Tag Archives | Jesus

Church Membership | Chuck Klosterman

Chuck KlostermanNothing depresses me more than hearing an organized religion worry about membership. Do they think Jesus is somehow impressed by voter turnout? Do they think God gives preference to religions that appear especially popular? It’s not like God only allocates federal funding to religious organizations that meet a quota.

—Chuck Klosterman, Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story (New York: Scribner, 2005), 104.

1 John 5:9-12 | This Life Is In His Son

Car ChaseCut to the chase!

The expression came from Hollywood. When films became bloated with too much dialogue causing the audience to lose interest, the operative command was to “cut to the chase”! Use that car chase footage to pull people’s interest back.

Of course “cut to the chase” means much more than that now. The expression has developed a wide-reaching figurative meaning. “Cut to the chase” now means get to the point.

In 1 John 5:6-12 (delineated as one paragraph by the ESV translators), the word “testimony” is used no less than eight times. We looked at some of those uses in our last post. We saw that the Spirit, the water, and the blood testify. In this post we’re going read a bit more about the testimony before John finally cuts to the chase and lays out the contents of that testimony.
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The Message of the Sermon on the Mount | John R. W. Stott

The cover of Stott's The Message of the Sermon on the MountIn 1978 John Stott published a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount entitled Christian Counter-Culture. It’s a testimony to the insight of Stott’s exegesis and, more importantly, to the power of Matthew 5-7 that thirty-seven years later, this is still a counter-cultural document.

Stott had a gift for making complicated things simple. Here he takes not only the Sermon itself, but also a multitude of various interpretative traditions and distills them into neatly numbered lists.

There are elements of his interpretation that I would disagree with. For example, on Matthew 6:5-6 Jesus exhorts his followers to pray in private, not like the hypocrites who love to be seen in public. Stott notes that there was nothing inherently wrong with praying on street corners and synagogues “if their motive was to break down segregated religion and bring their recognition of God out of the holy places into the secular life of every day” (133). In the first place, isn’t the Synagogue a holy place? More importantly, this statement presumes (anachronistically) that first century Jewish people divided their life into religious and secular spheres—a trademark problem of the Enlightenment.

Yet for every passage that makes me shake my head, there are twenty more that reveal the sort of understanding only a committed follower of Jesus can demonstrate.

In the introduction, Stott wrote:

Of course commentaries by the hundred have been written on the Sermon on the Mount. I have been able to study about twenty-five of them, and my debt to the commentators will be apparent to the reader. Indeed my text is sprinkled with quotations from them, for I think we should value tradition more highly than we often do, and sit more humbly at the feet of the masters. (9)

John R. W. Stott is now one of the masters he wrote about in 1978. I always benefit from sitting humbly at his feet.

—John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978).

1 John 4:9-12 | In This Is Love

LightningLightning is a fascinating phenomenon. In an instant, electrostatic discharge super-heats a jagged line of air transforming it into plasma. This process expands the air so quickly that it creates shock waves we call thunder.

I once sat through a violent thunderstorm at the end of a portage (under an overturned Souris River Kevlar canoe). When the lightning was directly overhead, the flash of light and loud crack of thunder coincided. As the storm moved away, the distinct crack became a loud ongoing rumble as the deep bass tones of the storm bounced off the forest fire-scarred hills and cliffs of the Temagami wilderness.

Is it any wonder that Scripture associates God with a thunderstorm?

When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar;
    he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.
He sends lightning with the rain
    and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
—Jeremiah 10:13 (NIV)

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Torrance’s Incarnation 4.2: The Life and Faithfulness of the Son Towards the Father

The cover of Torrance's IncarnationThe life of Jesus entailed more than just passive obedience (“forensic and judicial righteousness” (114)), but active obedience. Jesus lived a life of love and worship and, in doing so, subdued our humanity that had turned away from God in rebellion.

a) Jesus’ life of utter dependence upon the Father in prayer

Humanity was created for relationship with God. As such, prayer is an essential element of our existence. Jesus fulfills this from the side of God and man. When he prays in the garden, “not my will but thine be done,” he is redemptively offering a prayer of obedience out of human disobedience.

This prayer life of Jesus was recognized by the powers of evil as a redemptive act and was challenged through many temptations which Jesus resisted. Jesus’ life of prayer was the heart of his “atoning obedience” (119) which actually “penetrated our life and recreated the bond between man and God” (120). We are able to pray to our Father in the name of Jesus because Jesus draws us into his prayer.

b) Jesus’ life of obedience in his Father’s house

When Jesus stayed in the Temple at twelve years of age, we see him in his true house, while at the same time submitting to his earthly parents. In doing so, he chose to live a life of subjection and bondage while remaining obedient to his true Father. His earthly humanity is a house of bondage for two reasons: it is estranged from God, and the judgment of the Father is upon it. Still Jesus persevered and rescued it, bringing the house of bondage into the Kingdom of God.

Jesus lived God’s words to Abraham: “walk before me, and be perfect.” He did what the first Adam could not do, living a perfect life in our creaturely humanity. The devil tempted him to be precisely who he was: “the might omnipotent Son of God” (124). Jesus chose the cross instead.

Jesus chose to be baptized among the other sinners and received the Spirit. In doing so, he received the Spirit into all humanity.

c) Jesus’ life of perfect faithfulness to the divine word, and perfect reflection of the divine glory

Jesus’ life—the perfect union of divine-human faithfulness—perfectly reveals the glory of God precisely because his life, lived out of our human weakness, is identical to his nature as God. “He was the very God he imaged and reflected in his human life” (127). We now have access to the Son-Father relationship through the true Son’s incarnation.

Some Reflections

In that life-act of the historical Jesus, the Son of God so clothed himself with our humanity and so subdued it in himself that he converted it back from its resentment and rebellion to glad surrender to the holy will of God. (115)

In Colossians 3, the new life we have in Christ is described as something we wear. It’s true clothing for the new humanity. Here, Torrance describes the other side of the equation. For us to wear Christ, he had to first wear our worn out ragged rebellious clothing. Like a wild animal, Jesus wore our clothing and subdued it. As we are in Christ, our humanity finds its true purpose.


Ninety percent of all that Jesus taught about prayer was concerned with petitionary prayer, the prayer of the child asking gifts of its Father. (125)

This quote has challenged my thinking on prayer. So many things I’ve read about prayer detail contemplation, thanksgiving, and practicing presence—as if our needs and petitions are somehow secondary. Jesus, living the perfect life out of our humanity needed petitionary prayer. How much more do I?

The words used to describe the reaction of men and women to [Jesus] are the words that are used to describe an earthquake … The very presence of Jesus, his very existence in the midst, the historical and human encounter his life itself afforded, struck men and women with amazement, astonishment, wonder, awe, fear. (128)

Wow. What a powerful use of language. To encounter Jesus elicits the same effects as encountering an earthquake!

← 4.1: The One and the Many – the Mediator
4.3: The Life and Faithfulness of the Son Toward Man →

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