My previous post captured the short essays I wrote based off of my meditations on Rom. 5:12-6:23, Psalm 8, and Psalm 51. Below are my thoughts on the passages of Scripture I was assigned to read (over and over) for the second half of the semester: John 1:1-34, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, and Hebrews 10. These passages were assigned because of our study of the doctrine of the person and work of Christ (i.e. Christology) in my Systematic Theology II class. The idea was to answer, “How do these passages affect my life and ministry?”
A pointed theme in John 1 is the glory and humility of Christ. At once John asserts most clearly that Jesus is God and the Creator of “all things” (v.1-3), yet he also puts forward that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (v. 14). The all-powerful Creator-God became a mere man. Another stark contrast is John the Baptists’ testimony that Jesus is “the Son of God” (v. 34) and “the Lamb of God” (v. 29). Yes, Jesus is the mighty, eternal Son of God, and yes, as the sacrificial lamb He was slaughtered on the cross.
So, what does this mean for my life and ministry? I think of the title of a book that I’ve read before. It’s called Humility: True Greatness. As the title suggests, if I am to be truly great and do great things for the Lord Christ, then I must cultivate humility in my heart and ministry. As great and glorious as Jesus is, He’s taken on flesh. As worthy and mighty as Jesus is, He laid down His life for rebel-sinners. This type of sacrificial love, this type of servant leadership must mark me and those I lead. We cannot think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3). In light of who Jesus is and how he humbled himself we must count others more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Evil desires (1 Peter 2:11) whisper in our hearts that we are worthy. Excruciating temptations convince us that we deserve better, that we have rights. But the One who John the Baptist was not worthy to stoop down and unstrap His sandals (v. 27) has come and in the most humiliating and unfair way saved us and set our example of greatness by humility.
In this passage I have thought much about God’s purposes in suffering, particularly as they played out in the life of Christ Jesus. Clearly put forward in these verses of Isaiah is the rejection and triumph of Christ through His suffering. Isaiah speaks of Christ as having “no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (53:2-3). There have been few times in my life that I’ve simply had to turn my face because of seeing someone in such a horrid and debase condition. But this, Isaiah says, is exactly how Jesus was treated as He was pierced through and hung from the cross. However, the LORD’s plan (53:10) through Jesus’ death was fulfilled. Isaiah pronounces triumph in verses 10-11, “[When] his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.”
Just as God had a wonderful purpose for the suffering of Jesus (i.e. to bear our sin and give us forgiveness (53:5-6)), so it is for all of His servants (Romans 8:28). Throughout my life and ministry I can know that trusting God through the most tremendous and torturous pain is not a rode the Lord Jesus has not been down Himself (Hebrews 2:9, 14; 1 Peter 2:23). Through all of it there is the unshakable hope that God is doing something good through our grief.
For some time I’ve heard, and even used, the phrase “the finished work of Christ.” It wasn’t, however, until I spent this time mulling over Hebrews 10 that I now I see just how amazing this truth is: “the finished work of Christ.” To begin the chapter the author references “the same sacrifices that are offered every year, [to] make perfect those who draw near” (v. 1), referring to the animal sacrifices instituted by God for His people under the Old Testament. “It is impossible,” he says, “for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (v. 4). But with the coming of Jesus all of this changed. He was the “true form” of the shadowy sacrifices of the Old Covenant (v. 1)., and He was a “once for all” time sacrifice (v. 10) “[When] Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (v. 12). In other words, He was finished.
This truth has profound implications for my life and ministry. It means that my love for God is not the basis of my relationship with God or my forgiveness before God. God’s love for me is the basis of my relationship with Him and the source of my forgiveness. My love and devotion to God don’t just wane year to year. It wanes hour to hour! Still, my hope is assured because of what He’s done. My affections for Him can be rekindled because I know He is faithful (v. 23) and accomplished redemption through Jesus. At least one implication of the finished work of Christ for my ministry is that anyone can be saved. Anyone! No one has to be any better off than anybody else because our goodness doesn’t matter in the first place. From the hardened atheistic intellect to the lowly and aloof drunk, anyone can be saved because the good news is that it is finished.