Archive by Author

Dying to Bear Fruit: A Life of Sacrificial Love

04-16_John_12Could this be the Messiah? After so many years, had God finally sent his Anointed One to deliver his people? Would the rightful King now take his throne?

Indeed, the Messiah had come—Jesus was here! His disciples believed in him. They publicly confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). They knew that he had come for their deliverance.

Yet even his disciples did not really understand what Jesus had come to do. They expected the Messiah to be a warrior king. They wanted him to reinstate the kingdom of Israel, to start a revolution, to overthrow their oppressors by force, to deliver them from Rome. But Jesus had a different deliverance in mind.

Deliverance through his love

“The reason the Son of God appeared,” we read in 1 John 3:8, “was to destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus came to save his people not from Rome or from any other earthly oppression, but from their sins (Matt. 1:21). And his people include far more than Israel—Jesus came to deliver the whole world from sin.

His methods weren’t what the disciples expected, either. They expected Jesus to pick up a sword and fight, but he said that “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). He instructed his followers to “love your enemies . . . and you will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35).

Jesus knew that evil cannot be overthrown by force. Deliverance can only come through sacrificial love. His own glorification could only be achieved by laying down his life.

And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:23–24)

Jesus, God in flesh, willingly gave himself up. He took our sin and allowed the powers of darkness to do their worst to him. And in so doing, he broke their power.

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pet. 2:23–24)

Fruit for his kingdom

Through Jesus’ sacrificial death, we have deliverance. But we too must die if we are to bear fruit. We must die to our sins, and we must die to ourselves. Just as Jesus gave up his rights and died on the cross, we must give up the rights we think are ours. We must give up whatever it is we’re clinging to and live a life of sacrificial love.

But of course Jesus did not stay dead—God raised him back to life and vindicated his suffering. And so our sacrifice for Christ will not be in vain, either. From our death to self, God will raise up much fruit for his kingdom.

But are we willing to die?

* * *

Looking for resources for study or meditation this Easter season? Check out our specials for Holy Week.

In Christ We See God’s Glory

John_1_14_620x275

We are flesh. We are limited by human bodies in a world cursed with sin. The strongest among us are still weak. The healthiest among us still become sick. Our bodies don’t always work the way they’re supposed to. And eventually, our flesh will succumb to that last enemy, death.

Contrast our condition with that of God. He is not bound by flesh, for he is spirit (John 4:24). He is the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8). God does not fear sickness or death, for he alone has immortality; he dwells in unapproachable light, and no one has ever seen or can see him (1 Timothy 6:16). He is the King of the Ages, our immortal, invisible God, and to him belong the honor and glory forever (1 Timothy 1:17).

God became flesh for us

But beyond all his power and greatness, God’s defining attribute is love (1 John 4:8). And that incomprehensible love caused him to give up everything for us. Jesus—the Word of God, who is God—became a human.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” —John 1:14

God, who is spirit, became flesh. The one who is, who was, and who is to come stepped into our time. The Almighty made himself weak. The immortal God made himself mortal. The invisible God made himself visible—in Christ we see God’s incredible glory!

Perhaps no one put it more poetically than Charles Wesley in a verse of his well-known hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Yet even that has been criticized for being too imprecise. He was not merely “veiled in flesh”—Jesus actually became fully human. The author of Hebrews wrote that “he had to be made like his brothers in every respect” (Hebrews 2:17).

The greatest sacrifice

Still, becoming one of us was not Jesus’ greatest sacrifice: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). His entrance into this world as a human was just the first step leading up to the pinnacle of history, when Jesus—the immortal God—would die on a cross for our sins.

But Jesus did not stay dead! On the third day, God raised him back to life. And today, Jesus “is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 8:1). Christ’s body is now powerful, glorified, and imperishable.

One day, we who have placed our faith in him will be raised to a new body (1 Corinthians 15:42–44). Until then, let us praise God for the incredible gift we have been given—his Son, Jesus Christ, come in the flesh to dwell among us.

* * *

Rediscover the wonder of God’s glory at Logos.com/Christmas.

Exegesis and Theology: Study Ephesians with Dr. Michael Allen

ministry

Today’s guest post is by Dr. Michael Allen, Kennedy Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and dean of faculty at Knox Theological Seminary. Dr. Allen is here to tell us about his new Doctor of Ministry class on Ephesians.

I couldn’t be more excited about the class beginning in January on the exegesis and theology of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. We’ll be focusing on two things:

  1. Sharpening our exegetical skills by looking at this particular letter
  2. Reflecting theologically upon its implications for faith and practice

Ephesians touches on so many important things in the Christian life—grace, election, ethnic reconciliation, sanctification and ethics, the church and her leadership, social organization, spiritual warfare, and the like.

What we’ll study

We’ll be studying this portion of God’s Word using the best of recent New Testament studies (Australian scholar Dr. Peter O’Brien’s highly respected commentary), as well as some of the greatest resources from the history of exegesis (gleaned from the Reformation Commentary on Scripture‘s volume on Ephesians, edited by Knox Seminary’s own Dr. Gerald Bray). We’ll be discussing not only academic commentary, but also pastoral reflection on how the text shapes congregational ministry (in the form of Eugene Peterson’s powerful Practice Resurrection).

Through the centuries, Ephesians has been a paradigmatic text for defining the life of God’s community, the church. And we want to look anew at its role in shaping our calling in a time of deep cultural transition, when—once again—we need to see the church be the church by God’s grace.

This class will be an opportunity to look carefully at a specific portion of Scripture, as well as to refine our ability to look at the Bible as a whole. It will hone your exegetical and synthetic skills so that you’ll be able to read and teach on Proverbs and Ruth, as well as Matthew and 1 Peter.

The importance of God’s Word in ministry

We really believe there’s no greater skill for those in ministry than the age-old calling to read the Word of God prayerfully and faithfully: considering its canonical context, attending to its place in the history of God’s work in the church, and eagerly listening for how it confronts us in light of contemporary challenges. And we believe that studying together—with men and women involved in this work from various churches and different cities, as well as with saints from ages past through their writings—will better equip us to listen to God’s Word and be witnesses to the gospel in our ministries and our lives.

Our hope and prayer is that this class will be an occasion when “you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17–19).

I hope to see you soon. Meanwhile, “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

* * *

Get your DMin through Knox Theological Seminary. Apply now at DMin.me/Apply!