Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Jesus’ Baptism Shows Us To Distinguish The Trinty

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

God has always existed as the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While God is one, and the three persons are therefore inseparable, we must distinguish them, as Matthew’s report of Jesus’ baptism illustrates.

Jesus travels from his home province of Galilee to Judea to receive John’s baptism in the Jordan River. John balks at first, insisting he needs Jesus to baptize him. John protests because while he baptizes with water, he knows that Jesus the Messiah “will baptize . . . with the Holy Spirit and fire,” referring to Pentecost (v. 11). However, Jesus convinces John to baptize him, declaring, “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15). John then baptizes Jesus with water, even though Jesus has no sin and does not need to repent, unlike everyone else John baptizes. Jesus submits to baptism to identify with sinners, whom he came to rescue through his sinless life and substitutionary death.

After Jesus’ baptism, he comes out of the water, heaven opens before him, and he sees the “Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him” (v. 16). The invisible Holy Spirit takes on a visible form so John can witness the Father anoint his Son with the Spirit as Israel’s king and Messiah. Next the Father announces from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (v. 17). From all eternity the Father and Son have loved each other (John 17:24); now the Father proclaims his love for his Son from heaven to encourage him.

The Father’s words identify Jesus as both messianic King and humble servant who obeys the Father. While both Testaments insist there is only one living and true God, Jesus’ baptism shows we should distinguish the three divine persons: Jesus is baptized, the Father speaks from heaven, and the Spirit descends on Jesus.

We worship the one true God when we come to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. All three persons are worthy of worship, trust, and obedience, for they constitute the one God.

Adapted from the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible

Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Review: Unimaginable: What Our World Would Be Like Without Christianity by Jeremiah J. Johnston

Growing up, one of the most interesting comic books that I read was the "What If...?" series from Marvel. What this series was about was taking a popular story in Marvel Comics and ask what would happen if this situation happen such instead of the original outcome. It was an interesting take on how certain stories in Marvel might have happened if some their famous stories ended differently.

Jeremiah J. Johnston does his own version of "What If...?" with Christianity in his book, Unimaginable: What Our World Would Be Like Without Christianity. Johnston serves as president of the Christian Thinkers Society and is a professor at Houston Baptist University. In this book, Johnston takes a look at what would happen if Christianity never had the impact it did on the world.

The beginning of the book discusses what the world was before Christianity. A world full of suffering and fear. As I read these chapters, it was a very historical approach to the world before Christ came. The next part of the book deals with the "What If...?" factor. What would the world look like if Christianity never happened. How people would still be in slavery, not just in their sin, but physical slavery. The world would be more influenced with the thinking of men like Adolf Hitler and more.

The final chapters of the book deal look what impact Christianity has made in the world. Jesus came so that we may the abundant life that God has blessed those who are called Children of God. Christians have made a significant impact in their world around them and have even stopped some of the great injustices of our world.

As I read this book, there were some parts I liked and others I was asking myself, "where is he going with this?" I felt there was a lot of jargon and not a lot of depth into a book that looked at what would happen if Christianity never came into the world.

Thanks Bethany House for allowing me to review this book.

Music Monday: Exiles from Seeker & Servant

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Christ's Suffering Is Different From Our Suffering

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

After encouraging his readers to suffer for doing good, Peter returns to Christ's suffering" "Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God." When Jesus calls us to suffer, he understands because he also suffered, and Peter therefore implies that Christ is our example in suffering (he states explicitly in 1 Peter 2:21).

But, more importantly, Christ's suffering is unique. First, his suffering is "once" for all time: no other sacrifices for sin are needed. Second, the most significant difference between Christians' suffering and Christ's is that is his is atoning: "Christ also suffered once for sins." Peter elaborated, "the righteous for the unrighteous." Jesus died for sinners, in this place. His death was substitutionary and is the basis upon which people become right with God. Third, because Christ's once-for-all suffering is redemptive, it brings "us to God."

Christ as Mediator of the new covenant, died in order to bridge the gulf between God and humanity. His was a redemptive death for us who were far away from God, bringing us to him.

Adapted from the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Can We Enjoy This Life?

The Bible says, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15) and if anyone loves the world, they hate God (James 4:4). Does that mean we cannot enjoy things in this life such as books, movies, sports etc? Remember when the Bible mentions the world it either means the planet such as the case with John 3:16. It can also mean the world system that is against God.

We are citizens of heaven (Philippians 1:27) that is true, but that does not mean we stop from enjoying the life God has given us here while we live on earth. The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote:

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? (Ecclesiastes 2:24–25)

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19).

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:9).

The first verse says there is nothing better than to eat, drink, and even find joy in his work. Yes, work is good. It is only hard because of the Fall. The second verse almost the same thing as if the writer is echoing what he said previously. He even adds enjoying wealth and possessions. Many think both of those are bad. They only become sin when we take more pleasure in them than God. The last verse says for men to enjoy their wives that God has given them. This also applies to women to enjoy their husbands.

James 1:17 says that every good and perfect gift comes from above. We are give thanks to God and enjoy what he has given us in this life. We can enjoy new technologies, movies, books, cars, and even when our favorite teams win. All of this is from God.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Justified In Christ, Not Our Efforts

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Galatians 2:16).

We are justified through faith in Christ, not through our own efforts. We shouldn’t let anyone confuse us by saying that faith justifies people only when love and good works are added to it. If people hear that they must believe in Christ and that faith alone doesn’t justify unless love is added to it, they immediately fall from faith and think, “If faith without love doesn’t justify, then faith is empty and useless. Love alone justifies. For if faith is not formed and enhanced by love, then it’s nothing.”

In order to prove their damaging comments, my opponents point to 1 Corinthians 13:1–2: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, . . . I am nothing.” They think these verses are an impenetrable wall. But they don’t understand Paul’s teachings. We should avoid these comments as if they were poison from hell. Instead, we should conclude with Paul that we are justified by faith alone, not through faith formed by love. So we shouldn’t attribute the power of justification to something formed in us that makes us pleasing to God. We must attribute it to faith, which takes hold of Christ the Savior and keeps him in our hearts. This faith justifies us apart from love and prior to love.

We concede that we must also teach about good works and love. But we only teach these at the proper time and place—when the question deals with how we should live, not how we are justified. The question here is this: How do we become justified and receive eternal life? We answer with Paul that we are pronounced righteous through faith in Christ alone, not by our own efforts.

Adapted from Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional by Martin Luther

Music Monday: Quiet Hymns from Matthew Smith

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

How We Can Feed On The Word In 2018

Many are starting new Bible reading plans this year while others are struggling with how to really feed on the Word. Some Christians are not attending a church where Bible reading is encouraged. Others want many different ways to engage the Bible, but they just don't know how.

Brian G Hedges has 15 suggestions on how we can feed on the word:

1. Read through the Bible in a year.

2. Journal through a book of the Bible.

3. Read through a book of the Bible with the help of a study bible or commentary.

4. Read through one book of the Bible every day for a month.

5. Read through a genre of Scripture in search of a particular theme.

6. Read the Bible before meals.

7. Mark up your Bible.

8. Use a journaling Bible.

9. Write out a full book of the Bible in a journal.

10. Memorize Scripture.

11. Read a daily devotional.

12. Read a children’s Bible Storybook.

13. Watch the Bible.

14. Listen to the Bible on your smartphone.

15. Listen to expositional preaching on the Bible.

Read the entire post here.

Around The Web-January 3, 2018

Doctrine and Devotion talk about Biblical Theology

Keep Technology in Its Proper Place in 2018 by Andy Crouch

Does Jeremiah 29:11 Apply to You? by Russell Moore

Things I Wish I’d Known: Reflections on 40 Years in Ministry by Steve Timmis

Albert Mohler on the B.A.R. Podcast about the Briefing

Stop Complicating Discipleship by Josh Buice

4 Christian Principles for Making New Year’s Resolutions by Burk Parsons

Back in November, John Piper was in Houston, TX where he did a Q&A at Champion Forest Baptist Church, where he preached on one Sunday morning.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Spurgeon on The Prayer of Jabez

As mentioned on an episode of When We Understand The Text, before Bruce Wilkinson wrote his bestselling book, the prayer of Jabez was preached by Charles Spurgeon. He preached it faithfully and does leave you wondering if God will hear your prayers if it not worded in the way Jabez did it. This is the sermon Spurgeon preached on the prayer of Jabez:

“Oh, that you would bless me!”

[1 Chronicles 4:10]

We know very little about Jabez, except that he was more honorable than his brothers, and that he was called Jabez because his mother bore him with sorrow. It will sometimes happen that where there is the most sorrow in the experience, there will be the most pleasure in the outcome. Just as the angry storm gives way to the clear sunshine, so the night of weeping precedes the morning of joy. Sorrow is the messenger; gladness is the prince it ushers in. Cowper says: -

“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the place where sorrow is unknown.”

To a great extent we find that we must sow in tears before we can reap in joy. Many of our works for Christ have cost us tears. Difficulties and disappointments have wrung our soul with anguish. Yet those tasks that have cost us more than ordinary sorrow, have often turned out to be the most honorable of our undertakings. While our grief called the offspring of desire “Benoni,” the son of my sorrow, our faith has afterwards been able to give it a name of delight, “Benjamin,” the son of my right hand. You may expect a blessing in serving God if you are enabled to persevere under many discouragements. The ship often takes a long time coming home, because she has been detained enroute onloading an excess of cargo. Expect her freight to be all the more the better when she reaches the port.

More honorable than his brothers was the child whom his mother bore with sorrow. As for this Jabez, whose aim was so well directed, his fame so well known, his name forever preserved - he was above all, a man of prayer. The honor he enjoyed would not have been worth having if it had not been vigorously contested and justifiably won. His devotion was the key to his promotion. The best honors are those that come from God: the award of grace with the acknowledgment of service. When Jacob was given the name Israel, he received his rank and jurisdiction after a memorable night of prayer. Surely it was far more honorable to him than if it had been bestowed upon him as a flattering distinction by some earthly emperor. The best honor is that which a man gains in communion with the Most High. Jabez, we are told, was more honorable than his brothers, and his prayer is immediately recorded, as if to insinuate that he was also more prayerful than his brothers. We are told of the petitions in his prayer. All through the prayer it was very significant and instructive. We have only time to take one part of it - indeed, that one part may be said to comprehend the rest: “Oh, that you would bless me!” I recommend it as a prayer for each one of you, dear brothers and sisters; one which will be available at all times; a prayer to begin Christian life with, a prayer to end it with, a prayer which would always be appropriate in your joys or in your sorrows.

Oh that you, the God of Israel, the covenant God, would bless me!

The very substance of the prayer seems to lie in the intensity of the request. There are many varieties of blessing. Some are blessings in name only: they satisfy our wishes for the moment, but permanently disappoint our expectations. They delight the eye, but are dull in the taste. Others are mere temporary blessings: they perish as they are used. Though for awhile they delight the senses, they cannot satisfy the higher cravings of the soul. But, “Oh, that you would bless me!” I know that whoever God blesses shall be blessed. The good thing in the blessing is bestowed with the goodwill of the giver, and shall produce so much good fortune to the recipient that it may well be esteemed as a great blessing, for there is nothing comparable to it. Let the grace of God prompt it, let the choice of God appoint it, let the bounty of God confer it, and then the endowment shall be something very godlike; something worthy of the lips that pronounce the blessing, and truly to be desired by every one who seeks honor that is substantial and enduring. “Oh, that you would bless me!” Think it over, and you will see that there is a depth of meaning in the expression.

We may set this in contrast with human blessings: “Oh, that you would bless me!”

It is very pleasant to be blessed by our parents, and those respected friends whose blessings come from their hearts, and are backed up by their prayers. Many a poor man has had no other legacy to leave his children except his blessing, but the blessing of an honest, holy, Christian father is a rich treasure to his son. One might feel it would be a thing to be deplored through life if he had lost a parent’s blessing. We like to have it. The blessing of our spiritual parents is comforting. Though we do not believe in the blessings given by a Roman Catholic Priest, we do like to live in the love of those who were the means of bringing us to Christ, and from whose lips we were instructed in the things of God. And how very precious is the blessing of the poor! I am not surprised that Job treasured that up as a sweet thing. He said, “Whoever heard me spoke well of me.” If you have comforted the widow and the fatherless, and their thanks are returned to you in the form of a blessing, then it is a great reward. But, dear friends, even after all that parents, relatives, saints, and grateful persons can do in the way of blessing, it all falls far short of what we desire to have. O Lord, we want to have the blessings of our fellow-creatures, the blessings that come from their hearts; but, “Oh, that you would bless us!” for only you can bless with authority. Their blessings may be nothing but words, but yours are powerful and effective. They may often wish to do what they cannot do, and desire to give what they do not have at their own disposal, but your will is omnipotent. You created the world with only a word. O that such omnipotence would now give to me your blessing! Other blessings may bring us some small amount of joy, but in yours is life. Other blessings are mere specks in comparison with your blessing; for your blessing is the title “to an unfading eternal inheritance,” to “a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” David prayed, “With your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”

You can read the entire sermon here.