Love at the Center

In contrast to the philosophies of atheism and pantheism, Jesus Christ put love at the center of life. Love is the central concern in Christ‘s apologetic to the world. Both John 13:35 and John 17:20- 23 indicate that the world will not know who Jesus is through the means of his ultimate apologetic-love among believers-unless believers demonstrate his love first to each other and then to the watching world. The New Testament emphasis on agape is utterly unique among world religions. The statement “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16) cannot be said in any other view of life. The ultimate demonstration of love is the cross, and that is the painful, self-sacrificial, other-directed love to which we are called.

Art Lindsley. Love, the Ultimate Apologetic: The Heart of Christian Witness (pp. 160-161). Kindle Edition.

Attacking Brothers with Blessing

Paul usually included a benediction of grace and peace in his letters. “The God of peace be with all of you. Amen” (Romans 15:33). “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1 Corinthians 16:23-24). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen” (Galatians 6:18). Here our greetings convey both human love and divine favor. Paul was not merely talking about a blessing; he was imparting it. In doing so, Paul was drawing on a rich Old Testament tradition. The “blessing” was standard practice among the people of God from the very beginning. Fathers pronounced a blessing on their children, a leader on the people. The blessing was given through prophetic utterance or the change of a name. Such a blessing communicated God’s favor. The loss of blessing was considered a terrible curse, as we learn from Esau, who wept bitterly when his father decided to let the blessing on Jacob remain, even though he had received it under false pretense.

Esau’s cry-“O Father, bless me!”-has echoed through the centuries in the hearts of those who have never received a greeting that carries the blessing of God. Children, parents, spouses, lovers, colleagues and friends want to know that our love for them reflects the love of God, that our love for them channels the love of God. People want to know that God’s favor rests on them. They depend on us, at least in part, to receive that blessing.

Our Christian enemies need that blessing too. I am not proposing that we ignore or dismiss tensions in the church today, but I am suggesting that we mitigate them by praying the favor of God on our Christian opponents whenever we meet them, whether in cordial or adversarial situations. They belong to God, as we do; they believe in God, as we do; they stand in need of God, as we do. The substance of our disagreements might not change, but the spirit of the relationship often will if in our greetings we bestow God’s blessing. We need to remind our opponents that though we differ with them in theology or practice, we still regard them as Christian brethren.

Gerald L. Sittser. Love One Another: Becoming the Church Jesus Longs For (Kindle Locations 316-328). Kindle Edition.

The Son of Man Came…?

How would you complete the sentence: “The Son of Man came. . .”? The Son of Man came . . . preaching the Word . . . to establish the kingdom of God . . . to die on the cross. Perhaps the question is more revealing if we make it, “We should go . . .”? We should go . . . campaign for political change . . . preach on street corners . . . make the most of new media . . . adapt to the culture we want to reach.

There are three ways the New Testament completes the sentence, “The Son of Man came . . .” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45); “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10); “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking . . .” (Luke 7:34).

The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third is a statement of method. How did Jesus come

The Last Supper (Luke 22:21-23)

The Last Supper (Luke 22:21-23) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

? He came eating and drinking. “Son of Man” is Daniel’s label for one who comes before God to receive authority over the nations (Daniel 7). And now Jesus, the Son of Man, has come. But how does he come? Does he come with an army of angels? Does he come on the clouds of heaven? Does he come with a blaze of glory? No, he comes “eating and drinking.”

Chester, Tim (2011-04-07). A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table (Re:Lit) (p. 12). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Love is our Livery

The Scutum Fidei, a diagram frequently used by...

The Scutum Fidei, a diagram frequently used by Christian apologists to explain the Trinity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ultimate model of love exists among the three Persons comprising the Godhead — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit -who are three in one and one in three and perfect in mutual love. “All love,” asserts Kelly Kapic, “is but a reflection or shadow of intratrinitarian love.”There has eternally existed a dynamic social relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit characterized by love (John 17:24). And we have been called to share in this holy community of love (John 17:26;14:21;15:9-10). John’s magisterial proclamation that “God is love” actually supports his main appeal to love one another: “Love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). So not to love one another in the family of God is an egregious sin.

Strauch, Alexander (2011-03-11). Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-up Call to the Church (Kindle Locations 189-196).  . Kindle Edition.

The Man behind the Curtain

English: the first of the Epistles to the Colo...

English: the first of the Epistles to the Colossians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So often we teach that abiding in Christ means spending time with Him in His Word and prayer. In so doing, we may tend to neglect a proper emphasis on Christ Himself. It is not the Word of God itself or even prayer that supplies the power and grace to live the Christian life. It is Christ who is our life (see Colossians 3: 4). The Word of God and prayer are the primary means by which the Holy Spirit mediates Christ’s life to us. But we must never so emphasize the Word and prayer, which are God’s instruments of grace, that we lose sight of Christ, who is the source of our life. We must actively “abide in Christ”; that is, we must look to Him by faith to sustain us, nurture us, and provide all that we need to live a life pleasing to God and worthy of Him. When we come to Christ for salvation, we renounce any confidence in ourselves, placing our trust entirely in Him. In the same way, as we live the Christian life, we should continue to renounce any confidence in ourselves, placing our trust entirely in Him. But this does not mean we should become passive in a “let go and let God” approach to the Christian life. Rather, we are called to a dependence on Christ, as well as a dependence on the Holy Spirit, whose work it is to mediate the life of Christ to us, enabling us to live the kind of lives that are pleasing to God.

Bridges, Jerry (2012-09-14). True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia (Kindle Locations 311-320). Navpress. Kindle Edition.

The Weight of Glory

“Wherever you turn your eyes, there is no portion of the world, however minute, that does not exhibit at least some sparks of beauty; while it is impossible to contemplate the vast and beautiful fabric as it extends around, without being overwhelmed by the immense weight of glory.” John Calvin

The Tie that Binds

It is this spiritually organic relationship that forms the basis of true Christian community. It is not the fact that we are united in common goals or purposes that makes us a community. Rather, it is the fact that we share a common life in Christ. There are many organizations, both secular and Christian, whose members work together to pursue common goals. Some of these groups may call themselves communities. But biblical community goes much deeper than sharing common goals, though it ultimately involves that. Biblical community is first of all the sharing of a common life in Christ. It is when we grasp this truth that we are in a position to begin to understand true community.

Bridges, Jerry (2012-09-14). True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia (Kindle Locations 108-113). Navpress. Kindle Edition.

Too Young in the Meaning of Love

Are you in shadow? Are you pain? Do not cry to me. I can only cry with you. I will not die for you. I am still too young in the meaning of love. Talk to the Fool, to the one who left a throne to enter an anthill. He will enter your shadow. It cannot taint Him. He has done it before. His holiness is not fragile. It burns like a father to the sun. Touch His skin, put your hand in His side. He has kept His scars when He did not have to. Give Him your pain and watch it overwhelmed, burned away by the joy He takes in loving. In Stooping.

From Notes of a Tilt-a-whirl by N.D. Wilson

To wield a mirror and sword

Thus, the apologetic task will consist, not of externally verifying the Christian presupposition but, of applying it by (1) bringing God’s truth and commands to bear upon the lives of unbelievers, appealing to the image of God in them (distinguishing between present remnants of man’s original nature and the ever-present nature of fallen man), pointing out that every fact of the world bears witness to God, and (2) doing an internal critique of the non-Christian’s system, calling down its idols, and pointing out the absolute necessity of Christian presuppositions if logic, factuality, history, science, and morality are to have any meaning, validity, and application at all. The Christian apologetic will not concede intellectual ground to Christianity’s cultured despisers or allow them to exploit theoretical foundations to which they have no legitimate claim without depending on the Christian faith. Thus, part of the Christian’s reasoned defense of the faith will be an aggressive offense.

Bahnsen, Greg (2009-03-01). Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated & Defended (Kindle Locations 433-442). American Vision. Kindle Edition.

Doctirnal maturity is not spiritual maturity

It is a ministry methodology to which those of us in Reformed traditions are particularly susceptible: an approach to ministry that is solely directed to the mind, defining spiritual success as the intellectual acquisition of biblical and theological knowledge. ‘Can he articulate the five points of Calvinism?’ ‘Does he know the standard answers to the difficult texts which appear to teach an unlimited atonement?’ ‘Is he committed to the regulative principle of worship?’ One’s acumen in answering questions such as these can often become a litmus test of spiritual growth. Let it be said that this is no attempt at minimizing the importance of biblical and theological truth. Spiritual maturity is not possible apart from such truth. But the fact remains, it is possible for a Christian to possess a vast amount of biblical and theological knowledge while at the same time being altogether devoid of Spiritual maturity.

Azurdia, Arturo G., Spirit Empowered Preaching. 36-37.