Sunday 4 December 2011

Immanuel (God with us)

Since Christmas is approaching as I write, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on the term “Immanuel”, which is often used when referring to the birth of Jesus.  Immanuel is a Hebrew word meaning “God with us”.  The first time this is used in the Bible is in the Old Testamant prophet Isaiah:
  • Isaiah 7:14: The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Both Christian and Jewish scholars have debated the meaning and possible (single or multiple) fulfillments of this prophecy.  In any case, the New Testament gospel writer Matthew indicates that it finds at least one of its fulfillments in the birth of Jesus:
  • Matt 1:20-23: An angel of the Lord appeared to him [Joseph] in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
The idea here is that, although God is enthroned in heaven, far above all created things, He also comes near to us in the person of Jesus.  In more theological terms, God is simultaneously transcendent (above and distinct from His creation) and immanent (present in, and intimately involved with, His creation).

Here are a couple of passages from the Old Testament which illustrate this dual aspect of God:
  • Isaiah 57:15: This is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.
  • Jer 23: 23-24: “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away?  Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?  Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.
And here are three New Testament passages which emphasise the intimate spiritual union that Christians have with Christ:
  • John 14:19-21: [Jesus said:] “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
  • Rom 8:35-39: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • 1 Cor 6:15-20: Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.  Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
The amazing thing is that, if we make a decision to give all of ourselves to God, He graciously gives all of Himself to us (or, at least, as much as we can handle)!

Sunday 13 November 2011

The Way, the Truth and the Life

Today's main passage is this one:

John 14:1-7: Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

What did Jesus mean when He said that the was "the way, the truth and the life"?  Here are my thoughts.

1. Religion, philosophy, ethics or mystical experiences will never, in themselves, bring us closer to God.  It is Jesus Himself who does that, if we ask Him to.  At this point, two biblical symbols come to my mind: the ladder and the curtain.  In John 1:51, Jesus uses the metaphor of Himself as a ladder between Heaven and Earth.  This is a reference to a ladder that Jacob saw in a dream (see Genesis chapter 28).  In Hebrews chapters 9 and 10, the writer draws an analogy between Jesus' body and the curtain in the Jewish temple that separates the "most holy place" from the rest of the temple.  In Matthew 27:50-51, it says that the curtain was supernaturally torn in two when Jesus died.  The idea is that Jesus' death makes it possible for human beings to come into God's presence.

2. Although we live in a post-modern world that denies the possibility of ever knowing anything in any absolute sense, Jesus somehow both embodies truth and sustains it.  I suspect however that this is not referring to intellectual, abstract, propositional truth, but rather to a revelation of things as they actually are.  As an analogy, imagine a dusty living room that is too dark for anyone to see the dust.  Someone opens the curtains on a sunny day, the room is flooded with light and suddenly everyone can see for themselves (rather than just know intellectually) that the room is dusty.  Perhaps it will be like that when we all stand in the presence of Jesus.  There will be no arguments or debates about religion then, because everything will be crystal clear to everyone.

3. All human beings have a physical life and a mental life, but not all of them are truly alive spiritually.  The latter form of life comes only from God, and Jesus is the conduit.  In John chapter 15, Jesus uses the analogy of a vine and its branches.  The branches that remain on the vine live, whereas the ones that are removed wither and die.  Another analogy that I find helpful, which has turned up from time to time in the history of the church, is between Jesus and human mothers.  A baby in the womb can only live and grow because it is connected to its mother via the placenta.  A human being can only live and grow spiritually if he or she is connected to God via Jesus.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Our Role Model

In this post, I want to focus on the fact that Jesus is the chief role model for every Christian.  Let's start by looking at some relevant verses from the New Testament:

  • John 13:13-17: [Jesus said:] "You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."
  • Romans 13:12-14: The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
  • Philippians 2:5-8: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
  • Colossians 3:1-5: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
  • Hebrews 12:2: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
  • 1 Peter 2:21: Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
Observe that these verses (and several others like them) focus on two specific aspects of Jesus' character: his humility and his holiness.  The Bible makes it clear that a genuine Christian will be growing in both.

At this point, there are two things that need to be clarified.  First, I need to remind the reader that, to Christians, Jesus is much more than a mere role model.  We believe that He was and is the Son of God.  Sadly, there are many people in the world who admit that Jesus is a good role model, but are not willing to submit to Him as their Lord and Saviour.  Second, when we speak about imitating Jesus' character, there is the danger of falling into a legalistic, ritualistic lifestyle, in which we try to obey a collection of rules or laws, in a vain attempt to earn God's favour.  The Christian message is that such striving is doomed to failure.  Instead, all that is needed is a childlike faith in Jesus and dependence on the Holy Spirit.  The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus (in some mysterious way that we will not fully understand in this life) clothes us in His own righteousness.

Finally, I want to mention that several verses in the New Testament state that Christians will, in the end, be "like" Jesus, somehow sharing in his power, beauty and glory. For example:
  • Rom 8:28-30: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
  • 1 Cor 15:48-49: As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man,
    so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
  • 2 Cor 3:18: And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
  • Phil 3:19-21: ... Their mind is on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
  • 1 John 3:2-6:  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.  Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.  But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins.  And in him is no sin.  No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.  No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
I find this amazing, encouraging and inspiring!

Sunday 4 September 2011

Worthy of Our Worship

The theme of this entry is simply this: Jesus is worthy of our worship!

To begin, let us define "worship".  The main Hebrew word used in the Old Testament for "worship", hishtahvah, means to bow down before someone with reverence.  The main Greek word used in the New Testament, proskuneo, means to kneel or prostrate oneself before someone, in order to express respect or to beg favour.

So, worship is not primarily about singing songs (though it may involve singing songs at times).  It is entering the Presence of God, our Holy and awesome King, with reverence, respect, awe, love and gratitude in our hearts.

Now, the New Testament makes it clear that we are supposed to worship Jesus in this way!  Consider, for example, the following verses from the Gospel of Matthew:
  • Matt 2:10-11: When they [the Magi] saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him
  • Matt 8:2: A leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
  • Matt 9:18: While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.”
  • Matt 14:33: Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
  • Matt 15:25: Then she [the woman from Canaan] came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
  • Matt 20:20: Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.
  • Matt 28:9: And as they [Mary Magdelene and Mary the mother of Jesus] went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.
  • Matt 28:17: When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
So, it is Biblical to worship Jesus, in addition to worshipping God the Father.  (Interestingly, the Jehovah's Witnesses, a cult that denies the deity of Jesus, mis-translates the word proskuneo as "to give obeisance to" rather than "worship" whenever Jesus is involved.)

The fact is that every angel in heaven, and every person on the planet, will one day bow down before Jesus:
  • Phil 2:8-11: Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
  • Rev 5:11-14: Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”  The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
If you are a Christian who finds worship difficult, why not ask God to reveal more of Himself to you, to show you just how awesome, holy and majestic, yet merciful and loving, He really is?  You are missing out on the most delightful and fulfilling experience there is: doing what you were created to do!  You are also missing out on the opportunity to bring delight to your heavenly Father!

If you are not a Christian, I urge to you to find out more about the Christian message as soon as you can.  The best place to start is probably simply to read through the four Gospels.

Saturday 13 August 2011


The topic of this entry is the compassion that Jesus consistently expressed in His dealings with humanity.  Here are some relevant verses taken from the Gospels:
  • Matt 14:13-14: Jesus... withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
  • Matt 20:30-34: Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”  The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”  Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”
    Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
  • Mark 1:40-41: A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
  • Mark 5:24-34: A large crowd followed and pressed around him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.  When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.  At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”  “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”  But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.  Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
  • Mark 6:30-34:  The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.
     Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.  But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he began teaching them many things.
  • Mark 8:1-3: During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said,  “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
  • Luke 7:11-15: Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.  As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”  Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”  The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
  • John 11:32-36: When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked.  “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
I find it very interesting that, in every one of these passages, the compassion that Jesus felt expressed itself in an action: often it was a healing miracle; sometimes it was a miraculous provision of food, sometimes it was preaching and teaching.  Do we experience compassion for the people around us, and does it regularly express itself in action?

Of course, the greatest compassionate act that Jesus ever did was to offer up His life for sinful human beings on the cross:
  • Rom 5:6-8: At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The old Welsh hymn by William Rees sums it up well:

Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

Monday 4 July 2011


In this post, I want to highlight the fact that Jesus, although incredibly loving, is absolutely unwilling to compromise on the matter of our need to turn to Him as both Saviour and Lord.  Here are some relevant verses that quote Jesus Himself:
  • Matt 10: 32-33: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.  But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”
  • Matt 10: 37-39: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
  • Matt 23:13-15: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”
  • Luke 9:23-26: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?  Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."
  • John 8:23-24: “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world...
    If you do not believe that I am He [the one I claimed to be], you will indeed die in your sins.”
This is sobering stuff.  It doesn't exactly fit the view that some people have of "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild"!  And there are many other passages like it.  Consider, for example, these two:
  • Luke 9:57-62:  As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”  Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
  • John 2:13-16:  When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”
If you struggle to cope with these passages, it may help to think of sins as analogous to malignant and deadly tumours, and Jesus as the only surgeon skilled enough to remove them.  If we refuse to submit to the Lordship of Jesus, our sins will grow and grow, and eventually completely destroy us.  An absolutely dreadful prospect.  If, on the other hand, we repent of our sins and submit to Him, we will find ourselves on the path to eternal life, freedom and joy.

Monday 13 June 2011


The Bible warns us not to seek fulfilment in material things, but to search for things which have eternal value.  In the Old Testament, we find:
  • Prov 8:11: Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
  • Psalm 119:127: I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold.
And Jesus Himself said:
  • Matt 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
  • Matt 13:44-46: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."
Now, when we turn to the New Testament epistles, we find that the most precious thing in the whole universe is nothing but Jesus Himself!  Consider, for example:
  • Colossians 2:2-4:  My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
  • 1 Peter 1:17-21:  Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.  For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.  Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
  • 1 Peter 2:4-8: As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:  “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and,“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”
If only all people would fully appreciate the amazing depth of Jesus' love; how He left His glorious home, lived as a human and then allowed Himself to be tortured and killed by His own rebellious creatures, so that He could bring salvation to anyone who asked.  Those of us who do so, come to find that Jesus is incredibly precious to us, a dear friend, Lord and Saviour, who we would gladly give up our lives for.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Risen, Ascended, Enthroned

In the last entry, I talked about the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus.  In this entry, I want to consider what happened afterwards.

The first claim that Christians make is that Jesus was raised from the dead:
  • Romans 1:4-5: Jesus Christ our Lord was shown to be the Son of God, when God powerfully raised him from the dead by means of the Holy Spirit.
  • 1 Cor 15:3-4: What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
  • Philippians 3:10-12: I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
  • 1 Peter 1:3: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
The second claim is that Jesus ascended from Earth to Heaven:
  • John 20:17: Jesus said to her: "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father.  Instead, go to my brothers, and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father; to my God and your God."
  • Acts 1:9-11: He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
  • Hebrews 9:24: For Christ did not enter into the holy places made with hands, which are just figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.
Finally, Christians believe that Jesus is now enthroned, i.e., in a position of glory and supreme authority:
  • Matt 28:18: Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me".
  • Ephesians 1:20-21: God raised Christ from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.
  • Phil 2:8-11: Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It is important to bear in mind that the glorification of Jesus came only after He humbled Himself and obeyed God the Father.  This is a general Christian principle.  Indeed, Jesus said: "He who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Matt 23:12, Luke 14:11)

Saturday 23 April 2011

Condemned, Mocked, Tortured, Crucified

Jesus was condemned to death, mocked, tortured, stripped naked, nailed to a wooden cross, and left to die:
  • Matt 26:65-67: The high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.  What do you think?”  “He is worthy of death,” they answered. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”
  • Matt 27:28-31: They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.  They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.  After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
  • Luke 23:32-36: Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.  The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”  The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
As I mentioned in my post on Jesus as the Suffering Servant (December 2010), the Bible makes it clear that the main reason that Jesus had to die was to pay the price for the sins of humanity.  Nevertheless, it seems to me that Jesus did something else very important when he suffered and died: He showed that God was (and is) willing to share in the sufferings of His creatures --- even suffering of the very worst kind.  This is also implied by the following verses:
  • Psalm 56:8: You record my misery; You put my tears in your bottle.
  • Isaiah 53:4: Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering.
  • Isaiah 63:9: In all their suffering He also suffered, and He personally rescued them. In his love and mercy He redeemed them.
  • John 11:33-36: When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled... Jesus wept.
  • Acts 9:4: [Jesus said:] "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
It is a great mystery to me that the Almighty God, the King of the Universe, the Eternal Holy Trinity, is capable of suffering and allows Himself to suffer.  I don't understand it, but I praise and thank Him for it.

Sunday 10 April 2011

Radiant and Glorious

In this post, I will explain the title of this blog.  As usual, let's begin with some relevant scriptures:
  • Mark 9:2-3: Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.
  • Col 1:15-20: The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
  • 2 Cor 4:4: The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
  • Heb 1:3: The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
  • 2 Thess 1:8-9: He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.
  • 1 John 1:4-5: In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
  • Rev 1:13-17: Among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.  The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.  When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.
Scriptures like these make it clear than Jesus is indeed radiantly glorious.

Now, let's take a step back from the Bible, and just think about our universe.  Think about things that inspire you and fill you with awe.  (In my case, this includes music, flowers, sunsets, stars, mountains, waterfalls, sapphires, rubies and emeralds, fireworks, beautiful women, friendship and maternal love.)  Now consider the fact that God "dreamt up" all those things, like an incredibly creative artist.  Also consider the fact that Jesus is infinitely greater, lovelier, more beautiful and more majestic than all of those things put together.  Not only that, but this incredible Jesus humbled Himself and chose to go to the cross, in order to provide a way for sinners to be saved.

All I can say is, how absolutely wonderful Jesus is!  How can anybody not love and adore Him?

Another amazing thing is that Jesus promises to share His glory with all those who truly repent and choose to follow Him!  See for example these verses:
  • Prov 4:18: The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
  • Dan 12:3:  Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
  • Matt 13:43: [Jesus said:] "The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father."
  • John 17:22-23: [Jesus prays for the church:] "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
    Rom 2:7: To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
    2 Cor 3:18: And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
    Col 1:27: God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
These scriptures fill me with so much joy, I want to dance!  I pray that they will fill you with joy, too.

Saturday 19 March 2011

Living Water

In the last post we talked of Jesus as being the Bread of Life and Hidden Manna.  Now, let's consider His promise of "Living Water":
  • John 4:13-14: [Jesus said:] “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
  • John 7:37-39: [Jesus said:] “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.
Although the water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, it appears that it is our relationship to Jesus that provides the means for the Spirit to be released in our hearts.  (Theologians have debated in the past whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father only, or from the Father and the Son.  I must confess that I don't know enough about the relevant arguments to say anything sensible about this issue.)

Anyway, here are some other beautiful verses from the Bible on the theme of Living Water:
  • Psalm 36:7-9: How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abundance of your house.  You give them drink from your river of delights.  For with you is the fountain of life.  In your light we see light.
  • Psalm 107:9: He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
  • Jeremiah 2:13: My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own wells, broken wells that cannot hold water.
  • Matthew 5:6: [Jesus said:] “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
  • Rev 22:1: Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
  • Rev 22:17: The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!”  Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
I (and many of my fellow Christians) can personally testify that there is a satisfaction in knowing Jesus and being filled with His Spirit that far exceeds anything that this world has to offer.  Indeed, before I came to know Jesus, despite all my efforts to satisfy my desires, my spirit and soul were "dying of thirst".  As Augustine said, "You made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find our home in You".

Sunday 13 March 2011

Bread of Life

This time, we will be looking at the idea of Jesus being food to our souls.  First, we look at some verses from the Old Testament:
  • Deut 8:2-3: The LORD your God... humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
  • Psalm 36:7-9: How priceless is your unfailing love!  Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abundance of your house.
  • Psalm 107:9: He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
  • Isaiah 55:1-2: Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.  Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.
From these verses, it is clear that human beings need spiritual sustenance as well as physical.  It is also clear that our spiritual hunger can be satisfied by God alone.

Jesus quotes the above verses from Deuteronomy in Matthew 4.4.  Moreover, in John's Gospel, He says the following to the Jewish people:
  • John 6:32-52:  It is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world... I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty...  Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.  But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Here, Jesus is saying that His death on the cross would provide the way for our spiritual hunger to be satisfied.  It fact, He seems to be saying more than that.  It seems that, somehow, we can actually feed on Him spiritually.  Once this is done, in some mysterious way, He actually dwells inside our spirits and souls.

I am convinced that the root of many addictions, such as addictions to alcohol, drugs or pornography, is a desperate spiritual hunger.  The wonderful truth is, if we truly come to know Jesus, and experience His mercy and grace, we will find a satisfaction beyong anything we could ever have dreamed.  This is my experience, and that of millions of other people.

To close, an encouraging verse from Revelation on the same theme:
  • Rev 2:17: To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Lion and Lamb

Today we will be looking at two striking names that Jesus is given in the New Testament: the Lion and the Lamb.

In the Old Testament, lions usually symbolise awesome authority and majesty, whereas lambs usually symbolise humility, innocence and sacrifice.  Two passages are particularly of note.
  • Gen 49:9-10: [Jacob said:] "You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son.  Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness — who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his."
  • Isaiah 53:7: He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
In the first passage, Jacob prophecies over his son Judah, and predicts that one of Judah's decendants would be a powerful ruler like a lion.  In the second, the prophet Isaiah predicts that an innocent servant of God will be put to death.

Now consider the following passage in the New Testament book of Revelation:
  • Rev 5:4-7: I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”  Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders... He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.
This passage is remarkable.  The Apostle John looks up, expecting to see the prophesied lion, but instead sees a little lamb (Greek arnion) that seems to have been killed.  That is to say, Jesus is the lion and the lamb simultaneously.  He is majestic and powerful, yet He was humble and gentle enough to allow people to crucify Him.

The book of Revelation states that Jesus will be revealed to all humanity as the Lamb of God in the last days.  This revelation causes very different reactions in the saved and the unsaved.  The saved cry out in joyful worship:
  • Revelation 5:13: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
The unsaved, on the other hand, flee from Him in terror:
  • Rev 6:15-17: Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.  They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
Before that terrible time comes, however, Jesus mercifully urges everyone to come to Him and be saved:
  • Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Sunday 6 February 2011


In this post, I address a topic that many people would prefer not to think about: the fact that Jesus is going to judge the living and the dead.

To begin, I want to point out that the idea of God punishing sin and rewarding the righteous can be found throughout the Old Testament.  Here are just a few of the relevant verses from the Old Testament:
  • Deut 8:19: If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.
  • Deut 30:19: This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
  • 1 Sam 2:9-10: He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
  • 1 Chron 16:32-33: Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
  • Psalm 11:4-7: The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD is on His heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; His eyes examine them. The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence His soul hates. On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.
  • Psalm 98:9: Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
  • Ecc 12:13-14: Here is the end of the matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
  • Jer 17:10: I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.
  • Dan 12:2: Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
Some people suggest that the idea of judgement is purely an Old Testament concept, and that the New Testament contradicts it.  They couldn't be more wrong.  Consider the following words uttered by Jesus Himself:
  • Matt 16:27: “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
  • Matt 25:31-46: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.... and the wicked will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
  • John 5:25-29: “I assure you, the time is coming - and is now at hand - when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall live. For as the Father has life in Himself so, too, He has given the Son to have life in Himself. And He has given Him full authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Don't be amazed at this. For the time is coming when everyone in the graves will hear His voice. And they will come out. Those who have done good will rise again to live, but those who have done evil will rise again to be judged.”
These verses make it clear that Jesus Himself is the one who will judge humanity.  This is confirmed in the rest of the New Testament.  For example:
  • Acts 17:30-31: In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.
  • Rom 2:6-8: God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”  To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
  • 2 Cor 5:10: 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 Tim 4:1: I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead...
  • Hebrews 4:10-13: The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
  • Jude 14-15: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
  • Rev 20:12-15: The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.  If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
If we were left only with a message of judgement, it would be terrifying.  The wonderful news of the Gospel however is that, no matter what we have done, we can escape the just punishment for our sins.  All we have to do is confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and receive the free gift of salvation that has been purchased for us by the death of Jesus on the cross:
  • 1 John 1:5-8: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Friday 21 January 2011

Bridegroom / Husband

The Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah, Ezekial and Hosea, often used the relationship between husband and wife as a metaphor for the relationship between God and His people.  For example:
  • Isaiah 54:4-6: For your Maker is your husband... The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit - a wife who married young, only to be rejected.
  • Isaiah 62:5: As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.
  • Ezekiel 16:8: When I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love... I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.
  • Hosea 1:2: Like an adulterous wife, this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.
The New Testament takes this further, by referring to Jesus as a Bridegroom or Husband.  For example:
  • Matt 22:2-3: The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
  • Matt 25:1: At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom....
  • Mk 2:19-20: Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?  They cannot, so long as they have him with them.  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast."
  • John 3:29: [John the Baptist said:] The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
  • Ephesians 5:25-32: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless... For we are members of His body, of his flesh and of his bones. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
  • 2 Cor 11:2: For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
  • Rev 19:7-9: “The wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)  Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”
  • Rev 21:2: I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
Verses like this have led some Christians to use the term "Bride of Christ" to refer to the church.  The use of this term has however been somewhat controversial.  Regardless, we can speculate as to which attributes of Jesus the terms Bridegroom and Husband refer to.  Personally, I suspect it means that we can rely on Jesus to love, provide for and protect us. It also means that we are to remain absolutely faithful to Him, putting Him first, and not allowing other people or things to take first place in our hearts.  Moreover, when one becomes a Christian, one enters into an eternal covenant with Him, just as a wife enters into a lifelong covenant with her husband when she marries.