Amen!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
Revelation 22:21

A pantheon of 20th century martyrs surround one of the entrances to Westminster Abbey in London. Among them stands the German theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed in the waning weeks of World War II for his role in a conspiracy to assassinate Adolph Hitler. This April 8 marks the 67th anniversary of his execution. This April 8 also falls on the Church Calendar as the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. The resurrection of the God-man Jesus, almost 2,000 years ago, shot through history in either direction, changing life in this world in immeasurable ways. We live in a reality now in which the daily benediction has become that the grace of Lord Jesus might be with God’s people. This grace calls us to and from extraordinary things, just as it did with Bonhoeffer.

These words bookend the entirety of Scripture, along with Genesis 1:1, proclaiming “…in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We are presented with the platform on which God will unfold an amazing drama of redemption ending with movement of Christ throughout all of human history. His resurrection inaugurated this new creation. This is the grace of Christ, not simply that He saved souls, but that He took everything God willed and intended in the creation story, and saw that it fulfilled its purpose. No death, then, spells the end of life; no broken relationship marks the end of reconciliation; no injustice signifies the end of God’s work in the world.

On a day in which we remember the death of a martyr and celebrate the life of our savior, we are reminded of how intimately the two moments connect. From that first resurrection Sunday all Christian death falls in service to true life, all Christian life is an indication of Christ’s victory over death.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

~Ben Gibson

He Is With Us

Blessing and honor, glory and power, be unto Him
that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb
forever and ever!
Revelation 5: 13
Forever and ever

is bigger and broader
beyond what I can know or understand.
Today feels so finite,
I am so temporary on this soil.

To spend a mere six weeks
studying the Word
is only a glancing blow-
a taste of forever nonetheless.

The Word lasts while
our earthly bodies will not
the promises ring out while
our attention wanes
the blessings perpetuate while
our gratitude is paltry
the glory is overwhelming while
our appreciation is lacking
the power belongs all to Him
and not to us

It is the Lamb we know so well
the gentle willing sacrifice
taking our place
taking on our guilt
taking off our accumulating debt
taking us along for a walk, for a breakfast, for a touch of his side, his hands

letting us know
through His infinite love
from both the man and the God
that He is with us
forever
and
ever

Favor and Grace

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?                                                                              Romans 8:31

To be for something is to give it your approval, to support it, to invest in it.  When you are “for” something you give it preference, you favor it.  God has given us his favor.

The word “favor” appears many times throughout the Bible.  In the Old Testament especially, it appears to be used interchangeably with the word “grace.”

 

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8)

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:17)

“Thus says the Lord:

‘The people who survived the sword

found grace in the wilderness.’”  (Jeremiah 31:2)

 

God isn’t on our side because of anything we have worked to earn.  God is for us entirely because of Christ.   No sweat and blood is needed—because of God’s grace, the race is over: we do not need to wait on a good word from anyone else.   We need no list of references, no other recommendation; our Judge chose to become our representative.

In politics, human favor awaits the decision of the majority.  In God’s economy, God is the only majority, and his favor never ends (Psalm 30:5). He is for us because of the one and only Word: Jesus Christ.

 

“Happy are the simple followers of Jesus Christ, who have been overcome by his grace.”    -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Dealing the Fatal Blow

“O death, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55

“What happens when we die?” From an early age, we ask this question. We ask
because death seems mysterious, unpredictable and strange. We ask because
the idea of death terrifies us.

Terror is an understandable response: death is the curse that we bear for human
sin. We were created to live in eternal closeness to God, but selfish pursuit
broke that relationship and carried us far from the safety, goodness and life found
in Him.

Just as our bodies cannot survive for long without water, so our souls cannot
survive separation from God. Physical death is symbolic of the full extent of the
curse: complete and permanent separation from God. When held up against the
tremendous beauty of what we were created to be, how we were created to live,
of course this is terrifying!

This is what makes Paul’s words, a paraphrase of Hosea 13:14, so striking:
because of Christ, we no longer need to fear death. In fact, we can be so bold as
to ask “where is your sting?”; “where is your victory?” Through Christ, we are
able to mock death.

Often, we think about mockery or taunting in any competition as bad
sportsmanship, but never before has a victory been so important, or so decisive,
the victor so good or the villain so despicable. Christ took on the sins of
humanity and died on the cross–total separation from God. Then, He rose from
the dead, bursting through what seemed to be an impenetrable barrier. He dealt
a fatal blow to death, and made it look silly in the process.

So as we wait for Christ’s return, and in the meantime suffer from the mad
thrashing of death, which is itself dying, we can feel not only consolation, but
triumph in the fact that the outcome was decided on the cross. Death still strikes
out at us with all of its might, but because of Christ, we need look no further than
the scoreboard to know how this game will end.

So, we play on and wait, and even when death deals a heavy blow, we are
privileged to ask, “O death, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy
victory?”

Thanks be to God!

~Nate Gibson

Swallowed Up

Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 
1 Corinthians 15:54

There are few thoughts as comforting as this:
death cannot overcome us.
When it is swallowed up,
it becomes something other than what it was.
It becomes a seed
covered in the ground,
waiting silently
for the signal to rise again,
to bloom and to fruit.

Death no longer
is our destiny.

In the Twinkling of An Eye

We will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

I Corinthians 15:51

Is it a good thing to exist, to be human?  My first reaction: “No, mortality is one of the most unfortunate things that has happened to me.”  Were it not for the gospel, my first response would be my only response.  As it turns out, the gospel of Christ tells me things about my humanity, things that turn mortal despair out on the curb.

It tells me I’ve failed to bear the image of God—the one simple task intended for me (Rom. 3:23).  It tells me God became human, and he came bearing the image of himself (John 1:14), in my place.  It tells me that this God-man—Jesus—did not meet his end in death; in fact, he could not perish, because Jesus was the first true man, and because God does not die (Heb. 7:24).   This gospel shows a solution for my lost humanity—I need not fear death (Rom 8:1), I need only believe (Acts 16:30).

And there is still some believing to be done, for I awake each morning as a human, just as perishable as the day I was born.  But God knew we’d wonder what it means to be human, that we’d become discouraged, so he gave us this brief forecast: “we will all be changed.”

It will not always be this way: you will not always carry with you an ache no food can soothe.  Sometime ahead, in a flash, we’ll be transformed.  Until then, let us enjoy, as one author put it, “the privilege of serving the Lord without seeing him.”

And in the interim, should Shakespeare ask, tell him: To be, to be is very, very good.

 

“The twinkling of an eye.  That is the most wonderful expression… Existence seems to me now the most remarkable thing that could ever be imagined.  I’m about to put on imperishability.  In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye.”

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

True and Better

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15: 21-22

 

adapted from abetterhope.com

Adam – Was Created                                    Jesus Christ – Is The Creator

Adam – Wanted To Become Like God      Jesus Christ – Became A Man.

Adam – Believed A Lie.                                Jesus Christ – Is the Truth

Adam – Disobeyed.                                       Jesus Christ – Obeyed.

Adam – Brought Death to the Living.       Jesus Christ – Brought Life to the Dying.

Adam – Was Sent Away.                              Jesus Christ – Was Sent to Pay.

 

From a sermon from Pastor Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City:

“Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.

Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.

Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.

Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”

Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.

Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.

Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.

Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.

Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

The Bible’s really not about you—it’s about him.”