Showdown.

The Battle Belongs to God.

By Drew Wilkins

March 31, 2018

 

Do you ever find it interesting that Scripture doesn’t really point us to consider the struggle against the devil to be primarily a fight between us and him? Instead, the greater story of the Bible continuously paints the battle as being between the devil and God. As we reach the focal point of the Easter season, it is worth considering Jesus’ resurrection not only in light of his relationship to us, but through the lens of his clash with the devil as well.

In “That He Might Destroy the Works of the Devil,” Martyn Lloyd-Jones engages this consideration in ways that do much to broaden the scope of what has been accomplished in the victory of Christ.

To begin with, though we are caught up in it, the battle ultimately belongs to God, and that means that it really isn’t our fight to win. Instead we have to recognize our role as being utterly dependent on a champion. The celebration of Easter is the celebration of our champion’s victory! Our place is not to add our own achievements to the glory roll, but to sing out loudly about his.

Secondly, in Christ’s defeat of the devil and freeing us from the oppressive reign of sin, we also are freed to live in the righteous reign of Christ’s. Lloyd-Jones references 2 Corinthians 5:19:

“In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself… we are reconciled to God, and the power of God takes over and delivers us from the devil and his cohorts and transfers us into the kingdom of God.” (Guthrie, 78)

Certainly we still find ourselves walking in our deeply worn habits of darkness, but now we are freed to step into the light and be led forward on his paths of righteousness!

Finally, and what I believe Lloyd-Jones most clearly draws out, is that in viewing Easter as the showdown between Jesus and the devil, beyond rejoicing in our own freedom, we are enabled to celebrate the toppling of the vile dictator under whom we once were oppressed! 

“Here is one of the most wonderful things about the cross. Here is one of the most glorious reasons for glorying in the cross. Here Christ defeated our ultimate enemy, the devil, the one who originally brought man and the universe down. He was cast out, he was defeated. He has been put in chains. And finally, he is going to be completely and utterly destroyed. He will be cast into the lake of fire with the beasts and all the false prophets. And he will have no more power.” (Guthrie, pp. 78-79)

When God reconciles us to himself he is not only setting our hearts free, but he is also shattering the reign of evil itself, dismantling forever even the threat of re-oppression. Praise be to God!

Drew is a pastor working with the students and families of NPC, and heads up Stillwater, the high school and middle school ministry of our church. He lives in Dublin, Ohio, with his wife Lindsey and their four children Anna, Story, Cæd and Breck .

Drew's article is inspired by Martyn Lloyd Jones': "That He Might Destroy the Works of the Devil" from Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, Guthrie, N, 2009. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Posted on March 31, 2018 .

Silence.

Jesus bore our shame.

By Anne Ryan

March 16, 2018

 

Jesus Faces Pontius Pilate accused by the Sanhedrin as they Standby.jpg

Each detail of Jesus’ passion reveals his unwavering commitment to redeem us. In “The Silence of the Lamb,” Adrian Rogers unpacks Jesus’ love for us in his puzzling refusal to speak when he is falsely accused before the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman governor Pilate. The trumped-up witnesses who testified against Jesus could not even agree with each other, yet he did not disprove them. Although it is human nature to defend ourselves when we are accused—even if we are guilty and especially if we are innocent—our blameless Savior only answers his questioners when he is directly asked if he is the Christ, the Son of God. During his trials, Jesus is slandered, spit upon, slapped, mocked, and beaten, and yet he does not defend himself. 

Why does Jesus remain silent? In one sense, it seems out of character. He is the Word. His voice created the universe, stilled the wind and the waves, and raised the dead. His ministry was one of teaching as well as healing. His words always cut to the truth. 

What if Jesus had defended himself? Rogers suggests that Jesus “would have been so powerful and irrefutable in making his defense that no governor, high priest or other legal authority on earth could have stood against him” (Guthrie, 53). It would have made a great movie scene to see Jesus, the divine orator, verbally shred his evil opponents, just as it would have been awesome to see Jesus appeal to his Father and be rescued by twelve legions of angels in Gethsemane. It would have been dramatic to watch, but it would also have been devastating for us because we would have lost our Savior. 

Jesus’ silence fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy that the Messiah would suffer willingly:

‘“Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” Isaiah 53:7.

In his quiet humility, Jesus is the sinless Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Here is another life-giving detail. With his silence, Jesus takes away not only our sin and guilt, but also our shame: 

“The Bible teaches that when Jesus Christ took our sin, he took all of the punishment that goes with that sin. A part of that punishment is shame. Had Jesus defended himself and protested his innocence, he would have suffered no shame, and that would have left us guilty. Jesus could not prove himself innocent and then die in our place the shameful death that we deserve” (Guthrie, 53).

Jesus allows his accusers to heap shame on him so that we can be free of shame.

Jesus’ willingness to take our shame pierces my heart. It is the total opposite of my own sinful desire to make myself better than I am through excuses, comparison, pride, and judgment. My mind is obsessed with self-justification, with covering my own shame, rather than resting in the forgiveness that Jesus offers.

I once heard a pastor call Jesus’ love our “cradle of security.” Because the perfect Son of God emptied himself of his glory and silently received all our guilt and shame, we can receive the security of God’s acceptance.

Anne is a wife and stay-at-home mom who lives in Upper Arlington, Ohio, with her husband John and their four children Natalie, Zoe, Jack and Luke. 

Anne's article is inspired by Adrian Rogers: "The Silence of the Lamb" from Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, Guthrie, N, 2009. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Posted on March 16, 2018 .

Purpose.

God had to visit the world in flesh.

By Chris Mabee

March 8, 2018

Jesus Christ, must have known early on that He was of a unique and particular kind.

‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ Luke 2:49 ESV

While Luke’s purpose in writing about Jesus is clear, what remains obscure, to many, is His purpose in living, and dying. After all, if there is a creator who transcends our empirical comprehension, why would He visit the world in flesh? Why would He die for His glory? Why would it be reported that He was resurrected from the dead?

If not incredulous, surely, Mary was perplexed at the prospect of her son’s claim. But she stored up all that He said to her in her heart, later on reporting it to Luke, the historian. God had to visit the world in flesh; Jesus had to be begotten.

For the Christian, Lent is a season of repentance, worship and reflection, a season of considering afresh the ultimate meaning of life, a season for asking what the purpose of God’s visitation to earth in Jesus Christ actually meant.

Jesus confirms God’s commitment to His covenantal promises by completely obeying the obligations of His Law, and affirms His divine authority through the course of a ministry steeped in miraculous healings and sacrificial deeds. But this Jesus would have and does confuse many; others might not ask who Jesus was, but, rather, what he was?

‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God.’ To this Jesus responds counter-culturally, inasmuch, as He would not immediately begin His reign as an earthly king, which would come much later, but would ‘suffer many things, be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed.’ Jesus not only describes His ultimate fate in advance of the event, but He willingly moves towards to it. A sacrifice must be made, sin must be atoned for, or God is not good and reconciliation with His sinful people is impossible. God had to visit the world in flesh; Jesus had to die.   

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51 ESV

Yes, Jesus freely went to the cross; he set his vision on the hill of Golgotha. But in willing His passion, He was fulfilling His purpose. Those that follow, Jesus says, must do so in kind, ‘For whoever would save his life will lose it, but who every loses his life for my sake will save it.’ Yet in this encouraged discipleship there is peace and joy, for the gift of grace is always given before it is expected, something we receive which motivates our reciprocity. If Lent is about anything, it is a season about embodying that which we don’t deserve by a God who loves us more than we could ever return.

So, on Friday, the Son of Man went as had been determined; His suffering and death were not on the contingent. But, on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb and found it empty—‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.’ God had to visit the world in flesh; Jesus had to be raised from the dead.

Chris was a gastroenterology specialist in Dublin, Ohio, for over 20 years. He retired from practice in December 2017. Currently he is a seminary student at Covenant Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a pastoral intern and ruling elder at our church. He lives in Dublin with his wife Kim and their two daughters Lauren and Kendall. 

Chris's article is inspired by John Piper's: "He Set His Face to Go to Jerusalem" from Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, Guthrie, N, 2009. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Posted on March 7, 2018 .

Gardens.

Jesus accepted the cup of wrath for us.

By Laura Pilgrim

February 23, 2018

When I was a child our family had a garden. We grew tomatoes, beans, peppers. I associated the garden with bugs and chores – they are not my favorite childhood memories. As an adult I have a renewed idea of a garden. The bugs and work are still there yet with anticipation we plant seeds, fence and water with hope we might actually harvest something.

thomas-verbruggen-1093-unsplash.jpg

The Bible begins in a garden, a place of perfect beauty and harmony with God, man, and nature. We find a similar garden of magnificence and vitality at the end of Scripture with the Tree of Life bringing healing and the River of Life flowing from the throne of God.

Centered in Scripture we see a very different garden. In Gethsemane we encounter darkness and blood, not life and vitality. The cross is imminent and Jesus is in rare form-- troubled, burdened, asking questions. This garden will yield something that may not appear nourishing or life-giving at first glance but in reality produces our greatest hope – a perfectly obedient Son and Savior.

'Gethsemane' means 'oil press' in Greek. Just as heavy rock slabs press down upon olives to extract their oil, the weight of the sins of the world pressed down upon Jesus like a burden one could not withstand. As Jesus sweat blood, he poured his heart out to His Father as he had done many times before. We see in Jesus heartache and desolation, seeking comfort and strength.

In "Gethsemane" R. Kent Hughes highlights Christ’s anguish as a demonstration of his omniscient understanding of the horror of the sacrifice he was about to endure:

"The surroundings of Christ’s final hour clearly displayed his sovereign control.  The intensity of his agony and his sovereign resolve to bear it, his control over his captors, his protection of his own, his grace to the wounded, all proved he is an omniscient, all-powerful God. (Guthrie, N, 2009. Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, pp.35-36). 
It’s this demonstration of resolve and acquiescence that leaves me astounded and amazed. Truly only the Son of God could accept this purpose.
Christ was in control when life was falling in, when things looked the worst. (Guthrie, p.36). 

In a world where I try to mitigate pain, minimize discomfort, and resist hardship, I am reminded that Jesus accepted the severe and horrifying reality of separation from God his Father for the souls of his beloved. I am not in control of pain, Christ is.

Gethsemane was not a tragedy, and neither are our Gethsemanes. This does not do away with the wounds of affliction in this life, but it is encouraging to see that behind human tragedy stands the benevolent and wise purpose of the Lord of human history. (Guthrie, p.36). 

As I wrestle with questions about brokenness, tragedy and God’s purpose and presence I can remember that Jesus endured estrangement from the Father to enable my adoption into his family. Jesus accepted a cup of wrath that I may drink living water. No matter what garden I’m in I can find hope and life.

Laura is a teacher and stay-at-home mom who lives in Dublin, Ohio, with her husband Mike and their three children, Benjamin, Abigail and Katelyn.

Posted on February 23, 2018 .