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Seven Lessons for Suffering Saints (a study of Hebrews): Part 1

We’ve been going through the Letter to the Hebrews in our church — and I get to preach the final message this coming Sunday. Three passages deal specifically with the issue of suffering and persecution: Hebrews 2, 10, and 12. Very clear principles jump out at me as I look at these three texts.

The first is simply this: Principle #1- The Lord Jesus suffered the worst life can bring — DEATH! (2:9). How dare I ever feel that Jesus can’t understand my suffering?

Screenshot 2015-12-11 05.49.35I find this principle in Hebrews 2:9 “But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”  The Second Person of the Divine Trinity, the Lord Jesus, “suffered death.”  Biblical Christianity teaches that the only way that God could save man was for man’s sins to be paid for by the God-man Jesus.  And that’s exactly what He did for us!

Think about it:  The Triune God always enjoyed a loving relationship with each other throughout eternity.  And then God created man.  Man rebelled against God, falling into sin.  Man then owed God a debt that he (man) could never repay.  Only God Himself could pay that debt.  But God didn’t owe the debt.  The Son of God volunteered to become man so that He could die for man’s sins (God can’t die).  That’s the price God was willing to pay to redeem me — and you.  He came to  “taste death for everyone.”

If the Son of God loved you and me enough to become fully human so that He could die, then He can understand any experience we go through in life, including DEATH!

Dorothy Sayers, (1893-1957) one of the most prolific and influential British Christian intellectuals Screenshot 2015-12-11 05.47.00of the twentieth century, said the following about the Lord Jesus:  “What think ye of Christ? Before we adopt any of the unofficial solutions (some of which are indeed excessively dull)—before we dismiss Christ as a myth, an idealist demagogue, a liar, or a lunatic—it will do no harm to find out what the creeds really say about him. What does the Church think of Christ?  The Church’s answer is categorical and uncompromising and it is this: That Jesus Bar-Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, was in fact and in truth, and in the most exact and literal sense of the words, the God “by whom all things were made.” His body and brain were those of a common man; his personality was the personality of God, so far as that personality could be expressed in human terms. He was not a kind of demon pretending to be human; he was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be “like God”; he was God.
 
Now, this is not just a pious commonplace; it is not commonplace at all. For what it means is this, among other things: that, for whatever reason, God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—he [God] had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace, and thought it was worthwhile.”
Your thoughts?
 
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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in the book of Hebrews

 

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Time for a Great Quote! (Dorothy Sayers on Jesus)

“We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 6.20.08 AMpreachers insist too much upon doctrine — ‘dull dogma,’ as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man — and the dogma is the drama. . . . This is the dogma we find so dull — this terrifying drama which God is the victim and the hero. If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore — on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certifying Him ‘meek and mild,’ and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.” (Dorothy Sayers)

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2015 in doctrine

 

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An Approach to Doing Theology (Part 8)

We’ve been discussing EIGHT STEPS to a strong theological method, developed by my friend, Dr. Bob Ferris.  This is our LAST INSTALLMENT on this topic — so cheer up!  We’ll tackle other topics after this entry!

I am thoroughly enjoying the course I am teaching this semester at Columbia International University Seminary and School of Ministry (we have to wear XXL shirts to get all our embroidered logo on!).  The course, “Theological Methods and Issues,” is providing a great opportunity for my high-quality students to do in-depth research on a wide variety of topics.

Today we heard papers on the topics of the Great Commission, Spiritual Growth, and the Christian’s Response to Birth Control!

In our previous blogs, we’ve noticed the following seven steps in a strong theological method:

 is STATING THE TOPIC. We are to clearly identify the underlying issue, then state the topic which we are addressing.

STEP #2 involves FRAMING THE QUESTION which leads to a process of inquiry.

The THIRD STEP in our THEOLOGICAL METHOD is IDENTIFYING THE IMPORTANCE.

The FOURTH STEP in our THEOLOGICAL METHOD is SURVEYING THE HISTORICAL OPTIONS.  Because the Holy Spirit too has a history, we can benefit from the work of theologians of past generations.

The FIFTH STEP in our theological method involves EXAMINING THE BIBLICAL DATA.  If “doing theology” does not fundamentally rest on examining the Scriptures carefully, then we are only engaged in human speculation and conjecture.  And there is enough of that already!

Our SIXTH STEP involves FORMULATING AN EVANGELICAL POSITION.  This basically means that we will go beyond mere biblical exegesis in order to grasp the whole counsel of God on the topic at hand.

The SEVENTH STEP in our theological method is CONFRONTING SPECIAL PROBLEMS.This step is where we ask if there are cultural or cultic challenges to the Evangelical position which we must address.  We need to be aware of not only our own culture, but also the culture to which we are ministering.  For example, a research paper on “The Biblical Picture of Marriage” would need to take into account cultural views in an African context (if the paper is meant for that particular audience).  Historical and contemporary heresies are “special problems,” for heresy is often described as “a new, fresh look at the Bible!”

Our final step is COMMUNICATING THE TRUTH IN CULTURAL CONTEXT.The fact is that the theologian’s task is not just understanding, but obedience.  Jesus said in John 7:17- “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”  There is a direct connection between choosing to do God’s will and understanding truth!

Dorothy Sayers once said, “It is not true at all that dogma is hopelessly irrelevant to the life and thought of the average man.  What is true is that ministers of the Christian religion often assert that it is, present it for consideration as though it were, and, in fact, by their faulty exposition of it make it so.”

What difference does this doctrine or this theological truth make?  Here the theologian needs some insight into human nature so that he or she can communicate the ethical ramifications of the truth discovered.

As the following cartoon illustrates, we are not to cave into our contemporary cultural worldview, adapting God’s Word to men.  We are to adapt men to God’s Word!

Questions:

1.  What theological topic would you like to tackle, seeking to implement these eight steps?

2.  How can I be of help to you in that process?

 

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A HATED Message from the Bible!

I can understand people viscerally reacting to what the Bible says.  I can’t understand people who smile and merely pretend to believe it.

Seeking to win lost people to Christ is good for me.  It causes me to examine my own heart, to see if I really believe what I say I believe, to come to terms with the difference between my opinion and what the Bible really says.

Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”  The Hebrew words rendered fool in the book of Psalms denote one who is morally deficient.  Morally deficient.  That’s a nice way of saying my works aren’t good enough.  My sacrifices aren’t good enough.  And that’s just flat-out offensive!

This kind of in-your-face honesty from the Bible is irritating to many.

We want a giant set of scales to weigh our good works from our bad works.  We think we’ll come out on top.  Bad thinking.

If the standard is other people, we might be ahead of some, but certainly behind others.  But what if the standard is a thoroughly holy, perfectly righteous Creator of the universe who is allergic to sin?

And that’s where the unique, but highly offensive message of the Cross comes in.  Christianity teaches that we needed someone who was perfect to take our place and bear our punishment so God could righteously forgive us.  It involved a cruel Roman cross which led to a horrific way to die (crucifixion) and a deep, deep truth that God’s Son became the sin sacrifice for us.  For me.  For you.

Dorothy Sayers put it this way:  “It is the dogma that is the drama–not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving-kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death–but the terrifying assertion that the same God Who made the world lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe.”  Have you believed this message?

Discussion Question: Why are Christians surprised when those who do not yet believe get mad at the Christian message?

 

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