The LORD

Jesus is the LORD, the One True God.

Read: John 8

“I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24)

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father taught me.” (John 8:28)

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, your are really my disciples.” (John 8:31)

Reflect:

Just what was Jesus claiming when he declared, “I am he”?

From John 8:58-59, I can see that the Jews considered this statement to be blasphemy worthy of death by stoning. Jesus was claiming God’s identity, the name “I AM WHO I AM” (first revealed to Moses at the burning bush, Exodus 3:14-15), for himself. In effect, Jesus was saying, “I, Jesus, am the LORD; I, Jesus, am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the flesh.”

It doesn’t surprise me that the Law-abiding Jews freaked out and tried to stone Jesus. According to Jesus, my eternal future hinges on my response to this statement. If I don’t believe it, I will die with the burden of my sins, guilty forever with no hope of parole.

But Jesus also said that those who know that Jesus is God are able to know this because Jesus has been lifted up, crucified. I know Jesus is the LORD, because Jesus was crucified.

But more than that, I know Jesus is God because I lifted him up. In a very real way, I have crucified Jesus: my sins brought Jesus to the cross; my forgiveness was sought by Jesus on the cross.

So, because I am guilty of the death of Jesus, I have been given grace to cling to Jesus’ teaching, to know that Jesus is the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Because I am guilty of causing Jesus’ death, I am extended mercy to be Jesus’ disciple, and I will be raised up to eternal life.

This is heavy, hard teaching. No wonder so few had the faith to become God’s disciples.

Crux:

Jesus is the LORD, the One True God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

When I begin my prayers to you with these words, I always consider I’m praying to God the Father, the first person of the Trinitarian Godhead. Yet today I acknowledge that Jesus Christ, God the Son, second person of the Trinity is also inescapably the LORD God Almighty.

And I humbly acknowledge that I can’t get my thoughts to comprehend how this might be possible:

That you, LORD God, sent your Son – and you, LORD God, are the Son who was sent;
You, LORD God, sent the Spirit – and you, LORD God, are the Spirit who was sent.

You are Trinity and Unity, the only True God, God alone, the one and only God – and you are Father, Son and Spirit.

You died because my sins made your death necessary. I’m so sorry for my sins that did this, yet so thankful for your mercy that dealt with my sins. LORD God, Jesus, who is the LORD and my Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Amen.

Given

I am a gift from God the Father to Jesus his Son.

Read: John 6

And this is the will of him who sent me: that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:39-40)

“You do not want to leave to, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)

Reflect:

These verses explain several fundamental Christian doctrines in Jesus’ own words, using the standard Jewish poetical form of parallelism*. The will of God is mentioned twice in the beginning of each of the parallel statements.

What is the will of God?

According to the first statement, that Jesus shall have, keep and never lose all of those whom God the Father has given to him. All of these people are given to Jesus and will never be lost by Jesus. This is the Calvinist doctrines of unconditional election and perseverance of the saints.

According to the second statement and taking into account the parallelism of the statements, all those who are given to Jesus shall look to Jesus and believe in him, and thereby have eternal life. This is the Reformation doctrine of Salvation by Faith Alone.

According to both statements, that Jesus will “raise up” all these people at the last day. This is the second century doctrine expressed in the Apostle’s Creed as “the resurrection of the body”.

Crux:

I am a gift from God the Father to Jesus his Son. Verily, this truth strikes me with awe.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Whom have I in heaven besides you? You are Unity and Trinity, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, just and merciful, compassionate and holy. I bow in awe of your majestic magnificence and in gratitude for your gracious and precious will for me.

Thank you, Father, for giving me to Jesus, your Son, so that I would believe in him whom you sent, so that I would have eternal life.

You have the words of eternal life, the ways by which all your will for me has been and shall be accomplished. Jesus is the Holy One, Christ, Messiah, King, Lord, Saviour, Sacrifice.

Thank you for giving me to Jesus so that I, like Simon Peter, may believe and know all this.

Please help me to tell others the truth about Jesus, today and as part of my everyday ordinary life that I live for your everlasting glory.

Amen.

* Rhetorical Ramble:

Parallelism is a rhetorical scheme of balance, a poetical figure of equality. (See what I did there?) It’s a bit like a written echo.

According to my Oxford Dictionary of English, parallelism is “the use of successive verbal constructions in poetry or prose which correspond in grammatical structure, sound, metre, meaning etc.” The base word parallel comes from Greek words meaning “alongside one another”.

So in parallelism, two (or more) successive words or phrases or sentences follow the same pattern, either in their form or in their meaning.

Both these forms of parallelism may be seen in the first sentence of this rhetorical ramble, highlighted by the repetition of the words a and of. The word rhetorical matches poeticalscheme has the same meaning as figure and balance corresponds to equality. That last sentence provides another example of parallelism, in this case with three parallel sections of text, rather than the more common two.

Parallelism was common in Hebrew and Jewish writing. A plethora of examples can be found in the Old Testament book of Proverbs, such as these from Proverbs 1:8-9:

A: Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
A’: and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
B: They are a garland to grace your head
B’: and a chain to adorn your neck.

Whenever we observe parallelism of sentence structure in the Bible, we should ask ourselves whether there is also an implied equality of meaning.

But be warned! Be wise! The Bible’s authors also used antithesis, where the parallel structure is used to juxtapose contrasting ideas rather than matching ones (Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, Corbett & Connors). Proverbs 10:1 includes an example:

The proverbs of Solomon:
A: A wise son brings joy to his father,
A’: but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

True Worship

If I met Jesus face-to-face, would I be willing to ask for his advice?

Read: John 4

“The fact is, you have had five husbands…” (John 4:18)

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped God on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place we must worship is in Jerusalem.” (John 4:19-20)

Reflect:

This woman may have had a backstory littered with widowhood and broken marriages, and a reputation that left her an outcast drawing well-water in the hottest part of the day, but she blows me away with her spiritual perspicacity.

She meets a bloke at a well and he starts a conversation about being thirsty and drinking water… so far, so ordinary.

But then he tells her one thing about herself that he had no human way of knowing and BAM! she knows straight away he’s a prophet. And she’s got a religious question right on the tip of her tongue, on a topic of deep spiritual significance, and she just goes ahead and blurts it out.

Maybe all that social exclusion gave this woman time to think some deep religious thoughts, but it’s certain that her outcast status didn’t keep her from wanting to get right with God.

She knows she’s found a prophet and she knows what she doesn’t know. She’s determined to know the truth so she may live in obedience to that truth. Wow! That’s the kind of woman I want to be.

Crux:

If I met Jesus fact-to-face, would I be willing to ask for his advice on worshiping God rightly – and then act on his advice?

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I delight in the irony of you sovereignly ordaining that I should meditate upon this story on a Sunday, the day on which I have gathered with other Christians to publicly worship you.

Even more, you foreknew that today would be a day when our church’s order of service was changed out of the ordinary routine, to help the little ones sit with the whole congregation through the whole service, including the sermon. And next Sunday we’ll be worshiping in a different place, as part of our Church Family Camp weekend.

How appropriate that I should read this today, and be shown that the necessary thing about my worship is not location nor order of service, but that I worship you in Spirit and Truth. And another delicious connection: this morning our Sunday School and sermon were on the Spirit of Truth who testifies about Jesus, as Jesus spoke of him in John 15:26-16:33.

O LORD, I love your ways!

Amen.

Light

Jesus is the Light of the world, come into the world.

Read: John 3

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world (John 3:19)

Reflect:

There’s a pretty clear chiasmus* in John’s writing here in John 3. It probably extends at least from John 3:2, where Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, to John 4:6-7, where the Samaritan woman meets Jesus at noon. The centre of this chiasmus is this statement: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world” (John 3:19a).

How has light come into the world?

Light has come with the coming of Jesus, who said of himself, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12). As John the Evangelist wrote, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4). When Jesus came into the world, God incarnate as a man, Immanuel, he brought light into the world.

In what way did Jesus bring light into the world?

Light brings enlightenment. Jesus spoke to people and explained to them who God is; how God works and what God’s will for them is. Jesus said God had come from heaven – the “Son of Man”, Jesus himself. Jesus told people that God works to effect his plan of salvation rather than condemnation. He told them it is God’s free will and sovereign choice to give (certain) people new birth by his Spirit into a new life that is eternal.

Crux:

Jesus is the Light of the world, come into the world.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Jesus is the Light of the world. He enlightens me with he truth of your glory. He illuminates my life with your glory shining truly within me. Jesus’ light reveals the darkness of my hear and shows my bright hope of salvation instead of condemnation.

Jesus, you are the Light of my world. Please continue to shine into those dark and evil places in my heart so I may repent, confessing my sins to you and renouncing my past evil ways.

Please help me to see clearly the truth that Jesus’ light reveals about you: that you are the God who loves the world, including me. You are the God who sent Jesus to be Light to me.  You are the God who saves those who believe in you and does not condemn any who so believe. You are the God of new birth, fresh starts, eternal life, joy.

Amen.

* Rhetorical Ramble:

A chiasmus is my favourite literary structure. It is a rhetorical scheme “in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order.” It has its origin in the meaning “crosswise arrangement” from the Greek name of the letter chi, which looks a bit like the English letter X. (Oxford Dictionary of English)

John 1:1-2 is a short and sweet chiasmus :

A: In the beginning was the Word,
B: and the Word was with God
X: and the Word was God.
B’: He was with God
A’: in the beginning.

The centre of the chiasmus is the centre and most important point of the author’s argument. Hence, in John 1:1-2 above, John is using claims of Jesus’ eternal existence and presence with God to prove Jesus’ identity as God.

In the same way that a chiasmus is a crosswise arrangement of words or ideas used to highlight the central idea, this blog is about the crux: “the decisive or most important point at issue… the ‘cross’.” (Oxford Dictionary of English)

The crux of life at crux.live is Jesus Christ and the Cross, and the truths that I need Jesus, so I seek to know Jesus, so I may love Jesus and live in Jesus and live like Jesus.

Conscious > Righteous

Through the law I become conscious of my sin

I’m pretty sure I got a speeding ticket a few days ago. I was driving in an 80 km/hr zone, about 100m from the 110 km/hr zone boundary when I saw the black camera on the side of the road, partially obscured by leaves. I glanced down at my dash and saw, to my dismay, that the speedo had crept up without me noticing and it was presently hovering just below 90 km/hr. Drat! I was breaking the speed limit law.
img_3901crux
There was no point slowing down; by the time I’d realised I was going too fast, I was almost into the highway speed zone and it was time to accelerate, not brake. For the rest of the drive home, an entire hour, I fumed at myself and at the police. Mostly the police, in accordance with my sinful nature.

When Jeff met me at the door ready to hug me and offer commiserations, I burst into tears. I told him I felt like Job – under unbearable examination every moment (Job 7:17-19), found guilty even though I try my hardest each and every time I drive not to break the speed limit law.

For a bit of perspective, it’s been almost 12 months since my last speeding ticket. Living in the country, driving several hundred kilometres up and down a long, straight highway most days of the week, I’ve earned a ticket every year or so for the last few years. The truth is, no matter how hard I try to keep within the law, I do, occasionally, break it.

There have been lots of times I’ve passed one of those roadside cameras confident I was doing a legally correct speed. But when I get one of those dreaded envelopes in the mail with its smug photos of the side of the car and the number plate, I know there is no getting around it. My inability to perfectly keep the law  is exposed by the law itself.

I shouldn’t be surprised by my inability to keep the law. Nor should I be surprised by the law’s ability to make me conscious of my failure. This is, after all, the ultimate purpose behind all laws, from the least societal convention to the most profound commandment.

Romans 3:19 and 20 tells us, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law… through the law we become conscious of our sin.”

When I see those cameras, symbols of the law in Australia (whether they are currently taking my photo or not) I am reminded that I am, by nature, a sinner. I am not naturally perfect, pure, blameless or righteous*. Far from it! I cannot keep the laws of Australia – how much more do I fail to uphold the perfect standards of my holy God!

When I contemplate the seemingly easy to attain standards of road rules in Australia, I become conscious of my sin. When I think about the oft-misunderstood social mores of my peers, the rules of propriety, I become conscious of my sin. When I meditate upon the 10 commandments, I become conscious of my sin. “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” as David wrote in Psalm 51. The law makes my sin obvious.

A few days ago, when I saw that camera, it was too late to act and slow down to a safer speed. Paying the fine I’ll be getting in the mail sometime soon won’t take away the fact that I was speeding, either. Waiting out the loss of a few more demerit points from my licence won’t make me a better driver.

In contrast, God’s law is not ineffective. God’s law makes me conscious of my sin for a far higher purpose than revenue raising or road safety. When I am conscious of my own sin, I turn away from my sin and repent. I seek God’s mercy and clemency. I ask for God’s forgiveness.

Whenever the law makes me conscious of my sin, I realise just how unrighteous I am and how very much I need God’s righteousness. Instead of thinking I can become righteous through my own efforts to keep the law, I seek Christ’s righteousness, the righteousness that “is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22). I learn to trust God’s promise that “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24).

I realise that obeying Jesus and being like Jesus is only possible because I have faith in Jesus Christ, whom I know and love.

crux: Jesus Christ is righteous. On my own, I am not righteous. Through the law, I become conscious of my sin so I will have faith in Jesus Christ and be given his righteousness.

* Righteous means morally perfect. Other words with similar meanings are pure, upright and blameless. Good and godly also mean the same thing. Another related word is justified, which means that God has judged you, removed your guilt, and announced that you are righteous.

[This musing is based upon Romans 3:19-26. The Holy Bible, New International Version 2011.]