From early through mid-twentieth century, Evangelical Christians were derided as intellectual lightweights at best and ignorant fools at worst. They, the Evangelical Christians, insisted on hanging on to impossible-to-believe dogmas such as the Virgin Birth and the bodily resurrection of Christ. Anybody who delved into the supernatural would be laughed off the stage.
Nobody believes that stuff anymore in this “enlightened” age of science. Modern science will, don’t you know, follow where the “facts” lead. Eventually they will take everyone else with them like a mother dragging along her recalcitrant child.
Fast forward to the present day. Consider the actions of New York real estate firms having difficulty moving high end apartments. They routinely hire an “exorcist” to go in to these difficult to move apartments. This person will assess the “vibes,” burn incense and perform whatever necessary incantations to remove the “obstructions” to the apartment being rented.
Isn’t progress wonderful!
“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27, ESV).
It is amazing to me how difficult it is for people to understand why Jesus had to die. When I pose the question a typical answer is, “to show how much he loves us.” I then ask, “What kind of love is it for a father to subject his son to such a cruel death? What kind of love is that?” I’m talking about people who claim to know Christ as Savior. It is not unusual for my questions to be met with silence.
I also ask, could God have accomplished our salvation some other way? After all, he is all powerful and he can do anything. The answer: technically, yes, in actual fact, no. Our resurrected Lord expected the two on the road to Emmaus, who knew the Scriptures, to understand why the Christ should suffer these things.
The actual but elusive answer is, to satisfy divine justice. When God said to Adam about the forbidden tree, “In the day you eat thereof you shall surely die,” the course was set. Adam sinned. He was guilty. “The soul that sins, it shall die.” “The wages of sin is death.” We, who have inherited Adam’s sin nature, are guilty by nature and by choice.
Jesus had to die because justice had to be satisfied. Sin is not excused, the penalty must be paid because God said it and he doesn’t change his mind.
When I encounter Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, or Muslims, I ask, “What can wash away my sin?” You can be sure, in the many and varied responses, there is nothing about the satisfaction of divine justice.
Well, what can wash away my sin? Only the blood of Jesus! Praise God, he was raised for our justification.
For our table devotional reading, we dusted off, Jim Elliot’s, Shadow of the Almighty, a book that I read nearly 50 years ago! I’m amazed at how articulate this twentieth-century martyr was in his early twenties. I share this excerpt. Bob Hall
“Must we always comment on life? Can it not simply be lived in the reality of Christ’s terms of contact with the Father, with joy and peace, fear and love full to the fingertips in their turn, without incessant drawing of lessons and making of rules? I do not know. Only I know that my own life is full. It is time to die, for I have had all that a young man can have, at least all this young man can have. If there were no further issue from my training, it would be well. The training has been good, and to the glory of God. I am ready to meet Jesus. Failure means nothing now, only that it has taught me life. Success is meaningless, only that it gave me farther experience in the great gift of God, Life. And Life, I love thee. Not because thou art long, or because thou hast done great things for me, but simply because I have thee from God.”
A Growing Threat?
On November 19, 2012, the Bronx Household of Faith was once again before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The city is seeking to overturn the injunction handed down from the Federal District Court earlier this year. The opening argument from the New York City Department of Education lawyer was extraordinary! Here is a summary of what she said: “Eighty churches are now renting schools. This is a five-fold increase from 2003!”
I’m struggling for the major premise here but it has to be something to the effect that that is a bad thing. The inference, apparently, is obvious (but not to me): if this trend should continue, New York City is surely on the road to degradation.
Never mind that the injunction under which we and other churches are renting the schools, applies to all religions not just to Christian churches. Never mind the fact that we pay the same rate to use the school facilities as everyone else, meaning that it is not a subsidy. Never mind the fact that Muslims at Nottingham High School, Syracuse, New York, are conducting Friday Prayers at 2:40PM each week, which is nothing less than the weekly Muslim worship service (The Post-Standard, Wednesday, 14 November 2012). Hmmm. I wonder why the reporter said, “More often than not, the service is led by one of their own.” Student led it must be–but apparently it is not always the case. Who else would lead the prayers if not a student–an Imam?
Now, when Christians worship at a time when the building is most likely to be empty, somehow this is a very dangerous trend and it must be nipped in the bud. Something funny’s going on here.
Check out this letter from Redeemer pastor Tim Keller about the issue:http://www.redeemer.com/news_and_events/newsletter/?aid=321
And follow the case here:
Zacchaeus was someone whom nobody liked. He was a collaborator, a person who had enriched himself by having his hand in the pockets of his fellow countrymen. To befriend him in table fellowship was to be in league with an enemy of God. Who would dare risk reputation for the slightest nod towards him? But Jesus did.
Zacchaeus sought out Jesus–but actually it was Jesus who was seeking Zacchaeus. In Jesus’ own words, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Something extraordinary happened after Jesus went to his home for dinner. Zacchaeus went into his house a son of Abraham by circumcision and came out a true son of Abraham by circumcision of the heart.
I have often wished for the details of the exchange between the two, but no. The Holy Spirit has given us just the right amount of information. There is no doubt in my mind that the experience of having the sovereign Lord of the universe as a dinner-guest was forever etched in his memory. That is not the point to be made here. He had obviously embraced our Lord as the long-awaited Messiah. The result was a changed life. That is always the effect of true saving faith.
The story presents Zacchaeus as “getting it.” He would make restitution where he had defrauded people. Here is a beautiful, unfettered picture of the Gospel. Jesus sought Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus repented and believed. The effect of his faith brought forth the fruit of repentance.