Still in school: Learning from a book about failures

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” — John 8:31-33

There is a tendency for me not to get it. And not only to I not get it, I do what I don’t want to do again and again. That is why I am encouraged when I take up the Bible and read it. Why? Because over and over I see people who fail miserably yet are able, with God’s help, to come back to God. I agree with Scotty Smith, who prays “As you dealt with Peter, so deal with me. Give me all the life-giving rebukes I need to keep me living in gospel-sanity.”

We have not graduated from the gospel. We need it each day. The hard lessons are a good thing for me. I am glad for the imperfect people of the Bible who are there to show me that only God can make me what I need to be, what I hope to be.

Scotty’s prayer is a great one. Read it all and let it soak it.

Getting a grip on how much we’re not worth it: You’re looking the wrong way.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:7-8

The other day I saw a portion of a new book by D.A. Carson called “Scandalous.” In it, he says “Those who draw really close to Jesus think of themselves, first and foremost, as those loved by him rather than those who profess their love for him.” He is talking about the instances in the New Testament where writers described themselves as being loved by Jesus. The point is is that the attention is focused not on them and their efforts but on Christ and what he has done. This is a good thing to think about because we — me, you, all of us — have a tendancy to inflate our self-worth when talking about our salvation.

But, if that’s the case, then how do we read and understand the verse above? When it says God loved us “while we were yet sinners” it doesn’t mean that we were especially valuable. Rather, it points to the depth of his grace and love. We have a tendancy to get it backwards because we are so intent on protecting our self esteem. In Fifty Ways Jesus Came To Die, John Piper addresses this kind of thinking:

I have heard it said, “God didn’t die for frogs. So he was responding to our value as humans.” This turns grace on its head. We are worse off than frogs. They have not sinned. They have not rebelled and treated God with the contempt of being inconsequential in their lives. God did not have to die for frogs. They aren’t bad enough. We are. Our debt is so great, only a divine sacrifice could pay it.

There is only one explanation for God’s sacrifice for us. It is not us. It is “the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). It is all free. It is not a response to our worth. It is the overflow of his infinite worth. In fact, that is what divine love is in the end: a passion to enthrall undeserving sinners, at great cost, with what will make us supremely happy forever, namely, his infinite beauty. 

Christ’s death on the cross is a magnificent event. We should all look at it and marvel. But if we come away thinking it’s a lesson about our worth, then we’ve tragically missed the point.

The beautiful and perfect obedience of Christ

who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began. — 2 Timothy 1:9

A truly amazing part of the death of Jesus Christ was that it was done willingly, out of perfect obedience to His Father. Returning once again to Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die, we see John Piper put it this way (my emphasis):

Jesus did not wrestle his angry Father to the floor of heaven and take the whip out of his hand. He did not force him to be mer- ciful to humanity. His death was not the begrudging consent of God to be lenient to sinners. No, what Jesus did when he suffered and died was the Father’s idea. It was a breathtaking strategy, conceived even before creation, as God saw and planned the history of the world. That is why the Bible speaks of God’s “purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9).

The idea that God had planned for the death of Jesus to satisfy justice before any history took place is astounding and shows God’s great love. As we have talked about, it is a high standard that God sets, but it is an equally great love He shows in providing a way for us who fall way short of that standard. The fact that it says in Ephesians 5:2 that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” shows that not only was the death of Jesus a willing act of love, but that it pleased His Father at the same time.

We have been saved not by some begrudging arm twisting, but by a beautiful act of obedience. It is well worth our time to consider this and worship the one who has not only planned this by done it for us out of love.

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. — the words of Jesus in John 10:17-18

Does Revelation scare you? Does Jesus?

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is  The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

— Revelation 19:11-16

Could you please assure me that the Jesus that I meet in Revelation matches with the Jesus in the Gospels? He seems harsher.

That was the question addressed to Pastor John Piper recently. After all, the passage above is quite different than Luke 19, where we see Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey while people throw palm branches and shout Hosanna. So, the question is important, especially as we are in this important season when we think about Jesus’ life and what it means. Watch below as Pastor John, in effect, explains that Jesus is both to be loved and feared, depending on where your heart is.

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