United with…

lombardi 3

From a sermon on Ephesians 1:3-14:

4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

We are born into the world in union with the human race. We are born in union with the creation. We are born in union with Adam. What that means is that we are born into “original sin.”  The sin that is in the world can be seen in two ways. First of all, the guilt and corruption of sin is attached to all people since Adam and Eve rebelled.  The Bible calls this our union with Adam.

Romans 5:17 – For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! 

Let me give you an example.  Suppose you played for a team that won the championship.  Let’s say this is the year Green Bay wins the Super Bowl.  You, however, while on the team, did not play.  You were the 2nd backup quarterback.  Aaron Rogers stays healthy, and they put in the 1st back up once or twice, but all you ever did was practice.  Yet even though you did not play, because you are a member of the team, you get a Super Bowl ring.  There is power in being united to a team.

We are born onto a losing team – Adam’s team. When we are in union with him, all the wages of sin are due for us.  But here is the blessing God chooses to unite us to Christ. So because we are one of His, we gain all the benefits of salvation. Our 3rd string quarterback  did not play a single snap to win his ring.  We did not do anything to earn  salvation.

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Faith is more than Brain Activity

walking

I’m starting to read Romans in anticipation of a sermon series in 2019.

Here are some interesting verses on faith:

1:5 – “…we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…”

  • Paul’s is seeking OBEDIENCE that is from faith.  The ultimate purpose is not faith without obedience, but faith expressed or lived out in obedience.

16:26 – “…according to the command of God, to bring about the obedience of faith…”

  • the 5th verse and the next to last verse form an “inclusio” on the obedience of faith.

4:12 – “…who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had…”

  • He does not say “think” or “feel” or “think” but “walk” which is a metaphor throughout scripture for a person’s way of living.  See Psalm 1; Proverbs 3:5,6; Deut. 8:1ff.

6:1-14 – Baptism, Death and Resurrection, Presenting your members to God….all ideas speaking of new life of obedience of faith.

This is Romans, the greatest source of understanding salvation by Faith alone (1:16; 3:23-25; 3:28; 4:1-8; 4:22-25; 5:1; 8:1; 10:5-13).  Yet the idea of obedience, walking a godly path, living a resurrected life, permeates this book from start to finish.

The Reformers spoke of faith as knowledge, then agreement and then trust.  We are on thin ice if we think of faith as only knowledge, only something that happens in the mind.

By Invitation

giftI was comparing Colossians 3:12-14 to attending a wedding.  the first half verse is about our identity.

  • as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved..   v. 12a

Weddings are by invitation.  You don’t show up uninvited.  Your admission is not up to you.  This is a way to think about being “chosen”.

We could get into a long discussion of election and predestination.  If I thought that I could work out that issue in a couple of minutes, I would. But as Christians have debated that issue for 2000 years, I will move over to the importance of it.

When you go to a wedding, it is because you are invited.  Someone chose you to come.  It would be very strange to walk into a wedding uninvited. Maybe you just love weddings.  Would you attend and stay for the reception?  No.

You belong to the wedding because the Bride and Groom invited you.

The same is true for you as a Christian.  You did not crash the gates.  You did not come and say, “Hey, this looks like fun! Let me in!”  The Lord made a way for you to come in Jesus.  He paid for your invitation. The Lord not only invited, but he persuaded you.  He persuaded you through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the prayers of others, through the truth of the Gospel.

Don’t think that you are better than others. You are in the family of God because the Lord chose you to come.

You were invited and then you were able to attend.  As to choice…well that takes us back to Augustine and Calvin.

Let me interrupt this thought – 2 Corinthians 5:3

tentI am trying to make sense of this passage from 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 ESV

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

My syntactical analysis looks like this:

For we know that

if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed,

we have a building from God, 

a house

not made with hands,

eternal

in the heavens. 

For in this tent we groan,

longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 

if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 

For while we are still in this tent,

we groan,

being burdened—

not that we would be unclothed,

but that we would be further clothed,

so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 

He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, 

who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

 

Now this looks like a chiasm starting to form. That is where you have a structure like ABCDBCA.  the ABC is about a building that is eternal compared with a tent that is temporary.  but then v. 3, which has occupied scholars endlessly, is a kind of interruption. Perhaps Paul is interrupting himself, like a preacher might, and saying – “and by the way, proto-gnostics who are listening,  we will not be disembodied spirits but embodied ones”

This would not be good if we were talking about a neat and tidy essay, or an academic paper. But Paul is a preacher, talking to an audience, and so in the middle of a tidy structure, it makes perfect sense to interrupt himself.

I’m a preacher. I ought to know.  We do it all the time.

And why does the house/tent metaphor become one about clothing, and then one where life eats death.  English teachers hate this sort of thing, but there is a lot of it in the bible.  Preachers do that sort of thing also.

My sermon summary is this:

  1. Our future is more real than the present.
  2. We live in a tent but we own a home
  3. Life overcomes death, so live with confidence

Planning

greekI asked around if people read blogs. The answer is unclear. Why did I ask? Well in January each year I ask, should I keep this going? If yes, should I tweak it?

I think yes and yes. Yes, continue the blog. If nothing else it’s an outlet and a place to try out ideas.

Yes to tweaking. I think I can read more things under the rubric of Fresh Read. The scriptures as always. But the people also need to be read. So does the physical world around us. So there may be more stuff on how to read the book in light of the culture, the culture in light of the book, the First Book in light of the Second Book…you get the idea.

So see you soon!

Cosmic Christmas – Revelation 12:1-5

rev 13 b

This is a Cosmic Christmas.

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne…       Revelation 12:1-5 ESV

The Woman clothed in the sun with the moon at her feet and the 12 stars represents the people of Israel.  Do you remember Abraham’s call, that he would be a blessing to the nations? (Genesis 12)  That his descendants would be numbered with the stars? (Genesis 15) Well here we see that out of this nation a special child is born.  Of course Mary is the individual who gave birth, but Jesus is the child of the nation of Israel.  Through him the nations of the earth have received a blessing.

But there is a dragon!  Who lets a dragon in where a baby is being born?  But this reminds us that Jesus came to defeat the Liar, the Deceiver.  It was the serpent who deceived the man and his wife in Paradise. And this child is the one who will crush the head of the serpent.

John shows him as a great red dragon.  The dragon does what he can to get rid of Jesus.  Herod is moved to do him in. but they escape to Egypt. Then it is another Herod and Pilate who will have Jesus put to death. But their victory is their defeat. It is by his death that we receive salvation. In seeming defeat, the great victory is won.

Advent is more than a quietly sleeping child in a Manger.  (How did he sleep thorugh the Angel’s loudness?)  It is the birth of a king, it is the seed of God’s ultimate victory in the world.

All the dragons are slain by that child.

Resonance – Genesis 22 and Advent

Abraham-e-Isaac-sacrifican (1)In our Christmas Eve service, we read Genesis 22

Why should we read this story at Christmas?  Genesis 22 is maybe the most provoking passage in the Bible.  We wonder why God would challenge Abraham with this.

My answer is that it resonates with the Christmas story.  If you play a note on a piano that same string on a violin or a guitar, if they are tuned the same, will resonate.  The likeness will cause a vibration.  Consider a few facts:

Isaac was a long promised child.  We know that the Messiah was promised from the time of the Garden of Eden, later in the promise of a greater Moses, and then through he prophets in a variety of ways.

Isaac was a miracle child.  Sarah had Isaac at 90 years of age. It was so unlikely that she laughed with the Angel told Abraham that she would have a child.  It was so fantastic that his name “Isaac” means laughter.  Jesus was born as a miracle – no human father and yet Mary gave birth.

Isaac was a beloved child.  God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac and go to the region of Moriah…”  When we speak of Jesus as the Son of God, we capitalize it since he is the only one.  God took his son, his only son, whom he loves – Jesus, and sent him into our world.

Isaac was obedient to his father – as was Jesus who submitted to the will of the Father when he became a sacrifice for sin.

There was a substitute – Isaac was spared and a ram found nearby was his substitute.  Jesus was not spared, but he became our substitute.

The sacrifice was on a hill.  In fact there is good reason to believe that this hill was in the same area and perhaps the same hill where Mt Zion sits.

Are all these just by coincidence?  No.  Did we pull them out of the text when they are not really there? No, they are there.

Genesis 22 points us to John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

            God the father did what Abraham did not have to do.  If we want to imagine the gift of God, consider how hard it must have been for Abraham – and multiply it many times.   Abraham had waited a matter of years to have a son, but God and the Eternal Son had forever.

Jesus the Son came willingly.  Isaac was willing to obey his father, but he did not know what his Father was planning to do.  Jesus knew his destiny before his birth.  He fully and willingly obeyed the Father.

What string does this cause to resonate in you?  We all desire to know Love. Can you begin to feel the love of God?  Can you feel in your heart the incredible depth of his love?  With long planning and total sacrifice, he sent his son to the world to rescue all who will believe.