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January 15, 2013 / Daniel

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52)

Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic

Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic (Photo credit: jakebouma)

Luke 2:41-52 is truly a fascinating story.  Scripture tells us very little about Jesus’ formative years.  The gospels tell us stories about his birth as a child and about his ministry as an adult.  However, the gospels are almost silent concerning the years in-between.  We are left with questions.  We can only speculate.   Did Jesus play games with his friends?  Did he have a lot of chores?  Was he an apprentice for Joseph?

This silence is especially unusual to modern ears, since today most biographers pay special attention to this time in someone’s life.  Recently I read Amazing Grace, Eric Metaxas‘ biography on William Wilberforce.  Metaxas focuses several chapters on Wilberforce’ adolescence years.  He shows how these early years were very influential in the development of Wilberforce’s convictions and beliefs.  This was time shaped the man that Wilberforce was to become.

This means that what little the Bible does tell about Jesus’ adolescence must be critical to our understanding of Jesus.   In Luke 2, we find one story about Jesus’ formative years.  It’s the account of his family’s trip to the temple for the Feast of Passover.  The story takes place when Jesus is 12.  After spending the week in Jerusalem, his family returns home, but they accidentally leave Jesus behind.

When they do think to look for Jesus, they discover that he’s not with them.  So, they head back to Jerusalem and find him in the temple.  Jesus is conversing with the teachers of the law.  Jesus’ response to his parents’ fears is astounding.  “Why were you searching for me?  Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

On the one hand, Jesus sound like that of a typical 12 year-old boy.  It looks like he’s not concerned about his parents’ plans and intentions for him.  However, on the other hand, Jesus is an exceptional 12 year-old boy.  What normal 12 year-old astounds the teachers of the law?  This gives a glimpse into the mystery of the God-man.

Luke’s conclusion is profound.  “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”   This statement alludes to Proverbs 3:1-4.

3 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

Here the father instructs his son about the secrets to the good life.  It all begins with the pursuit of wisdom.  And wisdom can only be found in the fear of the LORD (Prov. 1:7).  The father tells the son to internalize God’s love and faithfulness.  This happens by mean of studying God’s Word.  The final result is given in v. 4.  If you pursue wisdom, then you will receive God’s favor upon your life.  Others will take notice.  So, when Jesus was in the temple, he was there to pursue God’s wisdom.  He was about his Father’s business.  Internalizing the truth of God’s Law.      It was this commitment to the pursuit of wisdom that made Jesus an ideal man.  He was always focused on his Father’s intentions for him.  He lived a perfect obedience to God.  This is what qualifies him to our Savior.  As a perfect man, he died not for his own sins, but for the sins of others.  Therefore, when we put our trust in him, his righteousness is transferred to our account.

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January 5, 2013 / Daniel

Quotes from Anthony Thiselton’s Life After Death

I just started Anthony Thiselton‘s Life After Death: A New Approach to the Last Things.    Here are some of quotes that I highlighted from the first couple chapters.

“Our hope and confidence cannot be based on the capacities of human beings to survive death and to become immortal.  Such confidence depends entirely on God’s promise of resurrection and new creation.  Everything depends here on trust in God, not on self-reliance.”

Virginia - Arlington National Cemetery: The To...

“The [resurrection] is based entirely on the promises and sovereign grace of God.  The [immortality of the soul] is based on the supposed human capacity to survive death.”

Thiselton quotes Martin Luther as saying, “Faith is a living, daring, confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man [or woman] would stake his life upon it a thousand times.”

December 27, 2012 / Daniel

Resurrection Bodies (1 Cor. 15:35-49)

English: Resurrection of Christ

What will our resurrection bodies be like?

In 1 Cor. 15:35-49, Paul deals with a possible objection to the idea of resurrection.  That is, someone might say that the resurrection body is inconceivable.  After all, what about people who have cremated or dismembered? Or how about the bodies of sailors who died at sea?   It’s difficult to imagine just how resurrection might work in such circumstances.

Paul’s response is severe.  He calls the interlocutor a “fool” (1 Cor. 15:35).  In the Bible, a fool is not a person with a mental deficiency.  A fool is a person with a moral deficiency.  Ps. 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.”   In other words, a fool is someone who underestimates the power of God.

So, just because you can’t conceive of the resurrection, it doesn’t mean that the resurrection is not true.  It might just mean that you lack imagination.

We can sum up Paul’s description of the resurrection body with five truths.

1)  Our resurrected bodies will be transformed bodies (vv. 36-37).

Paul gives the illustration of a seed.  When you bury a seed in the ground, the seed develops and changes.  It becomes a plant.  In the same way, our resurrected bodies will be transformed bodies.  So, if your mental picture of the resurrected body is that of a zombie, you need to go back to the drawing board.  The resurrection involves much more than just the resuscitation of the corpse.  It is a complete renewal of the body.  A total makeover.  It will have significant upgrades to the body we have now.

2) The resurrected body will be built from a dead body (vv. 36-37).

A plant grows from the seed.  There is a continuity between a seed and plant.  In the same way, the resurrected body will have some continuity with the current body.   The resurrection reminds us that God doesn’t just discard His creation.  He renews it.

This is also an indication that we will be able to recognize our friends and loved ones in God’s future world.

3) Our resurrection bodies will display the Creator’s ingenuity (vv. 38-41).  

In the next paragraph, Paul describes the great diversity displayed in God’s creation.  God has created a wide variety of creatures.  Some of these are earth creatures.  Some of these are heavenly creatures.  God gives to each a body “as He has determined” (v. 40).  We can’t even begin to describe all the different types of creatures that God has made.  So, doesn’t it seem a little silly to doubt God’s ability to renew and restore for us our dead bodies?

4) Our resurrection bodies will run on a superior source of energy (vv. 42-45).

V. 44 is a significant verse in this text.  Unfortunately, most English translations obscure its meaning (cf. NT Wright).  “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (NIV).  The words “natural” and “spiritual” make it sound like Paul is making a material distinction here.   In other words, the natural body sounds like a physical body, while the spiritual body sounds like a non-physical body.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Paul is not making a distinction in materials here.  He is making a distinction in sources of energy.  The word translated natural is the Greek word psychikos. It refers to the human psyche.  The psyche is what God breathes into Adam.  It is the human life-force.  It’s what energizes and animates our bodies.   When we die, our psyche leaves our bodies.  It’s not a sustainable form of energy.  That is why Paul says that the psychikos body is perishable, dishonored, and weak.   

However, our resurrection bodies will have a superior source of energy.  They will be pneumatika bodies.  Spiritual bodies.  Instead of being energized by the human psyche, the resurrection body will be energized by God’s own Holy Spirit.  The energy which comes from  the Spirit is self-sustaining.  It will never die out.  It’s a renewable form of energy.

5) Our resurrection bodies will resemble the Prototype (vv. 46-49).

Paul sums up all of history with two people, Adam and Jesus.  Both of these men were patterns for those who came after them.  Adam is a pattern for ordinary human life.  The type of life that results in death.  Jesus is a pattern for a different type of life.  The type of life that results in results.

The goal is to bear the image of Jesus.  He is the prototype for God’s new humanity.  One day we will be like Him.

December 19, 2012 / Daniel

Jesus is a Life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45)

This last week I have been puzzling over 1 Cor. 15:45. Paul calls Jesus a “life-giving spirit.”

It is sown a psychikos body; it is raised a pneumatikos body. If there is a psychikos body, there is also a pneumatikos body.  Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living psychē”; the last Adam became a life-giving pneuma.

It is easy to misunderstand Paul’s point here.   At first glance, we might take this to mean that the resurrected Jesus was a ghost.  That is, a spiritual creature without a physical body. However, this is clearly not how the gospel writers understood the resurrection of Jesus (cf. Luke 24:36-40).  The term “resurrection” involves the transformation and renewal of the physical body.

Another option is to take “life-giving spirit” as a reference to the Holy Spirit.   This is closer to Paul’s meaning.  However, Paul is not simply equating Jesus with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus and the Holy Spirit are two distinct persons.  One in essence.

The key is to recognize Paul’s use of metonymy.  Metonymy is a figure of speech where one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated.   Here Paul uses one part of a person to refer to the whole person.   For instance, if I tell my wife that we have three mouths to feed, I don’t mean that there are three disembodied mouths sitting at our kitchen table.  I am using the word “mouth” figuratively to refer to our three children.  The mouth is the part of a person used to intake food.  The essential part defines the whole person.

This is the lesson that Paul draws from Genesis 2:7.   When God breathes into Adam, Adam becomes a living psychē  [commonly translated “soul”].  Adam is much more than just a psyche.   After all, he has a body.  However, the psychē  is the essential component of the first man, since it is the life-force that animates him.  So, Genesis refers to Adam by the essential part.  This part defines the whole.  

The same is true of Jesus.  When God raised Jesus from the dead, God breathed the Holy Spirit into him.   The Holy Spirit is the source of energy that animates his resurrection body.   So when Paul says that Jesus became a life-giving Spirit, he does not mean that Jesus was just a spirit or that he is the same person as the Holy Spirit.  He means that the essential component of the Last Adam is the life-giving Spirit who energizes Jesus’ resurrection body.  The part defines the whole.

December 18, 2012 / Daniel

Christopher Hitchens on Authentic Christianity

RIP : Christopher Hitchens : 1949 : 2011

In our Adult Sunday School Class, we have been studying 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul defends the doctrine of resurrection.   In this chapter, Paul lay outs a hypothetical scenario.  What if there is no resurrection?  What if Easter is a farce?

According to Paul, the believer’s resurrection rests on Jesus’ resurrection and Jesus’ resurrection is at the very heart of the gospel.  So, if we reject the resurrection of believer, we must also reject the resurrection of Christ.   And if we reject the resurrection of Christ, we must reject the entire gospel story.   So, the very essence of Christianity rests on the future resurrection of God’s people.  Otherwise, Paul writes, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19).

I love this exchange between Marilyn Sewell and Christopher Hitchens.

Sewell: “Mr. Hitchens, the religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement — that Jesus died for our sins, for example. Do you make a distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?”

Hitchens: “Well, I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.”

Check out the rest of Ben Stevens’ article.

December 14, 2012 / Daniel

As a Husker fan, I would like to see the East/West option. It’s the easiest way of splitting up the conference.

Big Ten Network

One of the hottest debates around the Big Ten Conference’s announced plan to expand to 14 schools revolves around the future look of the two divisions. Currently, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern reside in the Legends Division while Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin are in the Leaders Division.

The addition of Maryland and Rutgers poses this question: What comes next? We’ve launched a survey question in this post with three ideas for divisions. Tell us your choice and add any other feedback, too. BTN’s experts will discuss these ideas on Monday’s “Football Report” at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Also, the numbers tell us that by now many of our readers and viewers have submitted their answers to our first Big Ten expansion and realignment survey, which we launched earlier this month. It’s still live if you haven’t seen it.

Results will be forwarded to the Big Ten Conference office.

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December 11, 2012 / Daniel

The Power of a Meal (a Sermon on 1 Cor. 11)

The Lord's Supper

Here is a link to a sermon that I preached back on Oct. 7. I’m still trying to figure out how SoundCloud works. I need to cut off the first couple minutes of the recording. That’s from our prayer time. The last bit is from our communion service. But if you jump into two minutes into the recording, you will hear the beginning of the message.

December 11, 2012 / Daniel

Advent, the Hope for a Better World

Advent

Advent (Photo credit: el_staplador)

Today I was talking with my friend Aaron about the Advent season.   He reminded me that Advent isn’t just about the birth of Christ.  It’s also about the second coming of Christ.  During Advent, we look forward to Jesus’ return.   But we do so remembering that Christ already came once.  2000 years ago Jesus arrived on this planet as a baby boy.  He came to die for our sins and to rescue us from death by the power of his resurrection.   So, the Christmas season is all about jogging our memory.  When we remember Christ’s first coming, we begin to long for His second coming.

Christians are an eschatological people.   We hope for a better future.  A better world.  But as we set our gaze to the future, we need to remind ourselves of the past.   Our future is secure because the past has been won.  Our resurrection is predicated on His resurrection.   He lives.  Therefore, we will rise from the dead.

Paul puts it this way in Colossians 3:1-4.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

I love this quote by Kim Riddlebarger.  He writes,

Until Jesus Christ returns to raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new, Christians will always be concerned with the future and the unfolding course of history. Our redemption draws near as the days tick away before our crucified, risen, and ascended Savior returns. But the second coming makes sense only in light of what God has already done on Calvary and in the garden tomb.

A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times (Kindle Locations 179-182). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.

December 11, 2012 / Daniel

The Logic of 1 Cor. 15:12-19

Premise 1a:  We proclaim Christ’s resurrection.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead,how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Premise 2a:  Denial of the resurrection contradicts premise 1.  

13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.

Conclusion a:  If so, then Christianity is in vain.

14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

Premise 1b:  We proclaim Christ’s resurrection.

15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Premise 2b:  Denial of the resurrection contradicts premise 1.

16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.

Conclusion b:  If so, then Christians are to be pitied.

17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

April 2, 2012 / Daniel

Jesus as the Climax to God’s Revelation

What are the implications of 1 Kings 22 (the story of Ahab’s death)?  The first implication is that we must read the Bible with the right approach.   The second implication is that we must pay close attention to Jesus.

Sometimes when we read the OT, we’re tempted to think, “Well, that’s just the OT.  God doesn’t do things like that any more.  The OT is just a bunch of rules.  In the OT, God’s always smiting people and stuff.  But now things are different.  God had a son and He mellowed out.  The OT is about God’s judgment.  The NT is about God’s grace.”

People use this argument to get themselves off the hook.   They think that we can ignore God’s warnings and not face the consequences.  But we need to remember that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   The God of the OT is the God of the NT.   God shows wrath and grace in the OT.   He shows wrath and grace in the NT.   God is consistent.

In Hebrews 1, the author tells us that Jesus Christ is the climax to the story of Scripture.  He is the culmination of the Bible.  “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1).

So, in the same way that God spoke Ahab through the prophets like Elijah and Micaiah, He has spoken to us through his Son, King Jesus.     If there were consequences for ignoring the prophets in the OT, there are even greater consequences for ignoring God’s own Son, King Jesus.  Consider Hebrews 2:1-3.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,  how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

In other words, if God was serious about His Word during OT times, God is even more serious about His Word now that we are under the New Covenant.  Jesus is the climax to the whole story of Scripture.  Pay close attention to the Word of God spoken through Jesus Christ.  If you honor God’s Word, God will bless you.  But if you ignore God’s Word, you do so at your own peril.