"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lamb of God

The title "Lamb of God" is one of Jesus' most familiar names. It carries many layers of meanings throughout Scripture and throughout time. In order to understand who Christ was and what He did, we must begin with the Old Testament, which contains prophecies concerning the coming of Christ as a “guilt offering”(Isaiah 53:7-10). In fact, the whole sacrificial system established by God in the Old Testament set the stage for the coming of Jesus Christ, who is the perfect sacrifice God would provide as atonement for the sins of His people (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 10)

 Probably the best known New Testament reference is when John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching and proclaimed "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). Here the prophet John declared the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. By his death on the cross, Jesus would pay the penalty for all sin, once and for all.

The gentle, docile Lamb of the apostle John's gospel undergoes a radical transformation, however, when we see him again in the same John's apocalyptic vision in Revelation. Here the Lamb emerges as almighty, worthy of praise and authority, and wielding righteous wrath. The resurrected Lamb is one to be worshipped and even feared. Being written in his Book of Life is our only safety.

For the one seeking to understand the way to relationship with Jesus, the Gospel of John is arguably the best place to start. It is very easy to find, being the fourth book in the New Testament (the second part of your Bible). Bibles are available free online these days, so if you are serious, take a couple of days and read this love letter from God. John's Gospel is relatively short and to the point. Less concerned with the retelling of miraculous stories than the other gospels, here, more clearly than anywhere in the New Testament, John quotes Jesus about the way to salvation. Probably the most famous quote of Jesus to emerge from John's gospel is:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Jesus willingly laid down his life for us. He put aside his power and authority in submission to God the Father out of love for us. Having done so, God has given him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2). When he appears again, it will be to gather his followers to him and to judge the world. How you view his second coming depends entirely upon your relationship with him--or lack thereof. Each of us is given a choice. Choose wisely.

Isaiah 53:7-10

"7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand."

John 1:29      

"The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

Revelation 6:16

"and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;"

Revelation 17:14

"These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful."

Friday, March 6, 2015

Something Greater

Recently I noticed an ad for the Marines with the slogan: Are You Ready to Commit to Something Greater than Yourself?  No doubt this ad has been effective in persuading lots of young people to enlist in the Marines. It is a high impact message. I think it strikes a chord in us because God placed a need inside of us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

People seek to fill this need with lots of stuff. People join organizations, health clubs, and country clubs. People spend up to thousands of dollars to watch the Super Bowl in person when they could watch it from the comfort of their living room. Why? We as a culture have decided the Super Bowl is a big deal, and people want to be a part of it, to witness it firsthand and to be a part of the energy and roar of the crowd.

Lots of people show up at Church for similar reasons. You can read your Bible at home or watch church services on TV, but there is something about learning and worshipping elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder with like-minded others. The book of Hebrews cautions us not to forsake gathering together for a reason. God created us social beings. We need one another in ways we don’t usually even recognize.

In the twelfth Chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul points to God’s reason for giving people this need to be a part of something bigger. Often quoted out of context, when read together, these verses actually build his case:

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Paul is talking about being committed to something greater than yourself. Presenting our bodies as living sacrifices runs in direct conflict with the pattern of this world which is competition and self-promotion. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (What is God’s will? Paul is about to tell us…)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Our minds are transformed as we embrace the upside-down Kingdom where the first become last and the shared goal is service for the benefit of others. In this context, to think more highly of ourselves than we should is to imagine ourselves to be self-sufficient. The truth Paul teaches us here is that no individual gets all the gifts. We are interdependent by design. We need each other.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Bold text is my commentary.)

Not thinking more highly of ourselves than we should in this context just means knowing who God wants you to be in the Body of Christ (i.e., how he wants you to serve others). Conversely it means accepting who you are not, and not judging others because they lack your particular gift (when God has another plan for them entirely).

Here’s the take-away. None of us is all that on our own. But together, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are the Body of Christ, and that’s pretty great!

For the Body of Christ to function as it should, each part is needed to join the others for the Glory of Jesus. As we press on to the finish line, picking one another up when we stumble, pushing and pulling one another along when we hesitate, cheering one another on when we grow weary, let’s fix our eyes on Him who called us to be a part of something—something greater than ourselves.