Sunday, September 21, 2008


“…by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11).

Knowledge is not mentally or even spiritually apprehending truth. Knowledge is not related to a conceptual realm. Knowledge is what we do. Knowledge includes the apprehending and understanding of truth, but this is incomplete. Knowledge is only fully realized when we act. In Christianity we are to know God. What is knowing God? Knowledge is what we do, and God is love, so knowing God is love acted out. “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Love is the test of knowledge. As Paul says, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge…but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).As the above scripture from Isaiah says, Jesus justified many by His knowledge. What knowledge is being referred to, and how did it justify us? It is clear. His knowledge is the end of that same sentence: “…he shall bear their iniquities.” It is this love that Jesus invoked and obeyed unto death. That was His knowledge: an act of suffering, an act of bearing undeserved heartbreak and punishment, an act of emptying Himself. He knew something or, rather, someone—His Father. But what He did made the difference and showed He truly knew. Who did what his father asked in the parable? Not the one who agreed with his mouth but the one who agreed with his life (Matt. 21:28-31).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Only Truth I Know

“I stand alone without beliefs. The only truth I know is you.”
—Paul Simon, “Kathy’s Song”

Paul Simon wrote the above lyric for a woman. “Kathy’s Song” is a love song par excellance. Yet every time I hear this line from the song, I cannot help but think of the Lord. Over the years I have believed many things—about faith, about spiritual authority, about the role of spiritual warfare, about church government, about prayer, and many other things. Some of these things have been helpful, some unhelpful, but at this point, the only truth I know is Jesus Himself. He is my first truth, and He is my last.
This is not to say that I reject all beliefs, doctrines, theologies. They are all, in a certain sense, lights in a dark place. But like stars at sunrise, they have faded as the day has dawned and the Morning Star has risen in my heart (2 Peter 1:19; Rev. 22:16). Teachings come and teachings go. Some outlast their usefulness, some are outgrown. But “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

“The crucified and yet living Christ is the concrete summing up of the Christian message and the Christian faith. He is Himself the wholly concrete truth of Christianity.”
—Hans Kung, On Being a Christian

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Man of Bloodshed and of Peace

Scripture describes David as a man of bloodshed and says, “The LORD gave David victory everywhere he went” (1 Chron. 18:6; 22:8). David indeed subdued all of Israel’s enemies during his reign so that Solomon inherited a kingdom at peace (1 Chron. 22:18). As a warrior, then, David spilled a lot of blood. But the Bible calls him a man of bloodshed for another reason. David foreshadowed Christ who shed His own blood to deliver us from every enemy which oppressed us that we may dwell in His peaceful kingdom.

By dying, Christ destroyed the devil, crucified the sinful nature with its desires, freed us from sin, crucified the world, and tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:14; Gal. 5:24; Rom. 6:6, 7; Gal. 6:14; Heb. 2:9). As believers, we all face these enemies, but it is not for us to struggle against them in order to defeat them. Jesus has already done this. Victory comes as we believe in the triumph of the cross. As we believe, the Holy Spirit will cause us to experience Christ’s death within. His death working within will liberate us from the oppression of our spiritual enemies.

While the Lord gave David victory everywhere he went, he was never at peace. The sword never departed from David’s kingdom (2 Sam. 12:10). Only under Solomon was Israel at peace. Solomon, in fact, means “peaceful” (1 Chron. 22:9).

Solomon is the risen Christ in type—King of kings, Son of God, builder of God’s temple (1 Chron. 17:11-14; 22:10; 2 Chron. 9:22, 23). Just as Solomon rested in the victory gained through David’s bloodshed, so the risen Christ rests and reigns by the victory of the cross. God destroyed Satan by the cross, but only through the resurrection did God put Satan under Jesus’s feet (Eph. 1:20-22). The old man was crucified with Christ, but the New Man came forth in the resurrection (Eph. 2:6, 21, 22). Jesus died to sin once for all, but it is only by the resurrection that He lives to God (Rom. 6:7, 10). The world was crucified through the cross of Christ, but the new creation came through His resurrection (Gal. 6:14; 2 Cor. 5:17). The ultimate sign of the rest of Solomon was the building of the temple, a work not possible for David, the man of bloodshed (1 Kings 5:3-5). Likewise, God’s temple in the Spirit could not be built by Christ in His death because the temple we are came forth in His resurrection (John 2:19; Eph. 2:21, 22).

As we know Christ in His death, then, we will meet our enemies face to face and fight them with our faith in the cross (1 Tim. 6:12). But as the Holy Spirit makes Christ’s resurrection real in our experience, we will know the rest of every enemy being under our feet, we will share in the reign of the prince of peace, we will live to God in newness, we will be built together.

The historical administrations of David and Solomon, then, show us two administrations of Christ—His death and resurrection. God’s eternal work was accomplished by both administrations. Consequently, we can see that His work in us will only be accomplished as we are subject to the Holy Spirit’s administration of death and resurrection within. We can expect to experience these two administrations, not once, but throughout our lives. The ascendancy of one or the other is completely under the Holy Spirit’s discretion and control. He will give us victory over particular sins, fleshly thinking, or demonic oppression by bringing us to a new apprehension of Christ’s death. We will then experience rest from, and authority over whatever opposed us as we walk in the newness of Christ’s resurrection. Looking at Bible maps, we can see that the amount of territory under Israel’s control was greatly expanded under the administrations of David and Solomon. This shows us that God’s kingdom control of us will expand as we are ruled by Christ, the Man of bloodshed and of peace.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lord of the Dead and of the Living

Death and resurrection cannot be separated. This may appear so obvious that saying it seems like a platitude. But what I observe quite often, in the words of others and in my own thoughts, is a dividing of these into two separate categories. Now, it is often necessary and profitable to separate them for the purpose of teaching, to gain the clarity that only comes when a thing is considered in its own right. But it is disastrous to separate these two in actual belief and in the living walk of the believer. Perhaps we have grown too accustomed to thinking of death and resurrection as different subjects. Perhaps it is tidier to deal in false dichotomies than to face the fullness of Christ. We can say with certainty that there are theologies in the church that are based on neglecting or marginalizing either death or resurrection. Protestants avoid crucifixes. Prosperity teachers make great use of 3 John 2 but can’t preach on Philippians 4:12. Christian ascetics love to fast but don’t show up to the wedding feast. In the first few centuries, the church had to vigorously stave off attempts to deny Christ’s divinity or His humanity. I wonder: is diminishing the reality of Christ’s death or Christ’s resurrection any less serious?

In truth, death and resurrection are not subjects at all, but a Person who died and was raised from the dead—Jesus the Lord. We cannot understand them except in Him, and we cannot have fellowship with Him while we minimize one or the other. He is the Life—“which we have looked at and our hands have touched”—that suffered and died on the cross (1 John 1:1). He is the Lamb who reigns yet was slain (Rev. 5:6). The Risen One invites us to touch His wounds (John 20:27). The Seed falls into the ground and dies so that a harvest will come forth (John 12:24). We eat the broken body and poured out blood of Jesus and enter into life through that communion. What a lie we become involved with when we dissect the Christ and subject His death and resurrection to our preferences.

Hebrews 11 is a passage known to many of us as the faith chapter, or, “The Hall of Faith.” Toward the end of this chapter, the author gives a rapid-fire list of things accomplished by faith. As one reads this list, two very distinct groups of saints emerge. Verses 11:33-35 talk of people who conquered, who walked in victory, who lived prosperously, who saw their dead raised to life again. The next three verses are quite different and deal with those who were mocked, tortured, killed, and went about destitute. Yet verse 39 says, “These were all commended for their faith….”

How could living by faith lead to such disparate experiences among God’s people? To make sense of this, we need to remember not just that these saints had faith, but whom their faith was in—the one who would die and rise again. Perhaps they didn’t believe in Jesus explicitly, but they did believe in Him in types and shadows: Abel’s shed blood, Abram receiving Isaac back from the dead, Joseph being raised to the right hand of Pharaoh, the Passover lamb. Clearly, the power of Christ’s resurrection is manifest through the faith of those in verses 11:33-35, while His suffering and death are revealed in the faith of those in verses 11:36-38. If, then, we live by faith in Jesus, we will know Him in the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and in His death (Php. 3:10).

Unfortunately, we tend to equate faith in Jesus with certain outward circumstances, and we judge others whose situations are different from our own. Some of us think we’re not living by faith unless we are enduring some personal crisis. We might look at a wealthy, successful person and assume there is no way for them to trust the Lord. Conversely, many make the mistake that faith always conquers and never endures. In this mindset, we may think people lack faith if they experience a season of loss, if they don’t get every job promotion they pray for, or if God doesn’t heal them physically. But both of these positions are symptomatic of a Christianity in which death and resurrection are divorced from the person of Christ and are reduced to subjects or historical events.

Ultimately, eternal life is not believing the right things but believing in Him who died and rose again. It is following the Lamb wherever He goes, whether into the tomb or out of it (Rev. 14:4). It is sharing in His anointing and in His anointing for burial (Acts 10:38; Mark 14:3-9). “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother?” (Rom. 14:8-10). I pray the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth through the testimony of Jesus (John 15:26, 16:13).