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Archive for June 4th, 2012

God did not send just anyone,

He sent His only Son,

He did not send an angel,

He gave His Son to save from hell.

By God’s Son we know He so loved the world,

By His Son, He gave us His truthful Word.

We cannot ascend into heaven; we just do not have the wings for it.  However, He descended, the Son of Man. Peter preached David did not ascend into heaven, but David’s King and Lord did descend.  Salvation did not happen in the heavens, but here, right here on earth, the lowest place of human depravity:  lifted up upon a Cross.

Julius Caesar once crucified several hundred Mediterranean pirates who had kidnapped him.  Six thousand slaves under Spartacus’ revolt were crucified, their crosses lining the Appian Way.   We are all susceptible to death but how is this one Man’s death, His crucifixion different from all those others crucifixions?  The Athanasian Creed goes to great lengths, to make it clear that Jesus Christ is not 50% God and 50% man, but 100% God,  100% man, without dividing the substance. There is no time in which those two natures are separated.  

 How is His crucifixion different?  In the scale of justice, God’s Son outweighs sin, death and the devil, the weight of glory, the glory of heaven, concealed in human flesh.  The thief on the cross to Jesus’ right knew Jesus was innocent while he and the other thief were guilty as sin.  “For these men died for their own sins, but Christ for the sins of others.” (Pr. Murray)  Peter could only quote Isaiah that in Jesus “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth.”  Isaiah knew he needed cleansing by the Lord.  Even the Roman Procurator Pilate said I cannot find this man guilty.  Nicodemus knew that by Jesus’ deeds, God was somehow working in Jesus and Nicodemus was seeking.  They were all standing in the presence of the thrice Holy God, or trying to. 

 The Creeds, the confession of faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is like a map. Maps are not the reality they portray but without a reliable map we would be lost trying to find our way to our destination.  The Creeds of the Church are not the reality they confess but they point us to the way of God for us and for our salvation, our eternal destination, not down, but up.  Now a lot of people think faith is all about pious feelings. “I feel God’s presence …from everywhere from the golf course to sky diving.”  I would think it’s true.  These folks have no use for dogmas and creeds…but a map is sure more helpful than a walks in the woods, or putting on the beautiful ninth hole if I want to get to New Mexico.  (Insight courtesy of C. S. Lewis)

Nicodemus had a map, the map inward:  his good deeds, spirituality, religiosity and piety but hearing Jesus maybe Nicodemus began to realize salvation is not in his hands. In town, a man is touting a spiritual journey:  literally “The Journey inward”. But this map, the map of the journey inward, was leading Nicodemus  down a dead end and maybe he sensed it, knew something was amiss,  but there must be something I have overlooked, one more thing I can do.  Nicodemus was lost though a ruler in the Sanhedrin.

 So, Nicodemus sought out Jesus and Jesus turns the tables  on Nicomedus with one thing he could not do:  be born again, born from above.  Incredulously Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Up until that point, Nicodemus thought his salvation was in his own hands…but hearing Jesus, maybe he began to know it was not.  Now Jesus seals the deal:  your salvation is in the Lord’s hands, after all, the Psalm has it right of course:  The Lord is my salvation, of whom then shall I be afraid? 

 Nicodemus came in the cover of night maybe because he was fearful of his reputation and honor in Israel in speaking with the rabbi from Nazareth.  Now Jesus says he must be born from above. This is the one more spiritual thing Nicodemus could not do but the new birth is not just one more thing, it is the main thing of your life and mine in Christ Jesus:  our baptism, born from above in water and the Spirit. His forgiveness richly given to us each and every day as we repent and daily turn to Him.  Unless you are born from above in water and the Spirit, a person can not enter theKingdomofGod.  Nicodemus could not do that and that’s the point:  Jesus will effect Nicodemus’ rebirth.  Jesus is not interested in one more spiritual thing you can do, Jesus has bigger fish to fry.  Jesus is not interested in more spiritual thing you can do, He is involved, so involved because He loves you. It is as if Jesus were saying:

“It is My purpose to inform man that I will make him thoroughly pious, not externally by parading his sour face of his respectable conduct before the world.  No, not that, I want to instruct him in the new birth.  I wan to build from the bottom up and purify the heart.” (Luther)

 Baptism is utterly the work of the Holy Spirit so we may cling in faith to Jesus Christ:

By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghostwhich He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christour Saviorthatbeing justified by His gracewe should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying. (Titus chapter 3)

 The Holy Spirit blows where He wills and He wills to so breath at one place in particular and every Word leading up to that place and every Word going from that place today and every day:  the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Cross-is like a mast of a ship and the sail is filled with the wind of the Holy Spirit.  The Father sends the Son and proceeding from the Father and the Son the Holy Spirit. 

 The Creedal map points to a dynamic doctrine of the work of the Lord in our lives through His Word.  Doctrine is life.  Nicodemus got a lot more than he or you or I could ever bargain for with the Lord.  Many people think John 3: 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” is a verse apart and by itself. It is not, it is the   Lord’s own answer to Nicodemus’ incredulity.  The Trinitarian love of the Father for the Son, the Son for the Father and the love of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts. He will be lifted up as the bronze serpent was in the map of theIsrael’s 40 years in the desert.   The Israelites were biting devouring each other and Moses, sick of manna, sick of the whole journey.  Therefore, the Lord appointed poisonous serpents to bite and devour them as they were doing the same to each other.  Men began to die.  Moses prayed and the Lord said lift up a bronze serpent in the middle of the camp and whoever looks upon it will live.  If you were so dying how would you feel?  Born again?   Israel knew their destination, the land of promise and yet they were lost…whole nations, denominations, families and individuals can be so lost. As Israel was judged, so the Lord saved Israel and has once and for all, and for all the whole world upon the cross, where no man dare ascend, but true Man and true God, Jesus Christ has once and for all and for you.  We are to announce the results.

 Baptism is our daily life in the Lord:

  Luther: What does such baptizing with water signify?—Answer: It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever. Where is this written?—Answer: St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6We are buried with Christ by Baptism into deaththatlike as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

 The image  above of Nicodemus and Jesus speaking with the cross looming in the background surely speaks to our daily life and work in the Lord. You are work in progress and the sign of His work is His cross.  Roman Catholic G.K. Chesterton said it well:

As we have taken the circle as the symbol of reason and madness, we may very well take the cross as the symbol at once of mystery and of health. Buddhism is centripetal, but Christianity is centrifugal: it breaks out. … But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms forever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox in its centre, it can grow without changing. The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers.

 The cross is our daily signpost when we are lost that the Lord finds us in the depth of His love and we love each other. When do we in particular make the sign of the cross? When we invoke the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for our life in prayer to the blessed and Holy Trinity.

  • In Baptism, all are baptized in the Name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
  • In Confession and absolution, we turn to the Lord as returning to our baptism for the remission of sins.
  • In Doxology:  Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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