The Gospel necessarily moves us past a binary way of understanding ourselves and the world: we are simultaneously more sinful than we can imagine, and more loved and accepted than we can hope for.
In an act of cosmic arrogance Adam and Eve committed spiritual treason in the Garden. Having everything was apparently not enough. They wanted to trade places with God. Which brings us to what I think is the greatest mystery of the Christian faith.
Apparently, having everything wasn't enough for the Creator-King either.
On Good Friday God looked down at us with all of our brokenness and pathologies and problems, and decided to enter into a position in which he could say, “yeah, me too." He did this, in order to put us in a position where we can look up at the Risen One in all of his glory and splendor and say, "yeah, me too."
Good Friday is a bookmark in time, a space constructed to re-enact the darkest moment in history. It represents the anticipation of death, of alienation, of our worst fears and the fulfillment of those fears. It serves as a canvas for us to splash our nightmares on, so we can stand back and look at them, realizing they are not as sinister as we believed. Good Friday is about a death that was not a death, a night that did not continue, despair that was not despair. It confronts us with the darkest possible scenario we could face and allows us to see it through to its very end. There, we find Jesus’ body, lifeless and frail, but on the verge of something new and unexpected.
Participating in Good Friday is an act of courage and hope, a step towards a future capable of holding light in darkness, joy in sorrow, and sacred in the profane. Sometimes we discover joy from the same source as our sorrow, and where we anticipate retribution, we receive grace. Sometimes all it takes to be rid of fear is to proceed towards it.
After looking at the Mission of Jesus summarized in Psalm 72, (righteous reign, reconciling communities, ruling forever), we look to Mark 1:14-18 to hear the words of the King that mark all of his ministry—that the Good News of God has come, the Gospel, and we must then repent, believe and follow Jesus in response to this good news. But what does the Good news truly mean for us today? Taking our cues from Jesus’ message that hearken back to Isaiah 40, we understand that the Gospel is good news that we can finally come back home. Behind every desire we have is a desire for love, to be understood, to have life—that life is ultimately bound up with our Creator and Redeemer who gave of Himself on the Cross to make orphans sons and daughters, and to bring prodigals back home. In response to His work to bring us home, “Back to Eden”, we must turn from our ways, believing in His word and follow Him as the disciples did.
We are often focused on praying for ourselves and others, as is good and right as followers of Jesus. Moreover, we are sometimes reminded that Jesus is in Heaven, praying for us before the throne of God. But how often do we take the time to pray for Jesus, our King? Psalm 72 is a “royal psalm” that the people of God would sing to coronate the enthronement of the King of Israel. We believe that Jesus is the Last Son of David, who is our Compassionate King who hears the cry of the needy, broken and marginalized, (Ps. 72:12-14); and because he is good and compassionate we must pray for him to reign in our hearts, communities and the world—that he reign in justice, ruling and reconciling communities, and unto the end of time. Praying for Jesus to reign shapes our hearts to desire what God desires especially when adversity sets in and we need the justice, peace and hope.
We have all sorts of strategies for trying to change and become better humans. Most of the time, that strategy is propelled by the belief that we must be in control, leading us to put our trust in whatever we think we need to keep control. This obsession with control often leads us into anxiety, anger, boredom, or even despair as the things we trust in fail us repeatedly. The experience that stands out from all other experiences, however, is Grace. Grace is grounded in one reality - we are not in control, but we can trust the one who is. Grace as revealed by Jesus is a light that exposes the futility of all our strategies, and leads us to the relief we’ve been searching for all along.
Why did Jesus die? It’s difficult to answer that question unless we acknowledge that there is something wrong in the world that needs fixing. And it is difficult to identify what needs to be fixed without first acknowledging what needs to be fixed in us personally. And it is difficult to face our own pathologies and sickness without some help. Jesus’ death is that help: a raft tossed out to a drowning swimmer, a tether to hold us and keep us from falling. Jesus’ death reveals us to us that we have a substitute - someone who faced our sickness for us, and gave us his health in return.
Every philosophical or theological tome ever written, every political manifesto or ideology all deal with some very basic questions: “am I going to be ok?” Are we going to be ok?” Most answer these questions by offering us examples of how to live and how to be good. We have been given examples of the best prophets, martyrs, activists, and intellectuals to draw from. With the exception of Jesus. In Jesus, God did not claim to send us a prophet or moral example of how to be good - God came himself in order to be good for us. The implications of this action play out much differently than all the others. We no longer base our goodness or hope on our own actions, on the approval of others, on our success or failure, but on the goodness of Jesus on our behalf.
For the last two weeks we have examined the biblical concepts of sin and how we cope with the brokenness we experience in this life. Last Sunday’s message from Psalm 25 provides a framework for how we navigate the brokenness we experience outside of us and within. The “A to Z of Lament” has to do with the David’s acrostic Psalm, (each verse of Psalm 25 begins sequentially with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet), which provides a model for how we spiritually cope with the darkness of our souls and the brokenness outside of us. As you read, listen and pray this week, ask the Lord to help you bring your pains, sins, and sorrows to Him, because—as David learned—God is a loving Father full of mercy and faithful love towards us.
"Recent events and challenges in the life of our nation and city remind us that the world is not always a place of peace and wholeness--but of strife and brokenness. As we continue in Keller's "Gospel Christianity" we look at the question "What is Wrong With Us?"--an examination of the biblical notion of "sin" and fracture in the world. This week's message deviates from Keller's study a little bit to look at the Bible's conception of sin from a cosmic perspective. In Romans 8:18-28, Paul teaches that sin has caused all of Creation to "groan", as well as every believer in Christ, because of the brokenness of sin. Yet the hope the passage and for us today is that we do not "groan alone", but that God also groans with us by His Spirit, helping us to pray and to not lose heart."
There is a lot of value in returning to the most basic questions of life again and again. Asking these questions assumes that we have not yet mastered the answers. It helps free us from dogmatism and the past beliefs we have held that might have been unhealthy or oppressive. If we ask them honestly, we may even change our minds. One of these questions that I often return to is “Who is God?” I most recently asked this question again through the lens of Jesus’ prayer in John 17, and, as expected, I was surprised by what I found...
Gospel frees us from fear. In our second sermon of our series "What is the Gospel", we return back to Galatians 2:11-21, where we see how the Cross of Christ frees us from the mindset of performance, (either to the religion or irreligion as Tim Keller mentions in our study), and frees us fundamentally from the fears that work to fracture our faith and fellowship with others. As you listen to the message and/or revisit the study, pray that the Lord will help you see how Jesus' person and work frees us from fear.?
I have been reflecting lately on the words of Jesus: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
The teachings of Jesus have always been difficult for me - cryptic, strange, and sometimes offensive. These words especially bother me, but for some reason, I haven’t been able to shake them from my mind recently. I cannot help but ask, “what possible good can come out of praying for the people who have caused me pain?” What does that even look like?
After much heartache and in the midst of our lowest point, God keeps His Word and enables us to continue believing. Eve provides a wonderfully resilient picture of what it looks like to continue trusting in the Promise of Christmas, when all reason should point us to disillusionment and alienation from the God.