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Archive for January, 2010

Part 1

Part 2

Michael D. O’Brien: Click for source

Part 3

As we’ve noted, the temptations of the wilderness were a battle, not the whole war.  Luke 4:13 states, the devil left only to return at an opportune time.

What times were opportune?

Well in Matthew 16 we have another heavenly declaration of Jesus’ identity.  This time it comes through the lips of Peter – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v16).  But as with the baptismal declaration, this would be immediately tested by the question, What sort of Christ?  What sort of Son of God will Jesus be?

Verse 21: From this time on Jesus begins to show His disciples that He must suffer and die.  As soon as His divine identity becomes clear like this, Jesus immediately seeks to combat our natural theology of glory.  He ‘shows’ them that He must suffer.  That’s interesting isn’t it?  He doesn’t simply tell them, He shows them – obviously from Scripture.  For the bible has never revealed a theology of glory – it has always revealed the theology of the cross.  Jesus makes this plain.  And Peter, who one minute previously has been a mouthpiece of heaven (v17), is now a mouthpiece of hell.

Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Immediately Jesus recognizes the devil’s assault:

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Peter thought the things of God were the things of power, prestige, safety and comfort.  Jesus says, No, those things are the things of men.  And, shockingly, the things of men are the things of Satan.

It couldn’t be clearer could it?  Satan’s way is the way of all men – the way of comfort, the way of self, the way of safety.  Christ’s way (which is God’s way) is the way of the cross, and He calls every follower to it (v24ff).

The next time ‘temptation’ is mentioned in Matthew is in the garden of Gethsemane (26:41).  Here again the way of the cross was brought into an agonizing contrast with the way of all flesh.  Would Jesus let the cup pass (v39)?  Would He save Himself or save us?  Again He resolved to let His Father’s will be done.  This is not something different from His resolve to save us – it is precisely the same thing.

At His arrest, again the chance came for the angels to rescue Him (v53), but the Scriptures must be fulfilled (v54).  Both the Father and the Scriptures speak with one voice – the Christ, the Son of God must suffer and must die.  And Christ submits.

So as He pours out His life on that cross, here is the final ‘opportune time’.  The religious leaders called out to Him:

Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, `I am the Son of God.'”  (Matt 27:40-43)

Do you recognize those words?  “If you are the Son of God” began each of the wilderness temptations.  Here is Satan again using his mouthpieces to offer Jesus a way out.  Contrary to Martin Scorcese’s imagination, the last temptation of Christ was not some lustful fantasy.  It was the much more seductive, much more truly carnal, temptation to save Himself.  Thank God He resisted.  For He did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.

And when He died, the most unlikely man of all suddenly got it.  A Roman centurion declares: “Truly this was the Son of God!” (v54)

That’s been the issue ever since the baptism.  What does it mean to be the Son of God?  Satan threw everything at Jesus to make Him live like Adam, like Israel, like every other son in the history of the world.  But Jesus refuses to live for self.  Instead He dies for others and in this astonishing reversal a power is unleashed.  There’s life from the dead (v51-53) and the man most likely to love vainglory and flesh and the way of Satan is turned around.  Even in the eyes of this Gentile, the wonder of the cross becomes the definition of true Sonship.  This is a power to overturn the world.

Satan is crushed.

Part 5

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What do you see when you look up?

This?

or this:

ht Mark Meynell

A theological revolution occured early last century when Karl Barth turned from his liberal protestant heritage to jump with both feet into “the strange new world of the bible” (the title of an early book of his).

Have you jumped in, or only dipped your toe?  It’s a very hard thing to do.

It’s so hard, you might just need Mike Reeves, Michael Ward and CS Lewis as guides.  So if you haven’t listened to this brilliant podcast – do so forthwith.

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I love how the word “BIBLICAL” is used here.  “BIBLICAL” means NOT JUNK.  (In spite of how Scripture loves “fat portions”).

Of course it all depends on which Scriptures you choose.

What about sour grapes, bitter herbs and ashes?  Now with 30% more locusts!  That’s also biblical…  Or, what about… No, there are too many ingredients I can’t mention on a family blog like this.

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T4G Cribs

What’s all this T4G Cribs nonsense?  There’s a growing number of these videos.  Just watch the first minute of this one and you’ll get the idea:

I’m saying nothing about the men featured.  I am questioning the pedestal on which they’re being placed.

I mean the opening credits are a massive turn-off for me.  Am I misplacing my angst here or are these preachers being set up like rock stars?

And the whole series of “come see my study” seems designed to make 20-something hot-prots salivate with envy.  It’s aspirational TV.  And it’s majorly unbalanced.  We do not need a whole generation of young evangelicals aspiring to this. Where are Dever’s congregation members who work hard at their jobs, share the gospel with workmates, teach and pastor their homegroups and serve in countless unseen ways?  Where’s their video?  Where are those who pour out their lives for their families and friends in the name of Jesus?  Where’s their video?  What are we holding out to people as the epitome of Christian superstardom?

I don’t need to see Mark Dever’s study.  If I were in his congregation I might want to “consider the outcome of his way of life and imitate his faith” (Heb 13:7).  But the T4G cameras do not need to show us where the magic happens.

This is not where the magic happens.

Am I being unfair here?

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25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” He said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped Him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”  (Matthew 14:23-33)

Here Jesus walks on water – He treads on the abyss. But Peter walks as Jesus walks (cf 1 John 2:6). How?

Notice he doesn’t just step out. He asks for Jesus to command him. He’s been in a storm with Jesus before (Matt 8:23-27).  Peter knows the power of Jesus’ word – His word is obeyed! So Peter wants a word from Jesus to command him. And the word is powerful to enable that which it commands (Jesus’ word is like that). Peter does the impossible because Jesus commands it.

Of course he sinks (looking at the waves and not looking at Christ). But in His grace, Peter only ‘begins’ to sink.  This is not gravity acting on Peter or he’d sink like a stone. How slowly Jesus lets him down!  But when Peter calls out, ‘immediately’ Jesus saves.

His words of rebuke tell us how we can walk like Jesus: ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’  Now what is Jesus referring to here?

Peter did not doubt that Jesus could walk on water.  And it wasn’t self-belief that Jesus was recommending (Peter has no ability to walk on water!).  Peter’s problem was that he doubted Jesus’ word to him.  He doubted the word which both commands and enables what it commands. Peter doubted that he truly had been made into the person Jesus said He had – one who walks like He walks.  That was Peter’s problem.

When Christ speaks a word to us then trusting Him involves trusting that we are the people Christ says we’ve become.  Jesus says to you:

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

So, don’t look at the wind and waves.  Don’t look at your heart and your abilities.  Trust the word that Jesus has spoken to you.  His word is powerful to make you who He says you are.  You can’t make yourself into this person, but neither can anyone or anything else prevent you from being it.  The word of the LORD is supreme, you can trust Him.  You will not be condemned.  You have crossed over from death to life.  And now, you can walk as He walked.

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Stephen Baldwin has been ridiculed for his comments on Celebrity Big Brother regarding evolution.  He said:

If we’re descended from apes, how come there are still apes?

Ok, a misunderstanding of the theory.  But is the theory more or less silly than the misunderstanding?

Here’s Richard Dawkins answering the very objection Baldwin makes.  See if you can watch it with a straight face:

What we have here is a Professor of Zoology faced with a line up of four apes and an accountant from Swindon.  And he refuses to identify the odd one out.  The whole story he invests his life in says that none are superior to any other – all are equally well adapted to their environment.  It’s just 4 monkeys and Pam sitting in a tree –  M-U  T-A-T  I-N-G.

To say that Dawkins has put Baldwin right is like saying:

Ohhh.  Sorry for thinking your theory was nuts.  I thought you believed in alchemy.  Now I realize you have a magical goose to lay your golden egg.

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Christ in the Wilderness 3

source

As we’ve seen, Satan’s three temptations concern Christ’s identity as Son of God.

Round 1:

3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matt 4:3-4)

The devil assumes that Jesus is able to produce miraculous bread in the wilderness.   That’s what the Son of God has always done (e.g. Exodus 16).  And it’s what He would do again (Matthew 14 and 15).  But in those cases the Son of God provides bread for others and in so doing proves Himself to be the true Bread, torn apart to feed the world (John 6:48-51).

But Jesus will not feed Himself.  He has come to die – and a death far worse than starvation – to feed others.  And so He says: I entrust Myself utterly to My Father, knowing I can abandon everything to My Father and live.  That’s round 1.

Round 2 is fought along similar lines:

5 Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “`He will command his angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.'”  7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

The devil, like so many of his servants, is a preacher.  And he knows enough of the bible to know that the Psalms proclaim the Son of God.  So he says to Jesus – “Psalm 91, as everyone knows, concerns the Son of God.  Well then if you are the One of Psalm 91, you’ll be able to do this celestial bunjee jump and the angels will catch you.”

In a future post we’ll consider Christ’s rejection of this kind of PR stunt.

But the bottom line is, Jesus won’t cave.  He has come to hurl Himself down, and not simply to be dashed on the stones of the temple courts.  He had come to hurl Himself into the great Abyss for us.  And explicitly at His arrest He refuses the help of angels to prevent it (Matthew 26:53-54).   As Son of God He must die on that cross and though 12 legions of angels are on 24 hour stand-by, the Scriptures must be fulfilled.  The Son of Man must go as it is written of Him – He must be the One who dies.  Jesus will not test His Father but obey Him, even to the point of death.

Round 2 resisted.

Round 3:

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”

Satan is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) – not by right but by popular choice.  The world does indeed follow the devil and his lying, self-serving, death-dealing ways.  So Satan offers Jesus the chance to form a coalition government.  Satan says, “Let’s not be enemies here.  You know what it will cost you to dethrone me (Gen 3:15) – it will cost your life.  Let me offer you another way.  Let’s rule the world together.  Forget the painful business of eradicating evil, compromise with it and you can avoid the whole way of the cross.”

But Jesus will receive the Kingdom from His Father, not the devil.  He will not bow to Satan, He will crush Him.  Though it cost Him His life, Jesus will not compromise with evil.  His heart is wholly for God His Father and so His heart is wholly for the cross.

Christ proves Himself to be exactly who the Father had declared.  He is the beloved Son of God because through every temptation to the contrary He resolves not to serve Himself but others.  He will not save Himself but save others.  This is the only power to defeat the ultimate Egotist.  Everyone else in the history of the world has failed Satan’s tests.  No-one has ever walked the way of the cross like this. But the True Son of God did.  And Satan must depart.

But as Luke says, Satan limps off only to regather his strength for future assaults (Luke 4:13).  We’ll consider these in the next post (here).

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