Reflections at Pentecost

[4] And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; [5] for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
(Acts 1:4-5 ESV)

[1] When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. [2] And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. [3] And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. [4] And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
(Acts 2:1-4 ESV)

Pentecost is often referred to as the Feast of Weeks (Ex.34:22; Deut.16:10) and occurs fifty days after the first Sunday after Passover (Pentecost comes from the Greek word for fiftieth).

At the beginning of the Book of Acts we are presented with the disciples of Christ meeting together, most likely talking over and discussing the final instructions from their Lord, “Go and make disciples” (Matt.28).

Why were they there?  What were they waiting on?

Jesus knew the task before these men and women in this room.  They walked with him throughout his ministry and saw him do amazing things.  They wondered at the things he did and taught. Then, Jesus says they would do even greater things (Jn.14:13-14).

What was before them?

A revolutionary movement.  The church.  Making disciples.  Baptizing believers.

These disciples of Christ had a daunting task… one they were unqualified for and most likely felt ill-prepared for.  Jesus tells them to wait in Jerusalem until they are baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts.1:5).  Why?

Because they were unqualified men and women, they did not have within their capacity to accomplish the task that Jesus set before them.  He knew, if left to themselves, they would fail.  So he said, “wait.”  “Wait for my strength, my timing, my power.”

PATIENCE TO WAIT
This is a difficult passage for me.  I don’t wait.  When something needs to get done, I’m usually the first to say, “I’ll do it!”  Not because I have an unusually strong work ethic but because I’m prideful.  First, I often identify myself by the things that I am able to do and accomplish.  Second, I often think I’m more qualified and capable than I really am.  Third, I’m impatient and don’t like to wait.

What these men and women were instructed to do was wait on Christ to fill them with what they were lacking.  For the Type A personality in the room, it was probably killing him.  For the go getter of the group… she was probably tapping her feet up and down wondering why they’re all in the room rather than in the streets preaching the gospel of Christ.

How many of us find ourselves moving when God says, “wait?”  How many of us assume we’re qualified and capable when in reality we know we’re not?

Throughout Jesus’ ministry he was constantly reminding the disciples, “this isn’t about you and what you can do, it’s about me and what I’m going to do”.  

For many of us, our personality wants to take things into our own hands.  We see something that needs to be done… we get a vision from God… and then we move before hearing any other instruction.  We’re presumptuous in our understanding of our own strength and often we forget that we may be lacking in ways that only the Spirit of God can fill.

I’m not saying that in every situation we should sit and wait.  Sometimes God is calling us to act immediately, but he usually makes those moments clear.  What I am saying is we should assess each aspect of our lives and examine the things we may have been doing in our own strength, out of haste and pride.

In our families, we are tempted to raise our kids on our own… God gave them to us and makes promises to us if we would just surrender our children to him.  But rather we work and exhaust ourselves raising children in our own strength and wonder why our marriage is falling apart.

In our work we exhaust ourselves to no end only to leave our spouse and children at home wondering if our first love is our job.  As if everything would fall apart without us.

God gave his people a command to work six days a week and on the seventh day, rest.  Why?  Because there’s a rhythm to life and relationship with God.  We work and then we rest.  He restores us and we work again.  There’s a time each week that God made clear… “you need to rest in me.  Be dependent on me.  Don’t make this about you, make this about me.”

We live in a world and culture that makes everything about “me”.  It’s a consumer world that’s really no different than what Adam and Eve experienced when they ate from the tree that would make them like God.

That’s really our struggle.  We want to be our own god.  We want to be like God.  So we throw the responsibility of God on our shoulders and we work as if our world would stop spinning if we sat down for a moment.  All the while, Christ is saying, “cast your cares and burdens on me, I’m capable.”

What a freedom Christ offers us!  What a freedom he offered the men and women that would change the world through the church with the gospel.  It wasn’t on their shoulders, it’s on Christ’s.  It’s not on your shoulders, it’s on Christ’s.

REFLECTION:
1. What aspects of your life have you taken the responsibility and weight from Christ and put it on our own shoulders?

2. What relationships need mending because you were operating in your own strength only to leave it more broken than when it started?

3. What task has God set before you that you feel unqualified for?  Ask him for the power of the Spirit to fill your life.  You know, that’s the same power that raised Christ from the dead, and now Christ offers it to you.

For more info on Pentecost (Festival of Weeks) click here.

The Dual Nature of Christ

How are we to understand the temptation of Christ in light of the doctrine of “Dual Nature”? Meaning, if Jesus was fully God and fully man, how serious was the temptation that he endured in the Wilderness, or for that matter, throughout his entire life?

It is easy to understand how Jesus as a man would undergo temptation as it is common to the human experience. So, it would seem that the issue lies within the implications of Jesus’ deity. James 1:3 says, Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” But in Hebrews 4:15 we are told that “…we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One (Jesus) who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” These two passages seem to create a conflict between the two natures of Christ.

Before I tackle this issue let me first demonstrate from Scripture that Christ indeed had two natures within his singular being:

As God, Jesus:                                                          However, as man, Jesus:

-was worshipped (Mt 2:2,11; 14:3)                             -worshipped God (Jn 17)

-is prayed to (Acts 7:59; 1 Cor 1:1-2)                          -prayed to God (Jn 17:1)

-is called God (Jn 20:28; Heb 1:8)                               -was called man (Mk 15:39)

-called the Son of God (Mk 1:1)                                  -was called son of man (Jn 9:35ff)

-is sinless (1 Pt 2:22; Heb 4:15)                                   -was tempted (Matt 4:1)

-knew all things (Jn 21:17)                                            -grew in wisdom (Lk 2:52)

-gives eternal life (Jn 10:28)                                         -died (Rom 5:8)

-and is indwelt by the fullness of God (Col 2:9)        -had a body of flesh (Lk 24:39)

Do you see the difficulty of synthesizing these texts into an easy to understand doctrine of Christ’s deity and humanity? Well, I am going to give it my best shot in 300 words or less. Here it goes:

We see in Scripture that the divine nature and human nature of Christ coexisted within his person. The scriptures mentioned above tell us that God cannot sin and is not even tempted by sin, and yet the passage from Hebrews states clearly that Christ has been tempted in every way as we are and yet he remained sinless. From the vantage point of the divine I think it would be safe to conclude that Jesus could not have sinned. But from the human perspective Jesus MUST have been truly tempted. So the question becomes, if the divine nature of Christ keeps him from sinning then how could he have even been truly tempted?

Everything Jesus did, he did by looking at the Father. In John 5:19 Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner…” Here is my question… Is this anything different than what our own experience should be? I would say no. Jesus was modeling for us, in every aspect of his life and ministry, exactly what we are supposed to do and be. Since we are not divine beings but are indwelt by the divine, I believe Jesus modeled this aspect of redeemed humanity for us. Looking to the Father and empowered by the Spirit.

Here is another example: In Matthew 12:22 Jesus was casting out demons. The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting them out by the power of Beelzebub (Satan). Jesus accused the Pharisees of being guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Why the Holy Spirit? Why not Jesus? I believe it was because every miracle he preformed he did by the power of the Holy Spirit, just like the apostles. If Jesus operated in his deity, it would seem that all of his miracles would have been done in his own power, but over and over again Jesus performs the miraculous through the power of the Spirit and by the prompting of the Father.

Last point for this short blog: Jesus said he came to fulfill the law. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…” I believe that Jesus is speaking of his humanity here. God has no reason to fulfill his own law, the law was created for man. God would have no problem fulfilling His own law, but man has always fallen short of God’s law. It makes sense, that in his humanity, not in his deity, Jesus came to show how a human should live under the law of God. Again, Dominion of the world was given to a man, was lost by a man, therefore I conclude it must redeemed by a man. This is why Paul says in Philippians 2:5,  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Paul seems to be saying that Christ laid aside his deity to embrace and live in his humanity. This doesn’t not mean that Christ ceased to be Divine, only that he worked from the perspective of his humanity as an example of servanthood and humility for us. Also in 2 Corinthians 4:4, In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This is an obvious allusion back to the creation narrative in reference to the creation of man in Genesis 1:26. In 1 Cor. 15:45 Paul says, 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” So, Paul seems to picture Jesus as the prefect human, the perfect image of God, His perfect likeness. Jesus is what Adam should have been but he sinned. Therefore, Jesus is the perfect example of what man was intended to be from the beginning.

Ask yourself this: If there is no way Jesus could have sinned, what was the purpose of the temptation in the wilderness? To prove who he was to Satan? Nope, Satan already knew who he was. Was God trying to prove it to Jesus? Nope, He already knew too. It seems to be because Jesus could have really given in to the temptations and yet he never did. Notice that the first two temptations consisted of Satan trying to get Jesus to exit out of his humanity and make use of his deity. The last temptation is Satan tempting Jesus as a human to take a short cut in reclaiming lost creation.

Jesus never sinned because, as man, he kept his eyes on the Father, keeping perfect fellowship with Him… and yet, as the Divine he was the Word. As a man, Jesus was sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in his life, and because he did these perfectly, he never sinned. Could Jesus have sinned? Sure, he was human, but because he trusted in the power of the Spirit and the Word of God and the will of his Father, he did not succumb to temptation and he never sinned. Also, from the perspective of the Divine nature, Jesus would never choose sin. The issue has more to do with capacity than it does with weakness. There are many things in my own life that I have the capacity to do, but because of my predisposition I will never act on that capacity. I believe the same is true of Christ and his nature and capacity.

These are just my thoughts, and I do see this as a third order issue. Therefore, there can be disagreement and continued fellowship. However, I believe there must be agreement that Christ was fully divine and fully human. That is non-negotiable. How those two natures were utilized (or unutilized) will always be an interesting inquiry!

Day 9: Do Not Bear False Witness

TEN DAYS OF AWE- DAY 9

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Exodus 20:16

This is one command that most of us struggle with more than any other.  Often we assume and even read this command as simply, “Do not lie.”  But the actually words are, “Do not bear false witness.”  What is false witness?  It’s saying something or testifying against what you know to be true.

In reality, this command has more to do with our we live our lives than it does with the words we say.  If we understand what God has done for us, who He is, and who He has created us to be… than why do we live our lives as if he doesn’t exist?  Why do we live our lives as if He doesn’t matter?  Why do we give a false testimony of who God is to those around us?  If we are to imitate who Jesus is and represent him to the rest of the world… why sort of Jesus do they see in us?

Throughout these commands we can see a system that God has created.  A system that works if followed.  There’s light and there’s dark.  In creation we see that on day 1 God made a distinction between the two.  The light he called day, the dark he called night.  We chose the darkness.  When God was inviting us into the light, we chose the dark.  Why?  Because the darkness conceals who we are, what we’re capable of.

Over and over again God has called his people to come out of the darkness and step into the light.  To expose the darkness and be healed in the light.  He’s called the church to shine the light into the darkness because the darkness cannot comprehend it, it cannot understand it, and it cannot overcome it.  We do this by recognizing who we are, embracing the gospel of Christ and all that he has redeemed us from, confessing the darkness within and being healed.

This is what the church’s response should be.  Instead we continue to hide in the darkness out of shame, guilt, pride, or even our own love for sin.  The church has become a place where we misrepresent and bear false witness to one another of who we are and who God is.  God is calling us to love one another, bear one another’s burdens, and build bridges of healing to one another.  May we step into the light and out of the darkness.  May we embrace the gospel in our lives and understand what Christ has truly accomplished on the cross.  May we no longer judge one another for our sin but love one another and see that we are capable of the same things.

Spend some time confessing to Jesus the parts of your heart that is still hiding in darkness.  Ask him to heal you.  Repent and turn from evil.  Step into the light and shine through the darkness.  Represent to the world the love and grace that is our God.

Day 2: No Idols

TEN DAYS OF AWE- DAY 2[4] “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. [5] You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, [6] but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.   
(Exodus 20:4-6 ESV)

The Second Word or Command is one we often think, “I got this.  I don’t bow down to idols or golden calves or my G.I. Joe dolls… err… action figures.”  But if we really think about this one, this may be the one we struggle with the most.

What was the Lord asking his people to do?  He said, “Don’t make any representation of me, an image, anything that is supposed to represent who I am.”  Why did he ask this of them?  Because it is literally impossible to make anything that could contain who He is.

Think about this… In Exodus 32 Moses is on the mountain waiting on God to speak… he’s been there a while and the Israelites are getting a little worried.  Their solution… make an image that would represent God.  They bring all their gold and jewelery together, melt it down, and fashion a golden calf.  This golden calf was there to represent God.  The problem… it only represented one part of who God is.  The calf represented God’s strength and protection.

The people fashioned this image to represent a characteristic of God that they liked… it didn’t represent his wrath, nor did it really represent his grace… it represented his protection.  Their desire for protection led them to do exactly what God told them not to do.  Their idol… protection.  Their desire was not for God and who he is… their desire was for what he could do for them.  If they could find protection in this golden image they created then that was all they really needed.

What do we desire?
How are we like the Israelites in the wilderness?  We may not have a problem bowing down to our jewelry or our stuff… but what do we really desire?  Do we really desire who God is or do we desire the parts of him that gives us what we want?

When the Lord gave his name to Moses, he gave him the name “YAHWEH“.  This is translated, “I AM THAT I AM” or “I AM WHO I AM”.  In other words, “Moses, I am who I am and I don’t need your help to be who I am.”

So God’s name defines who he is.  It tells us immediately that we don’t get to define who he is.  Nothing we can fashion, nothing we can create, nothing we can conjure up in our imaginations can contain who God is.  He is far beyond what our hearts can comprehend.  We must take him for all that he is and trust that or not take him at all.

God cannot be contained in our tiny views of him… he cannot fit into the boxes that we attempt to place him in… we must search the Word of God, and see him for who he is… not who we prefer him to be… or even who we think him to be.

So, how do we know who God is… we look at his son.  Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
Colossians 1:15 says, He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”

How have you attempted to fashion God into something that you would prefer Him to be?
How have you not trusted Him to be who He is and know that is all you need?

Read Romans 1:21-22 and Jeremiah 2:5.  Scripture tells us that we become like what we worship.

A New Year, A New Day

A New Year, A New DayROSH HASHANAH slide
Rosh Hashanah – Feast of Trumpets

23 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
24 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.
25 You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.”
Leviticus 23:23-24

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Hebrew New Year.  Rosh Hashanah literally means, the head of the year.  It is observed during the first two days of the month of Tishri (the seventh ‘new moon’ of the year).

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Ten Days of Awe which is a period of time for repentance, self-examination, and prayer which culminates on the fast day of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).

Rosh Hashanah is also known as the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teru’ah).  Tradition states that the universe was created by the Lord and Rosh Hashanah marks the sixth day of creation, when the Lord created Adam and Eve.

In Leviticus 23:24 the Lord commands his people to remember with the proclamation of trumpets.  God’s people would traditionally use a shofar (ram’s horn) for such an occasion.  It is blasted at least 100 times during a traditional Rosh Hashanah service thus satisfying the command to make noise on this day.

The Blowing of the Shofar
The blowing of the Shofar is the only actual command in Scripture as to how this feast is to be observed.  The Bible does not give a reason for the blowing of the Shofar but the Rabbis felt as though there should be some significance to the blasts.  The Rabbis have spent much time in the Talmud concerning the reasons for the blowing of the trumpets.

The Tekiah
The first category of sound, known as the tekiah, is a long, single blast. This is a straight, plain, smooth, continuous note and it is to symbolize the expression of joy and contentment.

The Shevarim
The second category, known as the shevarim, is three short blasts. This is a combination of three broken notes to symbolize weeping.

The Truah
The third category of sound is known as the truah. These are extremely short blasts that are a combination of nine staccato notes in a very quick succession of short trills. This symbolizes trepidation, sorrow, and sobbing.

The Tekiah Gedolah
The fourth category is known as the tekiah gedolah, which means “the great tekiah” or “the last trump.” This one symbolizes the hope of redemption. It is a very long, final note.

In these one hundred blasts, the first three categories are combined back and forth until there is a total of ninety-nine sounds. Then comes the one hundredth, the tekiah gedolah, a very long-sustained note—as long as the trumpeter had breath to hold it—and it is known as “the last trump.”

Prayer, Repentance, and the Gospel
As we observe this Holy feast, we think back through this past year.  How have we lived our lives?  How have you lived your life?  Has your life been spent worshiping the Lord or worshiping you?  Who does your life glorify?  Who sits on the throne of your heart?

What areas of your life do you need to seek repentance and the Lord’s forgiveness?
What areas of your life are not saturated in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Is there someone in your life in which you need to seek forgiveness?
Is there someone in your life in which you need to forgive?

As we move into these days of prayer, ask the Lord for a humble heart, a trusting heart, and a heart that longs to know him more (Philippians 3:10-14).

How will you live this next year?  Will you allow the weight of sin to defeat you or will you allow the power of the gospel to redeem you?

May we remember the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power that is in his resurrection.  May we know that Christ stands in our place, takes the sin that is in us and replaces it with his righteousness.  May we know Jesus and may we trust that he is enough.

As you move into this week, remember the words of Paul:

[10] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, [11] that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
[12] Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. [13] Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:10-14 ESV)

Throughout the Ten Days of Awe (Sep.4 – 13) check back here as we post a devotional for each day.