What Kind of Religion is This?

(A friend of mine named Aaron Gray originally posted this quote and it came up with Connie in a recent conversation. It’s one of my favorite illustrations of why Christianity is not a religion. In fact, one of the charges brought against Christians, by the Romans, was atheism! Anywho, I thought this was far too awesome of a quote not to share here also. Hope you enjoy!)

“In a sermon Dick Lucas once preached, he recounted an imaginary conversation between an early Christian and her neighbor in Rome.

“Ah,” the neighbor says. “I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple or holy place?”

“We don’t have a temple,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our temple.”

“No temple? But where do your priests work and do their ritual?”

“We don’t have priests to mediate the presence of God,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our priest.”

“No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?”

“We don’t need a sacrifice,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our sacrifice.”

“What kind of religion is this?” sputters the pagan neighbor.

And the answer is, it’s no kind of religion at all.”

—Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, p. 48.

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The Storms of Life (pt 2) – Mark 4:37-40

(This is an unplanned follow-up to a post I did about this passage earlier this week.)

“I was in that boat.”
Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up and had to go to the bathroom. Don’t you hate when that happens? I usually try not to think about anything when I wake up so as not to get my mind going because then I have trouble falling back asleep. I checked the time: 2:30. I realized I was thirsty so I poured myself a glass of water and suddenly a realization dawned on me about the storms of life and specifically about this passage.
I felt God gently whisper something to me: “I was in that boat.”
Think about it for a minute! The disciples were never actually alone; Jesus was with them in the boat. Similarly, don’t I have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me? So am I ever actually alone when the storms come? Never!
Our suffering pales in comparison to that of our Savior!
Jesus promised that He will be with us. One of my favorite Bible verses (Heb 4:15) says that Jesus, because He has experienced being human, is able to sympathize with us! But that verse doesn’t say that Jesus is able to sympathize with just the good parts of human life; it’s talking specifically about suffering. Jesus is able to sympathize with our weakness. Earlier, in Hebrews 2:18, the author states that Jesus is able to help us when we suffer because He has suffered Himself.
In fact, it’s doubtful that anyone has suffered to the degree that Jesus has. On the cross, Jesus absorbed God’s full wrath for the sins of all mankind (Mt 27:46). Our suffering pales in comparison to that of our Savior! He is infinitely more familiar with suffering than we are.
And that is one of the most beautiful parts of the Gospel. It means that, no matter how dark the storm clouds, Jesus is always able to help us walk through. This is because, as Jesus promised in John 16:7, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us. We have God dwelling inside us!
So my encouragement to you is the same as that of the author of Hebrews: look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured more suffering than we can ever hope to imagine on the cross and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2, paraphrase). Look to Jesus not only for an example, but also for hope and empathy!

He shall come again to judge the living and the dead

(This is part twelve of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

Now we get to a line that many of us choose to ignore:

“He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.”

This line tells us something about Jesus that we seem to forget:  Jesus will return. To some, this line is good news; to others it is bad news. Philippians 2:10-11 says that EVERY knee shall bow and that EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

For some this will be a moment of great joy; for others a moment of great terror.

For some, a moment of welcome; for others a moment of judgement.

Some will bow before Jesus as friend; others will bow before Jesus as foe.

At this moment some will accept grace; others will accept wrath.

The truth is, we all get a chance to either choose to bow down and worship Jesus as Lord now or resist and still wind up bowing down before Christ. In the end, those who resist will still bow down because Jesus will break them. For some, these words are not comforting but they actually shouldn’t be comforting for anyone, not even the believer.

The truth is, Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. For the non-believer, this should give you great pause. I beg you to stop and consider who Jesus is. Jesus is God and He gives you the chance right now to bow down and and confess Him as Lord. If you find this idea disturbing or if it troubles you then that is the Holy Spirit doing His job! Worship Jesus now! You will spend eternity with Jesus…will He be your friend or your foe?

For the Christian, this line should not comfort you. This line should trouble you deeply. This line should cause you to lose sleep at night. This line should give your entire life a sense of urgent purpose:  To spread the Gospel as far and as fast as possible. If you truly believe that your neighbor, co-worker, or friend has an eternal destiny, why aren’t you doing everything in your power to make sure they spend eternity knowing Jesus as friend? “Therefore go!” The Great Commission isn’t “Therefore do nothing…” It’s an urgent mission that has eternal ramifications.

Do you believe that? Then live like you do.

Imaginary Jesus and the Christology of Ricky Bobby

In Talledega Nights, when Ricky Bobby Prays to his “8 pound, 6 ounce baby Jesus” with “golden fleece diapers” we all laughed…admit it, you laughed, too. And then when his buddy pipes up and talks about how his Jesus wears a tuxedo t-shirt, we all laughed some more.

But is your Jesus any less ridiculous? This is the premise behind the book Imaginary Jesus (which is currently FREE as an e-book right now). Matt Mikalatos starts the story at a coffee shop in Portland, OR where he’s hanging out with Jesus, meets the Apostle Peter, then witnesses a fist-fight between the two! And it just gets better from there.

But for me the book raises an interesting question: From where do you draw your christological theology? In other words, how do you answer Jesus’ question in Luke 9:20 where He asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Is your Jesus as blatantly ridiculous as one from Talledaga Nights: a figure skater who does interpretive ice dances of your life? Or is your Jesus only subtly foolish:  a really nice guy who will give you whatever you want if you pray the right prayers and show up at the right building every Sunday? Most of us would never admit to it, but isn’t that true to some degree? Is that honestly the image that comes to mind when you hear that name Jesus?

There are two problems with this view of Jesus. First, this image does not inspire worship. No one worships an ATM machine. No one worships a vending machine. No one worships Amazon.com where you can buy anything you want. So why would we worship a sky fairy whose ultimate purpose is to give us what we want? Why would we be moved to awe by an invisible ATM, vending machine, or Amazon.com? We wouldn’t! That imaginary Jesus would actually follow us and his purpose would be to fulfill our needs. I don’t know about you but I refuse to worship something or someone that is not greater than me.

Second and more importantly, this is not the God of the Bible. Jesus is God in flesh; the God-man. He is eternal. He is God. The God of the Bible is infinite; He is powerful; He is in charge, He is the central character of all human history; and He does not bow down to anyone. This is God; this is Jesus. This is someone I can worship.

So ask yourself, “What does Jesus really look like? Who does Jesus reveal Himself to be in the Bible?” I promise you, the real answer to that question will move you to worship. And if it doesn’t, then it’s not the real Jesus.

was crucified, dead, and buried

(This is part seven of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

This entry talks about the second most important event in human history; the day that Jesus

“was crucified, dead, and buried.”

Once again, I’ll break it up into chunks and look at all three components of this line and why they matter.

“was crucified” – It’s been said that grace is free but it ain’t cheap. This event is exactly what that statement is referring to. Jesus, an innocent man, was crucified for sinful people. Jesus was brought before the crowds right before his crucifixion along with a man named Barabbas. Barabbas was a murderer, a violent man, a rebel (Mark 15:7). Pilate, who we discussed in the last entry, offered to let one man go: Jesus or Barabbas (Mark 15:9). It’s easy, at this point, for us to resent the murderous rebel who got to go free; for us to wish that Jesus had been set free. But I think at that moment all mankind was symbolized by Barabbas. The guilty rebel, with blood on his hands, was set free while the innocent Son of God was delivered to Roman soldiers to be scourged and crucified. I am Barabbas… and so are you. We should realize that we are the guilty murderous rebels that have been set free.What shall we do with this freedom that has been purchased on our behalf and given to us as a gift (Galatians 5:22)?

Next, Jesus was subjected to the most painful execution method in human history. The death of the Messiah was actually prophesied before crucifixion even existed (Psalm 22:16; John 20:20, 25), but that his how He died. We hear this all the time: “Christ was crucified.” We become numb to it. Yet, crucifixion was so horrible, a word was invented to describe it: excruciating. Excruciating means literally “from the cross.” That’s how painful it was. There are many people who do a better job of explaining this than I do. Here’s a link to the Medical Aspects of the Crucifixion that describes the physical pain our Saviour experienced for us. It was horrendous!

Sometimes crucifixion could last for days. Jesus was so weak from being flogged (Isaiah 52:14; Mark 15:15, Luke 22:63-65, John 19:1) and so dehydrated (Psalm 22:15; John 19:28) that He died quickly (Mark 15:44). Sometimes, to hurry the dying process the Romans would break the legs of the person on the cross. Jesus’ legs were not broken, which is important for several reasons. First, Jesus was the Passover Lamb; in John 1:29, John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” According to the Passover instructions, the sacrificial lamb was not allowed to have any broken bones (Exodus 12:46). Additionally, this was consistent with Messianic prophecies that described Jesus’ death (Psalm 22:17; John 19:31-36). Finally, after several hours, Jesus declared that His work was finished (John 19:30), and was…

“dead” – Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, and John 19:33 all agree that Jesus was dead. Some people have claimed that Jesus merely passed out and later woke up from His nap. Although medical science has progressed over the last 2,000 or so years, people back in Jesus’ time could still tell the difference between someone who was alive and someone who was dead. First there’s Luke; he was the author of the third Gospel and a doctor (Colossians 4:14). If anyone at that time could identify a dead body, it would have been a doctor. Another expert at identifying dead bodies would have been the Roman soldiers who professionally killed people (Mark 15:44-45). It was their job to take living bodies and turn them into dead bodies. Surely they would have been able to identify a dead body? Finally, it’s likely that anyone who witnessed Jesus being scourged, beaten, and then crucified, would have been able to realize He was dead because His body would have been mutilated; this also fulfilled prophetic Scripture (Isaiah 52:14).

“and buried” – After Jesus died, He was buried by Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43, 46). If Jesus had indeed fainted, it’s likely that without immediate medical attention He would have died in the tomb during the three days He was buried. Also, as Mark 15:46 mentions, a large stone was rolled in front of the entrance. It would have been impossible for Jesus, after His body had sustained so much damage, to move the stone. Jesus’ burial in a rich man’s grave also fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:9 (Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:43-46, Luke 23:50-53, John 19:38-42).

We find that there is compelling evidence that Jesus was certainly crucified, dead, and buried. Isaiah 53:6 summarizes these events best:
“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”

Second Corinthians 5:21 tells us why He did this:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

We’ll explore these themes further in a later post…