Why the obedience of Jesus matters for us

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. — Hebrews 5:8

Obedience gets a bad rap in some corners in this age. After all, if you are an assertive, goal-oriented person in the Western World, obedience is not one of the virtues that ranks high on your list. A quick search with Google of news stories about obedience brings up warnings to avoid “blind obedience” when it comes to the president or else a series of stories regarding pets.

Yet, when we look at Jesus and his death, we are told in verses like the one above that he learned obedience through his sufferings. Does that mean he had to learn to stop disobeying? No, because the Bible again and again teaches that he was sinless. In I Peter 2:22 it says Jesus “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” He wasn’t getting rid of some imperfections. Instead, Hebrews 2:10 gives some insight behind what his sufferings were accomplishing:

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Rather than making Jesus into a more perfect person, God was making Jesus into a more perfect sacrifice for us through the things he suffered. Even though Jesus was perfect and God, he still was human. And we can see that he experienced everything as we do when he lived on earth: hunger (Matthew 21:18) anger and grief (Mark 3:5) and pain (Matthew 17:12). The ESV Study Bible concurs on this view: In saying that Jesus was made perfect, the author is not suggesting that Jesus was sinful  but that as he lived his life, his maturity and experience deepened, yet always with full obedience to the Father. As a human being, he needed to live his life and obey God (which he did perfectly) to become the perfect sacrifice for sins.

In Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die, John Piper puts the perfect obedience of Jesus into perspective:

If the Son of God had gone from incarnation to the cross without a life of temptation and pain to test his righteousness and his love, he would not be a suitable Savior for fallen man. His suffering not only absorbed the wrath of God. It also fulfilled his true humanity and made him able to call us brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:17). (Page 25)

So, we can rejoice in the obedience of Jesus to His Father. Through it, we were not only given a perfect sacrifice for our sins, but we were also given a special closeness to him that goes beyond advocate. He can understand and sympathize with our situation like no one else can.

Pastor Matt Chandler rejoices in God’s goodness in suffering is his own life

If you have never heard of Matt Chandler, he is a man who loves God deeply and has served well as the lead pastor at The Village Church in Highland Park, Texas. On Thanksgiving morning, he suffered a seizure in his home and it was discovered that he had a tumor growing in his brain. This past Friday he underwent surgery as neurosurgeons removed it. This is a message he taped for his congregation before his surgery. Please keep Matt and his wife and three children in your prayers. He loves God deeply and his life points to God’s greatness. Here is his message to his church and for all of us.

This is the update posted Sunday by the elders at The Village: Matt was moved out of ICU on Sunday and continues to get plenty of rest as part of his recovery, per doctor’s orders. Please continue to pray for patience during this recovery time and to honor family-only visitation until further notice.
Pathology results of the tumor are due sometime mid-week, and we will keep you notified whenever possible.

God’s grace in the hurts others do to us

This talk, by Mark Talbot at the 2005 Desiring God National Conference, really ministers to me. Because I am surrounded by fallen, sinful people (like myself), there are numerous times where I have been injured, insulted, violated, offended, shocked, disappointed, slighted, overlooked, disparaged and generally hurt. It’s hard to “get along” sometimes.

The conference theme was Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. Regarding suffering: Why does God allow these kind of things happen? Is is OK to complain to God? Does God make mistakes? How do we think biblically about suffering? These are questions Talbot addresses in his talk.

Mark Talbot
Click on the image to view Mark Talbot's talk from 2005.

Mark Talbot will be speaking again this year at the Desiring God national conference, which is themed With Calvin in the Theater of God.

Are we ready for tough times ahead?

The coddled Western world will sooner or later give way to great affliction. And when it does, whose vision of God will hold? Where are Christians being prepared for great global sorrows? Where is the Christian mind and soul being prepared for the horrors to come? Christians in the West are weakened by wimpy worldviews. And wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians. God is weightless in our lives. He is not terrifyingly magnificent. His sovereignty is secondary (at best) to his sensitivity.

— John Piper, Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of God (13)

We don’t have to imagine as hard these days to envision tough times in our country. But tough economic times aren’t the same as tough times to be a follower of Christ. It is good to turn to Christ for comfort, but some times we need more than just comforting words. We need words of warning. There is evil in this world and it touches every one of our lives. The fact that we live in comfort in our Western world is a providence of God, but we should not look at it as the only way.

In John Piper’s Spectacular Sins, cited above, he examines how evil in our world not only fail to nullify God’s purpose to glorify Christ they — by his providence — succeed in making his purpose come to pass. And through understanding this, we can be strengthened in our own lives in the difficult times that will surely come.

The book is one of many that you download for free as a PDF onto your computer. If you still prefer to hold a book in your hand, you can purchase it here.


My younger brother, who posts at Jedi Blog when he’s not doing his job as a major in the U.S. Army, has written a moving piece about something we can all relate to in some sense. Imagine being in a place that is far from the ones you love, where a good many people hate your guts, where the conditions are hard and you work long hours. Now imagine that the conditions you’ve been adapting to just got worse. Would you complain? Would you feel sorry for yourself? It would be so easy, and my brother makes it clear in his writing that the was definitely the mood. That is, until something changed.

Read here to find out what and then ask yourself if you’ve maybe been feeling sorry for yourself lately.

What purpose does suffering serve?

As a believers in Jesus, we are not immune to suffering in our lives? Because we crave comfort in our lives, this causes confusion? “Why would God do this to me?” is usually the conversation we have in our heads or maybe with others. After all, isn’t God love? What does the Bible, God’s word spoken to us, say about suffering?

Today in my devotions I read Romans 5, where it says:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

This past week, in Sunday school with 6- and 7-year-olds, we were talking about God’s glory and what it means. That is a hard thing to wrap your mind around even as an adult. The way we explained it was like a box of treasure that holds things too wonderful to imagine. So, in thinking about the passage above, the hope of one day seeing God’s glory and what that holds gives us a joyful hope. And that hope is produced through our suffering. In the end, something we dread, suffering as a believer in Christ, produces something that brings us hope and peace in God.

How pain points us to God

Every day, each one of faces pain in our life. There is emotional and spiritual pain, for sure, but there is also physical pain. In my case, the pain is a sore back and joints that bark at me more or less each day, reminding me that my body is aging more each day and that my hope lies in more than this earthly body.

Among the people I know, I see people who I know love and trust God deal with varying degrees of pain. My struggles with my back pale in comparison and I am almost embarrassed to mention my own complaints. It is one thing to live a joyful life in God when you are feeling terrific, but what does it say about God when we are hurting?

Do we hurt because of the Fall? Does God use pain for a reason in our lives? In his review of Pain and Its Transformations, Phillip Yancey explores the wonder of pain in our bodies:

Every square millimeter of the body has a different sensitivity to pain, so that a speck of dirt may cause excruciating pain in the vulnerable eye whereas it would go unreported on the tough extremities. Internal organs such as the bowels and kidneys have no receptors that warn against cutting or burning—dangers they normally do not face—but show exquisite sensitivity to distention.

When organs such as the heart detect danger but lack receptors, they borrow other pain cells (“referred pain”), which is why heart attack victims often report pain in the shoulder or arm. The pain system automatically ramps up hypersensitivity to protect an injured part (explaining why a sore thumb always seems in the way) and turns down the volume in the face of emergencies (soldiers often report no pain from a wound in the course of battle, only afterwards).

Pain serves us subliminally as well: sensors make us blink several times a minute to lubricate our eyes and shift our legs and buttocks to prevent pressure sores. Pain is the most effective language the body can use to draw attention to something important.

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Are you comfortable? Should you be?

Last weekend, Cyclone Nargis raged through Myanmar, causing widespread damage and killing at least 22,000. Twice as many people are missing. Let that sink in. 22,000 people. Gone. And, there are thousands more who have not been found yet. From the Associated Press comes a report from Yangon, Myanmar:

Hungry crowds of survivors stormed the few shops that opened in Myanmar’s stricken Irrawaddy delta, where food and international aid has been scarce since a devastating cyclone killed more than 22,000 people, the U.N. said Wednesday.

Corpses floated in salty flood waters and witnesses said survivors tried desperately to reach dry ground on boats using blankets as sails. The U.N. said some 1 million people were homeless in the Southeast Asian country, also known as Burma.

“Basically the entire lower delta region is under water,” said Richard Horsey, Bangkok-based spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid.

“Teams are talking about bodies floating around in the water,” he said. This is “a major, major disaster we’re dealing with.”

Suffering is all around us. We can’t escape it. But we try hard. After all, I had a good night’s rest, woke up to see my family and live comfortably in a nice house. In my local paper, Myanmar is a place far away, buried on page 8. The message is clear: If it doesn’t happen in my back yard, it is filed way back somewhere in that category of tragedies that happen to people I don’t really know. Besides, we have problems of our own. We aren’t making money as fast as we used to be. It costs more money to put gas in our cars. Our lives are not as comfortable as they could be.

We all are happy to thank God for our blessings. But God did not bless us to live more comfortable lives. We are blessed so that we may bring more glory to His name and show that we live for him and not for our own comfort. Sometimes I need to ask myself, “Would I trust God as much if I didn’t have food, clothing, a house, my health?”

I came across this from John Piper about ways to react to the tragedy in Myanmar. These are all good things to consider. For a great meditation on why God allows suffering of this, or any, magnitude, read this. The point is, we can’t ignore suffering. See it, react and tremble before God.

Here’s one way to help right now: The American Red Cross