Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Eschatology Charts

Between Two Worlds: Eschatology Charts

Justin Taylor (of the brand spanking new look "Between Two Worlds") links to some really helpful (because they are simple and uncluttered) charts of how different people anticipate the world will come to an end - eschatology.

These are worth downloading and keeping on file!

(This is an old post, but it never got posted! Just found it while cleaning out my draft folder on the new blogger.)

Book Review - The Heart of Praise: Worship After God’s Own Heart

The Heart of Praise: Worship After God’s Own Heart is a new daily devotional written by Jack Hayford, president of the International Foursquare Church.

The book is divided into 31 chapters of near equal length. Each chapter begins by quoting one or two verses from a Psalm, followed by a few pages of Hayford’s comments, and then a suggested prayer. Ron Durham adds several practical questions at the end of each chapter for either individual or group discussion.

According to the introduction, Hayford’s purpose is to take us to the Psalms in order that God might bless us. This is, in his words, “the inherent by-product in the practice of praise.” Thus, he chooses a wide variety of Psalms.

The comments the author makes after each Psalm quote are often pleasant, but somewhat unrelated to the text he has quoted. Thus, they are less an explaining of the Psalm and more a series of vaguely related thoughts and ideas. He writes in a very simple, almost conversational tone that many Christians who either don’t like to read or find the activity laborious would appreciate.

It is hard to believe Hayford didn’t have a subtle agenda behind the book as he spends the best part of two early chapters explaining why all Christians should lift their hands up in worship! He moves from there to discuss why we need to sing more and only then begins to define how we use the mind in worship. In his chapter on singing, he makes the point that “our singing is not the preliminary warm-up to the ‘main event’ called the sermon” (96). This is an excellent point and one that many North American Christians need reminding of today. It ties in well with his definition of worship as “totally giving over our human will to the will of God” (14).

This book might be helpful to a new or young Christian seeking a help to establish a daily quiet time. Once that becomes a habit, they could be directed on to more substantive and Bible-centered books like C.H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. The follow up questions at the end of each chapter are decent, but the real benefit of the book would be in reading and contemplating the Psalms.

Overall, this is not the first book I would buy to refresh or challenge my mind concerning worship of our Triune God. The truly interested reader would be better served by reading something like Carson’s opening chapter in “Worship by the Book” or Tozer’s small work, “Whatever Happened to Worship.”

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Paradox of the Manger: That Baby is the World's Saviour!

Christmas Day!

Some of you have been waiting for this day like a dog waits for his dinner! Your tail has been wagging, your mouth has been salivating and your eyes locked on that day! Because when Christmas comes, there is bound to be a present a two from somebody under your tree!

I have fond memories of Christmas. I loved to get up early in December to have a few minutes to sit by the Christmas tree while it was still dark. I would stare at the lights and enjoy the smell of pine! Then would come Christmas morning....

All my memories as a child are of a fresh snowfall – was that true!? And coming downstairs to lights and presents and fun! And every once in a while, getting that one perfect present. The Big Jim Rescue Rig! The golden banana seat bike! There is nothing like a perfect gift!!

But I found that bike this summer at my parent’s cottage. Gone is the gleam of gold – surrendered to rust. The sparkle has faded out of the seat that is splitting in 32 places. It is not what it once was! Like every gift under the sun, it has gone the way of the world.

But there is one true perfect gift...

The Bibles states some amazing things about Jesus Christ. It says that Jesus is God; that Jesus is the world’s Creator; and even that Jesus is the world’s Sustainer. Today, I want to point you to the best of news. This same Jesus is also the world’s Saviour!

When Mary was supernaturally pregnant with God’s Son, her engaged husband had thoughts of divorce. After all, he knew HE had not gotten Mary pregnant... which meant someone else had! She must have committed fornication!

Matthew 1:20-21 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The first thing to notice about the wording of this verse is this: this baby is named Jesus BECAUSE / FOR THE REASON that He will save his people from their sins. Do you see that? God is “in” to names. He even goes so far as to rename people in order for their name to match something about their life or character. So you have Abram (exalted father) being re-named Abraham (father of a multitude). Things like that.

The actual name “Jesus” is the Greek form of “Joshua.” This name – like the name Abraham – means something. “Jesus” means “YHWH is salvation” or “YHWH saves.” So as God comes to man, He takes a name upon Himself that declares his purpose in coming. “Salvation” is born. Salvation has come.

Every time we hear the name “Jesus” we ought to be reminded that God came to us to save us. He is the Saviour of sinners! But the name of Jesus is spoken more as a cuss-word than anything else in our land. How ironic that those who take the Lord’s name in vain are at the same moment proclaiming the best news they will ever hear! “God saves sinners!”

So, his name is Jesus... but I want us to think through the reason that is given for this naming. Why does God insist, first to Mary, then to Joseph, that His son be named “YHWH is salvation?”

The angel told Joseph the reason – “he will save his people from their sins.”

Now, you will see that this phrase breaks into three parts:

1. He will save

2. From their sins

3. His people

1. Jesus was born to save

This is just what we have been saying. Jesus came into this world from heaven in order to save people. Many years after Jesus life and death, the Apostle Paul would write something similar to Timothy. He said, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners...” (1 Timothy 1:15). This was his raison d’etre. He did not come to start a fan club or to infuse some morality or to halt global warming or to improve the plight of the poor – he came to save.

“To save” means to rescue from harm or danger. It is to deliver into safety. There is a whole range of meaning to this word – a pitcher may save a baseball game; your spouse may save you from an embarrassing social moment; a policeman may save someone from getting shot; a fireman might save a child out of a burning building; a surgeon may save a cancer patient.

These kinds of saves seem to happen every day somewhere on our globe. But they are watery reflections of the one great salvation that all of us must have. Jesus came to save. To rescue us from the misery of death and transfer us into the life of delight in God.

But salvation cannot be understood until you know what you are being delivered from. You’ve seen movies of people being dragged out of buildings by armed guards, protesting because they do not understand the danger or threat they are under. The do not know that building is about to collapse! Many people in our city and country are like that today. Here we are saying, “You must be saved!” and they are looking about them and asking, “Saved from what?”

So, what does Jesus save from? Watch a little religious TV and you might think He saves from poverty, or integrity or normal-looking hair! Thankfully, the Bible is clear!

2. Jesus saves “from sins”

The angel’s message to Joseph was the best news of all. Men can save other men from burning oil rigs and some diseases and bad financial decisions – but no man can save himself or anyone else from his greatest problem – sin! No amount of money or power or technology can rescue us from this enemy.

Sin came into the world when Adam ate the fruit of the one tree God had forbidden him to eat from. His life should have been on a trajectory of growing dependence on and love for the Lord... but, first Eve, then Adam were tempted and they fell... and sin and death entered our world. God had warned Adam that if he ate of this fruit he “would surely die.” And die he surely did... as have every single one of his children... and as you will one day.

O, we can solve knotty mathematical problems, and split an atom and put men in space and build beautiful homes... but we can’t stop dying.

We get old. 10 out of 10 people die. Sometimes we think of this more at Christmas than at any other time of the year. We remember loved ones that are no longer with us and we think upon our own mortality. We realize that no matter when it comes, death is unstoppable and always sudden. We see that no mortal has permanently beaten the grave – even Poor Lazarus, raised from the dead by Jesus, had to die a second time.

And that death is not normal – it is quite wrong – that is why we fear it and cringe around it. And the reason we cannot stop dying is: sin. We cannot stop sinning! And even if we did, what would we do about all the sins we have already committed?

That is why the birth is Jesus is so wonderful! Because he came to save us “from our sins!” Our sins – that cause our guilt before God. Our sins – that cause our death! Jesus came to save us from these sins! From their guilt and just punishment.

“For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...”

So you can see why angels sang and stars moved and wise men came bearing gifts and Satan attempted murder when Jesus was born. YHWH who saves became man! To deal once and for all with our one universal problem.

But so many get confused here. They think man’s greatest problem is economic or political or physical or geographical. So their solutions are to dole out money or oust a government or search for new drugs or move into a better neighbourhood. But none of these solutions deal with the heart issue. None of them touch sin!

They might make certain kinds of sins more difficult to commit, but sin is like the flooding surge against a dyke wall – just when you plug up one little crack, another appears until it finally bursts through! We need something to take the flood of sin away... something to release us from its power and domination! These white-wash suggestions just divert out attention from the real problem.

Jesus said, “the Son of Man came... to give his life as a ransom for many.” That is why Jesus took on humanity and was born a real baby and laid in a real manger. That is why God came to earth – to save many! By dieing in their place – enduring an eternity of hell that they deserved in the span of 3 dark hours on the cross.

And that takes us to a third observation on this verse.

3. Jesus came to save HIS PEOPLE

Everyone seems to believe in heaven at the funeral home. Suddenly the worst scoundrel in life is spoken of as a true saint in death. Sometimes I wonder if the living at the funeral think that by telling each other that man’s few good points and laughing off of his blatant rebellions they might somehow get him into heaven. As if the Lord based our entrance to heaven on some kind of rating system like you find at a hotel. “O, he got one “needs improvement” but the rest were “satisfactory” – He’s in!”

Thankfully, God does not need our help in evaluating who enters heaven and who is cast into hell. He has an established standard from which he never varies. All those who are perfect, enter heaven. The rest do not!

Matthew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It is that simple.

And that is why we need to be saved – rescued out of our misery – for none of us is perfect! Some of us are better than the rest of us... but God does not grade on the curve or select on quota. He demands absolute perfection.

For we have already charged that all... are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;

11 no one understands;

no one seeks for God.

12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;

no one does good,

not even one.”

Our condemnation is just!

And yet, “YHWH-saves” is born! He came into the world to save sinners like you. He calls them “his people.” So God makes some kind of separation, some kind of distinguishing mark. He says that out of the mass of souls that live on this earth, some of them will be saved. The ones who are his people.

No one “goes to heaven” without being saved by Jesus. They need Jesus’ perfect, sinless life to be attributed to them. Just as they need His perfect substitutionary atonement attributed to them.

There is a trick used in football called a screen pass. Part of that play is to have a lot of different things happening at once so that the defense of the opposing team does not know which way to run. This kind of thing is happening in a spiritual way in Canada today. We are a multi-cultural nation – which is wonderful! But we are also great promoters of pluralism – which at its foundation makes no sense. It is utterly illogical.

For pluralism suggests that I can call the uni-colour chair black and you can call it white – and we are both correct! Well, that cannot be. Either one of us is right or both of us are wrong! But our disagreeing statements cannot both be right. Pluralism can work like a screen pass – it gets everyone confused. We are told that all religions are equally valid – all are true. But that is silliness. Either one is right or all are wrong!

Jesus came into the world to save sinners and claimed to be the only Saviour the world will ever know. Peter said of Him: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).

Don’t get duped! Don’t end up standing still on the field while the play rushes by you! There is only one Saviour – God came to earth – the one and only God came to earth – and He came to save sinners!

Now you might be thinking, “Well, that is good for you, but I am not that kind of person. I don’t believe in religion of any kind. I am not a person of faith.”

This strikes me, may I say it, as a rather arrogant thing to say. Do you mean to suggest that some people are pre-wired to religion? Or that some have had certain experiences that make them need religion? Well, I can only guess that you think rather highly of yourself! Obviously your trust in you – and you believe that somehow you will take care of you... even though you cannot stop certain sins in your life, let alone make yourself go on living forever!

You had best come to terms with the fact that you are no different than the rest of us! We are all sold under sin and without hope in the world – apart from Jesus.

Sometimes I hear men say, “I kind of regret that I cannot be like you Christians.” They think that there is something in them, some sin or something they have done in the past or some particular reservation they have that makes salvation impossible. But notice who Jesus saves – “His people.” That refers to all those who believe on Him for eternal life.

Once Jesus was traveling through Samaria and he struck up a conversation with a woman beside a water well. That woman had lots of reason why she should not be saved – she grew up with a different religion, she had been very immoral, she had been the victim of racism.... but Jesus bypassed all those smoke screens and got to her heart. He knew the life that she longed for and He offered it to her in himself.

That woman was saved and went back to her town telling anyone who would listen about “the man at the well.” The people of her town went out and talked to Jesus and eventually, “they said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:24).

You see, Jesus will have His people. He calls and they answer! You might resist at first, come up with silly excuses why you should remain in your sins, but I say follow the example of these Samaritans. They went out to Jesus on their own – they did not slough off the woman’s report with “O, she is just another one of those people. She needs some crutch, some religion of some sort. I will go on with my life.”

No, she was more than likely a known sinner. With 7 husbands and now living with a man, her reputation preceded her. But now she is different – and these people in Samaria do not ignore her, but take a risk and go to listen to this man Jesus.

You will never receive what you do not expect

and you will never expect what you do not inspect!

I have had many people tell me do not believe in Jesus. I often ask them, “Have you ever read the Bible?” To which most answer no. Now what is there to be afraid of? If you read the Bible and come to the conclusion that it is true – than the best news in the world has reached you! If you read it and determine it to be a bunch of hoogly... then you have found your answer. But there is no point running from it like a worried mouse.

The Bible will not bite you.

You owe it to the eternal good of your soul to spend time reading this book to see what it says. No one likes to be left out! We cry ourselves to sleep when we find out we missed the phone call that would have told us of the party. Why do we cry over something as fleeting as a missed party... and then act like missing an eternity in heaven would not be so bad?

God has brought you to this blog today – make no mistake. And God is inviting you to make peace with Him through His Son. It is a true and lasting peace.

The Bible says that Jesus died once for all time for sinners like you. In the past, men had to keep sacrificing animals to be right with God. That was how they showed their faith in Him. But now God has sent His own Son as the one final sacrifice. He died in your place, taking your capitol punishment, your penalty.

All that remains is for you to believe on Him.

“Call him, ‘YHWH is salvation,’” said the angel, “for he will save his people from their sins.” He will take their punishment and endure it. He will pay what they owed and could never pay. He will rescue them from the plight and punishment of hell.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

God is pleased to look on you with favour today. He stands here and asks, “What more must I do for you to be saved?” Of course, there is nothing else! All that remains is for you to accept this work of grace on your behalf. You must embrace Jesus as your Saviour. You must turn away from every other god or deity and look to Jesus alone. To be saved you must venture everything on Christ – making him alone your only hope for heaven. Not Jesus plus ___________. But Jesus alone.

Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you!

aAnd I am fully confident that in the battle for your soul, Jesus will win. His death was not in vain. He died for his people. Which means if you are one of his, then he died for you.

There is nothing like a perfect gift. I used to think the best Christmas presents were the ones under a tree. But as wonderful as those things might seem, they all rust or rot in the end. The greatest gift the world will ever know is Jesus Christ. And He is freely available to every person – no matter what their past – if only they ask.

Turn to Jesus. Be saved from your sins! Receive the perfect gift – the Lord Jesus! The Saviour of the World!

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Paradox of the Manger: That Baby is the World's Sustainer (Part III - final)

You can read part one here and part two here.


Jesus is the Sustainer of the World

Now, the whole point we have building toward is this: That baby in the manger is the world’s sustainer. How could this be so, if He was a real and genuine infant? We can only explain this by referring to his divine nature.

For in his divine nature, which has never been altered or diminished in any way, Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists.

Hebrews 1: 3 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. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high...

The word “uphold” means to carry along – to actively bear. It is the idea of continually (verb tense) carrying along all things in the universe. In the words of Paul to the Colossians, “in him all things hold together” – which means the Son of God is the direct agent of creation’s ongoing life and maintenance. As Paul said to the Aereopagites: “In Him we have our being!” Which means that all that exists continues to exist because Christ keeps it existing. And if Christ were to stop sustaining everything, “everything except the Triune God would cease to exist.”

So, here is where mystery intensifies – as does our adoration for the eternal Son of God.

· He became a real human... but He never stopped being God.

· He took upon Himself real flesh and blood... yet He never ceased to be the radiance of the glory of God.

· He needed milk, sleep and protection to live... yet He provided all that was needed for life and breath.

· He became a babe who had to be taught how to talk... yet He never stopped upholding the universe by the word of his power.

· He laid there as a real and helpless infant... yet He never ceased to hold together the molecules of the wood from which his manger bed was made.

What does all this mean?

It means the person of the Son of God, in His divine nature, is sovereign over all that exists... including you. Not sovereign like the Queen of England is sovereign over England – with the power to command and power to kill... but no ability to know, let alone direct your daily thoughts and actions.

“he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

He is sovereign in this sense:

· You have your very being, your life and nature from Him.

· By His power you continue.

· Without the exercise of His will you would immediately cease to exist.

· Your next breath is a gift from Him.

· You are constantly dependent on Him.

· And the fact you are here today is the result of Him (and His grace).

· His own power is what grants you life and health and choice....

And you, if you are not a Christian, are willfully using what He graciously gives you in order to oppose and act against Him. This is what sin is – Total Madness.

And the pinnacle of mankind’s insanity is the cross.

We (by our representatives) cheered as we killed our God.

And He died...

But not without purpose....

As centuries of Jewish animal sacrifice had pointed toward, Jesus was dying as the one final and sufficient sacrifice. What our works or offerings could never do, He did for us, becoming our substitute and dying in our place.

Only a God-Man could be our substitute.

He had to be a man – to be on of us.

He had to be God – to satisfy in three hours an eternity of deserved hell against us.

Marvel at the wisdom and the power of God, then repent of your sin and put your sole confidence in Jesus alone for salvation from your sin.

Our text says, “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high...”

When He next rises from that throne, you had best be ready. He came ONCE for salvation. He comes ONCE MORE (and ONLY once more) and that for JUDGMENT.

Christian, rejoice! For you are IN CHRIST. One with He who is God... and Man. You are fully saved. Forever blessed. Amen.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Paradox of the Manger: That Baby is the World's Sustainer - Part Two

You can read part one here.

His Divine Nature

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

“A Thing to be Grasped”

Jesus did not consider His equality to the Father something be desperately clung to, like a baby clinging to his toy in the nursery. The “equality” that he did not cling to was an equality in glory, in worship. For Jesus to become anything less than fully God is incomprehensible – God is perfect and any diminishing of His perfection would be to stop being God – a logical fallacy!

“He Made Himself Nothing”

This phrase is defined by its context. For Jesus to make Himself nothing, “to empty Himself,” was to take on human flesh and to be born in the likeness of men. In doing this, Jesus set aside the glory that was His with the Father in heaven – it was this glory that He did not grasp at. His privilege as Son of God was laid aside. He did not cease being all-powerful or stop being all-knowing in his divine nature. There has never been a time that the Person of Christ was less than fully God.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Therefore, in His divine nature, His true deity was never altered or shrunk or mixed or shelved or lessened in any way.

His Human Nature

But His human nature was genuine, too. While he lay in that manger, as genuine Person, in His human nature He was not directing world affairs and maintaining the orderly working of the cosmos. He was being an infant. As one author writes, “the infant Jesus was not lying in the manger directing the physics of the universe he had created.” Not in his human nature. No, the condescension of God was such that He was a real and genuine infant born to neglected parents. He was a real baby. And there are numerous texts that speak of change in his human nature over time – of growth and development.

Luke 2:40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. (as a young boy)

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (at 12 years old)

He had a real human body

· Tired – Jn 4:6

· Thirsty – Jn 19:28

· Hungry – Mt 4:1

· Crucified – Lk 23:46

He experienced real human emotion

· Wept – Jn 11:35

· Troubled – Jn 13:21

· Sorrowful – Mt 26:38

Most amazing of all – he “learned obedience”

Hebrews 5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him...

As He grew physically, He was able to take on more responsibility and to obey the increasingly difficult commands from His Father. Hebrews 2:18 “For because he himself has suffered when tempted...” He did not learn obedience out of disobedience (the way you and I do) – but obedience out of obedience (the way Adam should have). He was tested and tempted by the Devil himself... and yet, “he never sinned.” This was his very real suffering – being genuinely tempted day after day and remaining obedient to the Father.

Someone might very well ask, “But how can the omniscient God increase in wisdom or learn obedience? Was this just some elaborate charade?”

To which we answer, the only way for our small minds to comprehend this remarkable miracle is to think in terms of His two natures:

Divine Nature

Human Nature

Cannot be tempted (Jas 1:13)

Tempted 40 days... all his life


Grew in wisdom

All the “omni’s”

Learned obedience


Became strong.. increased in wisdom and stature... learned obedience

YET ONE PERSON: so whatever is true of one nature is true of the One Person

Jesus – can calm a storm, walk on water... and not know day of His Return!

Jesus is One Person

So, in His incarnation, Jesus imposed limitations on himself that enabled Him to live a truly human life. His divine nature never ceased to hold all the attributes of deity – but Jesus the man willfully accepted the limitations of genuine humanity so that he might be truly man and eventually, truly our substitute.

In 451 (1555 years ago), a large church council made up of Christians from many countries and backgrounds, gathered together to summarize the Bible’s teaching on the Son of God. That statement describes what is called the hypostatic (being) union:

The Chalcedonian Creed

Therefore, following the Holy Fathers,

we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge

one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

at once complete in Godhead and complete in Manhood,

truly God and truly man,

consisting also of a rational soul and body;

of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead,

and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his Manhood;

like us in all respects, apart from sin;

as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his Manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer;

one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only begotten,

recognized in two natures,

without confusion, without change,

without division, without separation;

the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ;

even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him,

and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us,

and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.

Two Natures / One Person

You might say, “Give me an analogy!” There are none! They all fail! They all take away from His glory. So, you must stretch your brain a little and think of two natures, one person.

And think of this: how wonderfully the virgin birth of Jesus preserves both His deity and His humanity. As Grudem writes, if he had human parents and were somehow made God: we would always doubt is deity. If were made a man in heaven and transported to earth: we would always doubt his humanity. Behold the wisdom of God!

Challies Dot Com: Prayer and the Empty Hand

Challies Dot Com: Prayer and the Empty Hand

Tim writes some of his reflections on our efforts of last night.

The book we distributed was Piper's "Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Paradox of the Manger: That Baby is the World’s Sustainer

The early church sang this song:

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

These words say some amazing things about that baby laid in the manger. First of all, that Jesus is God. In Him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form. He is fully God, the exact image or likeness of God the Father, representing to us all that we can know of God in this life. To behold Him is to behold the Father. And yet, Jesus is not the Father. He is an eternal and distinct personal expression of the One God. As one man writes, “fully God, yet not alone fully God.” Or, as the apostle John said:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

As Paul said it to the Colossians: All that exists was made IN Jesus, BY Jesus and UNTO Jesus. He is the agent of creation – God the Father being the “prime mover,” but Jesus the actual agent of creation.

But at Christmas time we remember the birth of a baby. Not an ordinary child, this Jesus was born of a virgin: “When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”

Thus, at one point in time, the Son of God was “contracted to a span / incomprehensibly made man” and born to a virgin named Mary. He was fully human and, we might add, fully “infant.” “Remaining what he was, he became what he was not” – he became fully human. Yet He never stopped being fully God.

But Jesus did not just make the world – He sustains the world. Right now.

· Every breath, ray of light, eyelash, sound...

· the laws of nature and gravity...

· the rotation of planets and axis of the earth...

· are all sustained by Jesus.

Paul has already said, “in Him all things hold together,” but I want to take you to a second passage that confirms this in similar language.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 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. 3 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. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

This passage mirrors the Colossians paragraph quite closely. First, the writer says, “Jesus is God.” Then he follows this by stating that Jesus created all that exists. Then, like Paul in Colossians, he teaches us that Jesus sustains, maintains, continues, carries along all that He has made: he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

I. Jesus is God

All the glorious perfections of God dwell in the person of the Son – He is the radiance of the glory of God”

And all that God intends for us to know of Him is communicated to us through the Son, who is “the exact imprint of his nature”

To illustrate, we might say that “Jesus is the beam out of the unapproachable light that is God.”

John Owen comments in remarkable fashion on the phrase found in Hebrews 1:3 “He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God”. After noting that the analogy cannot be forced to include anything that is bad or evil, he suggested 6 ways that the sun in our sky with its beams of light illustrate this idea that Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God. I shall list 4 of them for you:

“3. As the sun in order of nature is before the beam, but in time both are co-existent; so is the Father in order of nature before the Son, though in existence both co-eternal.”

– the fiery ball of sun must come first in order, but it exists at the same time as the beam of light which shines from it. This is like Jesus and His Father.

4. As the beam is distinct from the sun, so that the sun is not the beam, and the beam is not the sun; so is it between the Father and the Son.

- the sun in our sky and the light on our planet are distinct. This is like Jesus and the Father.

5. As the beam is never separate from the sun, nor can the sun be without the beam, no more can the Son be from the Father, nor was the Father ever without the Son.

- there is no light beam apart from the sun and there is no sun without light beams. This is like Jesus and the Father.

6. As the sun cannot be seen but by the beam, no more can the Father but in and by the Son.”[1]

- the only way we know the sun is in the sky is by the light it shines... the beams show us the sun. This is like Jesus and His Father.

Jesus really is God that is the point. He is equal to the Father in His deity.

Now, having established the deity of Jesus, we need to consider what it was for Him to become man. Why?

Because we need to figure out, was that baby really managing every microbe and mountain as he lay in the manger? Or did something else happen? Did the Holy Spirit take over for a while? Did Jesus become less God? Was He only faking being a man? Was he some kind of mistaken identity – like the bizarre theatrical flop, Little Man?

What was Jesus? Who are we talking about at Christmas? Is he fact or fairy tale?

Q: What does the Bible say happened to Jesus when he became human?

A: The Son of God, the 2nd Person of the Tri-une Godhead, who Himself is eternal, infinite and omnipotent, joined Himself to human nature forever, becoming One Person with finite man. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man in one person forever.

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

This is perhaps the greatest mystery in the Bible – in the universe! So just sitting around and talking about the Person of Christ is fraught with difficulties. Almost every statement we can make to describe the nature of Jesus has to be balanced by another statement. And we are quickly faced with the incredible limitation of language – for words alone are insufficient.

Two Natures

To help guard us from error, Christians over the last two millennia have learned to speak of the two natures of Jesus – His human nature and his divine nature. By doing this, we are able to point out those attributes or characteristics that belong more fully to one of His two natures – all the while acknowledging that whatever one nature does, the Person of Christ does.

But you can see right away how our finite understanding begins to strain under the weight of deity! For, Jesus is not two separate entities in one body. Neither is he divine in heaven and human while on earth. Neither is he some kind of stew – two natures mixed together in one confused pot – both natures becoming less than they were on their own. These are all heresies that have been condemned by the church over the centuries – and rightly so.

The Bible teaches that Jesus is God. The Bible teaches that Jesus is man. The Bible teaches that Jesus is one person.

So, we are plumbing the depths here. What did it mean for Jesus to become man? Did He stop being God?

I will start to answer that question more fully tomorrow!

[1] From Hebrews, Volume 3, Banner of Truth, 92.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Pastor as Leader - Part One

The Leadership Seminar

On Friday, December 08, 2006, I was pleased to bring three of my good friends in to my pastoral theology class for a panel discussion. Kirk Wellum, professor of New Testament at TBS; Carl Muller, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Burlington, Ontario; and David Robinson, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Cambridge, Ontario. I have known and loved these men for many years. Each has served for some time in pastoral ministry (Kirk pastored for over 20 years before joining TBS full-time this fall) and each is a faithful minister of the Gospel. More than that, these men live what they preach. I love to be around guys like that! They humble me, challenge me and encourage me!

Our class had prepared a number of questions in response to our semester of looking at a pastor as “leader.” That is why the questions move in the direction they do. One of my students, Peter No, was gracious enough to type like mad and get down a lot of what was said. In reading over the manuscript, I realize there is much that you miss from not being there – the looks, the laughter, the “weightiness” of a particular moment... but I thought other pastors might enjoy reading what these fellows had to say. Like every time I am with them I left our class refreshed, provoked to think through some things and just plain happy I know these brothers! So, here is part one of the Leadership Panel. Enjoy!

The notations are as follows: K – Kirk Wellum; C – Carl Muller; D – David Robinson; P – me!


P: What is a leader?

K: In some ways it is intangible. Either people will follow you or they don’t. There is a gift of leadership and it must be possessed to some degree by pastors or church leaders. One thing I object to is leadership that gets in your face. The best leadership is leading by example and proving yourself by what you do. You’re not a leader if you’re using titles to win respect. A leader is someone God has equipped to help others within the church. At the same time, there are many ways we can enhance our leadership. There are leaders and there are followers.

P: But don’t you think that some form of leadership can be taught – at least to men? I am thinking here of commands to husbands...

K: In one sense, yes, men have leadership responsibilities in ways that women don’t in society, family and church. We are all capable of providing leadership. When it comes to leading a church there is a gradation of leadership within the church.

C: It’s leading by example. If you’re a pastor and you don’t live it and your family doesn’t reflect it, your conversation and character don’t reflect what you’re teaching and preaching, then you have cut the heart out of leadership. If you’re not an example, you might as well quit. I think there are degrees of leaders. There are certain leaders who are great, but God also uses others who are mediocre or poor.

P: So, a good leader is one who is going to model for others, but there are some leaders who never back it up in their lives?

C: There are leaders who are charismatic and dynamic and they just have specific qualities that attract people to them naturally. In terms of Christian leadership, being exemplary is crucial.

D: To be a leader means leading people somewhere. Sometimes people rebel and sometimes people follow you. Like Moses, however, being a leader means being resolute towards your goal. Being a leader means setting a direction and doing what Scripture commands us to do, even if that may not be popular today. It is the strength to go against the grain of the world because this is what you believe God is telling you to do.

P: Does a pastor have to be a good leader?

D: Yes, otherwise the church suffers.

K: We have to introduce the idea of servanthood which is characteristic of all types of leadership. There are a lot of intangibles in leadership, but what the Gospels speak about is servanthood. That is what distinguishes Christian leadership from the rest of the world; taking an interest in people and serving them. The biggest thing that I learned is that you have to be genuinely interested in the people you serve. If they start to think that you’re not interested in them, then you’re in trouble.

D: Ezekiel 34 talks about shepherds who don’t care about the sheep at all and God removes them. It’s an excellent picture of what a shepherd should be; caring, leading, etc. Do people see someone who wavers back and forth, or someone who is standing firm on the truth? People want to see someone who boldly proclaims the truth, coupled with love. It’s an intangible quality.

C: You can have a leader who is reluctant. There are those who are eager to enter into leadership roles, but others are less so. The pastorate is exposing yourself to ridicule and criticism, and if your natural disposition is to shy away then you will face challenges that are unique to your personality. You’re not there to promote yourself. You’re there for the good of the flock.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Chalcedonian Creed - Jesus is God / Jesus is Man

The Chalcedonian Creed

Therefore, following the Holy Fathers,

we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge

one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

at once complete in Godhead and complete in Manhood,

truly God and truly man,

consisting also of a rational soul and body;

of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead,

and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his Manhood;

like us in all respects, apart from sin;

as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his Manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer;

one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only begotten,

recognized in two natures,

without confusion, without change,

without division, without separation;

the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ;

even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him,

and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us,

and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.

As translated in Dale Moody’s book, The Word of Truth. This statement was written to defend the unipersonality and dual nature of Jesus. The Chalcedonian Creed was adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 in Asia Minor, one of the seven ecumenical councils accepted by Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and many Protestant Christian churches. It is the first Council not recognized by any of the Oriental Orthodox (e.g. Coptic) churches. The Creed was written amid controversy between the western and eastern churches over the meaning of the incarnation, the ecclesiastical influence of the emperor, and the supremacy of the Roman Pope. The western churches readily accepted the creed, but the eastern churches did not, resulting in a split in the orthodox church.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

God the Father, God the Son... and the Sun (John Owen on Hebrews 1:3)

John Owen commenting on the phrase found in Hebrews 1:3 “He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God” or as the older version had it, “the brightness of glory.”

“ the first expression here used, “The brightness of glory,” the apostle intends to set forth unto us the relation of the Son to the Father by an allusion unto the sun and its beams, or the light of fire in iron, some relief may thence be given unto our weak understandings in the contemplation of this mystery, if we observe that one known rule, whose use Chrysostom urgeth in this place, namely, that in the use of such allusions every thing of imperfec­tion is to be removed, in their application unto God. A few instances we may give unto this purpose, holding ourselves unto an allusion to the sun and its beams.

1. As the sun in comparison of the beam is of itself and the beam of the sun; so is the Father of himself, and the Son of the Father.

2. As the sun, without diminution or partition of its substance, without change or alteration in its nature, produceth the beam; so is the Son begotten of the Father.

3. As the sun in order of nature is before the beam, but in time both are co-existent; so is the Father in order of nature before the Son, though in existence both co-eternal.

4. As the beam is distinct from the sun, so that the sun is not the beam, and the beam is not the sun; so is it between the Father and the Son.

5. As the beam is never separate from the sun, nor can the sun be without the beam, no more can the Son be from the Father, nor was the Father ever without the Son.

6. As the sun cannot be seen but by the beam, no more can the Father but in and by the Son.

From Hebrews, Volume 3, Banner of Truth, 92.

Don't Call ME When Your Pet Dolphin Falls Sick

Long arms of world's tallest man saves dolphins in northeast China

BEIJING (AP) - The long arms of the world's tallest man saved two dolphins in northeast China by reaching inside of them to remove plastic they had swallowed, state media reported Thursday.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How to Read John Owen – You Must Read Out Loud!

With Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic’s recent release of Owen’s “volume 6” on Sin and Temptation, I thought it might be helpful to describe how I have used this work over the years.

About 10 years ago, someone (was it Geoff Thomas?) mentioned that they had spent many years reading Owen out loud with a small group of men. They would take turns reading and let anyone interrupt at any point to comment or seek clarification from the group. That sounded like one of the goofiest things I had ever heard at the time, but I am an “Outloud-Owen-Reading-Evangelist” now!

This technique for reading Owen addresses two of the main stumbling blocks most readers face.

1. “There is no denying that Owen is heavy and hard to read” understates J.I. Packer in his introductory essay to The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. But this heaviness is quickly lightened when the ears hear what the eyes see. Owen takes “two senses” reading, if he is to be read with understanding. And often there is someone in the group who knows the definition of the odd antiquated word or saying – if not, arm one of the men with a dictionary (and another with an English Bible to look up passages referenced).

2. The second stumbling block to easy reading is the sheer applicability of the material. Reading Owen is a little like watching your own open-heart surgery – it is tempting to squirm. But having other men there to hold your feet to the fire helps guard against the rationalization and self-justification that tempt the solo reader.

I am currently reading with two of my seminary students (both members of our church). We may make our way through 3-4 pages (about one chapter) of material per week, but there is so much to ponder and apply in that short space that one would not want to go much further. We meet for 1 hour 15 minutes – 15 minutes to fill our coffees and catch up a bit; 45 minutes to read out loud with discussion; and 15 minutes to pray.

I think every man ought to be required to do this at least once with brothers in the Lord. There has simply never been anything written other than the Scripture itself that so effectively teaches how to battle our flesh. Every page is a fresh revelation! And I think this marks my 4th time reading out loud and about the 10th time I have read the volume.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Good Riddance, Sweet Safety

North American’s favorite idols are safety and security. We arm border guards and build walls and live in gated communities and manage our investments and join health clubs so that we can remain safe and secured.

But Jericho is crumbling... at least for Christians.

And I think that is a good thing.

Canada is no longer a Christian nation, regardless of what is engraved into the exterior of the Peace Tower of our Parliament buildings or sung in our national anthem. And the enemy “out there” is increasingly evident “in here” as the first hints of persecution waft toward the church.

Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms has become a sword for whoever happens to be “most politically-correct” and the only philosophy absolutely rejected in the academy or the workplace is any philosophy that speaks absolutely about God’s morals. Even from within our broader ranks, “Christians” are becoming more a social change group than a group of people called out of the world to live to the glory of God in all things.

So, it is less safe and less secure to live like a Christian today than it was 20 years ago.

And I am thankful.

I do not long for persecution, in fact, it scares the daylights out of me... but as some have said, “The church never lived so well and preached so powerfully as when it was on the brink of death.”

And I am encouraged.

I see the lines between “profession” and “possession” becoming more focused. I see young men living with more zeal and a greater awareness of the cost of following Jesus than I ever have before. I see those who really know Christ stepping up to the plate, unsure of how they will get on base, but willing to swing with all their heart if that is what it will take to stay true to their Master.

Good riddance, sweet safety. You were never more than a mirage anyway.

Mohler: Is Morality Relative When It Comes to Relatives?

Is Morality Relative When It Comes to Relatives?:
"This new development raises a problem that may hit many evangelical Christians closer to home than we would like to admit. Most evangelicals know enough to resist the ideological allure of moral relativism. Nevertheless, when a relative becomes involved, even many evangelicals blink and become moral relativists of a very different sort.

In order to keep family peace, show love to a loved one, or avoid awkward conversations, major moral issues are simply overlooked. Some even change their position on questions of grave moral significance, only because a relative is involved.

This happens with reference to divorce, cohabitation, homosexuality, adultery, and any number of other issues. It is a habit we must break.

Moral integrity demands clear and convictional moral thinking, based in the infallible wisdom of God's perfect Word. Love demands that we love persons, no matter what their sin may be. Honesty demands that we admit the difficulty of knowing how to combine moral integrity and love with perfect pitch. The Gospel demands that we tell the truth with love.

No one ever said this was going to be easy. But becoming a moral relativist when a relative is involved is a path the faithful Christian cannot take. We must resist moral relativism -- even with relatives."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sermon Audio of Dr Haykin on Luther. Calvin and Tyndale

Dr. Haykin has new audio files available on Luther, Calvin and Tyndale! You don't want to miss these!

Is This Where the "Wild at Heart" Should Go?

(Al Mohler) Thank God for Testosterone? Confusion About Christian Manhood:

"The movement is largely correct in its identification of contemporary Christianity as feminized and feminine. The problem is their apparent adoption of a cartoonish distortion of masculinity as the answer."

[UPDATE: This is rather funny. I just figured out my dear bride grew up in the same home town in Indiana as Brad Stine. For the record, Mrs. Kerux found a real man!]

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"God Contracted to a Span...": An Amazing Hymn Concerning the Incarnation of Our Lord

We will be singing this hymn today in our morning worship, d.v. It is a remarkable consideration of Christ's becoming man. We will be singing to the tune of LENOX.

God Contracted to a Span
Let earth and Heav’n combine, Angels and men agree,
To praise in songs divine, Th’ incarnate Deity,
Our God contracted to a span, Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made Man.

He laid His glory by, He wrapped Him in our clay;
Unmarked by human eye, The latent Godhead lay;
Infant of days He here became, Infant of days He here became,
And bore the mild Immanuel’s Name.

See in that Infant’s face, The depths of deity,
And labor while ye gaze, To sound the mystery
In vain; ye angels gaze no more, In vain; ye angels gaze no more,
But fall, and silently adore.

Unsearchable the love, That hath the Savior brought;
The grace is far above, Of men or angels’ thought:
Suffice for us that God, we know, Suffice for us that God, we know,
Our God, is manifest below.

He deigns in flesh t’appear, Widest extremes to join;
To bring our vileness near, And make us all divine:
And we the life of God shall know, And we the life of God shall know,
For God is manifest below.

Made perfect first in love, And sanctified by grace,
We shall from earth remove, And see His glorious face:
His love shall then be fully showed, His love shall then be fully showed,
And man shall all be lost in God.

Words: Charles Wesley, Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord (London: William Strahan, 1745), number 5. Public domain.