If you want to know God as he has revealed himself to us in Scripture, you need to hold together his justice and his love. These are not two different sides of God, as if God is a split personality like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nor are these two different ways that God has dealt with his people throughout history, so that in the Old Testament he was all fire and judgement but in the New he is all love.
God has always been and always will be both just and loving toward us. At best, we can say love and justice are two different aspects of the same God, but one aspect never exists apart from the other. God does not have good days and bad days like we do. He does not wake up on the wrong side of the bed some mornings. He does not get hangry.
Many people get hung up on the virgin birth of Jesus. It seems utterly impossible, because we observe no predictable pattern in nature that comes close to it. Yet is this not the point? If God wanted to get our attention, what better to grab it than through a virgin giving birth?
The word for “miracle” in the Bible literally means sign. God designed these events to grab our attention and point us to him. Like a road sign points to a destination, these miracles point us to the grandeur, power, and majesty of God. They come unexpectedly, because if they occurred with any greater frequency, they would cease to be what they are. They would become normals instead of miracles. God uses these to wow us to him.
Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua. What did Joshua do for Israel? God used Joshua to save Israel from her enemies in the promised land.
Let us think about that for a moment. In the days when the angel spoke to Joseph, Israel was under Roman rule. Joseph may have thought this child would one day, like Joshua, save Israel from her Roman oppressors. The angel did not say that. He said, “he will save his people from their sins,” not from Rome but from their sins.
Like first-century Israel we often mistake the hope of the world for geo-political solutions. We say we want someone to save our nation, someone who will stand up for what is right in society, a hero by our standards who will take care of whatever or whoever we think our enemy is. Jesus does not save in this way; his salvation works on a deeper level.
A well-known Youth Minister once told the story of the year his youth group decided to forgo their usual annual carwash fundraiser and instead offer car washes for free to anyone who wanted one. It was intended to demonstrate God’s grace, which comes to us through no effort of our own.
During the event, a man drove up, rolled down his window, and asked the Youth Minister, “how much?” Pointing to the sign, the Youth Minister said, “It’s absolutely free.” “Oh, I know how this works, buddy,” the guy quipped, “you say it’s free but you really want a donation; how much do you want?” The Youth Minister repeated, “It’s free, because God’s grace is free.” The man rolled up his window and drove away.
Let me test your Bible knowledge. This question ranks like a high cash-value question on Jeopardy. Did the law of Moses require the nation of Israel to be perfectly obedient to God? If you answered in the negative, you correctly answered this question.
Why did God choose to make circumcision the covenant sign of Israel?
When people made covenants in ancient times, they often would perform a covenant sign to remind each other what would happen if either party broke the covenant. In the case of Israel – do not think too hard about this – God required every male Israelite to have a small, sensitive part of their body cut off. They were declaring that if the nation broke covenant with God through habitual disobedience, God, in his perfect justice, ought to cut them off from him, each other, and even life itself.
Just as Israel habitually broke the covenant that God made with them through Moses, we all have disobeyed God’s holy law. God’s justice requires we be cut off. Yet, Jesus allowed himself to be cut off for our behalf, so that we would not need to.
I came across an online article entitled “3 ways to harness positive psychology for a more resilient you.” This was the first way: “Expressing gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what you have – from a roof over your head to good health to people who care about you. When you acknowledge the goodness in your life, you begin to recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside yourself. In this way, gratitude helps you connect to something larger than your individual experience – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
This pop psychology is not wrong. However, Christianity can give a “name” to that goodness outside ourselves better than any other worldview. Continue reading →
“…you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us (Acts 5:28).” This accusation was lodged against the apostles, and the world continues to lodge this complaint against Christians.
Few crimes are more grievous than murder. After Cain killed his brother Abel, God said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground (Gen 4:10).” Abel’s blood cried for justice!
God sovereignly ensures that the gospel of his Son always goes out into the world. Throughout church history the number of the faithful may wax and wane; nevertheless, a faithful remnant always remains to tell the world the good news of Christ.
I was invited by a friend to a Christian music festival when I was sixteen. Having not grown up in a religious home, I expected no more than a fun time with my friend. However, after a speaker presented the gospel message that first night, two seemingly contradictory feelings gripped me. I was at once deeply afraid. These people really believed all this. And, at the same time, I was deeply attracted. I never met a kinder, more joy-filled, cooperative group.