Sunday, December 31, 2006
But people love it. It's a fresh start, a time to begin new things and forget the old ways. New years resolutions and new begginings left right and centre. I'll stop smoking/drinking/swearing or whatever else it is. People want a new start, they want to forget whats gone before. Thats why people get so excited about new years i guess, because they can wipe away all the old stuff that they don't like, and try and pretend that this year, this time, will be different. People want to be reborn, every year.
But we can't do that ourselves. We can't give ourselves a fresh start, we can't do anything ourselves to change ourselves. Nicorette isn't going to stop you from smoking...because the problem is in your mind, in your craving for fulfillment and satisfaction, not in the nicotene or the cigarette itself. The problem is in you. And yet Jesus says that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, to enter eternal conscience joy in the presence of God, we must be born again. We must start again totally. Not in a 'now its 2007' sense, because we're still who we are. But in the sense that our whole lives must start again. And looking at the early part of John 3, you can understand Nicodemus' confusion. How can a man re-enter his mother's womb, as Jesus teaches is neccesary?
Nicodemus didn't understand these things, and he was a wiser man than most. One must be born of water and the spirit to inherit eternal life. How? Jesus tells him that just as Moses lifted up a snake in the desert, and whoever looked at the snake would be saved from God's punishment, so He must be lifted up, that whoever believes might have eternal life. New life. A real fresh start. From Jesus, who was slain that we might bring glory to the Father by enjoying Him forever in Heaven. God is the gospel.
Thats the way to a fresh start that won't fade on January 2nd. This is what it means to be re-born, to have faith in Jesus death and ressurection on the cross. To trust in the God is supreme over all things, and to have and spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. Thats what i hope 2007 will bring me. So happy new year. You need Jesus.
Friday, December 29, 2006
I think Brand New are a tremendous band, and this album, their third, could be there 'breakthrough' album. This record is a real progression from 2004s 'Deja Entendu' which was tremendous, and 2001s 'your favourite weapon', which i really like, but isn't anywhere near as good as the latter two. Emo is a much maligned genre, and sometimes rightly so, but when done right, as these guys show, it can be a beautiful thing. If anything marked Brand New's last album it was the distinctive style of the vocals and the fine balance between loud and quiet. If anything on this album the balance is even finer, but works even better. Brand New are also known for their personal lyrics, and thats another thing that makes this album stand out. Thier first album told the story of a break up ('have another drink and drive yourself home/i hope there's ice on all the roads) their second about the tedium of life on the road ('i would kill for the atlantic/ but i am paid to make girls panic whilst i sing) and this one about the decline and recovery of singer Jesse Lacey into and out of alcholism ('i used to be the glue that held my friends together'). Brand New's music has meant a lot to me over the last few years, and this album promises to be no different. Stand out tracks for me are 'Sowing Season (yeah)' and 'Degausser' both of which capture and make great use of the loud/quiet dynamic that i like so much.
Here are some of my other favourites from 2006.
In The Fishtank-14: Isis/Aerogramme
From Under The Cork Tree: Fall Out Boy
A Fever You Can't Sweat Out: Panic! At the disco
Saturday Night Wrist: Deftones
The Back Room: Editors
Wilderness Is Paradise Now: Morning Runner
Happy Hollow: Cursive
The Sound of Girls Aloud: Girls Aloud
Stop The Clocks: Oasis
- Tested By Fire, John Piper, P167
Sunday, December 24, 2006
All of us have a theology, all of us are theologians at one level. We all have a view on who, what and whether God is. Dawkins, despite what he might tell you, could be described as one of 2006 most prominant theologians. The problem is his theology is rubbish. The study of theology should be about filling our hearts and minds with a bigger, more glorious view of the risen Christ. It shiuld be about opening our eyes to the glories that He has made manifest. I know the word or idea 'theology' conjures up images of dusty books and boring days in some people's mind, but thats very sad. Theology tells us abiut God. Theology tells us about how He wants to be worshipped. It's great to read books about things like church-planting, biographies, i'm doing both right now (currently i want to go and plant a church a whole heap. But i also know that when i finish this and pick up 'Let the nations be glad' Bish will have to employ a team of heavies to stop me leaving Guildford and getting the next flight to the 20/40 window), but if you're not learning about Jesus, how are you actually growing as a Christian? The study of theology can open up the Bible to us, and invigorate our quiet times. I've loved the oppotunity to spend four hours with Wayne Grudem each week this term on Relay as part of my core study module studying systematic theology. I'm even more excited that next term i'll be doing Biblical theology as well for my elective module. I do love the books. I want to learn good theology so i can know about my Savior, so i can enjoy Him more, so i can live and speak for Him more effectively. Theology: get involved.
All of life is hermeneutics
Hermeneutics, as i understand it is the science of applying what the Bible says. If thats not that case then everything i'm about to write is semantical nonsense, but thats never stopped me before. The more we read the Bible, the more our minds are saturated and changed by what it says. There are so many voices today that clamour for our attention. We need to shut them out and listen to the Bible. Then we need to apply what the Bible says to our horizontal and vertical relationships...to our lives. It sounds simple at least. If we read the Bible with a man centred hermeneutic, we'll always be putting ourselves in the place of Moses or Soloman or Paul or even Jesus, and the whole thing will be whack. If we read the Bible with a God glory centred hermeneutic, then hopefully we will live that way. We will joyfully take up our cross and follow Him, we will willingly leave what we have behind. Read the Bible more, think about it more, apply it more. (i am talking to myself here!)
Also, here are some things you should read:
Bish responds to rumours
Piper talks about salvation
Thursday, December 21, 2006
These early statements of faith were formed by way of response to a growing number of heresies in the early church. On the one hand this heresy was probably sadly to be expected. The Christian message about God stepping into human space time history and being killed and then rising again is, literally, incredible. And as the church grew quicker than teachers could be trained people started to re model aspects of the Christian faith, particulaly with regard to either the humanity or divinity of Christ. Both clearly serious problems. And so the earliest statements of faith, the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed were drawn up by way of defending historic, Biblical Christianity from attack and heresy.
Which brings us to Athansius. He spent most of his life after the institution of the Council of Nicaea defending it. He was outcast by most of the church who didn't accept the creed, and spent day after day, month after month, year after year, being worn down by his enemies for the sake of Gospel truth. I wonder if there are men like that around today, who would hold their lives cheaply for the sake of truth. I wonder how many would stick at it for two years, five years, ten years, before giving up. The thing that fascinates me and inspires me the most about this period of church division is how much of it seems, on the face of it at least, to be a question of semantics. Two words were in question and opposition to eachother were 'homoousious' meaning of the same substance, and homoiousious meaning of similar substance. Just to confuse the issue there was a third word 'homoios' meaning of like substance that was also thrown into the mix. Athanasius spent this time of his life fighting to defend the Biblical teaching that the Son was of the same substance as the Father, not of simialar or like substance, the same. Imagine if that debate was going on today, how many liberalists would complain about the debate, probably saying that the debate was only over a single letter, and 'wouldn't it be better if we all just tried to get along'. It is never better to try and 'get along' with a teaching that clearly denies the teaching of the Bible. Never. We must love the people but utterly, utterly reject their teaching.
Schaeffer says that if we are not fighting the battles of our generation we are no good as a soldier of Christ. That is to say that if people were still fighting the battles today that were won in the last generation then they are wasting their time. It seems to me that the battles that will need fighting by my generation come from inside and outside the church. Postmodern attacks on the authority and reliability of scripture from outside, and liberal attacks on penal substitution from inside. I will shamelessly quote Mark Driscoll on both these counts. He says that 'the Bible, the 66 books is the first hill to die on'. That is we must also contend and fight for the truth of the Bible. For what the Bible teaches about ourselves. Always contend and never contextualise here. 'Propitiation...is the best part of the Bible', is another one of my favourites of his. And he's right. We, who were once vessels of wrath are now children of God. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because He soaked up all the wrath of God on the cross. It's all gone. If the wrath of God was not satisfied in the death of His Son on the cross, where and when will it be satisfied. Unless you worship a less-than-holy 'god' who doesn't love justice. Who isn't just. Thats no sort of God at all. Increasingly the western church is becoming a wrathless church, both in teaching and in worship, but the problem exists in the church, not in God.
All of which brings us back to statements of faith. (actually i'm not sure it does, but lets pretend). The problems CU's in Exeter and Birmingham are facing are down to their insistence that their leaders and teachers sign the Doctinal Basis, a statement of faith. I'll make no pretence here of impartiality. I love the DB and what it stands for. I'd happily sign it every day if i needed to. But isn't it just a bit divisive and exclusive? Well, yes and no. It is exclusive in that it excludes people who don't want to stand by the historic evangelical truths. Is it divisive? Not a bit of it. It's neccesary to protect the integrity and vision of CUs across the country. Signing the DB is a matter for rejoicing. Rejoicing in the great truth of the God is who holy, who loves us and who gave Himself for us. Who made a way back to Himself without compromising either Him or us. It's wonderful to be able to write my name at the bottom of that statement, and i thank God that i can.
1) A regular study of the Bible, which is God's communication to us.
2) Regular prayer. Now that our guilt has been removed there is no barrier between us and Him and we are bale to talk freely with Him. There are two kinds of praying we need to practise; special times of prayer, and that constant looking to the Lord as we go about our daily tasks.
3) Talking to others about the God who exists and and His solutions to Man's dilemma
4) Regular attendance at a church where the Bible is believed. This does not mean every church, but one that is true to the content of the Bible.
Francis Schaeffer, The God who is there, P 136
Sunday, December 17, 2006
It's great to sing carols when you know them and really believe what they're saying. Singing 'born that man no more may die' at the top of your voice really brings it home. The number of times i must've sung carols before i got saved and not had a clue to awesome truth i was hearing is really weird to think about. Mostly this year i've sung carols which really communicate the Gospel, and thats often something that really doesn't get sung enough...the actual Gospel, so its nice to do so!
They're great for getting people to come to church. Most people, whatever their views on Christianity like to sing carols, and don't mind coming. And the fact that at all the carol services i've been to people have heard the Gospel at is cool. Dan Hames eorked out that something like 30,000 students will hear/have heard the gospel over the end of term at Carol services, and thats really exciting and encouraging!
So Carol Services, when the Gospel get's preached and people invite their friends and the Gospel is sung are really cool. I like them...
Tomorrow me and Delano hit the road again headed ofr Team Days in Southampton. The last of the year. I'm really looking forward to them. See you next week.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Went to see this with Jess and Ceryn in Chichester yesterday. Hmm. Maybe it's just because i'm reading about this stuff at the moment but this struck me as a typical post modern film. There's no antithesis to it, no real good in it. Only the protagonist comes out with any real credit, but even that doesn't really get anywhere. It does raise the question of whether it's better to by miserable in the real world or happy in a fantasy i guess. But go and see it if (one) moment of extreme violence and fantasy don't lead you into sin. Ps, it's in spanish.
Love you but you're green
Funny the things you think about sometimes. I remember being at a party, it must have been shortly (very shortly) before i was saved. At least going by my conduct i hope it was. I'm glad i'm not that dude anymore, that i don't try and persuade people to unlock doors for the same reasons i did then. This is good. And sometimes its good to remember. Wonder what you're doing now/hope you're feeling happy now.
She stalks she stalks
So Screech has decided to kill his blog. No stamina these newbies. Still fair play for having the integrity and strength to do it man. And for letting us know, unlike some... BBBT(r)BB anyone?
More Don than John.
I popped into Wesley Owen in Guildford this morning...
a depressing experience i don't want to linger any more on.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
yeh, blogeverything... here's my script from Chichester College carol service this afternoon. as always its not totally what i said, but mostly...
So why is Christmas so important? Why do Christians keep talking about Jesus? This man whose birth we celebrate at Christmas? What’s so special about this man, who was born, literally in those days, in the middle of nowhere, over 2000 years ago, that means shortly the whole country will close down for a week? Why do we have Christmas at all? What is it that Jesus came to achieve when He was born? I wonder what it was that bought you to this service today. What do you think about the relevance of Jesus to Christmas and beyond?
Well let’s have a look at what a bit of the Bible says about Jesus. The part we’re going to look at is a letter from Paul, whose letters make up a lot of the New Testament, to a guy called Titus, who was the leader of a church on
Paul says ‘The grace of God appeared’. What does that mean? Why does Paul say that rather than ‘a child is born’ as it says elsewhere in the Bible. Well Paul is here talking about Jesus mission. What the point and end of Jesus birth was. Why is Jesus birth linked with grace appearing? The grace of God sums up all His actions on our behalf. But grace appeared, isn’t that a funny thing to say? Isn’t that a weird description? It says in John ‘the law come through Moses: grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’ So maybe we’re already getting inkling that Jesus birth did more than give us an excuse for a week off every December. We’re beginning to see that Jesus appearing might be of huge significance.
Jesus birth meant that the grace of God would explode over the people that love Him, and are saved by faith. God sent His Son, Jesus, who had been with Him in perfect relationship for an eternity past, even before creation, when all that existed was the Father, Son and Holy Spirit worshipping and loving each other, in the form of a man, to live and to work like any other man. To feel exactly what men felt, to be tired, to be tempted, to be overcome with grief. This was the grace of God appearing. Jesus birth means more than a reason to have a party in winter, it means more than a reason to take some time off work. Paul present’s Jesus birth here as one of eternal significance. This is not an opinion we see reflected in the world today is it? Something like 90% of all Christmas cards bare no relation at all to any sort of Christianity, pretty much every light you see, every decoration on the outside of people’s houses depicts father Christmas, or reindeer, or something else patently unbiblical. Christmas has lost its entire meaning. Christmas is about the grace of God appearing in Jesus Christ. It’s about the way God stepped into human history, at a time, in a place, to…well to do what? What happened to this baby? Did He grow up? Isn’t Easter something to do with Jesus as well?
Well, lets have a look at the second part of this verse ‘bringing salvation for all people’. Again, Paul is suggesting that this birth is more than it seems. This baby, this man, bought salvation to all mankind. How? This one little verse sweeps us across Jesus entire life in one breath. ‘Grace appeared’ meaning, He was born…’bringing salvation’, meaning He died. But it’s not just that Jesus died, because eventually He was bound to die. What if I was to tell you that the God I worship, the God I want to live my life for, was executed in the most brutal way known to man? That He was killed alongside criminals, and instead of a murderer? What if I was to tell you that far from being a mistake, the Bible teaches that this was the plan all along, that to be killed was the reason that Jesus was born? Jesus, this baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, was crucified 33 years later. He was arrested, tried and executed. And yet, His trial was a sham. No one who accused Him could get their stories straight. Pilate, the Roman who was in charge of the trial, couldn’t find anything to convict Him of, and tried to set Him free. His friends, those who had lived and followed Him for three years said that He had never sinned, never broken any law, certainly never done anything that would deserve this kind of punishment. So why did this perfect man, this God-man die on a cross? To bring salvation for all people, is what this verse says. When He died, it wasn’t the physical torment that killed Him, the Bible records that He died too quickly for that…it was God’s anger against Him. On the cross a great exchange took place. All the things I’ve ever done that cause God anger, all the things you’ve ever done that cause God anger, were all put onto Jesus, and He was punished instead of us. He bore the penalty for our sins against God, which is death. This is How He bought salvation for all mankind. By clearing the way back to God so that we can be in relationship with Him, so that whoever believes in what Jesus has done for us would be able to enjoy Heaven with God forever. How can we trust this? Because the Bible records that Jesus didn’t only die, but that He came back to life three days later, just as He claimed, showing His authority over death. That’s why Jesus was born, that’s why He died, so that we might be able, if we believe, to have the perfect relationship with God that we were made for, but we’d never be able to have because of our sin.
So, the Bible teaches that Christmas is more than just about a baby being born in a manger. Faith in Jesus is not just an optional extra, it’s a matter of life or death. The Bible teaches that the events that we celebrate at Christmas are of eternal and absolute significance. What we do with them, what we believe about them really matters. There is nothing more important in life than the question of the identity of Jesus, and what our response to Him is going to be. I want to leave you with a challenge now. Either you can ignore what I’ve been talking about and have Christmas as something warm and lovely, turkey, stuffing, father Christmas, reindeer, but ultimately totally devoid of meaning, or, you can celebrate Christmas for real. As the time when God stepped into human history, to rescue us, to save us to give us life. That is what we should be celebrating at Christmas, that Almighty God laid aside all His glory to be born, to live and die, to save you and me…
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
What is it that keeps me from sinning in the same way, or in a worse way than Ted did? What is it that keeps me from drug abuse and paying for sex? It's nothing in me i promise you. All my lust wants to be adultery, all my anger wants to be murder, if i liked the taste of alchohol, i'd want to be an addict. It's just grace that keeps me from these things. The blood of Christ shed for me on the cross keeps me from being totally and utterly depraved. And i know that the doctrine of total depravity means that we're all depraved and not that we're all as bad as we could be, but if it wasn't for grace, and salvation, i would be as bad as i could be. I know that.
And it's not just that i do bad things. I am bad. My heart wants to rebel against God. Large, although, thankfully decreasing, parts of me don't want to be faithful, don't want to read the Bible or pray, don't want to serve UniSCU or the people in it. Now large parts of me do, and find great joy in doing all those things, but those parts are there because of grace. It's all of grace, and its none of me. And realising that is humbling and liberating. Humbling because it means i lose my 'right' to sneer at those who fall, and because it brings to my knees before the Lord. And liberating because it's all about Jesus. The grace that saved me will keep me to the end. I know that, and i know God. And know those things liberates me from fear and worry...and from sin. It's the power to say no, it's the strength to fight when all thats in my wants to rebel.
It's all about grace, and it's all about Jesus. And thats great.
Monday, December 11, 2006
read the rest here
Sunday, December 10, 2006
The scene opens with John seeing a scroll in the hand of the One seated on the throne. This scroll obviously contains something of great importance, whether its details of God's great historical redemption plan, or the names of those who are saved, there is obviously some pretty sensitive information in it. And who is worthy to open it and look inside? Who is worthy to complete God's great plan? Who is worthy to look inside the scrolls and judge humanity? Who, cries the angel...
There is no one. No one on heaven and earth who is worthy to open the scrolls. And John begins to weep. What an idictment of people that no one, ever, it seems across the ages has been able to live a life pleasing to God. No one can stand before God's throne. No one. And John begins to weep. God's plans seem thwarted. It seems there will be no protection for the church, no end to the suffering of God's people, no final justice in the world. The scroll can not be opened. And to John this must seem a whole lot worse. Where is Jesus he must be wondering...where is the Savior to come and save the day? Where is my Lord in all of this.
And then the angel says to him, 'weep no more, behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah...has conquered, so that He can open the scrolls'. John looks to His savior, the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, God made flesh, the Son of the Living God, the risen Christ. And what does He see? 'A lamb standing as if it had been slain.' And He took the scroll and He was worshiped. The Kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom, where the centrepiece, the Lord, the Judge is a lamb who was slain. The lion and the lamb. And why is this? Because Jesus is the ultimate passover lamb. Both priest and sacrifice, both condemner and condemned. Jesus can judge because He was slain, because He died under the weight of my sin, because on Him God poured out all the wrath and indignation that our sin deserves. And Jesus hung there until He died. God demands blood for our sins. He demands justice. And lambs couldn't it...so Jesus, the only perfect man, fully God and fully man did, that we may join with the Elders in Revelation 5 and cry:
for you were slain and by your blood you ransomed people for God'
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
We drove together, we got lost together, we rocked out together, we crashed into other cars together, we drove ridiculous distances in a day just to watch Wycombe Wanderers lose football matches together, girls broke up with us together, we got our exam results together, we left Reading and arrived in Guildford together. Cheers!
I wonder what we'll do together...i hope its mostly Gospel stuff.
*tsk, you really shouldn't need a clue
Monday, December 04, 2006
Why do set our clocks by Jesus, why do we still pay attention to Him thousands of years after He died? Why do we still think He's so important? Well lets look at Him now, what He said and did and how people reacted to it. The passage we are looking at is in the acount that John gives of Jesus' life. It occurs about 1/3 of the way though as talk about Jesus starts to spread. A couple of chapters before hand we see that people who have been following Jesus have decided to leave Him because they find His teaching hard to deal with. His disciples however realise that there is really nowhere else to go apart from Jesus and His teaching. So this conversation takes place in that context. Jesus has been teaching for a while, He's been upsetting some people with the directness of His teaching, and He'll continue to upset people, as we'll see.
This passage starts with Jesus talking to 'the Jews who believed in Him' (v31), He tells them that the truth will set them free, and that brings about the first objection that the Jews have. In the face of Jesus they fall back on their religious heritage, on Abraham, to say that they have never been slaves of anyone and therefore do not need freeing from anyone. The Jews here have missed the point of what Jesus is saying, and we'll come back to that, but i think this is still an example what i think John is saying. It doesn't matter about your heritage, it doesn't matter about where you've come from. It didn't matter whether or not the Jews had Abraham as their father, as they obviously did ethinically...what matters is who Jesus is. Its only Jesus who can set your free, as He claims in verse 36. Real freedom from sin comes from Jesus, not from anywhere else. In verses 37-38 Jesus tackles the issue of the Jews heritage, which they are claiming as their route to freedom, which they are relying on instead of Jesus. Jesus dismisses their claims...if they were the offspring of Abraham, Jesus's words would find a place in them, and they don't.
Jesus then starts to take them to task over their claims to be Abrahams children. Claiming someone as your father in the time that John was writing into basically meant that you were claiming to do what they did. Whcih is why Jesus claiming to be the 'Son of God' caused such anger amongst the Jews...he was claiming equality with God. He was claiming that He could do the things that God did. This is why Jesus says 'if Abraham was your father, you would do the things that he did', because thats what the father son relationship was like when John was writing. John records this to show the difference between what the Jews were claiming, and what the truth actually was. They claimed Abraham as their father. Jesus told them that is this was the case they would do the things that Abraham did. But instead, they try to kill Him (verse 40). The Jews then up the ante when it comes to claiming religious heritage, when they claim God as their father in verse 41. Jesus also dimisses that. If they were to do as God did, they would do the things that God did. They would love Jesus.And they don't. Why is this? Jesus says it is because they are of their father, the Devil...they do the same things that the devil does...they have nothing to do with truth. Note here that John makes it clear though recording Jesus' teachings that there is no 'neutral pot' into which people fall. We are all either children of Abraham and thus God, or of the Devil. God sent Jesus, so Jesus claims, and why do people not recieve Him? Because they can not bare to hear the truth of the teaching that Jesus brings. The Jews wanted to hide behind their heritage, we want to hide behind anything we can. Behind our deeds, our parents...behind even ignoring the problem and saying God doesn't exist. The problem is God exists whether you believe in Him or not. It's not up to us to construct reality. And Jesus says that the truth wil set you free. He claims that knowing the truth about Him will set you free from slavery to sin, it will set you free from anything that binds you, from fear or self doubt. Jesus says that He has the power to do that. The truth will set you free He says. Isn't that a wonderful promise, that we can be set free from things that we hate doing. It says that those whom Jesus has set free will be free indeed, that those people will move from the status of slave, who will one day be kicked out of the house, to the status of son, who will live in the house forever. What a wonderful promise Jesus gives there. But, also, what an outrageous thing to claim. That people can be free by belieiving in a person, not by doing things themselves, or by changing anything in themselves. Jesus claims that if you know Him, then you will know the truth, and this will set you free. This is what it matters about our response to Jesus. Because He makes claims like this. Because if He's right then there is everything to lose by ignoring Him, and everything to gain by following Him. Jesus offers freedom to His listeners, and to us. Not by doing something, or by changing something, but by believing in Him. Just by faith in Him. By faith. So by accepting and living by what Jesus says, by letting that faith make the change rather than the other way around. In Him. By looking to Jesus. 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us that the more we get to know Jesus, the more we see Him for who He is, the more we'll be changed to be like Him. Jesus Christ is here being presented by John as the centrepoint of the Christian life, as the absolute apex of life itself and of relationship with God. Christianity is all about Jesus, much more than any of us can appreciate. So we need to know what we believe about Him, and who he is. It matters! So where are we in our narative? Jesus is teaching and claiming to be God, and the Jews listening to Him are ignoring Him and relying on their heritage, on anything, rather than Jesus? Why does John record this?
To show that it matters what our personal response to Jesus is...There is no other reason to have assurance of our standing with God. None. The people Jesus was talking to initially thought they could rely on their Jewish heritage...on the simple fact that they were Jews. That wasn't the case as Jesus showed them. If they were really descended from Abraham then they would have done what Abraham did, and accepted Jesus. In the next section we see that Abraham 'rejoiced to see Jesus' day'. That certainly wasn't what the Jews that John talks about here were doing. But you might be thinking, so what? I'm not a Christian, but neither am i relying on Abraham or my heritage for my standing with God. Well, no, you're probably not. But if not Jesus, what are you relying on? Your good works? How can anyone be good enough, when Jesus is the standard we need to attain? Even His enemies couldn't get their stories straight at the mockery of a trial they put Jesus through before He was crucified. Those who knew Him said there was no sin in Him. Is that something you can honestly say for yourself? Our own, personal, repsonse to Jesus matters. Nothing else will mean that we are truly His disciples...nothing else will mean that His word finds a place in us, nothing else will set us free from the power and penalty of sin. This is what we need more than anything else, freedom from the penalty with sin...and thats only going to happen through a relationship with Jesus. It matters who we say Jesus is.
And so it matters who Jesus is. Everyone thinks they have an idea of who Jesus is. Everyone eithers think He didn't exist, which is historically deeply unsound, or He was just a good teacher, or a prophet, or they don't know who He was, but they also don't really see that it matters. But what did Jesus say about Himself? Verse 48 shows how wrong the Jews have got it. First of all they call Him a samaritan, which they know not to be true, and that has an air of grasping at straws to try and write Him off. Next they accuse Him of having a demon, another attempt to find a reason to discredit him and ignore this teaching that has seemingly so unsettled His Jewish audience. Jesus' response is staggering. Far from going on the defensive, He actually ups the ante even more, and calls God His Father, therefore, as i said earlier putting Himself on a level with God, He said that He seeks the glory of God, the Judge. He says that if anyone keeps His word, then that person will never see death. Now these statements are in some ways quite famailiar to our ears...but that shouldn't detract from the shock that these words should bring. Jesus is claiming authority over death. If i came up to you and said 'hi, i'm ed, if you trust me you will never die'...if i as good as claimed to have authority over death as Jesus is here, you wouldn't think to yourself 'oh there goes Ed, he's a good moral teacher, he's a decent bloke, would you? You'd want me locking up! You'd certainly want to see if there was anything i could do to back up these claims. The Jews are appaled by this last statement of Jesus and this time they think they've got Him. They tell Him that Abraham, the man on whom Jesus' last assult on Jewish heritage pride was based upon. Abraham died and the prophets died. So, they ask, is Jesus claiming to be greater than them? Who is Jesus claiming to be? Literally, who does He think He is? Jesus says the Abraham rejoiced to see His day. He claims to have been around before Abraham was...and as the people He's talking to rightly point out He's not even fifty, how can He say that. And that questions bring us to the biggest claim of all that John records. 'before Abraham was...I AM'. This may seem to us just to be a case of poor grammar, but His original listeners, and the original readers would have known exactly what Jesus was saying, and exactly why John recorded it. When God speaks outside of the Garden of Eden he reveals Himself by saying 'i am who i am'. Thats what He says to Moses when he asks 'who shall i say sent me' God says 'say I AM sent you'. And this is what Jesus is claiming part of here. He goes back to Abraham, who was before Moses, and says, even before Abraham i was there and i was God. And it's interesting to see the Jews reaction to what Jesus says here. Many people say that 'Jesus never actually claimed to be God', and to an extent thats true, Jesus never actually said the words 'i am God, worship me', but here He is doing as good as. And we can see that thats certainly what His Jewish audience thought, because they started to try and stone Him before He got away. Jesus here claims to be God in the eyes and ears of the original readers and listeners. This is the conclusion of the discussion He has been having here. This is why Jesus can claim that believing in Him can set people free from sin. This is why Jesus can claim that He has authority over death, this is why Jesus can say that someone who lived thousands of years before He did rejoiced to see His day. Because ultimately Jesus is claiming to be God. This is why it matters who Jesus is. We saw in the last section that it matters who we say Jesus is, that nothing will give us the assurance, the fact of life and freedom that Jesus does. Nothing. So because of those claims it matters who Jesus is. It matters more than anything else matters in the world. The biggest problem we face in the world today isn't famine or war or anything like that...it's sin, it's our separation from God...so the most important question we face is how to dal with those problems. And Jesus claims to have the answer to all these questions, so its important that we consider what Jesus says about Himself and whether we can trust it.
So how can Jesus make these claims? How can we trust them? All the way through His life, and all the way through this conversation, Jesus knows how He will die. He knows how He will be able to set people free from sin and death. He knew it was because he would die to bring about this freedom in people's lives. Jesus knew that He was going to have His life ended on a cross, where He would die under the weight of the Father's wrath at my sin and your sin. That's where Jesus was heading, and He knew that. He also knew that three days after He was buried, He would rise again...He would come back to life. And thats how we can investigate what He says, as to whether His actions meet up with His words...and they definately do. And this is what i think John is trying to communicate when he records this. He wants us to know, to see, to remember that it is important who we say Jesus is, and who Jesus is. Jesus is the one who offers and guarentees freedom from slavery, and freedom from sin...freedom from death! Jesus offers eternal life. Is that not what He says in verse 51 'whoever keeps my word will never see death'? Whoever listens to and obeys Jesus will never see death. Jesus is offering eternal life! This is an amzing thing for someone who was just a man. But then, as we saw in the next passage, Jesus was far from being just a man. John shows Jesus as someone who demands a response to His teaching, to who He is. As someone who demands a response. As someone who claims equity with God. As someone who can deliver us freedom. So it really, really matters who Jesus is and it really really matters what our response to that is.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my condemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on."
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.
I saw one hanging on a tree
In agony and blood
Who fixed His loving eyes on me
As near His cross I stood
And never till my dying breath
Will I forget that look
It seemed to charge me with His death
Though not a word He spoke
My conscience felt and owned the guilt
And plunged me in despair
I saw my sins His blood had spilt
And helped to nail Him there
But with a second look He said
“I freely all forgive
this blood is for your ransom paid
I died that you might live”
Forever etched upon my mind
Is the look of Him who died
The Lamb I crucified
And now my life will sing the praise
Of pure atoning grace
That looked on me and gladly
took my place
Thus while His death my sin displays
For all the world to view
Such is the mystery of grace
It seals my pardon too
With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled
That I should such a life destroy
Yet live by Him I killed
Christ's penal substitutionary death on the cross achieved many, many, many great things. Everything good we see in the world in fact. Every lovely sunset, every good moment with our friends, every answered prayer, every spiritual blessing...it all comes from the cross. Jesus' work was all satusfying, all encompassing, and all sufficient.
Man to man.
Christ was born that 'man no more may die', as the carol goes. He was born to conquer the ultimate weapon of the devil, the ultimate prison in which we dwell on the cross. Born to give us freedom. More of that soon, but He died that we would know Him. There are no foothills around Calvary, as someone wise once said (It might have been John Stott), no hierachy around the cross. Just the earth, where the blood of the Lord dripped, and the cross, from where it came. And thats it. My parents live next door to a fairly typical small parish CofE church, it's normally fairly pretty inside, without being ostentatious, but on Good Friday they strip it bare of all that makes it pretty, and prop a cross up on the steps that lead to the choir stalls. And there lays the cross, all alone, until sunday. There is nothing around the cross, there is nothing that gets us closer to it, apart from the mercy of Christ. And this, this great distance that God has from us, this all powerful work should reconcile man to man.
Why are people divided? By ambition? Ambition for a better job or a nicer car looks pretty outrageous when compared with Christ, dieing under the weight of my sins. By jealousy? Wanting what someone else has is foolish when you have every spritual blessing in Christ. By fear? If people knew the Lord there would be nothing to fear, His plan would run their lives...there would be no need to kill, or maim or frustrate. Christ has liberated believers from fear. Luther says that each of us carry the nails that went through the Lord's hands in our pockets. Most days i hear them clinking together as i sin in thought and word and deed. The days when i don't are simply the days where i am drowing in my sin. All of us...all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The end. All of us, all of us are saved by grace through faith so that no one may boast. The end. Are we divided by hatred? In Christ there is no male or female, jew or greek slave or free. The Arsenal fan and the Spurs fan can crowd around eachothers phones trying to find out the derby score, the Englishman and the Aussie can worship together on Christmas day before going to the MCG the next day. There is no division. “The cross unites believers, it gives us fellowship, family, peace...all that good stuff. It destroys all the things that provoke disunity between men like pride, jealousy and anger. It humbles us, and brings us together in praise.”
Man to God.
This is what makes the good news good. We were made to live in the enjoyment and glory of a perfect relationship with God. And we sin, and we break that relationship. It's gone, ot's over, and we are born into it. Slaves to sin. But here's the good bit. That Jesus Christ came to die and put to death all the things that get in the way of us and God. That stop us being in relatioship with the Father. This is what the cross achieved, this is the apex of the work of Christ, that He restored our relationship with the Father. John Piper puts it like this:
'the critical question for this and every generation is this. If you could have Heaven, with no pain or suffereing, and with all your friends, and all the leisure activities you like to persue, and all the good food you ever ate, but no Christ...would you be happy? Would you be happy in Heaven if Christ wasn't there?' The answer, is no. No one would be happy in a 'Heaven' without Christ, because in Christ is all blessings and joy and comfort and peace we ever ever have. No Christ, no God, means none of those things. The cross satisfied the wrath of God so that He can bear our presence, and we will not be burned up like leaves in the bonfire in His presence. Thats pretty good news. And now we have Heaven to look forward to, in perfect, joyful, worshipful relationship with God. All because of Christ on the cross. How the cross shines like a diamond, how it gleams with the glory of being the centre of redemtive history, how it calls us, entices us...'repent and believe, repent and believe...'