Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

The Hymn of Christ (Phil. 2:5-11)

Christ Jesus…
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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.
(Philippians 2:5-11)

These verses, commonly referred to as the “Hymn of Christ”, were written by Paul in his letter to the Philippians as part of an exhortation to act in humility towards one another by appealing to the humility of the one they serve. Given the poetic nature and structure of the verses, some believe Paul was utilizing an earlier hymn already in use within the church. But whether the words originated with him or not their meaning remains the same – to encourage humbleness and love within the church while also teaching a very high Christology, as they trace the narrative arc from Jesus’ preexistent glory (v.5,6) through his incarnational humiliation (v.7,8) to his ascended exaltation (v. 9-11). As this portion of Scripture is studied and meditated upon, it will reveal the story of the gospel and should drive the reader to a greater love and humility towards others in light of Jesus’ example, as well as a deeper awe and worship of Christ as Lord.

The Glory of Christ

(v.5) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… The mind Paul wants the believers to have here is articulated in the preceding verses, where he exhorts the Philippians to complete his joy by “being of the same mind, having the same love” (v.2), doing “nothing from rivalry or conceit”, counting “others more significant” than themselves (v.3), and looking out for the “interests of others.” (v.4) He makes his appeal to them by pointing to the fact that this mindset existed in the one who is their final authority and the very object of their faith, Christ Jesus. The term “Christ” is the Greek translation for the Hebrew word “Messiah”, which means, “anointed one.” In Jewish thought the Messiah, whom the Hebrew Scriptures prophesied, was to be God’s agent of redemption for the people of Israel; one who would rule as the perfect Davidic king. During his earthly ministry, Jesus affirmed that he was indeed the Christ as well as the fulfillment of the entirety of Scripture (Matthew 5:17; 16:15-17; 26:63-64, Luke 24:27, 44, John 4:25-26; 5:39). However, he did not match the expectations of many who were looking for a conquering militaristic and political hero (much like David). What they received in Jesus was not simply a man to sit on their throne but something far greater.

(v.6) Who, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped… This is one of the clearest attestations in the NT to the divinity of Christ, who, before coming to earth, existed in the form of God. The word “form” is translated from the Greek, morphē, and should be understood in this context as stating that Christ possesses the same essence, characteristics, and qualities of God. Paul writes elsewhere that in Christ “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19), and that in him “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (Col 2:9) The writer of Hebrews calls Jesus “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” (Heb. 1:3) The apostle John unambiguously states that the Word made flesh “was God”, (John 1:1) and records the words of the apostle Thomas who, before the risen Christ, worshiped him as, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus is God – the eternal Word through whom the universe was created, (John 1:3, Col 1:16) and is therefore worthy of all honor and praise. However, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped… That is, Christ did not consider his position within the Godhead as something to be used to his own advantage, instead he used it for the benefit of his people in an unfathomable act of selfless love.

The Humiliation of Christ

(v.7) But made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men… It is a mystery beyond our finite comprehension – that the God of the universe became a man – or as John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” In this most astounding act of humility the one who was above everything made himself nothing; and he who existed in the form of God took the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men, that is, he was born as a real flesh and blood man who was as fully human as he was divine. The gospels of Matthew and Luke tell of how the virgin Mary conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit and gave birth to the child whom Isaiah prophesied was to come. (Isaiah 9:6)

And so God entered into the human condition, lived as one of us, and shared in our pain and trails, our temptations and our sorrows because humanity, in it’s fallen state, was lost and separated from it’s creator and utterly incapable of reconciling itself to him apart from this incredible intervention. And thus, as John Calvin wrote, “The Son of God behooved to become our Immanuel, i.e., God with us; and in such a way, that by mutual union his divinity and our nature might be combined; otherwise neither was the proximity near enough, nor the affinity strong enough, to give us hope that God would dwell with us; so great was the repugnance between our pollution and the spotless purity of God.” Christ came as our mediator, our advocate – fully God and fully man – to bridge the chasm between Creator and creation. However, to merely dwell among men was not enough to justify them before a holy God. In order to fully reconcile and restore us to the Father, Jesus not only had to live as one of us; he had to die as one of us.

(v.8) And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross… As if it were not astonishing enough that the Son of God would become a man, Christ was humble enough to become obedient to the point of death. Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience to the Law of God; though he was tempted like us in every way he was “without sin” (Heb. 4:15) Christ’s sinless life was necessary for us because, as Wayne Grudem puts it, “Unless he had done this for us, we would have no record of obedience by which we would merit God’s favor and merit eternal life with him.”  Just as the Law required a perfect lamb without blemish to be slaughtered on the Day of Atonement to clear the guilt of the people, Christ, likewise, was the perfect and sinless Lamb of God whose death “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)

And this was not accomplished by means of an easy and quick death, but by death on a cross. In the ancient world, there was no form of execution more devastatingly painful, humiliating and ignoble than crucifixion, and thus, the cross of Christ is the ultimate antithesis to his preexistent majesty; the most profound act of humble obedience to his Father; and the greatest display of his love towards a rebellious humanity. It was at the cross where God’s loving mercy and holy wrath collided. For upon the cross, the pure and perfect Son of God, beloved by the Father, suffered not only physical pain, but also the agony of bearing our sins and taking the punishment deserved by sinners upon himself, by absorbing the fullness of his Father’s wrath. In this way, Jesus became the “propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 2:2) And not only did Christ appease justice on the cross, he also imputed his righteousness to all who would believe and put their trust in him. This is what Martin Luther referred to as “the great exchange”, as it is written, “For our sake he [God the Father] made him [Christ Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

The Exaltation of Christ

(v.9) Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name… Thankfully, the story does not end with Good Friday. The horror of the crucifixion gave way to the glory of the resurrection, and Christ’s defeat on the cross was ultimately his victory over Satan, sin, and death. The implications of Jesus’ rising from the grave are monumental; it is a vindication of his claims as well as a foretaste of the eternal state of believers after death. Paul hinges the entirely of Christian faith upon the bodily resurrection, writing that, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor17)

But Christ did indeed rise in a glorified body, after which, he ascended back to heaven, to sit at the right hand of his Father. He was perfectly obedient to his Father’s will and therefore God…highly exalted him. Peter preached this in his very first sermon at Pentecost, saying, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36) Not only did the Father exalt his Son, he also bestowed on him the name that is above every name. Andreas J. Köstenberger writes that, “The Jews referred to God using substitutions for the divine name. Approved substitutions were called kinnuyim…In Phil. 2:9 Paul uses the kinnuyim “the name”…Every Jew in Philippi who heard this phrase would automatically recognize these words as an allusion to the divine name.” Paul was clearly equating Jesus with Yahweh, and his audience would have realized this.

(v. 10) So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (v.11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Before he ascended, Jesus told his disciples that he had received “All authority in heaven and on earth.” (Matt. 28:18) Throughout the NT we see that Christ is the object of praise; he is given worship by people and by angels, and even demons fall before him in acknowledgement of his status. The book of Revelation calls him the “King of kings” and “Lord of lords.” (Rev. 17:14; 19:16) And thus, the hymn states that at his name every knee should bow…and every tongue confess the Jesus Christ is Lord… for he is the supreme ruler of God’s eternal kingdom and he will reign forever in majesty. It should also be noted that, once again, Jesus is equated to Yahweh, as these words are borrowed from the book of Isaiah, where God himself says: “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.” (Isa. 45:23) The hymn ends by stating that Jesus is exalted and praised by all creation to the glory of God the Father. Though he shares equal status of divinity, the Son’s humble subjection to the Father, which has existed since eternity past, is seen here to also continue forever into the future kingdom, as it is written, “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:28) This is not to say that Christ will cease to rule, for it is also written that, “…of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:33) Rather, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God…” is found “…in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6) The hymn states that the Father is glorified by the worship of his Son, and that is because, as John Pipers says, “The glory of Christ is the glory of God” (emphasis added)

Some  say that pride is the mother of all sin, and hence, gave birth to all other sins. If this is the case then it is fitting that such an exquisite hymn about Christ would center on his humility – the antithesis to pride. What glorious paradoxes we find in Christ Jesus: the Ruler and the servant, the Judge and the condemned, the Victor and the victim, God and man. Richard Bauckham captured it well when he wrote that, “The radical contrast of humiliation and exaltation is precisely the revelation of who God is in his radically self-giving love. He rules only as the one who also serves. He is exalted above all only as the one who is also with the lowest of the low.”

May the humility of our Savior cause us to exalt him more greatly for all of our days.

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Monday Morning Music (John Mark McMillan – Death in His Grave)

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Jesus once asked his disciples about what the people of that day were saying about him and who they thought he was. Here are some of the answers the world has given to that question over the last two millenia:

a created being
a liar
a lunatic
a legend
a megalomaniac
a gnostic
an alien
an avatar
merely a good moral teacher
merely a great thinker
merely an example
merely a prophet
one of many ways to God or heaven
one of many gods
a lesser god
the spirit brother of Lucifer
the archangel Michael
a deceiver and false messiah
a counter-cultural, peasant philosopher
an impassive dullard
a pushover pacifist
an enlightened Master
the secret husband of Mary Magdalene
an Arian and enemy of the Jews
a communist
a hippie
a buzz kill
a white republican
a religious taskmaster
a teetotaler
a means to prosperity and perfect health
a crutch
a false hope
a dead man

The list could go on, but the point is that  Jesus of Nazareth is not only the most recognized and influential person in all of  history, he is also the most controversial, misunderstood and re-imagined. Here is the conversation mentioned above as it is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-17)

Jesus affirmed that he is the Christ – the prophesied Messiah of Scripture – and the very Son of God. In fact, he is no less than God himself, the creator of all things, come in the flesh (John 1:1-18)…and this, I believe, is why we have created so many different versions of him: because many of us just can’t live with the implications of his claims actually being true.

If  Jesus is who he says he is then we owe him everything: our allegiance, our lives, and our eternal souls.

If he is who he says he is we must heed his command to repent for our sinfulness, cling to his cross, believe in his resurrection, and put our faith and trust wholly in him for our salvation.

If he is who he says he is then our pursuit of wealth, status, and comfort must be replaced with a pursuit for holiness and righteousness in all areas of our lives. We must put an end to our self-centeredness and start treating others as better than ourselves, even to the point of loving those who persecute us.

If he is who he says he is then he is coming back at the end of the age to judge everyone who has ever lived and he alone will determine their eternal state – either with him or apart from him.

If he is who he says he is then we must bow to him as Lord and God.

But this is an offense to us. It sounds like foolishness and it feels like a stumbling block. We are far too intelligent nowadays to believe in supernatural myths, we are too self-sufficient to need a Savior, we are too proud to see that we are a broken, rebellious humanity, and we are too busy being our own gods to worship the one who really is.

So we try our hardest to strip Jesus of all that authority, to make him more docile, easier to handle, and easier to ignore. We would prefer a safer Christ, one who doesn’t demand so high a cost for following him.

But that is not the Jesus of Scripture.  The Jesus of Scripture tells us that it’s all or nothing. It is as C.S. Lewis once put it, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

And so we must make our choice, because like it or not, Jesus Christ cannot be ignored.  He is planted firmly in the middle of our history, he is found in all the major faiths of of the world, he’s in every bookstore and every university, and from the the silver screen to the soup kitchens, from the pulpits to the prisons his voice can be heard, and he is asking us the same  question  today that he asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”

Let us end by simply reading Jesus in his own words…

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  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.

Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega…the beginning and the end

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?

Good News of Great Joy

“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” -Luke 2:10-11

This was the heavenly message spoken by the angel to the shepherds outside Bethlehem on the day of Christ’s birth. It begins with the words “fear not” for it does not bring a word of judgment but one of mercy and salvation. It brings the “good news” – that is, the gospel – of “great joy” – for the coming of the Son of God into the world is a glorious event indeed, and cause for rejoicing.

And this good news is not only for Israel but for “all the people”, for Jesus came to redeem both Jew and Gentile. This points back to God’s covenant promise to Abraham – that in him, that is, through his lineage, all the families of the world would be blessed (Gen. 12:3).

The angel continues: “For unto you is born…” This phrase echoes back to the first words of Isaiah’s messianic prophecy: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6). This child is not simply born, he is born “to us” as a gift from God.

The angel announces that the child is born in “the city of David” – that is, Bethlehem – as was foretold by the prophet Micah: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2) Jesus is the descendant of King David who fulfills the covenantal promise that God would establish a seed from David’s line to rule his kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14)

The angel concludes its message by ascribing three titles to the child:

1) Savior: The entire narrative of the Old Testament (after Creation and the Fall) is the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan for humanity. The narrative reaches its climax in Jesus, whose name literally means “The Lord is Salvation”. It is Jesus himself who saves his people from their sins and the wrath of God by dying in their stead.

2) Christ: The Greek translation of the Hebrew word “messiah”, that is, the long awaited redeemer of God’s people who is prophesied about throughout the OT; from the “offspring” of the woman spoken of in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:14-15) to the “messenger of the covenant” whom Malachi wrote of (Mal. 3:1-3).

3) Lord: Jesus is the supreme ruler of all creation; the resurrected and ascended Lord of the universe. The Greek word for “Lord” can simply mean master but is also used interchangeably by the New Testament writers to translate the covenant name of God (Yahweh) and should therefore be considered a title of deity when ascribed to Jesus, who is both fully God and man.

On Christmas we celebrate the advent of our Lord; the eternal Word made flesh. What this means for us most practically and most deeply is that God loves us. Though sinners we be, the very Son of God loved us enough to leave his heavenly glory for a filthy manger and ultimately a bloody cross, so that we may be forgiven, redeemed and remade. This is most certainly good news – the best news in fact, and deserves to be received with the greatest joy.

“Minuit, Chrétiens” (Midnight, Christians)

A translation of the original french poem 
"Minuit, Chrétiens" by Placide Cappeau, which 
later became the english carol "O Holy Night".  

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour
When God as man descended unto us
To erase the stain of original sin
And to end the wrath of his Father
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night that gives it a Savior

     People kneel down, wait for your deliverance
     Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer
     Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer

May the ardent light of our faith
Guide us all to the cradle of the infant
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Guided the Oriental kings there
The King of kings was born in a humble manger
O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness

     It is to your pride that God preaches
     Bow your heads before the Redeemer
     Bow your heads before the Redeemer

The Redeemer has broken every bond
The earth is free, and heaven is open
He sees a brother where there was only a slave
Love unites those who iron had chained
Who will tell him of our gratitude
For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies

      People stand up, sing of your deliverance
      Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer
      Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer

Marriage In Three Acts

(A wedding exhortation I wrote for the marriage of dear friends who allowed me the honor of performing their ceremony)

Marriage In Three Acts

We are gathered here today to celebrate the joining together of the bride and groom in the holy covenant of marriage. Now, if we are to truly understand what a marriage is we must know something of its origins as well as its “telos”, that is, its purpose or goal. Where we come to a most direct knowledge of these things is in God’s Word. Contrary to popular opinion, the Bible is not a book of rules and regulations, nor is it a manual on how to be a better person. It is actually a story, a true story; the greatest story ever in fact; the story that all other stories are merely and echo and shadow of. And so today I’d like to examine marriage within the context of the overarching narrative of God’s story, which is revealed in Scripture in three acts: creation, fall, and redemption.

Act one begins with the Author Himself. In the beginning God creates the heavens and the earth. He adorns the heavens with brilliant light and fills the earth with vegetation and all manner of living creatures. And when it is time for the crowning achievement of His creation God says “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” And thus God forms the man of dust from the ground, breathes into him the breath of life, and he becomes a living soul. God plants a garden in Eden, a temple if you will, and within this temple God places His image in the form of his Adam

God looks upon all He has made and declares it good until He sees that his image-bearer is alone. So God makes for him a woman, one to be his partner, who bears the same image of God, equal in dignity and worth, and beautiful to his eyes. Eve, as she is called, is Adam’s perfect compliment – emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Adam sings over his new bride and God blesses the couple, commanding them to “Be fruitful and fill the earth…”

So here we have both the origin of marriage as well as its original purpose. Marriage is not merely a social construct or simply a legal agreement. It is an institution established by God Himself, transcending time, culture, and geography. Within the union of marriage, the two become one, not only in a physical sense, but also in a profoundly spiritual one. Indeed, within this truth of plurality in unity we even see shadows of the triune nature of God – who is One but exists eternally as three Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit.

In regards to purpose we see that marriage is the intended vehicle by which, through physical union, humanity multiplies and fills the earth, expanding the borders of Eden until the glory of the Lord covers the land as the waters cover the sea. However, before even a child is born to our first mother and father, conflict enters the garden and the story takes a tragic turn.

In act two the man and woman do evil by listening to the voice of the serpent over that of the Lord, which leads them to eat of the forbidden fruit. Humanity’s song becomes one of lament as sin enters the world, corrupting God’s good creation and subjecting it to death and decay. Paradise is lost and the relationship between husband and wife becomes strained as they begin a life of pain and toil in a land now cursed by the fall. But even in this darkest hour the faint light of hope is to be found. For in the midst of God’s curses stands a stunning, merciful promise: that a Redeemer will come through the seed of the woman and He will one day crush the head of the serpent and restore what has been lost.

And so begins the arduous journey of primeval history until one day God calls a man named Abram from his homeland. From his lineage He makes for Himself a people who are called Israel; He frees them from the slavery of Egypt through the leadership of Moses, He gives them the Law at Mt. Sinai, brings them into the promised land, and promises an everlasting kingdom through the line of King David. This is Yahweh’s covenant nation, a nation of priests, prophets and kings who, though flawed, foreshadow the One who is to come and bring salvation to the world. Scripture begins applying the metaphor of marriage to the relationship of God to his people. Yahweh is likened to a loving, merciful, and faithful husband to his bride Israel, though her fidelity to Him ebbs and flows due to her many sins. Though judgment comes, even to the point of exile, the Lord does not forsake his idolatrous and adulteress  spouse, for even when her love for Him grows cold, His remains a consuming fire.

In this act there is a constant tension of justice and mercy as a perfect and holy God saves and judges a stiff-necked, rebellious people. We must realize that in a fallen world not one of us is without sin, for all have fallen short of the glory of God. Though we retain the dignity of bearing His image, we are broken and imperfect reflections of our Creator.  And so to the bride and groom I say: You will not always love her perfectly, and you will not always honor him as you should, but just as God stayed ever faithful to the covenant He made with His people, so also must you stay faithful to the words of promise you speak this day. For you will experience both mountaintop joys as well as sorrows in the valley, and the fire of youthful passion will one day cool with age, but if your faith is rooted in God and His Word you can rejoice in knowing that it is not your love that will sustain this covenant but rather the covenant that will sustain your love and rekindle its flames time and time again.

As we return to the narrative, we find the tension between God’s justice and mercy; His wrath against sin and His love for sinful humanity, is finally resolved in the climax of the third and final act when the hero of God’s story finally appears – the seed of the woman spoken of in the garden of Eden, the promised one, the messiah, who for generations has been veiled in the writings of Israel’s prophets. At long last and at the culmination of the ages, Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, the Second Person of the holy Trinity, becomes a man, lives a perfect, sinless life, dies a cruel and torturous death upon a cross for the sins of the world, resurrects from the dead in victory over Satan, sin, and death, and ascends back to heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the Father, sovereignly ruling over heaven and earth until the day He comes again to make all things new and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

The word “gospel” means “good news”, and what Jesus accomplishes for us is indeed good news. For upon the cross God in Christ reconciles the world to himself by making Him to be sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. This is the great exchange: Jesus takes our sin and gives us his righteousness so we may stand holy and blameless before God as his redeemed children and inherit eternal life. This is the promise, the free gift of grace, offered to all who would believe and put their trust wholly in Jesus as crucified Savior and risen Lord.

And in this we also find the grand meaning behind what marriage truly is. When the apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians about marriage he ends with these enigmatic words:  “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Why? Because Jesus is the eternal Word who created man and woman and brought them together; He is Yahweh, who stayed the faithful spouse to his people Israel; and He is the husband who loved his bride so much that He died to secure for her an eternal salvation and everlasting life in His joyful presence. All things exist by Jesus and for Jesus.

And so, today your lives become a living, breathing metaphor for God’s entire story. Your covenant will represent the creation of male and female, their becoming one, and their mandate to be fruitful; it will represent the Fall and the struggle of redemptive history as you wrestle with sin and grow in love; and as a couple who are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb, your covenant will ultimately represent the glorious and final union of Christ and his bride the church, a union that has no end but will continues forever in perfect splendor, peace, joy and love.

I pray that you feel the gravitas of these truths. I pray that the Father would bless you both according to the riches of his glory and grant you to be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, and that both of you, being rooted and grounded in love, may comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

May this marriage be a light that shines forth the glory of the gospel to all you live among and encounter, so that all who know you may also know the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and the salvation He brings. For blessed are all who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb and His bride the church. I pray these things in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Longing For Home

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one…”(Hebrews 11:16)

C.S. Lewis once argued that “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.” This can be seen in our biology: We hunger and there is food; we thirst and there is water; we have sexual desires and there is sex. But what are we to make of of those desires in us that do not seem to correspond to anything in the natural world? Why do we desire meaning and purpose for our lives? What are these longings we have for love and fidelity. Where did this universal notion of right and wrong come from? And how should we respond to that ache we get in our chests (the one that feels curiously like homesickness) when we look at something immensely beautiful like a sunset, a sweeping vista, or the starry hosts above?

In response to questions like these, Lewis famously wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”. He goes on to suggest that earthly pleasures were not meant to satisfy such unearthly desires, they were meant to arouse them while pointing to the real thing, the real satisfaction. They themselves are not the real thing, but only “a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.” If I may use my own illustration, they are a bit like looking through a keyhole and glimpsing shadows of things to come; glimpses that push us to keep searching for that “better country…a heavenly one” (Heb.11:16)

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…earthly pleasures were not meant to satisfy such unearthly desires…

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But let us not make the mistake of concluding that all we are really after is simply greater, otherworldly pleasures. One of the strangest things about man (at least from a naturalist perspective) is his desire to worship; to worship something greater than himself and devote himself to something transcendent. This has been true of humanity in all times and places. Augustine summed up the reason for this succinctly and beautifully when he wrote, “You [God] stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Money, sex, power, status – all these things that most of us spend most our lives chasing – are fleeting. They will not do, not ultimately, for we are creatures with eternity set in our hearts and our longing for love, joy, and peace will not be fulfilled until we are connected to the Source of love, joy, and peace. Until we’re grafted to the Vine we’re just dead branches fit for the fire. So it is God Himself we are after. It is in Him, and Him alone, that we find our greatest pleasure. In Him our longing for meaning, purpose, morality, beauty, and transcendence are satisfied completely.

But it is no use to speak of finding our ultimate satisfaction in God without also speaking of how we are to come to God. For the truth is that we are rebels who  have chosen autonomy from the Creator, and because of our sin we are separated from He who is our true satisfaction. But thankfully God shows us grace – that is, undeserved benevolence – and provides a means of reconciliation through the mediating work of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus, the eternal Word, the second Person of the Trinity, took on flesh, bore our sins upon the cross, rose from the dead with all authority in heaven and on earth, and now offers us the gift of eternal life. What salvation requires from us is to repent of our rebellion and believe on Him, both as our crucified Savior and our risen Lord. This is how we are reconciled to God – in the very person of Jesus Christ who is, as the ancient creed states, ‘very God of very God’.

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So it is God himself we are after. It is in Him, and Him alone, that we find our greatest pleasure.

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The New Testament concludes with a picture of God and His people residing together in perfection. In the book of Revelation John is given magnificent visions of the throne room in heaven and New Jerusalem; shadowless  ‘keyhole glimpses’, if you will, of the future satisfaction of God’s people. A people worshiping their Savior in all His glory; a people who are finally home:

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 were saying:

“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, saying:

“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. (Revelation 5:11-14)

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The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!”

Then a voice came from the throne, saying:

“Praise our God, all you his servants,
you who fear him, both great and small!”

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:4-19)

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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 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)