Monthly Archives: August 2009

Jesus Breaks the Glass Ceiling For Women

Glass ceiling defined is a barrier based on prejudicial attitudes that prevent qualified individuals, especially minorities, from advancing in society.

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

John 4:10 (NJJV)

Over the last several weeks, I have been preaching a series of sermons entitled, “Jesus and the Women.” Sunday, August, 23rd, was my last message in this series and I spoke from John 4: The Samaritan Woman. I named that message, “Jesus Breaks the Glass Ceiling for Women.” My sermon is now available at the Lamb of God Charismatic Episcopal Church website. Soon, we will have all the messages from this series available for on-line listening or download.

Barriers Broken: The glass ceiling is shattered by the power of Jesus life, ministry, and teaching.

1. Gender: Male/Female

2. Racial: Jew/Samaritan

3. Ancestry: Jacob/Jewish/Syrian

4. Social Stigma: Immorality/Perfectionism

5. Theology: Mt. Zion/Mt. Gerizim

6. Missions: Adequate Abilities/Inadequate Weaknesses

7. Savior: Jesus/Caesar

8. Salvation for All: Jew/Gentile

For Whom Did Christ Die?

He Died for All

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all . . . .

1 Tim. 2:3-5 (NKJV)

An Arminian-Wesleyan View

Christ died for the sins of the world, and to ransom that world. 1 Tim. 2.4-5 puts the matter succinctly. God our savior “wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” One could compare this to John 3.17, God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but to save the world, or the repeated refrain in Hebrews that Christ died once for all time, for all persons, and so on. (See the discussion of these matters in my forthcoming volumes on NT Theology and Ethics entitled The Indelible Image).

But this is not just a matter of finding sufficient proof texts (of which there are many more), it is a matter of one’s theology of the divine character. God is love, holy love, to be sure, but nonetheless love, and as 1 Tim. 2.4 says, the desire of God’s heart is that all persons be saved. It is not just the elect whom God loves, but as John 3.16 says, the world, for whom Christ was sent to die. It follows from this that Christ’s atoning death is sufficient for the salvation of all persons, but only efficient for those who respond in faith to God’s gracious provision of redemption.

Even more foundational is the understanding of the meaning of saying that God is love. Among other things, this means God is committed to relating to those created in his image in love. Now real love must be freely given, and freely received. It cannot be predetermined, manipulated, coerced or else it becomes contrary to what the Bible says love is (see 1 Cor. 13). In the debate between whether the primary trait of God is God’s sovereignty or God’s love, it seems clear that God exercises his power in love, and for loving ends. Even his acts of judgment, short of final judgment, are not meant to be punitive but rather corrective and restorative. God in short, is unlike vindictive human beings, very unlike them. Thus Hosea relates that God says “All my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger … For I am God and not a human being.” God, the divine parent, is not less loving than the best of human parents, God is more loving. If Christ is the perfect incarnation of the character of God, then the answer to the question, for whom did Christ die, becomes theologically self-evident— for the world which God created and still loves.

Ben Witherington (Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary)

HT: Michael Bird at the Euangelion Blog

“Sufferings Yielded to You”

Ineradicable Faith

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Rev. 7:13-14 (ESV)

How can I find the words to praise you, most courageous brethren? How can I compose a speech worthy of the strength of your heart and your perseverance in faith? You endured questioning by the cruellest tortures right through to the glorious end. You did not yield to suffering, but the sufferings yielded to you. The tortures did not bring the end of your torment, but the crown of martyrdom did. The intensification of the tortures went on and on, not to break down the steadfast faith but to send the men of God the sooner to their Lord.

The crowds who were present wondered as they saw the heavenly battle of God, Christ’s spiritual battle, as they saw his servants standing with free voices and undamaged minds, strong with divine strength. They were deprived, it is true, of the weapons of this world, but they were armed with the arms of faith. Tortured they stood, yet stronger than their torturers. Their limbs, beaten and torn as they were, still defeated the instruments that had beaten and torn them.

The cruellest beatings, repeatedly administered, could not overcome their ineradicable faith, even when their very entrails were torn open and at length the servants of God had no limbs left to be beaten, but only wounds. Blood was flowing that might quench the flames of persecution, that might subdue the fires of Gehenna itself. What a spectacle that was for the Lord – how sublime, how great, how acceptable to the eyes of God because it showed the allegiance and devotion of his soldiers! As the Psalms say, when the Holy Spirit speaks to us and warns us: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful (Psalm 116:15). Precious is the death that has bought immortality at the cost of its blood and received the crown of God as the consummation of its virtues!

How Christ rejoiced! How willingly he fought and conquered in such servants, protecting their faith and giving to the believers all that they needed! He was present at his own battle, he lifted up his champions, the proclaimers of his name, he gave them strength and new spirit. And he who once conquered death for us still and always conquers it within us.

O happy Church of ours, lit up by the honour of God’s kindness, now purified by the blood of our glorious martyrs! Once she shone white through the works of the brethren; now she has become purple with the blood of the martyrs. Among her flowers there bloom both white lilies and red roses.

Now let each of us strive for the highest of one of these honours. Let each of us be crowned either with the white crown of labours or the purple crown of suffering.

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Epistle 10:2-3,5.

Which Came First the Church or the N.T.?

Answer: the Holy Spirit.

If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

1 Tim. 3:15 (ESV)

The dependence of the church on the Word is not a doctrine readily acceptable to all. In former days of Roman Catholic polemic, for example, its champions would insist that ‘the church wrote the Bible’ and therefore has authority over it. Still today one sometimes hears this rather simplistic argument. Now it is true, of course, that both Testaments were written within the context of the believing community, and that the substance of the New Testament in God’s providence … was to some extent determined by the needs of the local Christian congregations.In consequence, the Bible can neither be detached from the milieu in which it originated, nor be understood in isolation from it.

Nevertheless, as Protestants have always emphasized, it is misleading to the point of inaccuracy to say that ‘the church wrote the Bible’; the truth is almost the opposite, namely that’God’s Word created the church’. For the people of God may be said to have come into existence when his Word came to Abraham, calling him and making a covenant with him. Similarly, it was through the apostolic preaching of God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost that the people of God became the Spirit-filled body of Christ.

John Stott, Authentic Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 303.

Testing Preachers and Teachers


Testing the Teacher’s Life and the Doctrine He Teaches

A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Matt. 7:17-20 (NLT)

Jesus tells His disciples to test preachers and teachers by their fruit. There are two tests—one is the fruit in the life of the preacher, and the other is the fruit of the doctrine. The fruit of a man’s own life may be perfectly beautiful, and at the same time he may be teaching a doctrine which, if logically worked out, would produce the devil’s fruit in other lives. It is easy to be captivated by a beautiful life and to argue that therefore what that he teaches must be right. Jesus says, “Be careful, test your teacher by his fruit.”

The other side is just as true, a man may be teaching beautiful truths and have magnificent doctrine while the fruit in his own life is rotten. We say that if a man lives a beautiful life, his doctrine must be right; not necessarily so, says Jesus. Then again we say because a man teaches the right thing, therefore his life must be right; not necessarily so, says Jesus. Test the doctrine by its fruit, and test the teacher by his fruit.

Oswald Chambers, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1996, c1960), 95.

“It Is By His Life That We Live”

Christ is the Source of Our Life

“Christ, who is our life.”

Colossians 3:4 (ESV)

Paul’s marvellously rich expression indicates, that Christ is the source of our life. “You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). That same voice which brought Lazarus out of the tomb (John 11:43) raised us to newness of life.

Christ is now the substance of our spiritual life. It is by his life that we live; he is in us, the hope of glory, the spring of our actions, the central thought which moves every other thought.

Christ is the sustenance of our life. What can the Christian feed upon but Jesus’ flesh and blood? “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die” (John 6:50). O wayworn pilgrims in this wilderness of sin, you never get a morsel to satisfy the hunger of your spirits, except ye find it in him!

Christ is the solace of our life. All our true joys come from him; and in times of trouble, his presence is our consolation. There is nothing worth living for but him; and his lovingkindness is better than life (Psalm 63:3)!

Christ is the object of our life. As speeds the ship towards the port, so hastes the believer towards the haven of his Savior’s bosom. As flies the arrow to its goal, so flies the Christian towards the perfecting of his fellowship with Christ Jesus. As the soldier fights for his captain, and is crowned in his captain’s victory, so the believer contends for Christ, and gets his triumph out of the triumphs of his Master.

“For him to live is Christ.” Christ is the exemplar of our life. Where there is the same life within, there will, there must be, to a great extent, the same developments without; and if we live in near fellowship with the Lord Jesus we shall grow like him. We shall set him before us as our Divine copy, and we shall seek to tread in his footsteps, until he shall become the crown of our life in glory.

Oh! how safe, how honoured, how happy is the Christian, since Christ is our life!

Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), August 10, morning.

I’m a Tim Keller Fan

The Penalty, Faith, and the Gospel

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel (emphasis mine) I preached to you, which you received,in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

1 Cor. 15:1-4 (ESV)

I am a Tim Keller fan because Tim Keller gets the biblical gospel right. I enjoy listening to his audio messages because they are cross-centered, grace-saturated, and Christ-exalting. You can find his sermons at the Redeemer Presbyterian Church or The Gospel Coalition websites. Transform your spiritual life by listening for free to the “Prodigal God” sermon series.

The Gospel: His Love, My Flaws

The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.

Timothy Keller, The Reason For God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 181.

The Cross Pays Our Debt

The cross is not simply a lovely example of sacrificial love. Throwing your life away needlessly is not admirable — it is wrong. Jesus’ death was only a good example if it was more than an example, if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was. Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.

Timothy Keller, The Reason For God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 193.

Weak Faith in a Strong Branch

Imagine you are on a high cliff and you lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you is a branch sticking out of the edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and seems more than strong enough. How can it save you?

If you’re certain the branch can support you, but you don’t actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If instead your mind is filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved. Why? It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch.

Timothy Keller, The Reason For God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 234

HT: Of First Importance

Standing Before God Himself

Evangelical Essentials (Part Eight)

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

2 Cor 5:9-10 (ESV)

No man ever said, at the end of his days, ‘I have read my Bible too much, I have thought of God too much, I have prayed too much, I have been too careful with my soul.’

J.C. Ryle

HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

Evangelicals believe in a final judgment because scripture frequently affirms the fact that there will be a verdict by God in which he decides the eternal destiny of believers and unbelievers. All will stand before the great judgment seat of Christ in resurrected bodies and hear the Lord’s declaration of their unending fate.

If we have given our lives to Christ, then we can be assured that Christ’s righteousness has covered our guilty stains and that we will be delivered from condemnation.

It is important to realize that this judgment of believers will be a judgment to evaluate and bestow various degrees of reward, but the fact that they will face such a judgment should never cause believers to fear that they will be eternally condemned. Jesus says, “He who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Here “judgment” must be understood in the sense of eternal condemnation and death, since it is contrasted with passing from death into life. At the day of final judgment more than at any other time, it is of utmost importance that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).

[Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 1143.]

As Christians, we begin understanding the final judgment by acknowledging that we are accountable to God: we will be judged for our faithfulness to the gospel, behavior in his name, and the quality of our ministries. We must give an account to God for the gifts, opportunities, and abilities that God granted us in this life (1 Cor. 3:10-15). We will have to explain how we used God’s gifts for his glory. This reverential awe is a sure cure for our carelessness. It is dangerous to claim a relationship with Jesus, while no genuine fruit is manifesting in our lives. We want to be diligent that we are actually walking in the “works that have been prepared for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).

When God asks what we did with our lives, will we be able to say, “I invested in people, served the church, reached out to the world, and advance the kingdom to the best of my ability?” Or  will we have to admit, “I wasted my life playing all hundred levels of Warcraft, watched every S.E.C. football game since 1985, and alienated everyone around me.”

As Evangelicals, the doctrine of final judgment grants us a a healthy fear of God and a determination to be faithful with our limited time on this earth.

Pierced for My Transgressions

Evangelical Essentials (Part Seven)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Cor 5:21 (ESV)

Man of Sorrows! what a name

For the Son of God, who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned He stood;

Sealed my pardon with His blood.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;

Spotless Lamb of God was He;

“Full atonement!” can it be?

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;

“It is finished!” was His cry;

Now in Heav’n exalted high.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,

All His ransomed home to bring,

Then anew His song we’ll sing:

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

-Philip P. Bliss, 1875

Evangelicals believe in the doctrine of penal substitution: a belief that captures the heart and transforms us from self-centered jerks to Christ-following desirers of holiness. Penal substitution teaches that Jesus bore our iniquities-took our place and became our substitute-so that the terrible results of sin no longer come upon us (Gal. 1:4, Eph. 5:2, Heb. 9:28). When we trust that Christ’s death is our death, we gloriously recognize that the ultimate consequences of our sin has been borne by Christ.

The fact is that I am the one who should have been betrayed, not Jesus, for I have betrayed many. I am the one who should have been spit upon because I mistreated others. I am the one who should have hung there exposed because of my selfishness and sin. The spit, mockery, and blows to Jesus’ face should have been my punishment. The whip and crown of thorns should have been my sentence. The weight of the Cross and the nails in Jesus’ feet and hands should have been my chastisement. The crown of nails that Jesus wore should have been my headdress. Yet, our precious Lord Jesus Christ took our place, paid our debt, redeemed us from slavery. In addition, Jesus brought us the victory and declared us righteous in that great heavenly court of law. God incarnate in human flesh became my substitute.

And what is the boast of the Cross? That Christ for my sake took on Him the form of a slave, and bore His sufferings for me the slave, the enemy, the unfeeling one; yea He so loved me as to give Himself up to a curse for me. What can be comparable to this!

St. John Chrysostom

Who is Christ for us today? He is the one who took our place at Calvary. In his great love, he bore our punishment and pain on that tree. The Scriptures declare that, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Gal. 3:13, KJV). All the penalty of the broken law has now been borne by Christ on the Cross. The entire penalty for my past, present, and future sin was placed on Jesus. “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins” (Isa. 53:5). He has taken our place, he has suffered our purgatory, and he has taken on himself all the wrath of the Father (Rom. 1:18, 5:9). The Holy Trinity’s great love for you and me has brought about Bethlehem for the purpose of Calvary.

As for my sake he [Jesus] was called a curse, Who destroyed my curse; and sin, who taketh away the sin of the world; and became a new Adam to take the place of the old, just so He makes my disobedience His own as Head of the whole body. As long then as I am disobedient and rebellious, both by denial of God and by my passions, so long Christ also is called disobedient on my account.

St. Gregory of Nazianzen, The Fourth Theological Oration, V.

There is not enough words of praise and expressions of thanks invented that could give to God the worship that he deserves for the sending of his Son to die in our place and to raise us again to new life.

Look Into His Face

Christ in the Morning

The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

Rom. 13:11-14 (NLT)

In the early morning, as soon as you awake, remember that you are in the very presence of God, who has ben watching beside you through the long dark hours; look up to His face, and thank Him.

Consecrate to him those first few moments before you leave your bed. Look towards the coming day, through the golden haze of light that streams from the angel of His presence.

You cannot forecast very largely what your difficulties are likely to be, the quarters from you may  be attacked, the burdens that may need carrying. Take care not to view any of these apart from God. Be sure that He will be between you and them, as the ship is between the traveler and the ocean, be it fair or stormy.

As you dress yourself for the day, remember that God supplies you with vesture clean and white. with meekness and gentleness of Christ, with garments of salvation, the robes of righteousness, and the jewels of Christian virtue.

Do not look at these things apart from Him; but remember that they are attributes and graces of His own nature with which to array yourself. And above all put on the armor of light; remembering that God is light.

You are to put on Christ, who is God manifest in the flesh, and you are to descend from your room into the arena of daily battle as one who is endued with the beauty of His character. This concentration of thought upon God , during the act of dressing, will prepare the soul for those acts of adoration, thanksgiving, and intercession, which arise to God as the fragrant incense of the Temple.

F.B. Meyer quoted in His Victorious Indwelling: Daily Devotions for a Deeper Christian Life, ed., Nick Harrison (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 10.