance as the difference between a smile and a smirk, there’s a bit more.

This video makes it a break down between internal and external. Confidence, he says, is internal–a self-belief in which you know you’re good enough (smart enough, and by golly that people like you). Arrogance is external and is about trying to prove to others your worth, often by putting others down.

You regain confidence by knowing how great you are. Again, it’s about what you have in you. “You are amazing.” In this definition confidence is the result of being your own best cheerleader, rather than needing others.

While their may be some good from this pop-psychology, I’d say the confidence we have is actually external. It doesn’t come from within but from one the only one who can give us real value. We’re wired to need something outside ourselves, and it is just a matter of where we look to find it.

At its root, the word confidence means a having a firm trust. It is a self-confidence in the first definition. But the confidence we gain through Christ is external; it is not trust in ourselves. It is a firm conviction of our value and our identity through the eyes of God himself. It is not based on my work, but on the work of Jesus. That is something we can trust in and have true confidence because of.

2 Corinthians 3:4-5
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…

(I first found this video and a discussion about confidence and arrogance here | Lifehacker)

The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 2 Review

“Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

“Look toward heaven … So shall your offspring be.”

Having established that God does have a plan that we can find and trust within his word, week two brought us along to Abram/Abraham. To Abram God made promises that would drive much of the story of the Old Testament. He would make Abram into a people as numerous as the stars and he would give them a land, and all the blessings God would give would also being a blessing to the whole world.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 12:1–3

These and all promises of God ultimately find their fulfillment of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ and the Big Reveal

The Sixth Sense

The movie the Sixth Sense is about a psychologist, Malcolm Crowe, who is trying to help a boy who can see and talk to dead people. It is a standard supernatural thriller, but what makes the movie so powerful is that at the end it is revealed that Crowe has himself been dead the whole time.[1] It is a fantastically surprising ending to the movie and it makes you want to go back and watch again. When I first saw it, I also wanted to take others to the movie so I could see their faces when they figured it out. People’s eyes would get big and their jaws would drop as their mind would try to immediately reprocess the story in light of the stunning reveal.

In watching the movie again you could go back and see all the clues that were there earlier in the movie. Without knowing that Crowe was dead, they hadn’t meant anything to you. But in light of how the story ends, it all seems so perfectly obvious.

As you read the gospels do you get the sense that this is God’s great revealing? God comes to us in Jesus Christ and lives a fully human life in our midst. Jesus reveals God to us and even says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”[2] As if this isn’t already too much for some to handle, Jesus then lives a life that people would never have expected the Messiah to live. Jesus would eventually do what no one ever saw coming, he submitted himself and suffered a criminal’s death on the cross. People, including his closest disciples, were distraught and in despair. Even though Christ had told them what was to come–what you might even call clues–they could not anticipate that God would come among them and then be crucified.

After three confusing days Jesus is raised. He comes and continues to teach his disciples and help them make sense of what had gone on. Jesus then sends us his Holy Spirit to open our eyes and lead us into all truth.

What Jesus did was so world-changing that the early church needed to look at all of life through new lenses. They needed to go back and reprocess their own story in light of the crucifixion and resurrection.

The story that had been handed down and preserved was what we call the Old Testament. So they went back to the beginning and studied it all seeing more clearly what God was doing because they could see by the light of Jesus Christ. The church began to see how everything pointed ahead to the one who would one day come and fulfill and the hopes and needs of the people.

Now that God had been made known in a greater way than ever before, now that the plans of God found their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, and now that the church was living by the power of the Holy Spirit, they had to go back. If what Jesus Christ said about himself were true, if he really did all he said he did, then Jesus must be there in all of Scripture. People like Paul and the author of Hebrews helped the church to connect the dots and see how the story of God had its climax in Jesus Christ. It isn’t a new story but a continuation and fulfillment of the same story–the story of creation, of Israel, of redemption and forgiveness. But it now makes more sense because of what Jesus has done.

The story continues, though. We continue to look back to Jesus’ works, live for him today, and we await the thrilling conclusion when he will one day return.

  1. I’m sure by now that anyone who has desired to see the Sixth Sense has done so already, so I don’t need to fear spoilers.  ↩

  2. John 14:8–10  ↩

Why does Jesus perform miracles for some, but not for others?

In Matthew 15 Jesus walks around the Sea of Galilee and then goes up a mountain to sit. But many people have been following him and they bring to Jesus those who were lame, blind, crippled, mute, and many more. Although it seems Jesus is looking for rest, he heals them. Then seeing that these people were hungry, having followed him for three days, Jesus performs another miracle feeding thousands with just a handful of bread and fish.

Surely these were miraculous signs. Yet in Matthew 16 the Pharisees and Sadducees go to Jesus and test him asking for Jesus to show them a sign from heaven. Jesus doesn’t seem to have problem performing great works among the people as he goes about his public ministry. But there is purpose behind his actions. Jesus isn’t in the habit of performing party tricks. He heals people who are sick and miraculously feed those who are hungry. Jesus’ power is displayed with purpose and when the religious rulers want to test him and have him do something for their own purposes, Jesus won’t go along with it. He instead tells them that they only sign that they will see is the sign of Jonah. They want a sign of power from heaven, but they will see a surprised when what they see is Jesus dying on the cross and then three days later showing true power over death itself.

In the gospels Jesus is not aimless. He doesn’t drift about seeing which way the wind will take him. He has a mission with clear objectives and appeasing the religious elites is not a part of it. Jesus cares more for those on the outside and actually warns his own about the damaging influence of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Even before the cross, pay attention to the suffering of Jesus

Jesus tempted in the desert.

Jesus tempted in the desert.

This last Sunday I preached on the topic of suffering, seeking to bring our attention to this simple point: We have a God who truly knows suffering himself.

This week we read the first half of Matthew and I’d ask that you pay close attention to the experiences of Jesus. What does he go through? What troubles does he face? What luxuries does he have? How is he tempted? What is he going through in order to accomplish his great work?

Jesus is the one who walked in our footsteps. Truly he walked the path that we should have walked–the path we deserved, the path up to the cross. Jesus came to earth and experienced all that we do and he did so in order to take our place. We now can know that our God is compassionate and he is not unaffected by suffering. God knows suffering in ways we can never understand and he did it all so we would not be left alone. Into this dark world Jesus brought us light and gives us hope.