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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

The Hidden God

June 11th, 2014
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Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity.

It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.”

But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.

Joe Tkach:

In Psalm 113:5-6, the psalmist asks: Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?”

We still are asking that question.

Given our limited minds, we humans are unable to fully comprehend all there is to know about God. Paul put it this way: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

Though God lives in “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16), he has not left us completely in the dark. 

Note Jesus’ remarkable statement in Matthew 11:27:

All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

I love how the second-century Christian teacher Irenaeus explained this verse in Against Heresies:

No one can know the Father apart from God’s Word, that is, unless the Son reveals him, and no one can know the Son unless the Father so wills. Now the Son fulfills the Father’s good pleasure: the Father sends, the Son is sent, and he comes. The Father is beyond our sight and comprehension; but he is known by his Word, who tells us of him who surpasses all telling.

In turn, the Father alone has knowledge of his Word. And the Lord has revealed both truths. Therefore, the Son reveals the knowledge of the Father by his revelation of himself. Knowledge of the Father consists in the self-revelation of the Son, for all is revealed through the Word.

This means that no one can know God unless and until God reveals himself. And he has chosen to reveal himself through Jesus. The word reveal comes from the Greek word apokalupto meaning to take off the cover—to disclose or reveal. It is the opposite of kalupto, which means to cover up; hide.

The Old Testament speaks of the Shekinah glory of God, present within the innermost part of the Tabernacle behind the veil. No one was allowed beyond that veil except the high priest, and then only once a year. For most of the time, God remained hidden behind the veil. So when Jesus said he had come to reveal the Father, his followers were understandably intrigued.

When Philip asked Jesus to show the disciples the Father, Jesus replied: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9).

God sent his Son to “pull back the covers” and reveal who he is through his Son. We must be careful not to let preconceptions of what God is like determine our thinking and behavior toward God. Only Jesus has perfect and complete knowledge of God. And he shares that knowledge with us.

Through the life and ministry of Jesus, we get the best look at what God is like this side of our resurrection in glory. Jesus alone is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He alone brings “insider knowledge” of the whole of God as the eternal Son of God. He alone is God’s self-revelation in time and space, flesh and blood. In Jesus, God has come to us in person, meeting us face-to-face so that we may know him truly and personally.

Jesus shared himself and what he knew with his disciples, whom he called his friends. And he commissioned them, and those who follow them, to go into the world and make that knowledge known—not through books and programs offering esoteric, “hidden knowledge” or esoteric, private experiences. And certainly not through a complex web of philosophical arguments and counter-arguments.

Jesus told his followers that they could come to know God through relationships, including relationships with each other and with those outside the Christian community. He said that the clearest sign that would point others to him would be the love that his followers have for each other—a love reflecting God’s own love for all people.

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach


I have to say that the more one studies the Gospels, the more astonishing Jesus becomes.

When Luke describes Jesus’ ministry people were in awe, amazed, astonished and were given to rejoice and praise God.

A while back in Bible Study I was asked if I was looking forward to meeting God after death. I remembered Paul’s response.

2 Timothy 4:8

 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

It seems an obvious sort of question, except when you realize that hidden in Christianity is a great doubt about the real character and personality of the Father and how he judges us. Is the Father really like Jesus? Is there something hidden we don’t know about?

Though people seem to forget at times that all judgment has been handed over to the Son.

It affects how we approach death – do we feel safe in our Father’s arms, already having crossed from death to life. Jesus wanted us to have this type of peace.

But our lives are not always just a peaceful, tranquil existence filled with certainty, able to answer all the questions about our fragile lives with the unexpected suffering and even disappointments.

Our growing to know God may require periods of struggle, doubt which we will see in the sermon has occurred for many in the OT and in the church down through the centuries.

Joe Tkach wrote:

Though the Trinity doctrine doesn’t answer all questions about God’s nature, it helps us focus on who God is without wandering away from sound doctrine.

One metaphor says Jesus and the Spirit are God the Father’s two arms embracing us in this world.

Another insight is to say that Jesus is the centre who leads us to the Father and from the Father sends forth the Holy Spirit.

However way we describe the relationship is inadequate in explaining how the Holy God is fully involved with our life.

Sometimes we are best just to worship as we hear in this C of England hymn from 1826.

Holy, Holy, Holy: to watch please click here.

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Message for the Day

Ascension

June 4th, 2013
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Psalm 24

 Reader:

 1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it;

2 for he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the waters.

 Question:

 3 Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?

Who may stand in his holy place?

 Answer:

4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who does not lift up his soul to an idol

or swear by what is false.

5 He will receive blessing from the Lord

and vindication from God his Savior.

6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,

who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Selah

 Reader:

7 Lift up your heads, O you gates;

be lifted up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

 Question:

8 Who is this King of glory?

 Answer:

The Lord strong and mighty,

the Lord mighty in battle.

 Reader:

9 Lift up your heads, O you gates;

lift them up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

 Question:

10 Who is he, this King of glory?

 Answer:

The Lord Almighty—

he is the King of glory. Selah

 To hear this performed click here

Read more…

Message for the Day

The all sufficiency of Christ

March 22nd, 2013
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Scripture Reading Psalm 22 http://vimeo.com/3162287

 Robin Parry: Lament and the Role of Israel in Salvation History

http://www.gci.org/YI082

 Dr. Robin Parry is Theological Books editor for Wipf and Stock Publishers, and author of

__Worshipping Trinity: Coming Back to the Heart of Worship,

__Old Testament Story and Christian Ethics, and

__Lamentations.

 J. Michael Feazell: We’ve been talking about lament in Scripture and about when Jesus was on the cross and he declares, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Many times people look at that and they see the despair included, but doesn’t that imply the entire Psalm from which it comes, with its conclusion that resolves a sense of despair?

 Robin Parry: Absolutely. Oftentimes when in the New Testament someone will quote from the Old Testament, they might just quote a verse or even a phrase, but they call to mind… the hearers will know the Scriptures; they were immersed in the Scriptures, and the hearers will call to mind the whole context, the whole story, the whole Psalm or whatever. So when Jesus says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we need to remember that Jesus would have been well aware of how the Psalm ended, and the Psalm ends with deliverance.

 The book of Hebrews in chapter 2 quotes from the salvation part of the Psalm and applies that to Jesus. In the early church, the Christ-followers saw it as very appropriate to take the second part of the Psalm as applying to Christ and the resurrection, and Christ as the one who praises God in the congregation.

 But we need to be careful not to collapse or to somehow downgrade the despair or the lament of Christ on the cross as if he knew it was going to come out all happy in the end anyway, so he wasn’t really lamenting. Christ isn’t just putting on a show. He isn’t feigning lament. He really is suffering in our humanity, he really is lamenting on our behalf. He is expressing precisely how he feels. It’s the positive part. In Mark and Matthew, this “why have you forsaken me?” thing comes right near the end. This is something that’s been building up through the whole experience on Calvary. It comes out near the end, “why have you forsaken me?” It’s not just a passing thing and then he gets over it.

 We need to beware of somehow collapsing the hope and the despair together — so he’s despairing, but actually he’s happy. He’s lamenting, so we need to take that utterly seriously, but also to recognize that Jesus has not given up on God. He says, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” This is lament within a relationship with God where he knows… for the joy set before him, as it says in Hebrews, he endured the shame of the cross.

 This is an important tension to hold onto, that we have cross and resurrection. Alan Lewis does this wonderful thing on the theology of Holy Saturday where he says, Holy Saturday is situated between cross and resurrection. In a way, it holds them apart, and it holds them together. On the one hand, Holy Saturday means we can’t have the cross without the resurrection, or the resurrection without the cross. We have to have the two, we have to hold them together, but we don’t want to collapse them into some smudge. So it gives them a bit of distance between the two. We need to hear them, he says, in stereo.

 On the one hand, we need to hear the cross almost as it would have sounded, as it would have felt, without looking back in retrospect from the perspective of the resurrection. But on the other hand, if that’s all you do, that can’t be a Christian way of looking at the cross. At the same time, you have to hear the cross through the resurrection, seen from that perspective.

 This is very instructive for how we should understand lament and lament within the Christian life. On the one hand there’s a space for lament and we don’t want to collapse lament and salvation together, so that the lament isn’t really lament. We need to give it space to be itself. But it never has the last word. In a biblical theology, it never has the last word. We are a people who believe in the cross and the resurrection. If you let lament have the last word, it’s like saying, “Go there, but there’s no empty tomb.”

 If you look at the biblical book of Lamentations, this comes out nicely in that, Lamentations ends with the one voice that they’re desperate to hear. The people in the book of Lamentations, they’re saying, “God, come on, save us, rescue us.” The one voice that does not speak by the end is the one voice they want to hear, which is the voice of God. The book ends (in the canonical form, the form in which God has seen fit to preserve it for us) without the salvation. They’re looking, they’re calling, they’re begging, and it hasn’t come. But the book of Lamentations is also preserved for us in a canonical context, and we can’t read it as if it’s not part of these other Scriptures, which proceed and follow it.

 The book of Isaiah picks up on Lamentations on numerous occasions. In the book of Isaiah we see God’s speaking, God’s solution. Just to give one example of this: in chapter 1 of Lamentations, over and over and over again, we see there’s no one to comfort her. Jerusalem is desolate and there’s no one to stand by her, no one to offer consolation. Isaiah picks this up specifically. Chapter 40 begins, “Comfort, comfort my people says your God.” Over and over again God says, “I am Yahweh, your comforter.”

 On the one hand you need to hear Lamentations to give it space to be itself, because God preserved it in that form and the Bible doesn’t rush in and say, “Oh but don’t… quick, quick, quick, let’s get to the hope, let’s rush to the hope.” It leaves the pain, the breathing space. But it can’t let it stay there, and it wouldn’t be a Christian, it wouldn’t be a Jewish, it wouldn’t be a faithful hearing or recension of Lamentations to hear it just in its canonical form but not in its canonical context. We need to hear it in stereo.

 Lamentations, in a sense, is Israel’s reaction to its exile. It’s looking back to the exile and it’s looking forward to the restoration. It’s a bit like Holy Saturday as we look back to the cross and forward to the resurrection. In some ways, as Christians, we can see Lamentations as the Holy Saturday literature of Israel. It’s a way of trying to look back at what was, and what’s been lost and what’s been destroyed…it’s looking around at the grave, at this destruction that surrounds them, and it’s looking forward to a salvation that is to come but has not yet come.

 Jewish worship does this brilliantly, because every year in the Jewish liturgical cycle, on the ninth of Av, the whole book of Lamentations is recited. On that day in the synagogue, people sit on the floor, there is no celebration, there’s no readings from the Torah, it’s a day of mourning and fasting. The next day it begins with the comfort thing from Isaiah, and it moves forward then, towards the liturgical cycle of Atonement. And so Jewish people have brilliantly captured this insight of saying there’s a time to weep and there’s a time to rejoice, and we need to give space for the two, but we need to realize that the time to weep is situated within a bigger story, and that story doesn’t end with the weeping.

 As Christians, we want to say the reason we have hope…we recognize that there’s a cross, and we recognize that the creation is marked by brokenness, and we recognize that our own lives are often broken, but we know that it can’t end that way. We know that it ends with resurrection, because the tomb is empty. As Stanley Hauerwas says, we can never be hopeless people even if we might despair (maybe despair is the wrong word)…even if we might lament, even if we might feel pain, even if we might cry out. To have an honest and integrated and faithful relationship with God, we need to do that. That’s the appropriate human response on certain occasions, but if it’s a Christian response, it is never hopeless. Read more…

Message for the Day