How to Move from Duty to Delight

Why Sincerity in Worship Matters More Than Intensity

Three Questions

As a Christian writer and speaker, I am often asked what the most frequent questions are regarding the Christian faith. Of course, I am frequently asked questions of an intellectual or historic nature: Did Jesus of Nazareth really exist? Is his resurrection from the dead a historical event? How is one to understand the Bible as the Word of God? For some, the questions never go beyond intellectual curiosity or pursuit. For others, these questions need to be answered for constructing a sound apologetic.

Probe a bit deeper, however, and it isn’t difficult to discover that many questions come from the deepest places of the heart. They come because of personal experience with suffering of one form or another. Is there a God? If so, does that God care about me, know me? If so, why does God seemingly allow so much suffering? When the fervent prayers of righteous men and women do not prevent the cancer from spreading, or the child from dying, or the plane from crashing, or the marriage from failing, these more existential questions come like water bursting through the dam.

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A Private Interview

John 3:1-21

Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the ruling council came to Jesus in the night with a question, and although he never actually got around to asking it, Jesus gave him considerably more of an answer than Nicodemus had bargained for.  In fact, Jesus in His answer gave what many commentators believe is an example of His early preaching; a wide ranging explanation of how a person can be saved through the New Covenant He would make with Man.  He will speak of many things in this conversation, and by the time it concludes He will have set out God’s plan for Mankind.

Nicodemus opens the conversation with a statement; saying that “we” know that Jesus is from God for His miracles have confirmed the fact.  The use of “we” is interesting, for it implies that as of this early date many or all of the Pharisees had come to the realization that Jesus was the real deal.  In His reply, Jesus goes ahead to answer the question Nicodemus is working up to when He tells him that he must be born again.

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Comparison Grid of Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christianity

3 Things to Know about Union with Christ


Timothy W. Massaro:

The phrase, “union with Christ,” has enjoyed a recent resurgence of interest. This important element of Scripture was something that I only came to understand in part within the last ten years of being a Christian. Until recently, it never really struck me how important this doctrine was for my whole outlook on Christianity, and especially how we as Christians relate to Jesus. Union with Christ represents the sum of our salvation, fellowship, and communion with Jesus.

From the early days of creation, the goal that God had in mind was ever-deepening fellowship with his people. This communion is emphasized over and over again in the New Testament as what we now have through God’s Son. The Bible points to our union with Christ with the prepositional phrase “in Christ” (Eph. 1:4; 11; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 5, 6:1–23; 1 Cor. 15:35–58).

Through the Holy Spirit who gives us faith, we are united to Christ like branches to a vine (John 15:1–11; Gal. 3:14–4:7). Dead branches are now being grafted in to a new, living vine. Being united to the first Adam who fell, we were dead in trespasses and sin. But now, we have been granted new life because of the work of Jesus, who is called the second Adam (Rom. 5). Knowing the following three aspects of union with Christ will help you have more joy, hope, and confidence in your daily Christian walk.

First, the union is mystical.

The earthly analogies we have for how close we are to Jesus fall far short of the reality—hence the mystery. The closest thing we find is the intimate relationship of marriage, which, according to the apostle Paul, was created as an expression—or a sign post—of Christ and his love for the church (Eph. 5:22–33). In a mystical way, we are the body of Christ, and he is our head.

This is one of the great mysteries of the Bible. All that Jesus did and does flows down to us and benefits us. He is our mediator to God, and because of that we can stand in the shadow of his glory and never fear the wrath we justly deserve. We can expect God’s favor and love.

Second, the union is legal.

The original relationship man had with God required much of both parties, just like a marriage. Demands, promises, and curses were attached to the agreement (i.e.,covenant) made with the first Adam. These obligations were broken, and the curses of the betrayal (like in marriage) had not only relational effects but legal ones as well.

All of humanity fell because we were attached to those verdicts and curses. In order to reverse the effects of sin, Jesus had to become one of us and undergo the penalties of the court. He willingly took on the death sentence we deserved in order for us to be restored to that fellowship with God which no man has ever imagined or could hope for (1 Cor. 2:9). Because Christ took the penalties and shame of the curses on his back, we can now have that divine relationship with the triune God. We are heirs of the kingdom, legal children who are no longer illegitimate (Gal. 4:6–7).

Third, the union is organic.

Our life is now flowing from the life of Christ. We are like the tree planted by the rivers of living water (Ps. 1:3). Previously, we tried to attain meaning, happiness, and purpose through our conquests at work or at home or in living for pleasure—but never actually obtaining it. Those things in themselves could never fill us up. Before Christ saves us, all of life is vain and fruitless.

Yet now, we have been made fruitful and meaningful. We have been filled by Christ’s eternal love. Everything that we do is in the power of his love, in the power of his work, and in the power of his Spirit (John 15:1–11). Jesus does not open the door to the new life in order for us to just try harder. No! He himself is the new life God has promised to anyone who has faith. We find life by abiding more and more in him. In him are all the riches God has prepared for those who love him.

If you are struggling for faith, look to Jesus. If you need assurance, it is found at his side. If you doubt God’s goodness, it is in Jesus. Our Christian life from beginning to end has been won by the captain of our salvation. This reality is not something we ever move on from. When we see our God, either when we die or Jesus returns, we will realize our communion and fellowship with him has only just begun.

More snippets from The Jesus I Never Knew by Yancey – #6

“You can know a person by the company he keeps,” the proverb goes. Imagine the consternation of people in first-century Palestine who tried to apply that principle to Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospels mention eight occasions when Jesus accepted an invitation to dinner. Three of these (the wedding at Cana, hospitality by Mary and Martha, and the interrupted meal in Emmaus after his resurrection) were normal social occasions among friends. The other five, however, defy all rules of social propriety.

According to biblical scholar Walter Wink, Jesus violated the mores of his time in every single encounter with women recorded in the four Gospels.

It startles me to open the New Testament and see in what mixed soil the early church took root. The middle-class church many of us know today bears little resemblance to the diverse group of social rejects described in the Gospels and the book of Acts.

Jesus was often “moved by compassion,” and in New Testament times that very word was used maternally to express what a mother feels for her child in her womb. Jesus went out of his way to embrace the unloved and unworthy, the folks who matter not at all to the rest of society— they embarrass us, we wish they’d go away— to prove that even “nobodies” matter infinitely to God. One unclean woman, too shy and full of shame to approach Jesus face-to-face, grabbed his robe, hoping he would not notice. He did notice. She learned, like so many other “nobodies,” that you cannot easily escape Jesus’ gaze.

The last great “sign” in John appears in the exact center of his book, chapter 11, and forms a narrative hinge for all that precedes and follows. John points to the miracle involving Lazarus as the event that turned the religious establishment fatally against Jesus. His account also offers a neat summary of what miracles did, and did not, accomplish in Jesus’ time on earth.

The resurrection of one man, Lazarus, would not solve the dilemma of planet earth. For that, it would take one man’s death. John adds the startling, ironic detail that the miracle of Lazarus sealed Jesus’ fate. “So from that day on they plotted to take his life.” And from that day on, significantly, Jesus’ signs and wonders ceased.

The Gospels, though, devote nearly a third of their length to the climactic last week of Jesus’ life. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John saw death as the central mystery of Jesus.

Only two of the Gospels mention the events of his birth, and all four offer only a few pages on his resurrection, but each chronicler gives a detailed account of the events leading to Jesus’ death. Nothing remotely like it had happened before. Celestial beings had slipped in and out of our dimension prior to the Incarnation (remember Jacob’s wrestler and Abraham’s visitors), and a few humans had even waked from the dead. But when the Son of God died on planet earth— how could it be that a Messiah should face defeat, a God get crucified?

Nature itself convulsed at the deed: the ground shook, rocks cracked open, the sky went black.

For several years, as Holy Week approaches, I have read all the gospel accounts together, sometimes back-to-back, sometimes interwoven in a “harmony of the Gospels” format. Each time I feel swept away by the sheer drama. The simple, unadorned rendering has a grinding power, and I can almost hear a bass drum beating dolefully in the background. No miracles break in, no supernatural rescue attempts. This is tragedy beyond Sophocles or Shakespeare.

As I read John’s account, I keep coming back to a peculiar incident that interrupts the progress of the meal. “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power,” John begins with a flourish and then adds this incongruous completion: “so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.” In the garb of a slave, he then bent over and washed the grime of Jerusalem from the disciples’ feet.

What a strange way for the guest of honor to act during a final meal with his friends. What incomprehensible behavior from a ruler who would momentarily announce, “I confer on you a kingdom.” In those days, foot washing was considered so degrading that a master could not require it of a Jewish slave. Peter blanched at the provocation.

The scene of the foot washing stands out to author M. Scott Peck as one of the most significant events of Jesus’ life. “Until that moment the whole point of things had been for someone to get on top, and once he had gotten on top to stay on top or else attempt to get farther up. But here this man already on top— who was rabbi, teacher, master— suddenly got down on the bottom and began to wash the feet of his followers. In that one act Jesus symbolically overturned the whole social order. Hardly comprehending what was happening, even his own disciples were almost horrified by his behavior.”

The Wonder of Gratitude for Grace



Excerpted from an article in the September/October edition of Grace in Focus

We All Are Grateful When People Do Us Favors

Of course, it is common enough to appreciate the small favors people do for us. Social life is filled with little kindnesses that differentiate friendship from mere civility. But such courtesies are rarely selfless. Many gifts are ultimately meant to be repaid. We give expecting to receive in return. And as Jacques Derrida has said, these are not gifts so much as debts, leading to an endless circle of giving and receiving tinged by the resentment of being obliged to give in return.

But when a gift is so extravagant that it defies repayment, and when it is made, not to put us in debt, but for our own good, then our appreciation ripens to gratitude. And in that moment of gratefulness, we experience a sense of transcendence that lifts us beyond the narrowly selfish concerns of our life, helping us take a wider view of its purpose, and we give thanks. For gratitude responds to goodness, and goodness speaks of spiritual realities unaccounted for by material existence. Gratitude gives us a taste of divine things.

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A Heart of Gratitude

By Terri Pettyjohn,

Psalm 118:28 “You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.”

Try to picture the hurt in your spouse’s or child’s eyes if you only told them once a week or once a month how much you loved them and how thankful you are that they are a part of your life. Take that a step farther and imagine if you just said it out of a sense of duty and it didn’t come from your heart. For most of us we would never consider doing that but when it comes to worshiping God, we don’t see the importance of practicing it on a daily basis. Daily worship is more than just going through the paces and saying the right things, but searching deep inside of ourselves for the right words to tell Him how wonderful He is. Worship has nothing to do with us, but everything to do with Him. Thank Him for all He is to you today, express your humble gratitude for what He saved you from becoming and give Him praise for the awesomeness of our world that He created for our enjoyment. I don’t believe in dwelling in the past, but I do believe we need to remember what we were before God rescued us from sin. When we consider that, is there a limit to our thankfulness to Him?

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Four truths that shape the way we view baptism