Filtering by Category: Expositions

Standing on New Shores

For me, 2013 was a year which brought me to rediscover the riches of the Gospel of grace. Perhaps it is better to say that the Gospel found me—again. I feel like I’ve been thrown up on the shore of the New World with the sun blazing brilliantly, almost blinding me but warming me and filling my heart with a sudden, unexpected happiness. After months at sea…

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Mark's Gospel: Series Introduction

This week in Grace-for-Life class, we launched a new series on following Jesus from the Gospel of Mark. We often miss the fact that Jesus was fully human and limited Himself with respect to time, place, energy, and all the other ways we are simply finite. So He had to be laser-focused in His mission. The Gospel of Mark conveys this clearly as we will discover by following the Son of Man on Mission through Mark's Gospel.

In introducing this series this past Sunday, we began by pointing to the key text that we will return to again and again: "For even the son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Jesus Himself summarizes the goal of His mission to His disciples: He will lead and save by becoming a servant and a sacrifice.

We learned several key points this week:

  • We are prone to creating imaginary Jesus's. Many people detest religion, but almost everyone finds a way to like Jesus, and they do so by remaking Him in their image. Jesus is often made the poster-boy for their cause. But those are idols, images we've made up. What we want to do is follow the genuine Jesus of Nazareth, the one revealed in the Scriptures.
  • Jesus can only be known through the Gospels about Him. No one knows Jesus better than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We say many things about Jesus, but often we do not know Him. He can truly only be known by digging in deep to the works He commissioned His followers to write. Out of 66 books of the Bible, 4 of them are portraits of this Jesus of Nazareth. What we should desire is to so know the Jesus of the Gospels that we grow to anticipate and expect how He would respond, act, do, and say. 
  • Jesus was strange, much stranger than we've come to believe. Jesus could not be elected president were He with us today in spite of what either party might say. He was a first-century bearded Jewish, single man who traveled the countryside with a group of 12 selected disciples (mostly fishermen). His entourage was unimpressive, and the only animal we ever hear of him riding is a donkey, and he attracted the sick, the dying, and the poor by the thousands.
  • BUT, the people loved Him. Jesus gave peoplewho had nowhere else to turn, hope, and He changed them forever. That is why we have their stories collected in the Gospels, because they really happened, and these people were really changed by their encounter with the magnetic prophet from Nazareth, Jesus.
  • Furthermore, He could preach, flat-out preach. Jesus had an irresistible quality as a communicator and He spoke with power and authority. Not only did the masses with their needs come out to hear Him, but so did His enemies, and even the demons had to listen to His voice!
  • We applied the message by urging ourselves to look to Jesus It is very easy for us to get distracted and lose sight of our Savior. But whatever you are going through this week, don't look too deep inwardly, don't try too hard to be perfect, and don't pretend to have it all together. If we really believe that Jesus is the answer, then that starts with us. We have to believe that Jesus is the answer for us, in our homes, families, marriages, jobs, relationships, and neighborhoods. So look to Jesus, think on Jesus, meditate on the Son of Man on Mission, reflect upon the Cross, see Jesus lifted high, pick up the Gospel of Mark and read it. This is all good news. He came to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance.
*NOTE: Grace for Life is the Family Ministry discipleship group for the Family Life Worship Center in Bloomington, IN.

Destroyed by What You Desire

I've been working my way through the book of Judges and have come to the Samson narrative. Now I have come to the end of that story, Judges 16. I was blown away as I read the whole story of Samson. How very carnal Samson seems to have been from the very beginning. He surely was one of the strangest vehicles of deliverance that God ever provided for His people. Samson was driven by great lusts, he acted nearly always by impulse, and never does one get the sense that the man knew God. He had power with God but I never see in the text that he knew the Lord in any other sense than that his parents set him apart for God through the Nazirite vows. I think that part of the point of the narrative of Judges is to show the increasing wickedness of the people of Israel including their own judges. Samson appears to be one of the final judges and certainly the worst. The Samson narrative gives way to a period of syncretistic worship and civil war. A dark day indeed.

Judges 16 presents to us the final days of the life of the tragic Samson. He loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek. I love the literary compactness and concision of description in the biblical narrative. Epic. Her name was Delilah and she was the final of at least three Philistine women that Samson chased.

Delilah. What kind of woman was this? She asks her Israelite lover and strong man: "please tell me where you great strength lies and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you?" (vs. 6). What a bald and bold question! How could Samson not see her deception? Did he enjoy this cat and mouse game? Did he like walking on the precipice? Apparently. But eventually he was literally lulled to sleep on the lap of his enemy (v. 19). Then he was bound, his eyes were gouged out, and he was enslaved to grind at a wheel.

Regardless of the heroic moment of Samson's death, this story is high tragedy as profound as anything Shakespeare could have imagined. A man, no matter how great, cannot toy with lust and win. He does not have the power. He will be destroyed by the very thing he desires.

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