Our Great High Priest

from Don Merritt of Life Project – Comments


Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

It is altogether fitting that the text shifts from warning against falling away, to the piercing power of the Word of God, to our Great Hight Priest Jesus, for our author has been warning and encouraging his readers to hang on to their faith through a time of great trial lest they should perish. Think about it: They were being told to endure a really horrible time in history, Christians were being burned alive for fun and amusement, and the author is telling the people to endure that rather than turn their backs on God: Yikes!

There is a huge difference between unbelief, turning our backs on God and making an error or committing a sin.  The error part, the sin part is not problem, for we have a great High Priest!  Since Jesus, our “big brother” has ascended into heaven where He is our high priest who makes intercession for us with God, we must, and we can hold onto our faith.  Jesus, who makes intercession for us with God, has endured every temptation; He knows what it’s like to be a weak human, so He will understand and intercede for us.

Do you see how encouraging this must have been for those brothers and sisters who first heard this?  Isn’t it pretty encouraging for us now?  Do I hear an “Amen”?

With this in mind, the next step is to approach the throne of grace with confidence!  Why? Because we know who our High Priest is, there is nothing to fear… We can remain in our faith and seek forgiveness when we fall short; there is no need to give up and turn our backs on God, thinking that our case is hopeless.

This may be the best news ever for a Saturday afternoon!

Grace, mercy…Jesus!

God Is Only About Love

from Three Iron Nails

When I’m reading about God, I often become very sad and upset. While there’s some good information out there, a lot of the time Christians write about God with an air of what we “should” do; the things we ought to do, the way we ought to think, the ways we’re failing God.

The attitude seems to be that God loves us, but we must turn away from how we live our lives — give up who we are, and everything we know. We must be completely different, always being vigilant, constantly remembering God and his words, or we’ll turn away from him. We have to wash ourselves clean of who we are, or we’ll get lost in a sinful life.

It’s heartbreaking that this seems to be the attitude often projected onto Christians and non Christians alike, to represent our relationship with God. It’s not true. None of it.

Jesus is completely loving. You could spend a thousand years dwelling on his love, and still not comprehend the majesty of it all. He loves us, more than the most loving, kind, accepting person ever could. More. He accepts us at all times. When we do the wrong thing. When we feel ashamed of ourselves. When we’ve acted out in pain and frustration. He’s the kind voice in our heart, telling us he understands why we did what we did, and holding us in his arms.

He’s with us if we hate him. If we’re mad at him. If we blame him for how hard our lives are. He’s with us every moment, comforting us and telling us we’re alright. Even if it takes years to hear him, he’s there. He’s always been there. He’ll always be there.

We don’t need to change our lives so Jesus can accept us. Jesus accepts us, so we can change our lives. If we need to. He’ll always love and accept us. He bore our sins on the cross, not because he thinks we’re awful, but so we can be accepted by God, without ever being punished for our faults and our mistakes. It’s all about love.

So don’t listen when people say you’re not good enough as you are, and need to turn your life upside down to be with God. God’s already turned the world upside down, to be with you. He’s all about love, and that’s the only message you need to know about him. Spend your time being immersed in words of his love, as a true knowledge of God’s love is all you’ll ever need to stay with him. Not giving up your life, or forcing yourself to behave a certain way. Be you. Feel how you feel. Tell God how you feel. Tell God everything. He knows already. And he’s waiting for you.

~ Mona Hanna ~

Fifteen Tactics for Joy

John Piper

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

How shall we fight for joy?

  1. Realize that authentic joy in God is a gift.
  2. Realize that joy must be fought for relentlessly.
  3. Resolve to attack all known sin in your life.
  4. Learn the secret of gutsy guilt — how to fight like a justified sinner.
  5. Realize that the battle is primarily a fight to see God for who he is.
  6. Meditate on the Word of God day and night.
  7. Pray earnestly and continually for open heart-eyes and an inclination for God.
  8. Learn to preach to yourself rather than listen to yourself.
  9. Spend time with God-saturated people who help you see God and fight the fight.
  10. Be patient in the night of God’s seeming absence.
  11. Get the rest, exercise, and proper diet that your body was designed by God to have.
  12. Make a proper use of God’s revelation in nature.
  13. Read great books about God and biographies of great saints.
  14. Do the hard and loving thing for the sake of others (witness and mercy).
  15. Get a global vision for the cause of Christ and pour yourself out for the unreached.

Basking in God’s Love

God loves me. These three words give serious occasion for reflection and delight. However, if you are anything like me you find yourself chasing this sweet taste of divine benevolence with other theological tonics, with the end result being that we think that we constantly need to feel guilty in order to enjoy this truth. This is a problem.

Theological Flinching

Let’s get practical. You’re talking with a friend about what you’ve been reading in your devotions. You mention a passage such as Isaiah 43:4-5: “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” As soon as you hone in on the staggering truth of God’s love, you quickly get uncomfortable. How do I know you’re uncomfortable? Because I get uncomfortable too. I call it “the theological flinch.” When this glorious truth of God’s love is heard in our ears, and begins to seep into our minds and hearts, we quickly run to make qualification of God’s love toward us. Common examples of theological flinching are the quick transitions to the truth of God’s gracemercy and election. Don’t get me wrong; these are all attributes bound up with God’s benevolent love for us, and in which we delight. As Sinclair Ferguson has so carefully explained it:

God’s love is not separable from His other attributes. He is holy, righteous, omniscient, omnipotent, immutable, and wise love. In that sense the love of God is neither the jailer nor the prisoner of His other attributes, but is always in perfect harmony with them. This point is of great importance. It is often assumed that because God is love He is somehow obligated to be unqualified love, even love’s prisoner (as though love could be abstracted from His other attributes)—or worse, man’s prisoner (as though God had no choice but to love us, irrespective of our nature and condition). We must never abstract love in God from His attributes.1

Yet, the sad truth remains that I often feel uncomfortable just soaking in the rain showers of the truth of God’s unconditional love for me. How comfortable are you owning Paul’s words as your own? “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). Any theology that cannot marvel and enjoy the love of God in Christ Jesus is not divinely calibrated. Something has gone wrong and gotten in the way of our receiving this glorious truth.

An Attempt to Explain

Allow me to speculate as to why we often downplay the greatness of God’s love with qualifications. Here are two possible suggestions:

Money laundering God’s love: ” Psychologically, it feels more professional to funnel God’s love through various theological qualifiers–even if it’s erroneous (for a further explanation, see this post). It’s like a money launderer trying to hide the original source of funds so they engage in layering (using multiple accounts and vehicles to hide the original source or nature of the money). That’s what I do. I layer it. Instead of just letting it explode on my lap like a theological firecracker, I say, “It’s for His glory that he elected me despite my deadness in sin, and on and on….” True though all of that may be, it is not supposed to cut the wires of divine love. Instead it is to aid us in further understanding and communicating it. The sad reality is that we are sinful, and God’s love is pride arresting and soul staggering.

Too much for me: Another reason that I (we) sometimes do this is because God’s love for us is far to staggering with which to deal. Let’s face it, for the God of the universe to say that he loves you and that you are precious in His eyes is staggering, to say the least. This is threatening to our autonomy. It undermines our professional business relationship with God and thrusts us into a covenantal relationship of grace. We are not partners with God as in a law firm but covenanted with God as in a marriage. This commitment runs deep both ways.

A Challenge

So I challenge you as I challenge myself today: Examine your heart, particularly in light of God’s love toward you. Chew upon this truth: God loves His children. Stop right there! Loiter with me around this monument of theological truth, drink from the fountain of gospel love, and stop with the qualifiers—just enjoy this staggering truth as you look in faith to Jesus !! “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1.5-6).

1. Ferguson, S. “Must We Also Love Them?” In R. F. Ingram (Ed.), Tabletalk Magazine, November 1991: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (R. F. Ingram, Ed.) (10–11). Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

Erik Raymond is pastor at Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He writes regularly at his blog, Ordinary Pastor and has also written numerous posts for Ligonier Ministries.


Wheaton Theology Conference videos now available

A good resource to check out

2014 TheologyPostcard - WebThe videos from all of the sessions of the recent Wheaton Theology Conference, including the Q&A sessions, are now available. We’ve been working through some of the sessions together (see here), but if you have some time to watch a few of these lectures yourselves, they’re well worth the effort.

You can see all of the videos here, or jump directly to your favorites with these links. And if you want the papers, keep an eye out for the forthcoming book from IVP.


New Things – Renew My Today

Hear Peter come alive as he recalls Jesus’ last week and his encounter with the risen lord. Nick Stumbo, our pastor, does an excellent job of making Peter come more alive as he role plays.


Choose April 27 – New Things – Renew My Today

The Power Of Godly Example

by  at The Blazing Center – Comment


Nothing stinks like hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy disillusions those who have listened to us and trusted us. Hypocrisy renders our words useless and empty. It makes our children cynical and undermines all we try to teach them. There’s nothing more empty than “Do what I say, not what I do.”

On the other hand, words backed by actions are powerful. Our actions can prove we really believe what we say and that others can believe us too. When we can say, “Do what I say AND what I do,” our words will have power and influence.

Paul unashamedly encouraged others to imitate his life.

1 CO 4.16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

In fact, he told the Philippians they should model their lives after him, and observe and imitate the lives of others who lived like him.

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. PHP 3:17

Paul knew that example is a powerful teacher. A picture is worth a thousand words.

What examples are you leaving for others? What stories will others have to tell about you? What will they recall about how you react to pressure, or how you respond to someone’s anger? About your faith in the fire or your endurance and joy in tough times? About your generosity or your mercy to others?

What stories will your children have to tell about you? They’ll probably have funny stories about your quirks and botched projects. My kids have lots of stories they relish telling like about time time I made 20 pizzas hoping to freeze them for future meals, then having to throw them all away because of how bad they tasted. Our kids will most likely have plenty of funny stories to tell about our blunders and mess-ups. But hopefully they will be able to tell others about our joy in Christ, our patience with them, our treatment of those who were unkind to us, our commitment to Christ’s people, our mercy to the poor.

All this means that we need to be with other believers. We can’t just read about the Christian life or watch videos. We need to live our lives with others. Both so we can observe the lives of others for our own imitation, but also for them to see and imitate us. Paul commended Timothy for following his example:

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness (2 TI 3:10)

Paul encouraged Timothy for following his teaching – for doing what he said. But he also commended him for doing what he did. For imitating “my aim in life” – Timothy had picked up Paul’s passion. He’d picked up Paul’s goal, Paul’s aim. He imitated the example of Paul’s faith – not simply the truth Paul believed, but the application of that truth. He’d watched Paul live out his faith. And because he had observed Paul in many situations with other believers, he was able to imitate Paul’s patience and love. Because he’d seen Paul joyfully persevere through affliction he could imitate Paul’s steadfastness.

People are watching us. Our children are watching us. Our fellow believers are watching us.  Let’s show them something worth imitating, even as we imitate others.

Can God change me? – video

by Robby Gallaty at Replicate Ministries blog

On Sunday, I shared my testimony. If you have friends or family who are suffering from addiction, please share this with them.

Even Love Has Its Counterfeits

by Dan Ledwith at Learning to be Full of Grace and Truth

The love that God’s grace produces is proved as much by what we don’t do as it is by what we do do. Knowing what love looks like is important. Knowing what it does not look like is equally important.

I suppose before I dig into this I should come out and say that saving grace is not proved by what we believe. There is a big difference between knowing about saving grace and having saving grace. Yes, we need to crave God’s truth as a newborn baby craves its mother’s milk. We need to grow in the knowledge of truth if we are ever going to grow in godliness, one doesn’t happen without the other. But we are never told to look to our possession of knowledge of doctrine or Scripture, as proof of our salvation. Good theology is necessary for growing in grace, but it is not in and of itself, the proof of it.

This is important because all things of value have their counterfeits. Diamonds have counterfeits, gold has counterfeits, money has counterfeits, Rolexes have counterfeits, Gucci purses have counterfeits, even cigars have counterfeits! If something is of value it has its counterfeits, and the same holds true for spiritual things. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:12-14 (NIV),

And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

In a sermon on that same passage, False Light and True, Jonathan Edwards (that awesome 18th century pastor) explains how this is so:

But Satan in the counsels that he gives men, transforms himself into angel of light in both these respects: he puts on a disguise of holiness, and also of kindness to men.

First. He, in the counsels he gives men, puts on a disguise of holiness; and that two ways.

1. In that he counsels men to sin under pretense of duty. When Satan would tempt men to sin, this is a stratagem he oftentimes makes use, viz. to persuade men that ‘Tis their duty. Thus oftentimes when he counsels men to a violent pursuit after the world, he suggests to them that ‘Tis more than their duty. They ought to take care to provide for themselves and for their families. He calls their anxiousness and eagerness after the world a prudent care.

So he often dissuades men from parting with some of their estates for the benefit of their neighbor in want, or for some public service, under pretense of duty. He tells them that ‘Tis their duty to be frugal and saving of what they have. He calls that bountifulness and liberality, which is indeed their duty by the names of profuseness and prodigality, and so represents it as sinful. So sometimes he persuades men to set up their own wills in any affair, in opposition to others, under pretense of conscience. So sometimes he counsels men to be contentious and quarrelsome, and makes them the means of fomenting a great deal of strife, under pretense of holy zeal. And many other like ways has Satan of tempting men to sin under pretense of their obeying God’s commands.

Read the rest at http://danledwith.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/even-love-has-its-counterfeits/

Christ Centered Creation! (RJS)

from Jesus Creed blog  By  –  Comments

In the previous two posts (here and here) we looked with Ronald Osborn (Death Before the Fall) at the cosmic theodicy of C.S. Lewis and the creation narrative in the book of Job (a passage we too often overlook to our own detriment). Today we turn to the perspective that I see as the central issue in this entire discussion – Christ centered creation.

But Christianity – the faith whose central event is the brutal execution of the God-forsaken God on a Roman cross – greatly complicates and deepens our understanding of the divine response to suffering, whether of humans or animals. It also denies us any stoical pact with the cruelties of death as divinely fated necessity of life. Death is the final enemy. (p. 158)

This central focus has (or should have) a profound influence on the perspective we take of creation and the nature of creation. There is, quite frankly, nothing christological in the typical literalist reading of Genesis. Christ is the subsequent solution to a problem … a problem of our making although many will also point to God’s foreknowledge and/or predestination in the discussion. But this is not the universal Christian view. Turning to the ancient church fathers Osborn puts on the table the view that  God’s purpose in creation always included the incarnation as a necessary part of bringing humans into union with God.

The creation was never a static golden age but always an unfolding story with an eschatalogical horizon. And the divine love has always willed that the journey of creation and the pilgrimage of humanity should end in our final adoption as coheirs of God’s kingdom and “partakers of the divine nature.”  The destiny of humankind is not simply a recapitulation or recurrence, paradise lost, paradise restored. Rather, the end is greater than the beginning – and was always meant to be so through the mystery of the incarnation. (p. 159)

This view causes consternation for some Christians. The linear creation, fall, redemption story line is deeply connected with a popular view of atonement. After a bit of discussion of atonement theory, Osborn suggests that perhaps the weakness lies with the monotone view of atonement as penal substitution. We need a bigger and broader picture including the ancient understanding of ransom and Christus Victor in the mix (Scot’s A Community Called Atonement is a good resource here).

The importance of kenosis. Beyond the mere statement of atonement, though, there is the power and the significance of kenosis, κενόω, – the self-emptying of Christ. Paul tells the Philippians … probably quoting an even older christological hymn of the church:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2; NASB)

The character and governance of God is revealed in Jesus as the crucified savior, God’s Messiah. This isn’t part of the machinations of meticulous manipulation, but the response and plan of a God who is in relationship with his creation, a creation prepared for his purposes with a freedom of will the result of divine will.

Whatever its difficulties, the only position that makes any moral, religious, or rational sense of human moral evil to my mind is the one that declares that the divine will wills human free will, and is both powerful enough and self-giving enough to create beings with the capacity to make meaningful, self-defining choices that are morally and spiritually significant.  (p. 161)

This position is also, to my mind, the only one that makes any sense at all of the biblical narrative from Genesis to revelation. The text we have is characterized by the response of God to faithfulness and faithlessness of his people. He is in relationship with people who have the freedom to follow or to turn away. We can cherry pick selected verses that support meticulous sovereignty, but can maintain that position only by rationalizing away the vast (vast!) majority of the text. God’s control is an open-handed control.

This God willed freedom extends (and here Osborn quotes John Polkinghorne) to freedom in the very nature of creation, a freedom that includes quantum uncertainty, plate tectonics, weather, and evolution. Osborn brings in a study by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Creation and Fall Temptation: Two Biblical Studies) “The Creator wills that his creation itself should affirm and continue his work, he wills that created things should live and create further life.” This God-willed freedom is in harmony with the nature of God and with the person of Christ in the Gospels.

[A] kenotic picture of the Creator insists that God’s creative might and sovereign rule are always expressed in harmony with his character as revealed in the historical person of Jesus, whose way was one of cosuffering humility, nonviolent self-limitation and liberal self-donation. (p. 162)

And Adam? There is more to a Christ-centered view of creation than the fall of Adam and Eve.  It is Christ, not Adam who is the first true human.

Some have insisted that without a historical Adam the life, death, and resurrection of the historical Jesus would be devoid of meaning. But this claim amounts to a denial (even if unintentionally so) of the centrality of Christ; for it gives the fallen Adam of Genesis an interpretative primacy over the Jesus of history that Paul and the Gospel writers do not allow. For disciples of Christ, it is only in Christ that the ancient story of human origins and destiny can be rightly understood – not the other way around. We do not read the story of Christ “Adamically.” We reread the story of Adamchristologically in the light of the second Adam who is also the first Adam, the first fully human being of whom the ancient story is only a type, a dim shadow and longing, a “figure of him that was to come” (Rom 5:14). (p. 164)

Whether or not Adam existed as a unique historical individual is really quite secondary to the biblical narrative. Adam was not the culmination of some perfect creation. Rather, Osborn suggests that we should look to Christ in his life, self-emptying death as the culmination of creation. The cry “it is finished” carries a profoundly deep meaning … only with this is the creation of the world finally complete. The rest in the tomb is the sabbath rest, in many respects the first sabbath, followed with resurrection by new creation. We shouldn’t take this too far as we still live in anticipation of the age to come, where death is fully and completely vanquished.

But the point remains. Christ isn’t the solution to a problem of our (or Adam’s) making. Before the beginning of the world he was – the firstborn of all creation. We need a Christ centered view of creation.

I agree with most of what Osborn has to say in this chapter, and consider it one of the most important points we can make in the entire discussion. But perhaps you disagree.

What does it mean to have a Christ centered view of creation?

Does this a necessary feature of a Christian view of creation?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.

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