Thursday, March 28, 2013

Providential Encouragement In the Atonement

THERE ARE MANY fulfillments of prophecy and Old Testament types imbedded in Christ's passion.
Our Substitute
They are remarkable, and they are designed to encourage us, to convince us that  Golgotha was an event orchestrated and planned by divine providence. Let me explain.

First, Jesus died on the Passover. Jesus died on Friday, the sixth day of the Jewish week. This was no accident, and it was important. The Passover received its name from the fact that the Angel of Death "passed over" all the Jewish families that put their trust in God their Savior. Waiting for liberation from Egyptian bondage, God informed the Jewish slaves that he was going to kill the firstborn of every family. He would make one exception. Every family that slaughtered a lamb, smeared its blood over their door post, roasted it, and ate it communally would be spared. The death of the Lamb, symbolized by the blood, would substitute for the firstborn, and the Angel of Death would "passover" their house. God saved the firstborn of every Jewish family that obeyed this instruction. Those who didn't experienced the death of their firstborn.

All of this foreshadowed the true Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29) who would also shed his blood on the Passover. He is the true Lamb that saves all who put their trust in Him. When someone believes the gospel they figuratively apply Christ's blood to their heart by faith. The Angel of Death also passes over them, the death of God's Lamb being their substitute.

That is why Jesus died on the Jewish feast of Passover. He wanted us to make this connection. He is the true Lamb to which the Passover points.

In addition Jesus died on the Friday, the sixth day of the week. This was another important pointer. Their were six days of creation. On the sixth day God finished his work of creation. "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). On the seventh day he rested.

In the same way, God finished the work of Redemption on the Friday, the sixth day of the week. You can almost hear him whispering in the background, "And behold it was VERY good." As at Creation, on the seventh day (Saturday) God rested. God redeemed us this way to impress us with the exquisite perfections of his providence. Everything is and was under his control. Every detail of Christ's atonement speaks this message to us.

Third, Jesus hung on the cross exactly six hours. Six is the number for man. God created man on the sixth day. God labored for six days to create. In the same way, his Son labored on the cross for six hours to make atonement.

Last, Jesus arose on the first day of the week. In modernity Sunday is the last day of the week. But in the Jewish calendar it was and is the first day of the week. Jesus resurrection on the first day proclaims this message: Just as God began creation on the first day of the week, so Christ has risen to begin the New Creation on the first day.

Why does this matter? The odds of Jesus dying on the Passover were 1 out of 365. The odds of him dying on the sixth day of the week and rising on the first are very small. The odds of him hanging on the cross for exactly six hours is even smaller.

What should we conclude? God has everything under control. There are no accidents. God wants us to read these signs, believe the gospel, and live by faith. So, as we experience Holy Week be encouraged by the details of Christ's Passion and what it says to us.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Power of A Fresh Perspective!

The Universe Gives us Persepctive
A FRESH PERSPECTIVE is a powerful remedy for the blues. This is often why people leave town when they are depressed. They need to see their circumstances from a new viewpoint. It is why people love to look at the stars on a summer's night. Big things shrink our problems down to their appropriate size.

The Bible constantly invites us to take a fresh perspective. One of the most powerful invitations occurs in Isaiah 51.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner. But my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed. Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings. For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool; but my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation to all generations” (Isaiah 51:6–8, italics mine).

This passage reminds us of several important truths. First the heavens and earth are temporal. They will wear out. In fact, in light of the big picture, they are like smoke that quickly vanishes.

By contrast, God's salvation in a reconfigured universe is eternal and substantial. Someday all of us will look back on this life. We will see it as the tiny blip in God's cosmic purpose that it is.

Second, this passage urges us to fear God not man. In light of eternity our enemies and detractors are about as substantial as a garment. We store them for the winter and remove them in the Spring only to find that the moths have made a mess of them.

The bottom line is this. God's righteousness and his salvation are forever. They are built on the power of resurrection life. By comparison, everything else is vapid, ethereal, and unsubstantial.

That is God entranced perspective, and it is one that magnifies joy.

Good News!

RECENT MONTHS HAVE BROUGHT Evangelicals a tidal wave of bad news. From the presidential election results to the legalization of Marijuana and same sex marriage, the cause of biblical morality has been on the defensive.

However, good news just arrived on the abortion front. For those in the know it has been apparent for several years that public opinion is slowly moving into the pro-life camp. Two events in recent days confirm this change.

First, the State of Arkansas passed legislation that made abortion beyond the twelfth week of pregnancy illegal. Second, the State of North Dakota, just passed legislation making it illegal to abort a fetus on the basis of downs syndrome or fetal deformity.

These are the most far-reaching attempts to restrict abortion in recent years. They will probably be challenged in courts higher up the food chain, but in the meantime, we should rejoice.

Friday, March 15, 2013

"Fear Not!" God is With You.

OUR CULTURE IS deteriorating, and it is happening with great speed. The rapid advance of the homosexual agenda and its hostility to Evangelicals, the repetitive public mass shootings, the rapidly escalating Federal debt, the growing political oppression of Evangelicals, the falling fertility rates, the growing pressure to be "politically correct,"and the aggressive onslaught of feminism are major cultural shifts. Where is it all going? No one knows for sure, but it doesn't look promising.

Western culture has a bad case of "truth decay."

For most of us, the natural reaction to instability and change is fear. Uncertainty motivates anxiety, and there is much uncertainty about the future.

This is nothing new. God's people have repeatedly faced the temptation to fear. In bondage to the Babylonians, and their homeland destroyed, the ancient Jews had every rational reason to fear, yet through the prophet, Isaiah, God repeatedly told them "fear not." Here are some of the verses. In each case God commands his people to "fear not," then gives them a solid reason to reject fear and anxiety.

35:4  "Fear not...your God will come and save you."
40:9  "Fear not...behold your God."
41:10 "Fear not, for I am with you."
41:13 "Fear not, I am the One who helps you."
41:14 "Fear not...your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel."
43:1  "Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine."
43:5  "Fear not, for I am with you"
44:2  "Fear not..." I have chosen you.
44:8  "Fear not..." There is no god besides me.
51:7  "Fear not the reproach of man...for the moth will eat them up like a garment."
54:4  "Fear not, for you will not be ashamed."

Here is a summary of why God commanded the Israelites to "fear not." He will come to save us, he is with us, and he helps us. He is the Holy One of Israel, besides whom there is no other. He has redeemed us. He has called us by name. We belong to him. He has chosen us. He has no god beside him. Those who oppose us are irrelevant, like moth-eaten garments. We could go on and on.

The question is this: Do we really believe all of this? We should because ultimately, God's peace will swallow up all strife. "Of the increase of his government, and of peace, there will be no end" (Isa. 9:7).

In the meantime, the road might be bumpy. What to do? Here is Isaiah's counsel. "You keep him in perfect peace because his mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you" (Isa 26:3). Rivet your eyes on Christ, not our rapidly changing cultural circumstances.

For those who do this God will give "the peace of God that passes all understanding" (Phil. 4:7), and "joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Pet. 1:8).

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Real Saint Patrick

THE LEGEND OF SAINT PATRICK is just that––a legend. The name St. Patrick conjures up visions of elves, frisky leprechauns, banshees, three leaved clovers, and Guinness Beer. We start humming Celtic music, we remember the "Fighting Irish" of Notre Dame, and little old nuns with names like "Sister Veronica" come to mind.

But the real Saint Patrick is another story.

Saint Patty's Day is fast approaching. Christian History Magazine has done us the favor of reproducing one of their archived articles. It  tells the real story of Saint Patrick, missionary to the Irish people, and preacher of the gospel. Read this and discuss with your family around the dinner table.

You won't be sorry, and neither will your children.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Has Sports Illustrated Lost It?

Mrs Fallon Fox
THE DEPTH OF THE CONFUSION in our culture is truly shocking. Sports Illustrated just ran an article  on a "transgendered" professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) athlete. Fallon Fox was once a male. After sex change surgery in Thailand, she is now  a female. There is one problem. She has a male body, a male skeleton, and a man's muscle mass, but she is competing with females. 

You would expect Sports Illustrated to object this to competitive advantage. You would also expect Sports Illustrated to highlight the ludicrousness of this situation. Guess again. The author, Loretta Hunt, actually praises Mrs Fallon for her moral courage. "Like many of her fighting peers, Fallon was not without her own set of challenges growing up the middle child of a conservatively Christian, ethnically-mixed family in Toledo, Ohio. The ability to overcome great obstacles is one of the key characteristics that all fighters share. It's what gives them their backbone and the courage to pursue a dream that offers no guarantees. Fallon Fox has courage to spare."

Her's was the courage to admit that she was a female trapped in a male body. 

Have we lost our minds? Is there any limit to the insanity of political correctness? Has any culture ever descended this far? The moral confusion is leaping from one degree of absurdity to another. Our moral confusion is a symptom of God's judgment.  "God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies amongst themselves...for their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women..." (Rom. 1:25-27). 

How should we respond? First, with the deepest compassion for those snared by this confusion. Second, resolved to never let ourselves succumb to the pressure of political correctness. Third, with renewed efforts to evangelize our neighbors. Fourth, with hearts broken for the desperate condition of our culture. "O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people" (Jeremiah 9:1). 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Is The Family Dead?

     IT IS NORMAL for trivial subjects to make the headlines, whereas important subjects, ideas that shake cultures to their foundations, are often on the last page of the newspaper where they are ignored by most. One such subject is "Post Familialism," the idea that our society is moving into a post family phase. Two recent scholarly articles in New Geography Magazine are making precisely this point. The first, published last Fall, can be found here. The second, published a few weeks ago, can be found here.  

     This is no small finding. The authors sum it up this way. "For most of human history, the family — defined by parents, children and extended kin — has stood as the central unit of society. In Europe, Asia, Africa and, later, the Americas and Oceania, people lived, and frequently worked, as family units.
     Today, in the high-income world and even in some developing countries, we are witnessing a shift to a new social model. Increasingly, family no longer serves as the central organizing feature of society. An unprecedented number of individuals — approaching upwards of 30% in some Asian countries — are choosing to eschew child bearing altogether and, often, marriage as well." 
     The authors note the only exception to this trend are families that are organized around deep religious commitments. In other words, to the degree that people succumb to secularism the traditional family is in danger of disappearance. 
     The symptoms of Post-Familialism are reluctance to marry, and a reluctance to have children. If this trend proves to be a long term, it will be a disaster.