Silent Saturday

Posted by on 03/31/2018 in: ,

The day after Jesus’ crucifixion (the Saturday before Easter) is one of those interesting, yet unrecorded days in biblical history. If you look at the Gospels, they each give about one verse to what was going on in the world of the Jews: they were “resting.” Whether it was due to traditional obligation or genuine obedience, the majority of people took this day off because of the Sabbath law.

SCRIPTURE

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed His last. At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split… Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for Him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. (Matthew 27:50-51;55-56, NIV) 

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the Sabbath, especially because that Sabbath was a day of great solemnity… After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed His body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.

They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where He was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:31; 38-42, NRSV) 

On the Sabbath, they all rested according to the commandment. But on the first day of the week at early dawn, [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. (Luke 23:56-24:1, NRSV)

Saturday was one of complete silence.

There seems to be no movement; no advancement; no hope. But what screams out for our full attention are the teachable truths found in the moments before the Sabbath began.

You see, Good Friday – though being the day of Jesus’ death – is also known in Jewish tradition as the “Day of Preparation.” This was important because it was the last day for the Jews to collect their needed supplies before taking the next day off.

Think of the day before a big ice/snow storm. Everyone is running around town, stocking up their pantries, and buying what needs to be bought. Rightly so, people are focused on only one thing: prepping for the next day.

So even though Jesus just died, the Jewish tradition demanded for the world to keep moving.

This is why the Jews wanted to rush the removal of Jesus’ body. They had things to do and people to see…and they definitely did not want His body on display during the Lord’s Day.

But all while everyone – even the Lord’s disciples – carried on with their “needed” prep, two very unexpected people were boldly making other preparations.

“Unexpected” in that they were once closet believers. Yet in all four of the gospels (which is a huge deal), the authors make sure to give credit to Joseph and Nicodemus for their care of Jesus’ body.

We know Nicodemus from his secret (and interesting) conversation with Jesus in John 3. But all that we know about Joseph is that he was a timid and fearful follower of Jesus who cared more about remaining safe from the Jew‘s disapproval than being a bold disciple.

But here, both their silence and their fear seem to vanish.

We see Joseph approaching Pilate to boldly ask for Jesus’ body. Being a man of stature and influence, he was able to quickly receive this request. But think about this:

If it wasn’t for Joseph, the Lord’s body would have been treated like that of a murderer – just thrown into a pile of corpses.

But instead, Joseph is seen delicately removing Jesus from His cross, cleaning off His bloody body, prepping it for burial, and carrying Him to a nearby tomb – a tomb that Matthew states is Joseph’s own property.

He takes his day of preparation and boldly focuses it on his Lord. But he is not alone. Nicodemus also decides to make his adoration for Jesus known by bringing expensive spices to aide in the burial process.

And together, they wrap the body in linen clothes, according to Jewish tradition. This is such a beautiful – yet messy – picture. Here are two random men, doing the difficult work that would normally take many skilled hands. But no one else was present to help.

Yet it was because of their preparations – and bold obedience – that the Lord’s body was also ready for the day of rest. The silence of Saturday – though seemingly despairing – was given a ray of hope because of the complete change in heart that these men expressed.

So then, what was it that changed in the lives of these two? What brought them into such boldness? What enabled them to overcome their fears? Their doubts? Their selfish concerns?

Honestly, I think that it is found in what Matthew records:

“Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom…” (27:50-51).

At the exact moment of His death – at the assumed “triumph” of evil – something severe happens: the veil in the temple was torn.

For years, the old covenant reigned.

In this system, a priest would go beyond the veil to make the sacrifice in the presence of the Lord (the ark of the covenant). Before Christ’s death, no one but a priest could do this job.

The separation of God and man was visibly seen when looking at the veil: man as fallen and God as perfect. But in an instance, Christ – being the ultimate priest and sacrifice – died, and the dividing wall was torn.

This means that before Jesus’ resurrection ever took place, there were already hints of His victory. His sacrifice took the separating and isolating power of sin and destroyed it.

Where sin intimidates mankind, shames them in isolation, and binds them with fear, Jesus’ work on the cross began an ultimate reversal. And we see this new freedom already at work in two men who were once known by their fear and isolation.

Jesus’ death gave them courage and boldness – not of themselves – but because sin (and sin’s effects) were torn. Before glory was ever vividly displayed in the resurrection, Jesus was already working gloriously in the unseen.

The Saturday before Easter teaches us that peace was already at work even though “victory” was not yet fully expressed.

It reminds us that even in the silence, God is powerfully at work. And it calls us to live with this same level of boldness and obedience despite our inability to see what victory will soon come.

We all find ourselves in days like Saturday. Where life seems mundane and Jesus seems far. Where failure feels defining and hope appears obsolete. It is in these moments that we must realize that the separating power of sin has been demolished; that Jesus has already given us hints of what will soon become reality. He has already given us a foretaste of glory.

Sunday will come; victory will soon be experienced.

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for Saturday. Thank you for the reminder that regardless of what I feel and what the world around me expresses – You are here. Thank you for already being at work; for giving me glimpses of Your glory. I pray that I can live with boldness today. Give me eyes to see what preparation You are calling me to make. And with courage, I step forward. Amen.

This blog, capturing the importance of the Saturday before Easter, was written by the team at DeclareGlory.com

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Bonhoeffer: Discipleship and the Cross

Posted by on 03/30/2018 in:

BONHOEFFER

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-45) was a German theologian and pastor who spoke out against the Nazi regime during World War II. His resistance against Hitler’s regime culminated with him being hung in a concentration camp at Flossenbürg.

Today, Bonhoeffer’s works are loved by many. His writing, despite time, is still youthful, enlightening, and inspirational.

Additionally, Bonhoeffer is most known for his rich writing on discipleship. In celebration of the Easter season, we thought it would be timely to share his comments on discipleship and the cross. [Plus, we asked if you all wanted to read something from Bonhoeffer on our Instagram account. The answer was a resounding: YES!]

So, check out Mark 8:31–38 because it’s the passage Bonhoeffer discusses in the following excerpt. Then… read and be encouraged!

DISCIPLESHIP AND THE CROSS

The call to discipleship is connected here with the proclamation of Jesus’ suffering. Jesus Christ has to suffer and be rejected. God’s promise requires this, so that scripture may be fulfilled. Suffering and being rejected are not the same. Even in his suffering Jesus could have been the celebrated Christ. Indeed, the entire compassion and admiration of the world could focus on the suffering. Looked upon as something tragic, the suffering could in itself convey its own value, its own honor and dignity. But Jesus is the Christ who was rejected in his suffering. Rejection removed all dignity and honor from his suffering.

It had to be dishonorable suffering.

Suffering and rejection express in summary form the cross of Jesus. Death on the cross means to suffer and die as one rejected and cast out. It was by divine necessity that Jesus had to suffer and be rejected. Any attempt to hinder what is necessary is satanic. Even, or especially, if such an attempt comes from the circle of disciples, because it intends to prevent Christ from being Christ.

The fact that it is Peter, the rock of the church, who makes himself guilty doing this just after he has confessed Jesus to be the Christ and has been commissioned by Christ, shows that from its very beginning the church has taken offense at the suffering Christ. It does not want that kind of Lord, and as Christ’s church it does not want to be forced to accept the law of suffering from its Lord. Peter’s objection is his aversion to submit himself to suffering. That is a way for Satan to enter the church.

Satan is trying to pull the church away from the cross of its Lord.

So Jesus has to make it clear and unmistakable to his disciples that the need to suffer now applies to them, too. Just as Christ is only Christ as one who suffers and is rejected, so a disciple is a disciple only in suffering and being rejected, thereby participating in crucifixion. Discipleship as allegiance to the person of Jesus Christ places the follower under the law of Christ, that is, under the cross.

When Jesus communicates this inalienable truth to his disciples, he begins remarkably by setting them entirely free once more. “If any want to become my followers,” Jesus says. Following him is not something that is self-evident, even among the disciples. No one can be forced, no one can even be expected to follow him. Rather, “if any” intend to follow him, despite any other offers they may get. Once again everything depends on a decision. While the disciples are already engaged in discipleship, everything is broken off once again, everything is left open, nothing is expected, nothing is forced. What he is going to say next is that decisive. Therefore, once again, before the law of discipleship is proclaimed, even the disciples must accept being set free.

“If any want to follow me, they must deny themselves.”

Just as in denying Christ Peter said, “I do not know the man,” those who follow Christ must say that to themselves. Self-denial can never result in ever so many single acts of self-martyrdom or ascetic exercises. It does not mean suicide, because even suicide could be the expression of the human person’s own will. Self-denial means knowing only Christ, no longer knowing oneself. It means no longer seeing oneself, only him who is going ahead, no longer seeing the way which is too difficult for us. Self-denial says only: he is going ahead; hold fast to him.

“… and take up their cross.”

The grace of Jesus is evident in his preparing his disciples for this word by speaking first of self-denial. Only when we have really forgotten ourselves completely, when we really no longer know ourselves, only then are we ready to take up the cross for his sake. When we know only him, then we also no longer know the pain of our own cross. Then we see only him. If Jesus had not been so gracious in preparing us for this word, then we could not bear it. But this way he has made us capable of hearing this hard word as grace. It meets us in the joy of discipleship, and confirms us in it.

The cross is neither misfortune nor harsh fate. Instead, it is that suffering which comes from our allegiance to Jesus Christ alone. The cross is not random suffering, but necessary suffering. The cross is not suffering that stems from natural existence; it is suffering that comes from being Christian.

The essence of the cross is not suffering alone; it is suffering and being rejected.

Strictly speaking, it is being rejected for the sake of Jesus Christ, not for the sake of any other attitude or confession. A Christianity that no longer took discipleship seriously remade the gospel into only the solace of cheap grace. Moreover, it drew no line between natural and Christian existence. Such a Christianity had to understand the cross as one’s daily misfortune, as the predicament and anxiety of our natural life.

Here it has been forgotten that the cross always also means being rejected, that the cross includes the shame of suffering. Being shunned, despised, and deserted by people, as in the psalmist’s unending lament, is an essential feature of the suffering of the cross, which cannot be comprehended by a Christianity that is unable to differentiate between a citizen’s ordinary existence and Christian existence. The cross is suffering with Christ. Indeed, it is Christ-suffering. Only one who is bound to Christ as this occurs in discipleship stands in seriousness under the cross.

“… let them take up their cross …”

From the beginning, it lies there ready. They need only take it up. But so that no one presumes to seek out some cross or arbitrarily search for some suffering, Jesus says, they each have their own cross ready, assigned by God and measured to fit. They must all bear the suffering and rejection measured out to each of them. Everyone gets a different amount. God honors some with great suffering and grants them the grace of martyrdom, while others are not tempted beyond their strength. But in every case, it is the one cross.


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We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Bonhoeffer’s DiscipleshipIf you’re interested in reading more from Bonhoeffer, we have a collection of his books on our store.

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Waiting For His Bride

Posted by on 03/27/2018 in:

Waiting For His Bride

WAITING FOR MY BRIDE

Lately I have been thinking a lot on the character of Christ as the Bridegroom. It especially makes me think back to my wedding, and my own experience as a groom.

My wife and I did not see each other beforehand but did take some pictures together, back-to-back. I could not see her, but I could see the train of her dress in the corner of my eye. Being so close to her, but only able to see a glimpse, made me even more eager to see her.

Later, when it was time for her to come down the aisle, I knew she was outside the door and about to come in, but she forgot her bouquet. So I stood there, waiting. The anticipation alone was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

WAITING FOR HIS BRIDE

In Matthew, Jesus illustrates how the Good Father cares for his children. He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass, and yet “are you not of more value than they?” (Mat 6:26) Likewise, if we who are evil give good gifts to our children, “how much more will your Father…give good things to those who ask him!” (Mat 7:11)

Just as God is even more of a Father than we are, how much more does the Bridegroom anticipate the Wedding Feast? Isaiah writes, “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isa 62:5) Jesus rejoices even more over His bride than we do.

THE DAY IS COMING

Think about that for a moment. The gospel says we are reconciled to the Father. But, this isn’t a picture of a slave returned to bondage. It isn’t as though a simple status quo has been restored, with God as Lord and us as mere underlings. We are His children. We are created in His image. He rejoices over us the same way a father celebrates a son coming home (Luke 15:32) and a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.

The Wedding Feast will be a great celebration. We look forward to that day of perfect restoration, when the scars of the sinful nature are finally wiped away, and we are united with our Lord. But Jesus loves His bride, and He also waits with anticipation for that eternity of rejoicing together.


This blog was written by Adam Hewitt, Sr App Developer at Olive Tree

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Give Us Barabbas!

Posted by on 03/26/2018 in:

Give Us Barabbas

When we look at the Passion Week, we rightly look to the work of Jesus Christ. We even focus on individuals like the disciples or Pilate. Yet, a character we rarely give any attention to is Barabbas, the man who was freed in place of Jesus. So, as we look ahead to Resurrection Sunday, I want us to take a look at this man and see what we can learn from him.

Who Was Barabbas?

Of all the characters that make an appearance during the Passion Week, Barabbas is one of the few names found in all four gospels (Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-19:16). But, who was this man?

At this time in Israel’s history the people were anxiously looking for the Messiah who would restore their former glory and free them from Roman oppression. Because of this, many individuals arose taking on the moniker, only to fall flat on their face. We cannot know for sure if Barabbas ever claimed such a title, but he at least participated in revolts seeking Israel’s freedom. The New Testament authors describe him as: notorious, a rebel, a murderer, an insurrectionist, and a robber. None of these terms are endearing or give you a feeling that this guy had any good in him. Barabbas deserved to be in prison.

Barabbas’ Place in the Narrative

In each gospel account we are told Pilate wanted to release Jesus, finding no wrong in him deserving death or imprisonment. Yet, wanting to avoid another revolt, which would look bad on his part, he thought he would be clever. With the crowd insisting on Jesus’ death, he decided to give them the choice between two individuals: Jesus and Barabbas. Both he and the people knew how evil Barabbas was, so it should have been obvious that Jesus would be the easy choice to be freed. But, by God’s design, that’s not what happens. Instead, the crowd asks for Barabbas’ release and demands Jesus’ crucifixion. So, Pilate obliges and frees the insurrectionist and murderer, washing his hands of any guilt in the matter.

Barabbas, no longer getting the death sentence he deserved, was now a free man who could go about his way.

We Are Barabbas

When we look at the gospel, we are very much like Barabbas. The Bible tells us our hearts are wicked and seeking evil at all times. We are notorious sinners in God’s eyes who rebel against his commands. Not only that, but we rob God of his glory and harbor murder in our heart. In short, we’re just as bad as Barabbas, deserving of every just penalty God brings our way. Our outward deeds might not be as heinous as his, but our hearts are just as rebellious & sinful.

Just like Barabbas, we were on death row, awaiting our penalty. But then Jesus enters the picture.

Jesus Brings Freedom

When faced with the choice between Jesus and Barabbas, it was easy for the crowd to ask for Barabbas because he was just like them. Sure, Jesus was innocent, healing people, and talking about God’s kingdom; but, he was doing nothing to bring down the Roman Empire. At least Barabbas was fighting, so they thought. He was giving the people what they wanted, so he fit right in. Again, that’s us in our sin, we fit right in with the world.

Silent, Jesus took Barabbas’ place and died in his stead. Jesus should have been the one walking away as a free man, but it was the criminal whose trespasses were forgiven. So, Jesus goes to the Golgatha, where he is crucified between two thieves, who very likely could have been Barabbas’ companions.

But, not only did Jesus take Barabbas’ place, he also took ours. He died on the cross for our sins. Barabbas is a visual representation of what Christ did on our behalf. He took the place of a wicked sinner so that he might live. In like manner, Jesus bore the penalty for our sin so that we might live to God and walk in newness of life.

That is the point of the cross. That is the point of Barabbas. This is the beauty of the gospel!

This week as you ponder the work of Christ, remember that you are Barabbas. and Jesus took your place so that you might be free.

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Weeping on Palm Sunday

Posted by on 03/25/2018 in:

Palm Sunday can sound like a joyous celebration if we tell the story a certain way. There’s a big crowd waving palm branches, shouting “hosanna.” Jesus rides in on a donkey—his triumphal entry. Then, we get our kids to relay the scene on stage at church. It’s cute and fun and we all leave feeling like we just participated in something historical. But we missed one major part of the story… Jesus weeping.

That’s right. After this huge, spontaneous celebration erupts in his honor, Jesus sobs.

There must have been something going on behind the scenes that we didn’t catch. It most likely has to do with Jesus seeing straight through to people’s hearts and motives—because he is always doing that.

So, let’s retell the story and see where we went wrong.

THE CROWD

The route Jesus took, the donkey he rode, the season of Passover… all of these details pointed to one thing: Jesus is the Messiah.

  1. The Mount of Olives is the predicted location for the Messiah’s appearance (Zech. 14:4-5).
  2. Oftentimes, kings would procure donkeys to ride into a city—a sign of humble authority.
  3. Passover celebrates the Israelites freedom from slavery in Egypt…

and the Jews deeply desired to be freed from Rome by a messiah, or savior.

So, the crowd (who has been ready to thrust Jesus into a throne for quite some time) worship him like a king. The disciples lay down their cloaks, making the modern-day equivalent of a red carpet. The crowd makes a huge, political spectacle by waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna.” They want a revolt. They want Jesus to rise up and overthrow the Roman government. And they are going to be thoroughly disappointed.

THE RELIGIOUS RULERS

These men have been rolling their eyes at Jesus since the first day of his ministry. When their rules and guidelines are challenged by Jesus, they never stop to consider if their ideology is wrong. Instead, they are disgusted by Jesus’ rise to popularity, especially among the sick, poor, and outsiders.

This day is a little different, though.

Passover often stirred up strong political hopes in common people. In the past, thousands of traveling Jews crowded the streets of Jerusalem leading to tension and revolts. Once, Archelaus unleashed his troops during Passover, killing 3,000 people (First Century Study Bible Notes). Rome did not appreciate the uproar.

The religious rulers are afraid of this happening again. Surely, Rome would be furious of Jesus’ Messianic claims. So, they yell to Jesus:

“Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”Luke 19:39

Basically: Tell these people to stop calling you the Messiah! But Jesus refuses. Instead, Jesus says:

“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”Luke 19:40

It’s true. Jesus claims to be the Messiah. And even if the people didn’t proclaim it, the earth would. So, the religious rulers believe they have no other choice than to capture him and turn him into the Roman authorities.

JESUS + AGENDAS

Next, as Jesus approaches Jerusalem, he begins to weep.

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”Luke 19:41-44

Here, we see Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. He was very aware that 1) he was not going to fulfill the crowd’s Messianic hopes and that 2) these hopes would turn to violence. That’s exactly what happened in AD 66-73.

Both the crowd and the Pharisees are applying their agendas to Jesus. The crowd wants the Messiah to be a strong, powerful war leader. The Pharisees want the Messiah to be like them—perfect, set apart, and untouchable. Neither have it figured out.

Jesus is a strong, powerful savior. He is also perfect and set apart. But he doesn’t save the world through violence or requiring people to reach his standards. Jesus touches the sick, eats dinner with sinners, and allows himself to be beaten and murdered. He is the opposite of everyone’s expectations.

So, he weeps. Because of the Jew’s agendas, they cannot see him for who he is, and they kill him for it.

OUR AGENDAS

I find it somewhat ironic when we wave palm branches at church. The last thing I want to be is a person in the crowd on that day, seeking after my own idea of who Jesus is. So, let’s use Palm Sunday as a reminder to evaluate ourselves. As we approach Good Friday, I encourage you to examine your expectations of God.

Here are a few questions I’m asking myself:

Is there any expectation I have of God that, if left unfulfilled, would challenge who I believe Him to be?

Do I envision Jesus being proud of me for following all the rules, even at the cost of loving others? 

Would I follow Jesus into dark alleys and dilapidated neighborhoods to care for others?

Do I picture Jesus agreeing with all my political stances? Why?

Do I expect Jesus to always destroy my enemies to keep me safe?

Who do I believe Jesus to be—while he is flipping tables, touching lepers, being beaten, and even dead?

and most importantly: WHO DOES JESUS SAY THAT HE IS?

We will never know…

…if we would be a part of the crowd that would worship Jesus one day and crucify him the next. But we can know if we are willing to spend our lives seeking him for who he is, and not who we want him to be.

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The Faith of a Dying Thief

Posted by on 03/24/2018 in: , ,

In Christ’s Words from the Cross Charles Spurgeon talks in great lengths about Jesus’ crucifixion, including those who were crucified with him The dying thief did the impossible that day. In front of multitudes of scoffers, he used the only part of his body not nailed to the cross (his tongue) to proclaim Jesus’ identity: the Messiah. The following is an excerpt from Spurgeon’s message.

WANT TO READ THE WHOLE BOOK? CLICK HERE!

THE FAITH OF A DYING THIEF

The story of the salvation of the dying thief is a standing instance of the power of Christ to save, and of His abundant willingness to receive all that come to Him, in whatever plight they might be. I cannot regard this act of grace as a solitary instance, any more than the salvation of Zacchaeus, the restoration of Peter, or the call of Saul, the persecutor. Every conversion is, in a sense, singular: no two are exactly alike, and yet any one conversion is a type of others. The case of the dying thief is much more similar to our conversion than it is dissimilar; in point of fact, his case may be regarded as typical, rather than as an extraordinary incident.

Remember that our Lord Jesus, at the time He saved this malefactor, was at His lowest. His glory had been ebbing out in Gethsemane, and before Caiaphas, and Herod, and Pilate; but it had now reached the utmost low-water mark. Stripped of His garments, and nailed to the cross, our Lord was mocked by a ribald crowd, and was dying in agony: then was He “numbered with the transgressors,” and made as the offscour-ing of all things.

Yet, while in that condition, He achieved this marvelous deed of grace.

Behold the wonder wrought by the Saviour when emptied of all His glory, and hanged up a spectacle of shame upon the brink of death! How certain is it that He can do great wonders of mercy now, seeing that He has returned unto His glory, and sitteth upon the throne of light!

“He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is that He can do even more now that He lives and reigns. All power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of His grace?

It is not only the weakness of our Lord which makes the salvation of the penitent thief memorable; it is the fact that the dying malefactor saw it before his very eyes. Can you put yourself into his place, and suppose yourself to be looking upon One who hangs in agony upon a cross? Could you readily believe Him to be the Lord of glory, who would soon come to His kingdom? That was no mean faith which, at such a moment, could believe in Jesus as Lord and King.

If the apostle Paul were here,

and wanted to add a New Testament chapter to the eleventh of Hebrews, he might certainly commence his instances of remarkable faith with this thief, who believed in a crucified, derided, and dying Christ, and cried to Him as to One whose kingdom would surely come. The thief’s faith was the more remarkable because he was himself in great pain and bound to die.

It is not easy to exercise confidence when you are tortured with deadly anguish. Our own rest of mind has at times been greatly hindered by pain of body. When we are the subjects of acute suffering it is not easy to exhibit that faith which we fancy we possess at other times. This man, suffering as he did, and seeing the Saviour in so sad a state, nevertheless believed unto life eternal. Herein was such faith as is seldom seen.

Recollect, also, that He was surrounded by scoffers.

It is easy to swim with the current, and hard to go against the stream. This man heard the priests in their pride ridicule the Lord, and the great multitude of the common people, with one consent, joined in the scorning; his comrade caught the spirit of the hour and mocked also, and perhaps he did the same for a while; but through the grace of God he was changed, and believed in the Lord Jesus in the teeth of all the scorn.

His faith was not affected by his surroundings; but he, dying thief as he was, made sure his confidence. Like a jutting rock, standing out in the midst of a torrent, he declared the innocence of the Christ whom others blasphemed. His faith is worthy of our imitation in its fruits.

He had no member that was free except his tongue, and he used that member wisely to rebuke his brother malefactor and defend his Lord.

His faith brought forth a brave testimony and a bold confession.

I am not going to praise the thief, or his faith, but to extol the glory of that grace divine which gave the thief such faith, and then freely saved him by its means. I am anxious to show how glorious is the Saviour–that Saviour to the uttermost, who, at such a time, could save such a man, and give him so great a faith, and so perfectly and speedily prepare him for eternal bliss. Behold the power of that divine Spirit who could produce such faith on soil so unlikely, and in a climate so unpropitious.

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See the Lost Sermons of Spurgeon [PICTURES]

Posted by on 03/22/2018 in: ,

In 1857, Charles Spurgeon promised to release all his earliest sermons. But, due to the incredible amount of other work he was committed to accomplishing, this dream was never fulfilled. Now, 160 years later, the Lost Sermons of Spurgeon have been recovered and his promise kept.

A TEENAGER’S NOTEBOOKS

Christian George, the primary editor for the Lost Sermons of Spurgeon collection, discovered 11 of Spurgeon’s handwritten notebooks in London. Inside, he found 400 of Spurgeon’s earliest sermons, dating from 1851-1854.

George found the very first sermons that Spurgeon preached while he was a teenager. Back then, Spurgeon had no idea that he would grow up to become the Prince of Preachers, sharing the good news of Christ all over the world.

REVIVING FOR PUBLICATION

The most wonderful part of the Lost Sermons of Spurgeon series is that George didn’t simply make the text available to us. Instead, he and his team carefully compiled the works and included:

full-color facsimiles

transcriptions

photographs

introductions

editorial annotations

a timeline

indexes

and a short biography on Spurgeon

LOST SERMONS OF SPURGEON

If you love reading Spurgeon’s work, we highly recommend this resource. It is curated by those who deeply admire and Spurgeon, inspiring them to pour all the time, energy, and detail required to make this volume fantastic.

Learn more about the Lost Sermons of Spurgeon here.

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Look Inside: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Posted by on 03/21/2018 in:

THE BASICS

We just released an updated, 17-volume version of the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT)! This resource comes with over 6,000 pages of conservative, modern scholarship—and it now includes commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians and 2 Corinthians.

This series is written by well-known and admired American scholars such as:

  • Thomas Schriener
  • Karen Jobes
  • Darrell Bock
  • Moisés Silva

Their research, writing, and academic ethic will guide you as you interpret the Bible. Additionally, the authors of the BECNT come from differing theological backgrounds, providing you with a healthy mix of viewpoints.

THE PURPOSE

If you have ever put together a sermon or lesson on the Bible, you have probably dealt with research-stress. There are so many different directions that you can take a message! And, there are so many different commentaries and resources that can help you get the job done.

However, some commentaries aren’t really meant to help you write a cohesive sermon. Instead, they focus on details and technical questions… which can be fun if you are in the mood to go down some rabbit trails! But when you need to buckle down and write a compelling, and accurate sermon or lesson, you need someone to summarize the details for you.

This is the goal of the BECNT: to give the information most important for teaching the Word to others.

The authors abandoned the verse-by-verse approach that most commentaries take. Instead, the BECNT answers the most important questions about a text in well-written, paragraph form.

This doesn’t mean that the extremely technical questions are never dealt with, though! You can still access these through the footnotes.

THE PROCESS

Each commentary contains a translation of the Greek text by the author. With this process, you are sure to get key information about the passage in its original language.

But, it doesn’t stop there!

The authors of this commentary use the Greek not only as a foundation, but they weave the language throughout their own commentary. You will read concise summaries and word studies, while also understanding the passage-at-hand as a whole.

Additionally, this commentary relies on new research and is unafraid of re-evaluating long-withstanding claims… without assimilation or abandoning tradition. ‘

THE CONTENTS

This resource goes above and beyond in content. The book introductions are thorough, covering information such as:

  • Significance
  • Authorship
  • Date
  • Unity
  • Text
  • Integrity
  • Destination
  • Purpose
  • Literary Structure

This introduction and outline will give you all the context you need for exegeting a passage of Scripture.

Additionally, the BECNT contains transliterations, maps, linked verse references, multiple indexes, and so much more. You’ll be able to navigate easily through this resource, finding information on the exact topic, passage, or even Greek word you want.

RECOMMENDATIONS (THAT AREN’T FROM US!)

Don’t just take our word on how useful this resource is! Read these helpful recommendations:

“In this age of unprecedented proliferation of biblical commentary series, it is an outstanding accomplishment for the Baker Exegetical series consistently to have produced what with only rare exceptions have become the best available commentaries on the Greek text of the New Testament book or books treated.”— Craig Blomberg, Denver Journal

“Rigorous exegesis by seasoned scholars with explicit evangelical commitments. This is also one of the best-designed, easy-to-read series as it includes intro matters, then each commentator’s translation, commentary, and textual notes for every passage. Very reliable.”—  Bruce Riley Ashford and Grant Taylor, “Between the Times” blog

LEARN MORE

If you’re looking for a conservative, Greek-heavy, New Testament commentary set—this is for you. Head on over to our website to learn more about the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.

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In the World, Not of It

Posted by on 03/20/2018 in:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. —John 17:15-16 NIV

IN THE WORLD, NOT OF THE WORLD

How are God’s people supposed to engage the broader culture around them? There is much confusion around the topic of cultural engagement. Whereas some Christians choose to ignore culture, others rail against it. And others are seduced by it.

The Bible calls us to engage the broader society while retaining a distinctive Christian identity and purpose. We need to think deeply and clearly about what it means to engage secular, pluralistic culture, especially in our work.

Many Christians are confused about how and to what extent they should engage the world. For this reason, discussing cultural engagement requires humility and submission to God. We need to realize that if we do not think carefully about how to engage the culture, we may succumb to the ways of the culture that are not pleasing to God when we decide to engage it. Pastor and theologian Tim Keller explains:

“The reality is that if the church does not think much about culture – about what parts are good, bad, or indifferent according to the Bible – its members will begin to uncritically imbibe the values of the culture. They will become assimilated to culture, despite intentions to the contrary. Culture is complex, subtle, and inescapable…. And if we are not deliberately thinking about our culture, we will simply be conformed to it without ever knowing it is happening.”

4 MODELS OF CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT

Keller then reviews four different models of cultural engagement:

  1. Being relevant to the culture to live winsomely (joyfully)
  2. Transforming culture to the decrees of Christ when possible
  3. Living counter-culturally to shine the light of Christ
  4. Recognizing that there are two kingdoms- the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God

According to Keller, each of these four Christian approaches to cultural engagement can help us discern how to engage the world in a fruitful and faithful way. There is not one uniform approach that should dictate how a Christian engages the world. Rather, there is a need for significant spiritual discernment in the difficult balance of being in the world, but not of it.

EVERY DAY DECISIONS

Every day we are faced with decisions about how we should engage the world in our work. For example, many of us have to make decisions about which clients to take on, whose lead to follow and what causes to stand for. And our decision-making inevitably entails all sorts of trade-offs, compromises and ambiguity. We often find ourselves living and working in gray areas, questioning how intentional or effective we are with respect to engaging the world distinctly as Christian.

How do we know where we can and should be flexible for the sake of a greater good? How far is too far before we lose our distinctiveness as Christians? The answers to questions like these will need to be considered case by case, with the wisdom of Scripture and other Christians. But the four approaches provided by Keller above are a good starting point. We must realize, with humility, that different situations require different approaches. Nevertheless, as Christ’s disciples we are called to engage the world so that we might win some to Christ and see his kingdom advance on earth

APPLICATION

How can you engage culture distinctly as a Christian in your day-to-day life?

What parts of culture are good to participate in? Also, what are the benefits? Think about Jesus’ ministry.

NIV FAITH AND WORK BIBLE

This blog content was taken directly from the NIV Faith and Work Bible. It contains doctrine, Scripture application, and real-life experiences to help you answer this fundamental question: “How does my faith relate to my work?”

So, it doesn’t matter what job you have. You could work mid-shift, freelance, or part-time. You could be a teacher, a politician, or even a marketer. This Bible will have something relevant for you to apply to your daily work life.

Learn more about the NIV Faith and Work Bible here.

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Confidence in God

Posted by on 03/19/2018 in: ,

“Confidence in God” is an article found inside the NLT Study Bible—a fantastic resource for anyone in the earlier stages of Bible study.

God gave Nehemiah favor in the eyes of a mighty Persian king so that the king responded favorably to all of Nehemiah’s requests (1:11; 2:8, 18). Nehemiah then had the confidence to present his bold plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and the people of Jerusalem responded positively, believing that God was able to give them success in rebuilding the walls (2:20) and to protect them from their enemies (4:4-5, 9).

THEY CONFIDENTLY CONTINUED IN THEIR WORK…

…in spite of opposition because they knew that God fights for his people and frustrates the plans of the wicked (4:14-15, 20). When the walls of Jerusalem were finished, Nehemiah recognized that the entire difficult project was completed only because of God’s help (6:16).

The book of Nehemiah vividly demonstrates that God is all-powerful and able to accomplish his will, both in individual lives and in nations. Nehemiah’s prayer in ch. 9 focuses on praising God for his sovereign and powerful acts: God created the heavens and earth (9:6), called Abram from Ur, and gave the land to Israel (9:7-8, 22-25). The miraculous signs in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the provision of guidance, food, and water in the wilderness all demonstrate God’s power over man and nature to provide for his people (9:9-15).

The Lord had sent the Israelites into exile after generations of persistent sin (9:26-27). Now he was fulfilling part of his promise to restore them (1:8-9).

NEHEMIAH HAD THE CONFIDENCE…

…to pray and lead because he knew that everything that happened was part of God’s sovereign plan. This same confidence in God’s sovereignty led Abram to leave Ur and by faith go to an unknown land (Gen 12:1-3; Heb 11:8-10), caused Rahab to trust in God (Josh 2:9-14; Heb 11:31), and prompted Hezekiah not to give in to the demands of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (2 Kgs 18–19).

Confidence comes when people believe that God will keep his promises and complete the work he has started in their lives (Phil 1:6).

APPLICATION

Where do you lack confidence? Can you think of any promises God makes that you can rely on as a source of confidence? Share some of God’s promises that have given you confidence in the comments below.

NLT STUDY BIBLE

Looking for a study Bible that is SO MUCH MORE than footnotes? The NLT Study Bible is jam-packed with articles, word studies, charts, full-color maps, and more. We highly recommend this study Bible! We especially recommend it to anyone looking to start studying the Bible a little bit more in-depth, but with easy-to-understand content.

First, check out the images below to look inside the study Bible. Then, visit our website! You can learn more about this resource here.

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