Tag Archives: commentary

The Messiah: Eleven Meditations from the Book of Mark (Free)

Messiah Cross

You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.

In a two month period back in August and September of 2009 I published several articles on specific events in Jesus’ life found in the book of Mark.

Events that demonstrate his unlimited power over nature, sickness, and demons. Events that strike terror. That create awe. That even hardens hearts.

But hardened hearts indicate one thing: They knew Jesus to be dangerous.

Jesus is dangerous. And glorious. And worthy to be worshipped. He’s not tame nor tranquil, but terrifying to the wicked and triumphant to the humble.

It’s these events that provoked Peter to declare, “You are the Christ.” And it’s these events that provoke the righteous to fall to the ground and declare, “You are our Savior.”

And that is the appropriate response to the one who came to earth to bear the punishment for our sinsMessiah_Meditations so that we might live. Jesus is God as man. In the end, that is who these events declare Jesus truly is.

And so I’ve pulled these articles together in one post. And I even had them transformed into a PDF version: .

Read the individual articles here.

Son of Man: Something You Will and Won’t See
Several things happened the day Jesus healed a crippled man. Several things nobody saw but believe in fact did happen. [Mark 2:1-12]

How the Conquered Storm Points to Christ
The story of Jesus stilling the tempest demonstrates Jesus’ unlimited power and the two ways we can respond to this power. [Mark 4:35-41]

The Demoniac Proclamation of Christ
There’s something quite potent to the story of the demon-possessed man that drives the heart of a Christian to it. [Mark 5:1-20]

The Scandal of Jesus in Nazareth
In the small, isolated village of Nazareth Jesus taught one Sabbath day. Everything as it should be. Except for one thing. [Mark 6:1-6]

The Messiah: Peter’s Confession of Christ
Peter confessed Jesus was Christ. Who do you say Jesus is? The answer will determine your eternal destiny. [Mark 8:27-30]

Discipleship: The Law of the Cross Prevails
What does it mean to follow Christ? In just 100 words Jesus taught his disciples the price they must pay to follow him. [Mark 8:34-38]

Transfiguration: An Otherworldly Peek at the Messiah
Jesus’ transfiguration had two very specific purposes. Here’s what you need to know. [Mark 9:2-13]

Anointed: A Reckless but Beautiful Act of Worship
Jesus said Mary’s one act of reckless worship was beautiful. What are you willing to risk for Jesus that he might describe as beautiful? [Mark 14:3-9]

Failure: Peter’s Denial of Jesus Christ
All four gospels record Peter’s betrayal. The purpose? To draw a vivid distinction between man and God. [Mark 14:66-77]

Crucifixion: The Messiah Mocked on the Cross
Obedient to the end, Jesus dies on the cross, rejected and mocked. But his death ushers in another world. [Mark 15:31-32]

Death: The Messiah Commits His Soul to God
Even in the depths of humiliation, Jesus was declared the Messiah. Declared by a person you’d never expect. [Mark 15:33-39]

Four Ways to Use The Messiah Book

Want some ideas on how to use The Messiah? Here are four.

1. Book.

Read it and move on. Pretty straightforward. You could take it a bit further and brag [or rag] on it–whether here, Scribd or your social media site of choice.

2. Devotional.

Print the book out and hunker down each morning with a chapter. Meditate on the messages like you might a page from Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest.

3. Tract. 

The book is 30 pages of very short chapters, so it’s easy to read. And the content [the identity of Jesus] is perfect for introducing non-believers to the gospel.

4. Study Guide.

Print this book out and walk your study group or Sunday school class through it. Could stretch into an eleven week course.

Did I miss one? Let me know.

One More Thing

Some of you might want to know why I’m giving this book away for free. It basically comes down to this: Your attention is precious to me. I should be paying you.

In a way, with The Messiah, I am. So go .

I hope you enjoy it. And please, let me know what you think. I love hearing from you.

What’s This “Disputing about the Body of Moses” Business?

Jude is a tiny book at the back of your Bible, second to the last, right before the book of Revelation, and immediately after 3 John.

Even at 25 verses, though, Jude isn’t the smallest book in the Bible. That distinction goes to 2 John. Then 3 John.

Jude is a workhorse, however, despite its small size. Inside those 25 verses is enough to keep a theologian busy for a year or two.

For starters you have a saint, brother of James, writing a letter to a circuit of churches. He wanted to encourage the believers about the common blessing they had in salvation.

You feel if that letter was written it would have been friendly, calm and patient. Instead you get a combative and impassioned letter. One that feels almost rushed. Like a first century .

One of the Most Bizarre Statements in Jude

Jude had some stiff words for false teachers like calling them “wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”

Yet for these sinners our response to them amounts to seeking the Lord’s intervening power against them. Michael, God’s chief angel, did just that when contending with the devil over the body of Moses.

And this is where you should do a screeching halt.

The exact text rendered in the :

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

Disputing about the body of Moses. Hmm.

The reason this is such a head scratcher is that this struggle is not mentioned anywhere in Scripture. There is a Hebrew text outside of the canon that mentions a fight between the two found in Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 43, 3:

At the time in which Isaac was bound there was a contention between Michael and Satan. Michael brought a ram, that Isaac might be liberated; but Satan endeavored to carry off the ram, that Isaac might be slain.

But nothing in the canon.

There is a situation where Michael is to do the bidding of the Lord in . His duty there is to make sure Jews would be free to return to their land.

But nothing on Moses or contending with devil.

Why Satan Wanted Moses’ Body

Moses died on Mt. Nebo.

Mt. Nebo overlooks the promised land, land Moses didn’t get to enter. This means this contention with the body of Moses happened on Mt. Nebo.

Or close by.

And Jude suggests that Michael was sent to protect the body from Satan.

But what exactly did Satan want to do with it? Josephus [] suggested that Satan would’ve used it as an idol or object of worship. Prop the stiff corpse up, and the people fall down at its feet.

Think of the golden calf. Or in more recent times, the .

Another theologian, Clark, suggests that the body was already buried and Michael was sent to keep it buried because Satan wanted to dig it up, you know, and show it to the people.

Allegorical Interpretations of “Body of Moses”

Still other theologians think that “the body of Moses” doesn’t refer to an actual physical body–but a collection of things.

Kind of like Paul in where he uses the phrase σωμα της ἁμαρτιας–the body of death.

This is not so far-fetched since among the Hebrews גוף guph, body, is often used this way.  So when גוף של משה guph shel Mosheh, the body of Moses is used, it could mean his laws.

The body of Moses’ laws.

If this is the case, then we have an angel and the devil disputing over these laws…but what’s not clear is who wanted to do what with them.

In keeping with a Christ-centered interpretation theologians who favor this view say that the laws were abolished and buried by Christ. And the devil wanted to keep them alive.

This is allegorical interpretation at it’s best.

Not good.

Better to stick with the literal meaning of the text.

Jude’s Troubling Source for This Text

However, the meaning of the text is small potatoes compared to Jude’s sources for this story.

As I mentioned above, this tale is not found in the biblical canon. And theologians aren’t one hundred percent sure of the source.

Some argue, starting with , that the source was an apocryphal book called “The Assumption of Moses.”

Whether this is true or not here’s what we know: Jude is using a non-canonical book to make a point.

Is that okay?

One theologian argued that Jude used the story from an apocryphal book because his readers were familiar with it…and he wanted to appeal to sources that they valued.

The only problem with this concept is that Jude uses this fable like he believes it actually happened. Perhaps no different from if he used the story of Moses smiting the rock or the parting of the Red Sea.

So what do we do with this?

Some have argued that due to Jude’s use of an apocryphal book Jude should be thrown out of the canon.

Others think that’s harsh, and point to several arguments to back their case:

  • Due to the references to apostles, the repetition of Jewish tradition (the same tradition that Paul came by the names of Jannes and Jambres), the recognition and warning of early forms of apostasy like Docetism, Marcionism, and Gnosticism and Jude’s competent Greek writing style the book should be dated between 66 and 90 A.D., and not at some later date that would mark it as suspect.
  • Jude was quickly adapted by early church fathers like Tertullian and Clement of Alexandrian.
  • The epithets in Jude are thought to be some of the best in the Bible, and the closing doxology is considered supreme in quality. (I guess the argument being heretical books use shoddy rhetorical tricks and cheap songs.)
  • Jude, by quoting “The Assumption of Moses,” a pagan source, did no differently than Paul who quoted a , a and a in his own letters.
  • Finally, these theologians who support canonical Jude point out that the point of the letter is biblical as all get out:  live a faithful and holy life, resist the lust of the flesh and do not deny God.

With those arguments squarely in our pockets, I think it is safe to say that this book was not written by man, but God speaking through a man who was carried along by the Holy Spirit–no matter how quirky that bit about Michael disputing with the body of Moses.

What do you think?

By the way, if you liked what you read please . Then share this post on Twitter and Facebook.

The Most Extraordinary Revival the World Has Ever Seen

Part of a new weekly series on the book of Matthew. This week: Matthew 12:38-41

Jonah had no idea what to expect the day he walked into Nineveh.

As the capital of the Assyrian Empire, it was quite possibly the largest city in the known world.

The inner city was surrounded by walls 8 miles long. The outer city circumscribed 60 miles. As many as 600,000 people could have been living in Nineveh at this time.

It was founded by an eponymous Ninnus. But it was who made it great.

The Spectacular Wealth and Sin of Sennacherib and His City

He built new streets and squares and created a palace with 80 rooms, some full of sculptures. The doorways were flanked by stone bulls or winged lions weighing 30 tons.

On the walls artisans carved battles, impalings and scenes of his soldiers parading the spoils of war before their king.

Of his conquest of Babylon he bragged that he slaughtered all of its citizens–young and old, woman and child.

Of his conquest of Jerusalem he gloated about caging up Hezekiah like a bird and starving the inhabitants of the city.

The people of Nineveh worshipped , the fish goddess, the daughter of Ea, the goddess of fresh water.

They worshipped , the fish god, represented as half man and half-fish.

They worshipped , highest god in the Assyrian pantheon and protector of the city.

And they worshipped , the goddess of love, war, fertility and sex.

And to cry out against their wickedness.

The Most Extraordinary Revival the World Has Ever Seen

It took Jonah three days to walk around the city and preach his sermon, which amounted to this: “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Jonah more than likely felt pleasure in his sermon. He did not want to share salvation with non-Jews. However, obedience to God trumped his reluctance. Jonah’s reward? The destruction of the city he hated.

Historians are not sure who exactly was king over Nineveh during Jonah’s sermon: it is either Adad-irari III or Assurdan III. One puts us at about 810-783 B.C. The other at 772-755 B.C, respectively.

No matter.

The king of Nineveh’s response was dramatic. He rose from his throne and cast off his robe. He covered himself in ashes and sackcloth. Then came his proclamation:

In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands.  Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish. 

It is not a stretch to say that Jonah’s jaw probably dropped.

Something Greater than Jonah Is Here

It’s this story, embedded in the Old Testament and embedded in the teachings of scribes and Pharisees, that Jesus uses to answer a request for a sign by some scribes and Pharisees.

Jesus says:

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “ An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 

Jonah was a stranger to Nineveh. He preached for 3 days. He performed no miracles. He was a fallen and flawed man. A disobedient prophet. And he only preached punishment on this earth.

In all ways he was inferior to Jesus.

Jesus was no stranger to the Jews of Jerusalem. He preached for 3 years. He performed all kinds of miracles. He was sinless. He was God in the flesh. Perfect in his doctrine. Perfect in his obedience. And he preached eternal punishment.

Yet, the Jews would not repent.

Their punishment? On the day of judgement, a day they all believed was coming, they would stand before God. And the people of Nineveh, the generation that repented, would stand before them and level a finger to pronounce them condemned.

Those Jews were not seeking repentance. They were seeking a sign. And that lust would cost them their eternal lives.

Your Turn

The revival in late eight century B.C. Nineveh parallels nothing else in recorded history. A city of half a million fall to their knees and repent, removing the judgement of God.

Pentecost. The Reformation. The First and Second Great Awakenings. The sheer size of the Global South Movement may be the closest contender.

But no examples of a single city the size of Nineveh.

Some suggest the Nineveh revival was superficial because within a generation the city was destroyed as predicted by Nahum. Jesus doesn’t buy that. His illustration suggests their repentance was sincere, an instance of true saving faith.

And a warning to us: do not seek signs. Seek repentance.

Is 2 Kings 8:15 an Example of Waterboarding in the Bible?

Not really sure why I was excited when I found an example of waterboarding in the Bible. But I was.

This was one of those epiphanies that should be marked as “Disturbing but Sublime.” Like as in I think I found something nobody else knows about…

But it’s kind of creepy–do I even want to share it?

One thing was for sure: I needed to bone up on my understanding of waterboarding, so I paid a visit to Google and Wikipedia.

Lowdown on Waterboarding

The process is fairly simple: lay a wet towel over someone’s face and pour water on it. And while the technique has been around for centuries, the .

Keep in mind, this is different from the “Chinese water torture.” That cruel ordeal invented by the Ancient Asians involves slowly dripping water on someone’s face. The goal was to drive them made.

The goal behind waterboarding is to get people to talk.

And while some insist that waterboarding is a legitimate interrogation technique, others view it as torture, including Christopher Hitchens.

In his piece at Vanity Fair he reported on his experience of being water boarded. One of the things he wanted to learn was whether it was true that this technique “simulated drowning.”

About the experience, which lasted less than 15 seconds, Hitchens wrote:

You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning.

You can .

Waterboarding in the Bible–and The Idiot

I’m pretty sure there is a place in the Bible that describes someone being waterboarded. That places is found in :

But the next day he took the bed cloth and dipped it in water and spread it over his face, till he died. And Hazael became king in his place.

To be honest, Hazel wasn’t trying to torture Ben-hadad, the king. Nor was he trying to interrogate him.

He was trying to kill him.

And no lie, just a few days after I read that passage in 2 Kings I came across this in Dostoevsky’s novel :

Yes, not physically. I don’t think anyone would raise a hand against a creature like me, even a woman would not strike me now. Even Ganya wouldn’t strike me! Though I did think he was going to fly at me at one time yesterday…. I’ll bet you anything I know what you’re thinking about now. You’re thinking, ‘he mustn’t be beaten of course, but he might be smothered with a pillow or a wet cloth in his sleep–in fact one ought to….’ It is written on your face that you’re thinking that at this very second.

You can find that paragraph at the bottom of the page.

What Do You Think?

Did I get it right? Are these examples of deaths from waterboarding? Can you share any other examples of waterboarding from the Bible or literature?

Share your thoughts.

What the Song of Solomon Really Means


The sexually-charged language of Song of Songs [or Song of Solomon] makes it a provocative read…

But one wonders if it actually makes a major theological contribution to Judaism or Christianity.

In fact, one wonders why it’s even in the Old Testament…why it’s even in the canon at all.

I mean, what was the original author or editor hoping to communicate to his reader?

And what about the fact that there’s no mention of God. Isn’t that problematic?

Well, no. Not really. Not after you see that this short, but potent celebration of intimacy between husband and wife sheds light on our own relationship with God. It’s a good lesson to learn.

Common Approaches to Song of Songs

Some pastors would have you think Songs is a manual to a smokin’ hot marriage…

While others would want you to see it as a allegorical narrative of God’s relationship with the Israelites.

Still others suggest it’s a typological story–one  in which the groom plays Christ and the bride plays the church.

These three interpretative strategies are the literal, allegorical and typological approaches.

The allegorical grew out of the embarrassment over the erotic details found in the text [the very same details the sex-crazed literalists exemplified]. Take the explicit mention of two breasts in for example:

Your two breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle,
that graze among the lilies.

Some Christian interpreters argued the two breasts were the two testaments–spiritually nourishing the church…

Another view suggested the breasts reflected the dual command to love God and neighbor…

And a third view believed the breasts represented Mount Ebal and Mount Gerazim. [Keep your comments to yourself.]

Another good example of allegorical interpretation born out of timid temperaments is the the sachet of myrrh lodged between the two breasts. Some early scholars said it was Christ who spans the two testaments.

Then there’s the graphic, : “I came down to the walnut grove / to see the blossoms of the valley,” said the woman.

If you blushed, then you know why some early church fathers went to interpretive extremes to suggest alternative meanings, like the hard outer layer of the walnut is the Mosaic Law–and the nutritious center is Jesus Christ.

But this is fellatio, folks. Plain and simple.

To be honest, you wonder what’s more embarrassing: the topic of oral sex or a scholar’s theological interpretation of that act. Let’s keep digging.

The Problem with Allegorical Interpretations

The problem with interpreting Songs allegorically is that the text simply doesn’t hint at a deeper meaning.

I mean why take the breasts to be the OT and NT? Two mountains? Two commands of God?

The text simply doesn’t support any of those arguments.

But if Songs is NOT an allegorical love story between God and his people or Christians and Jesus–then what is it?

We found part of our answer in the discovery of unique ancient Near-Eastern documents found in the 19th century.

What these specific documents taught us is that Songs is from the exact same genre–love poems. More precisely, matrimonial love poems.

That makes Songs a collection of matrimonial love poems. Songs sung at weddings.

Scholars are divided on how many actual love poems make up Songs. But that’s not really important. What’s important is uncovering the theological contribution Songs makes to the canon…

And this is where it gets good.

The Essential Meaning Behind Songs

The text itself gives us many clues. And whether there are three or thirty poems, the Song’s primary importance relates to love and, no surprise here, sexuality–something near-and-dear to our humanity.

See, what Songs defines is a love that is mutual, exclusive, total and beautiful. And in many ways Songs is an expansion of : “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

In frank but beautiful language, this tiny little book praises mutual, intense love, culminating in this robust, evocative statement:

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death,
jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
the very flame of the Lord.

What we see here is an expression of love that transcends this earth and is deeply emotional–as God intended between husband and wife.

What God-Ordained Marriage Looks Like

Contrast this with the ephemeral, capricious and shallow character of contemporary love and you see God’s vision for marriage involves a volitional, muscular emotion that has a singular and solitary intent to honor the object of it’s affections.

And this is exactly the way God wanted it when he created man and woman in Eden. When you comprehend that the allusions to the garden in Songs are allusions to Eden, then the meaning behind Songs becomes immediately apparent…

The implication is that before sin, man and woman stood bare, unashamed, in front of each other. Now, we sense an intimacy since lost.

Song of Songs then is about the redemption of sexuality. A return to the God-ordained concept of marriage, a concept illustrated throughout Scripture to help us understand the relationship between God and his people.

In the OT, marriage is used negatively to shed light on Israel’s betrayal and unfaithfulness. In the NT, marriage is compared to our union with Christ–a union climaxing [no pun intended] at the end of time with a wedding feast.

Here on earth we get to enjoy the splendid privilege of experiencing the union of man and woman as one flesh, a profound mystery  between Christ and his church.

In other words, the better our marriages–the more they reflect the glory of God. And I think that’s pretty sexy. You?

The Nasty Little Doctrine We Can’t Live Without

“He chose us.”

Three little words tucked into  that define a nasty little doctrine…

Nasty in that it draws a battle line straight through the middle of our theological camp.

But without this doctrine we have no blessing. No adoption. No inheritance. No security. No assurance. No celebration. No joy. No comfort.

Without this doctrine we have salvation dependent on human influence. Salvation merited by human effort.

Without this doctrine we have no sovereign–no supreme–being worthy of worship.

Fortunately, this doctrine doesn’t rest on Ephesians 1:4 alone. This doctrine is all over Scripture:

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 

For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.

For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. 

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 

Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls. 

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you. 

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 

The doctrine I have in mind here is election, the concept that we are a mass of mankind distinguished and separated, united to spend eternity with Christ.

A concept that declares we are unworthy people declared worthy people. Unrighteous sinners declared righteous.

All because we are chosen in Christ.

I think most people would agree with this. It’s WHEN this election occurs that party lines form.

Where the Line of Division Is Drawn

The biblical concept of election states that God chose BEFORE the creation of the world those whom would be Christians.

Before man. Before creation. Before time. In the isolated, all-wise counsel of God–we we’re adopted into his family.

He chose us.

Now, Christ was foreordained before the foundation of the world to be a sacrifice for sins. We have no problem with this.

Yet, suggest that Christians are foreknown for salvation in the same way and people cry foul.

What Election Does and Doesn’t Do

Understand, election doesn’t nullify man’s responsibility to believe in Jesus as Lord. It doesn’t eliminate accountability.

What it does do is reconstruct our nature from bent on corruption to pre-occupied with sanctification.

That’s the whole point behind election: that we should be holy. Not because he saw that we should be holy. But because he made us holy.

God takes delight in us. But not because of who we are. But because of who we are through Christ. We are changed through Christ into holy, blameless people so a holyjust God can delight in us.

Furthermore, our election causes us to find unquenchable delight in God. He becomes our perfect and supreme object which occupies our affections.

We are elected so we can adore God.

He may have angels. But his will is to have children. Children with whom he can be intimate.

Why We Celebrate

Christ is the peculiar object of God’s affections. Christ is his chief pleasure. And when we become Christians we inherit those affections. That is why we celebrate.

We participate in God’s presence only because Christ, in God’s sovereign will, redeemed us.

And that redemption is secured. Affirming our adoption into God’s family. Anxiety over our fate is soothed. And we receive comfort knowing that on our worst days we will still inherit eternal life.

What remains is bewilderment: Why did he choose me?

We will never know until the day we meet God when we will more than likely throw ourselves at the feet of our Savior in a reckless–but appropriate–act of worship.

Resist Christ as Lord [Our Condition Apart from New Birth]

Part of the10 Hard Truths about Being Born Again series.

Judas the apostate–the betrayer–was an apostle of Jesus Christ…

A man hand picked by Jesus to be one of the twelve…

Part of the close circle of disciples.

A man trusted to be the treasurer. A man who saw Jesus cure the lameConquer storms.

A man who heard all the doctrines of Christ. Doctrines taught with authority. Taught irrespective of tradition.

Judas even heard Peter tell Jesus, “You are the Christ.”

Yet, Judas was impotent to all things spiritual. Unregenerate. Blind.

Dead in sins, he didn’t think it worthwhile to glorify Jesus as God or give thanks to him.

And in the end–in spite of the abundant proofs of Jesus’ lordship–he rejected Jesus as his Lord.


Why Judas Resisted Christ as Lord

Judas simply chose the only thing that would please his corrupt nature and its appetite for sin. He couldn’t choose what his nature didn’t desire.

And this is why the new birth is needed.

 says that “No man can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” In other words, you CANNOT say “Jesus is Lord” and mean that he is master of your life…

And in , Jesus says “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

In the absence of God’s gracious gift of faith in Jesus Christ, you can not embrace Jesus as Lord. In God’s grace, however, you are drawn FROM your beloved lusts and darling self-righteousness…

And drawn TO Christ. To rely upon Christ–and Christ alone–for salvation.

You are drawn from that which was appalling and ludicrous to that which is comforting and reasonable.

Mind you, the drawing here is not moral persuasion. It’s not doctrine. It’s not miracles. It’s distinct from that.

And superior.

From Resisting to Embracing Christ as Lord

It’s the internal and powerful influence of the Holy Spirit of God. An act of power, but not force. God makes the unwilling willing. He makes him who resists the lordship of Christ actually embrace the lordship of Christ.

Such statements may seem quaint, maybe even self-defeating, but to anyone who’s been truly born again, the work of the Holy Spirit in their regeneration is a stable, eyes-wide-open reality. One that faith can sink its anchor into.

Death: The Messiah Commits His Soul to God

You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.

Even in the depths of humiliation and persecution, Jesus was declared the Messiah. Declared by a person you’d never expect.

Not long after a challenge to crawl down from the cross–an accusations that Christ was not who he said he was–a Roman centurion makes an unusual statement.

It was noon when darkness covered the whole land.

A sign that satisfied . A sign that satisfied .

A sign the Jews didn’t expect. Nor even noticed as such.

But a sign that signaled their blindness. Their subjection to spiritual darkness.

The darkness remained for three hours. And in that darkness , “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Jesus didn’t complain of Peter’s betrayal. He didn’t complain that his followers fled from him.

He complained that God had forsaken him.

And made a sacrifice of sin for us, Jesus now  and wrath. The wrath Jesus feared in the garden. This was the agony he suspected he’d endure.

Wrath seen in the Old Testament consuming fire. . Fire that should’ve consumed the sinner. It fell on Christ. A sacrifice that pacified God. A sacrifice that cried long and bitterly.

Startled by this sudden appearance of life in Jesus, someone soaked a sponge in sour wine, put it on the end of a long stick and raised it to Jesus’ lips.

They intended to cool his mouth. Not to nurse him. But to mock him. As if to say, “He’s crying for the prophet Elijah to rescue him. What other crazy thing can we get him to say?”

Then, Jesus died.

And at that instant, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom, a signal that the nation of Jews would eventually be destroyed…

…Ichabod, the  from Israel…

And it signaled comfort to Christians: Here is a  by the way of Jesus’ blood.

And now we come to the centurion’s statement. Convicted and convinced, the centurion who oversaw the execution confessed: “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

The unjust punishment of a sinless man. The honor that heaven declared to the suffering servant.

Even in the depths of humiliation and persecution, Jesus was declared the Messiah. The Son of God. And he was declared to be so with power.

From conquering storms and subduing demons to human worship and heavens that declare his death, Jesus is named the Messiah. The reigning King. Whom we adore and serve.

For evermore.

**Part of The Messiah: Eleven Meditations from the Book of Mark series.** You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.

Bondage to Worldly Wisdom [Our Condition Apart from New Birth]

Part of the 10 Hard Truths about Being Born Againseries.

You’ll get no fuss from me:

Intellectual discussions deserve appropriate exchanges of argument and counter-argument.

All well and good.

The only problem is, sin is not an intellectual problem.

It’s a spiritual problem. A problem the natural man–dead in sin–sees as foolish:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him…. 

What’s at stake here is the rejection of the antidote to sin–the gospel–by the unregenerate. A rejection embedded in ridicule and scorn.

The gospel appears so ridiculous to the unregenerate that he cannot wrap his head around the gospel. He can’t wrap his head around the things of God. Or understand how anyone else could.

It’s utterly foolish to him.

Yet, this is not physical impairment. As if the unregenerate were missing the gospel bone.

This is moral impairment. Impairment caused by the rebellion of the heart and a bondage to sin. This rebellion and bondage is so deep that the mind justifies the rebellion and bondage by seeing the gospel–all spiritual things–as foolish:

And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 

But this is not coercion. The unregenerate person CANNOT because he will not. His bent for rebellion and self-aggrandizement forbids him from choosing good.

It’s a real and ferocious bondage. Yet not an innocent bondage. Nor a hopeless bondage. At least not hopeless in the scope of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Crucifixion: The Messiah Mocked on the Cross

You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.

Near the end of the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we see Jesus nailed to a cross…

A cross standing between two crucified robbers–a subtle insult by Pilate suggesting the king of the Jews was nothing more than a criminal.

The Mocked Messiah

Onlookers cursed Jesus. Spit his way. Even challenged him to crawl down from the cross. The two robbers hurled abuses at him.

Some Jews cried, “He saved others, but he can’t even save himself!”

This is a gruesome antithesis of Mary’s reckless act of worship. A far cry from an otherworldly transfiguration.

Jesus on the cross is not a potent display of power. It doesn’t move anyone to declare, “You are the Christ.”

In fact, in the minds of Mary, John and Peter–in the minds of all his followers–it looks like nothing more than a scandal. A fraud. A huge, out-of-nowhere upset late in the quarter.

This can’t be happening. Not to our Messiah. But it is.

Cursing Christ

The mockery doesn’t stop. , “Let Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!”

A final demand for a miracle by the unbelieving Jewish authorities. A miracle they claim would convince them once and for all that Jesus is indeed who he says he is: The Messiah.

Their claim is false. They would not believe. They refused to believe any miracle up to that point. And they would refuse to believe in the resurrection.

In the end, they satisfied the desires of their heart. At the expense of the suffering Christ. But, without knowing it, they established the glory and perfection of Jesus: He saved others but not himself.

What the Work of the Crucifixion Means

This is what we don’t see: The work occurring out of every one’s sight between Jesus and God. The work that darkened Jesus’ soul, broke his body but displayed his absolute perfection.

All the work between himself and God.

And morally rejected by the world there was no longer any room in it for his mercy towards it. He drank in his soul the cup of death and the judgment of sin. His work was complete.

Obedient to the end, he dies. But his death ushers in another world. A life where evil could never enter…and the new man will be perfectly at peace in the presence of God.

How Do You See the Suffering Messiah?

The man who sees the danger in mocking the suffering Messiah will with relentless intensity seek salvation.

The man who sees the forgiveness for sin and the gift of eternal life purchased for him by the suffering and death of the Son of God will rejoice endlessly.

And the man who sees  the sins which crucified Christ will mourn with godly sorrow.

How do you see the suffering Christ?

**Part of The Messiah: Eleven Meditations from the Book of Mark series.** You can start reading a PDF version of  right now.