Tag Archives: Jesus

And it was night

A friend pointed out this morning the structure of the disciples’ questions in John 13-14, and I thought it worth laying out here. It’s almost as if, after Jesus’ celebration of Passover with his disciples (John 13:1-30), some still have questions, so Jesus holds office hours at night:

31When [Judas Iscariot] had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

36Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”

37Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

Ch 4: 1“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4And you know the way to where I am going.”

5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”

23Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

(annotation and re-paragraphing of John 13:30b-14:31 ESV)


Sunrise from our back yard
Sunrise from our back yard

In my all-too-brief(-so-far) lifetime, I have found much to complain about. It seems like everywhere I go, there’s something that isn’t the way I want it.

I was speaking with a colleague in our kitchen once, and asked how she got on, traveling more than we do. Her answer was short and simple: she has different things she enjoys in each place she goes, and she focuses on enjoying what is there, in whatever place she happens to be (trust me, her words were simpler than that, but this is me writing now… :-)).

So I was thinking about this this morning, as I looked out at the most amazing sunset I can recall (above). The fact that I noted it is itself notable; I’m sure it looks even better from non-colorblind eyes, but it was enough to impress me, in any case.

Having spent much of last week in the Pacific Northwest, walking in the rain through wet leaves that have been decomposing on the ground for weeks (at least), we returned to Texas to see most of the leaves blown off the trees in our area in a single gusty day —and continue to blow in the wind like driven snow.  But I think each has its beauty, if you look for it.  The PacNW soft earth that your feet sink into, reminiscent of a mud ball that just happens to have a thick head of green hair, is nothing like the dry clay of North Texas, which opens cracks greater than an inch, then fills up in a heavy rain until it floods again and again.…

Anyway, I thought I should stop my complaining (if only for a moment) and give God glory for the beauty he has brought into our lives.

And with that perspective, I recall that there is a much better reason to rejoice in all circumstances. Paul once wrote of his contentment in the face of financial need:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)

Somewhat ironic to think of hunger, when my greater complaints are expensive avocados and mangos (which could also double as rocks, some times), or not being able to find meat that doesn’t have flies all over it in the market (I’ll let you guess which complaint belongs to which place).

As I think through this verse, I think what Paul is saying is that his contentment doesn’t come from having enough food, or the kinds of food he likes, nor even having beautiful sunsets in one place and beautiful local music in another. Paul’s contentment comes because Jesus is the source of his life and happiness, and Jesus never leaves us.

Think about it — if I’m not happy because I have food, clothing and shelter that I like, but rather because the Creator of the universe is on my side (or rather has made me on His side), then my happiness that cannot be taken from me, whatever my circumstance.

Do I really get, on a daily and momentary basis, that my sins (real as they are) have been washed clean, and that I have relationship with God, not because I earned it, but just because He is that good?

Jesus took the worst day in all human history, and made it *Good* Friday, because on that day He gave us the greatest good we will ever know. Then He proved it three days later, in case there was any question that our fight with sin and death was finished. How can we not want that to be the center of our life, love, and happiness?



Romans 5:21-21

Here is my mindmap of Romans 5:12-21:

Here is the scrolls for this week, and this chart I’ve found helpful laying out this passage, to make it’s content and structure more accessible. And some more questions of my own:

  1. How are Adam and Jesus alike?
  2. How are they different?
  3. How did sin enter the world?
  4. Why do all men die?
  5. Did people die before the law?
  6. In what ways are the free gift, not like the trespass (vv15-16)?
  7. What are their results/reigns?
  8. How are the offense and obedience similar?
  9. how to sin and grace spread/reign?
  10. How does Paul address our character (v19), our legal status (v18), and our reign (v17)?
  11. Summarize a comparison of the lineages of Adam and Jesus.
  12. How does Jesus answer the problem of Adam, sin and death?


Romans 4:13-25

Here is my mind map of this passage:

Here are the scrolls for this week, and here are some more questions of my own:

  1. What two consequences of justification by Grace does Paul mention here?
  2. How do we know that the promise didn’t come through the law?
  3. How would the adherents of the law inheriting nullify faith/grace?
  4. Of whom is Abraham the father?
  5. How does he describe God?
  6. What kind of hope did Abraham have? In what? To what end?
  7. What kind of faith did Abraham have? In what? To what end?
  8. Why was Abraham’s story recorded?
  9. Who is ‘us’? Who is Jesus?

Introduction: Romans 1:1-7 thoughts

Introductions are somewhat like genealogies to many of us; we have a tendency to just blow them off, and skip to “the good stuff”. But this introduction has plenty of Good stuff in it. It introduces Paul, the Gospel, Jesus, and the Christian, all of which are very relevant to us today, and which will be relevant as we go through the rest of this book.

Paul is a servant, yet also an apostle. How is one sent in authority also a servant? Yet this reflects Jesus’ teaching in Mark 10:42-45 (ESV):

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.43But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servantd, 44and whoever would be first among you must be slavee of all. 45For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Paul is also set apart for the Gospel, to the end of the “obedience of faith”. Interesting that those who are in Rome (v7) are “called to be saints”; holiness is also essentially being set apart. So the one is set apart to preach the gospel, and the others are set apart to live it.

These verses also pack in a lot about Jesus, the point of the Gospel (and of everything else, truth be told).  Jesus in the gospel fulfills promises made by men who spoke for God, whose words were written down and kept for us to read.

The gospel is about Jesus, the Son of God (putting together vv1-3: the gospel of God, which [God] promised beforehand … concerning his Son), but it is also about Jesus the Son of David (v3). But He is also Jesus, the Son of God in power… by his resurrection (v4), and finally, Jesus is the source of both grace and apostleship (v5).

This last one I find interesting, given the bilateral nature of lordship. That is, a Lord and a subject have a two way relationship, the one providing protection and other resources necessary for life, and the other providing service and fealty. In the same way, Jesus provides us Grace, which we need for (eternal and any other) life, but he also gives us a job, to represent him before a fallen world.

Rephrasing the above, in five short verses we see Jesus as the eternal Son of God, the human Son of Man, the glorified Son of God, and the Son our Lord.

These verses also talk about what it means to be a Christian. That is, the purpose of the Gospel is to bring about the obedience of faith (v5), and that purpose is to be fulfilled in the readers (v6). Some have argued about the meaning of “obedience of faith”, given the linguistic ambiguity of the construction. Does it mean that faith is obedience? or that obedience that comes from faith (e.g., NIV)? Or obedience that is in some other way characterized by faith? My understanding of the construction is that it doesn’t require or exclude any of these, and that we must interpret it from the larger context.

Why is this question important? One conversation I had recently asked whether Paul here is talking about a single act of faith, which produces justification (as will be treated at length later in Romans), which is thus itself obedience, but not intrinsically tied to any other obedience? Or is Paul talking about obedience that flows from faith, i.e., sanctification, the act of Christians being made more holy subsequent to their trusting Jesus. And most critically, is it possible to have the one and not the other? Is it possible to trust Jesus, then never produce any concrete life change?

I have heard this question debated ad nauseum, and I think it is important for scholars to wrestle with it, but I think here it is enough to say that even if it is possible to have faith without obedience, that would in no way be a good thing, and that in no way is the point of the Gospel. That is, for Paul (and I hope for us), we want to see lives changed because people trust Jesus (and thereby have a right relationship with God, and go to heaven, etc), but we also want to see lives changed here and now as people live more rightly (and thereby glorify God more in their bodies, here and now). If you’re promoting either one without the other, you’re cheating people, IMHO. And perhaps this is why Paul used an ambiguous phrase here. Perhaps the Gospel is there to make people obey by placing their faith in Jesus. Perhaps it is also there to make people more like Jesus, once they have placed their faith in him, and tasted and seen how good he is.

And this is affirmed in Paul’s description of hearers in v7: loved by God and called to be saints. We are not just loved, we are called to be holy. And we are not just called to be holy, but we are loved. This is a package deal, and we get it all in Jesus.

I was somewhat surprised to hear called to be saints this morning used in reference to unbelievers. I’m not sure if Paul meant it that way. But it does make sense, given that those whom he predestined he also called (8:30) is a part of the golden chain that predates conversion, and given that this predestination happened before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8 & 17:8). So while we who believe are called to be holy, it stands to reason that there are some who have not yet converted, but who are nonetheless also loved by God and called to be holy. If so, how does God show this love? And how does he call them to be holy? Paul tells us his thoughts on this in ch 10:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?c And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

So we share the Gospel, and that calls people out of darkness into the kingdom of Light, and it shows people the love of God, as they hear what meets their greatest need.

And this is why grace and peace (v7) are distinctively Christian greetings. We proclaim grace to one another, because we know that it is by grace that we live and breathe. And we proclaim peace to one another, because this is what God has accomplished for us.  And this is not just the sit-down-and-rest-awhile peace of a half time show; it is the complete fulfillment of all our needs in Jesus. It is peace with ourselves and peace with others because we have peace with the creator and sustainer of the universe –and everything else is secondary.

Just and Justifier

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:25-26 ESV)

These have long been favorite verses of mine, but they hit me with fresh power this morning. I’m going through Romans now in BSF, after going through the whole book in a men’s study in church earlier this year. All the while I’ve been listening to Piper’s 225 sermons on Romans, and it has been great to be saturated in this hard-work-but-very-much-worth-it exploration of the Gospel. But until this morning, I hadn’t ever gotten the connection of these verses with what comes before it in Romans. Sure God is just and our justifier. That’s poetic, and cool, and beyond what we could do. But as I seem to find more often than I thought, Paul is not just making this pithy point, he’s putting that pithy point as the pinnacle of his proposal: the propitiation of the wrath of God, while accomplishing his purposes for our pleasure in Jesus.

To set up more fully why it doesn’t normally work to be both just and a justifier, it may help to remind ourselves of what Paul has said so far. Almost everything up to 3:20 could be summarized as “we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin” (3:9). In consequence, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven” (1:8). So on the one hand, we are all under sin. On the other, God’s wrath is being revealed against that sin. Put those together, and God’s wrath would seem to be revealed against all of us.

Looking at God’s justice, I hope most of us would agree that not punishing sin would not be just. A judge who throws out a charge against a criminal without good reason is not a good judge. Even if he really likes him. Even if the criminal knows his son, and has eaten at his house — and perhaps especially so, as that perversion of justice would result from a conflict of interests.

Considering God’s power to justify, we wouldn’t normally see executing wrath as a corrective measure. I guess some people look at prisons as institutes of reform, not punishment, but I’m not sure there’s evidence of that actually working. And given God’s power, and the extent to which his justice and holiness have been violated, he isn’t going to rain brimstone down on you (or turn you to a pillar of salt), then say, “would you please do better next time?”

So as we see the sinfulness of humanity laid bare in the first three chapters of Romans, it becomes clear that God’s wrath is not only justified, but necessary to satisfy any kind of real justice. But that very wrath puts at jeopardy any possibility of reconciliation, so how could God do anything to help us?

On the other hand, if God chooses to forebear his wrath (despite the sin as Paul has laid it out in such painstaking detail), that puts in jeopardy any claim that God is just.

I’ve heard a number of variations of this “Problem of sin” or “Problem of evil” in the world. If God is all powerful, how come he doesn’t remove evil from the world? Others would say why doesn’t he punish evil? Some would say where was he during that last hurricane? Others would say why did he bring that hurricane? It’s like we can’t decide which is worse: believing that God is all-powerful and causes things we don’t like, or that he’s not all-powerful, and is up there wringing his hands at all these horrible things going on (either by accident, or by some competing and/or greater power). Either God really is the Just Judge of all creation, or he is our Faithful Friend; he can’t be both.

 This is, I think, the problem set up by Paul in Romans up to this point. But in these verses he shows us the beauty and elegance of God’s plan in Jesus. When he talks about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross in vv24-25, he says God “did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” Paul recognizes that God’s not punishing sin is a problem, so he clarifies that God was only postponing punishment, he wasn’t absolving sin willy-nilly. Rather than leave himself open to a charge of injustice, he does punish sin, though he does it at the right time, after much patience and endurance (9:22), and in the right way.

And this is where “to demonstrate his righteousness” can have a double meaning. On the one hand, God is showing that his judgment is right; he is a just judge, punishing sin. On the other hand, he is making his righteousness clear, plain, and available to us in Jesus. This is the sense of “the righteousness of God” that the Holy Spirit used to open Martin Luther’s eyes. It is not (only) that God is showing how right he is by punishing us, but it is (also) that he shows us Jesus, the right one, who calls to be reconciled to God, and who provides his righteousness to us – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Cor 5:21)

So “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement… to demonstrate his righteousness” in these two senses. The one allows God to show that he is just in punishing sin. The other allows God to show that he is faithful to us calling us to be right, by showing us the only one who ever was, and by providing that righteousness for us. This is how God can be “just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus”.

In the end, it becomes clear that this is our only hope. One resolution to the problem of God not punishing all sin now above is to point out that if he did, we would all be condemned. We must understand that Romans 1:18-3:20 applies to us as individuals. If you don’t have that yet, I encourage you to read it again. You can’t complain that God didn’t strike Hitler down (sooner), without also complaining why you are still alive yourself –unless you’re willing to maintain an inconsistent standard yourself.

The only way for God to be just is to punish sin. And the only way to reconcile us to himself is to not punish us (or not as much as we deserve, anyway). Which is where Jesus comes in. At one point he basically asked the Father to find another way, but there apparently wasn’t one, and so Jesus went through with it (Matt 26:37-46). He showed us a perfect life, then took our punishment, so we wouldn’t have to. This allowed for justice to be satisfied, since sin was punished, but it also allows for us to see true righteousness face to face in Jesus, to fall in love with him, and to thereby be reconciled to God.

This is how “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven” (1:18) and “the righteousness of God has been made known” (3:21), allowing God “to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (3:26). God is just, and I am saved, in Jesus.