Jesus, Jerusalem and the big game changer

It’s been interesting watching the reactions to President Trump’s announcement concerning acknowledgement of Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. Many are seeing this as a fulfillment of prophecy, most notably Zech. 12:1-3. Of course, on face value it seems to make sense if in fact Scripture indicates that Israel with Jerusalem at the seat of its theocratic power, as existed in the Old Testament, that such a move would be celebrated on theological grounds (there are political reasons as well but we won’t go into that).

All this points to a telling sign to me: that so many Christians believe that God’s fulfillment of covenantal promises still involve the geographic, political state of Israel as if those promises still involved that particular piece of land.

It would be a long while in my Christian walk before I realized that references to Israel in Scripture, particularly the New Testament did not mean the political state of Israel. Romans 9-11 is particularly instructive in this regard. Paul lays out the case that though he longs for his kinsmen according to the flesh (ethnic Israel) because of all that had been given to them (9:4-5), they don’t belong to the true Israel. “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (vs. 6). Israel refers to Abraham’s children according to the Spirit (vs. 8), those who have believed in God’s promises through Christ (cf. Gal: 3:7-18). The remnant of Israel is actually the true believers, those united to Christ, including the grafting in of the Gentiles as those who inherit the same promises (11:13-24). It’s important to note here with the rejection of Israel  that the distinction of ethnic Israel relates to the fact that they were first given the revelation of this glorious truth. God is not giving up on them but it doesn’t mean they are somehow a separate people of God who will be dealt with according to a specific piece of land.

But doesn’t Paul seem to be referencing such when he says, “a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles and come in. In this way all Israel will be saved” (11:25-26) then sites Is. 59:20 as an indication for a future for Israel. Is Paul referring to a deferred plan for the place called Israel? Not hardly. Another way of seeing this is that the time of the true Israel (Jews and Gentiles together) don’t get fulfilled until all the elect are saved, including Jews. (PS: I do recognize that scholars have debated the complexities of Rom. 9-11 and come to different conclusions.) Continue reading

Advertisements

There is only one Jesus

In these times of racial tension and political polarization that has engulfed the mood of the church, I increasingly noticed references to Jesus as belonging to a particular affiliation: white Jesus, black Jesus or American Jesus. Typically, it’s to repudiate a cultural appropriation of Jesus that aligns him with particular causes whether it be racial or political and to embrace a Jesus that can speak to our ethnic identity.

Now, I get that cultural captivity is deserving of critique. I understand that when people use these terms it’s more of an indictment of cultural and political impositions on the work and person of Christ that has reduced him to a god of ideological fulfillment.  I do think that legitimate frustration is warranted when Jesus is made into the likeness of particular interests.

However, the problem with repudiating these myopic tendencies with an adjectival Jesus does nothing to really mitigate the problem of a marginalized Jesus. In fact, I think it reduces him further and makes him too small.

There is only one Jesus

There is only one Jesus in whom and through whom creation was made and to whom it all points. He was with God and is God (John 1:1-4; Col 1:15-18)

There is only one Jesus who responded to the Father’s will to call creatures to himself so that God will be their God and they will be his people. (Ex. 7:6; John 10:14-16)

There is only one Jesus who voluntarily left his heavenly abode, became fully human like us to become the obedient sacrifice for us so that all who trust in him would live. This one Jesus removed the most powerful stain of sin on humanity by bearing it on a cross and gives life through his resurrection. (Phil 2:6-8; Col 2:13-15)

There is only one Jesus who said, “Come unto to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” And this rest served as the backbone of survival for too many years, through too many tears of injustice and marginalization. This one Jesus offers hope to the hopeless through trials and pains of this life (Matt. 11:28; Heb. 10:32-35)

There is only one Jesus who is building his church according to the will of the Father that comprises every tongue, tribe and nation, has progressed under his sovereign rule and will continue to forge ahead across the globe. This one Jesus unites his people through his reconciling work by breaking down the walls of division that ethnic hostilities have erected (Eph. 2:13-16; Rev 7:9)

There is only one Jesus who can transform cold and prejudicial hearts and transplant the desire to love even our enemies if we are truly united to him. (John 13:24-35; Phil. 2:13)

There is only one Jesus who not only made the world but overcomes it and promises to one day come and make it right again. He is the anchor in which any reconciliation can be found. (John 16:33)

This one Jesus is bigger than our ethnic alignments and political affiliations. He is bigger than our racial infractions and divides. His work is grander than any scheme concocted to subjugate, malign, segregate despite man’s pitiful efforts to shrink him down to size of our myopic visions.

So instead of pointing to a white Jesus or black Jesus or American Jesus or any other special interest Jesus, let’s point to the one Jesus who has the power and authority to help us out of our tribal mess.

 

The Bible and Hypocrisy: Another Take

Hypocrisy_man with maskOne of the most commonly cited grievances against Christianity is the hypocrisy of its believers. I doubt there is anyone, Christian or non-Christian who has not encountered such hypocrisy. I certainly have. In fact, I’ve been that Christian. The incidences of public moral failures don’t help the case either. Yes, there is hypocrisy amid the body of Christ.

But I think there’s another kind of hypocrisy afoot that gets little notice. In fact, I’d say, it’s gaining widespread acceptance. If we consider what hypocrisy means. Merriam Webster provides these definitions.

1) The behavior the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do: behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel.

2) Feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially; the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.

The second definition is what I want to focus on. I’m coming to the conclusion that hypocrisy is not just Christians who behave in contradiction to what they profess they believe they Bible says. Another kind of hypocrisy is non-Christians who embrace the Bible but reject it’s author – Jesus Christ. It’s quoting Scripture for life application but rejecting the One who gives life. It’s being spiritual but not Christian and using the Bible as some kind of inspirational talisman. It’s saying “God” but not “Christ” and portraying a form of Christianity.  In a way, it’s like stealing-going into a store and taking stuff without paying for it. That’s thievery and it’s hypocrisy. Continue reading

Does Jesus Really Live in Our Hearts?

heart with crossI hope I approach this delicately since I know this is common language used to describe the relationship Christians have with Jesus Christ. To be honest, I don’t know how this terminology originated but I believe it is a more recent phenomenon. While I know this to be a widely embraced concept that relates the presence of the Lord with us, I want to reconcile how this fits with in terms of the nature of God, and specifically how this relates to the Christian’s union with Christ.

It is essential for Christians to understand God’s character and works according to his triune nature. God is one yet operates at all times interdependently as three distinct persons. All activity of God is according to the Father’s will. The Father sent the Son so that God could be fully revealed to humanity (Colossians 1:19; 2:9). The incarnate Son of God took on humanity such that he was fully God and fully man and gave himself as a living sacrifice so that the righteousness of God may be imputed onto those who believe in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-26).

Prior to his death, burial and resurrection, he informed the apostles that he was going away but that he would send the Advocate, who would be with them just as he was (John 14-16).  After the resurrection, he ascended into heaven where he sits at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 12:2). Union with Christ occurs because the believer is given the Holy Spirit who baptizes us into the kingdom (Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13-14).  The Holy Spirit enables us to accept God’s truths and turn our affection towards him through belief in the Son. The filling of the Spirit (cf Ephesians 5:18) means that the Spirit influences us to live lives of obedience, trust and worship of the one true God. But Christ himself is with the Father. Continue reading