INTRODUCTION TO BELIEVER’S IDENTITY IN CHRIST.
I. BIGGEST ISSUE IN MODERN CHRISTENDOM – CHRISTLESS CHRISTIANITY
Here’s a tag cloud from a blog that I shall leave unnamed.
What is missing from this picture? (Answer: …).
Scriptures – they have a reflective function. They serve to reflect the Word of God, which is summed up in Jesus. You can destroy your copy of the Bible, but you can’t destroy God’s Word.
39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
Pharisees memorized the Torah by the age of 13. They knew the ins and outs of the Scriptures. And yet when God himself came in the flesh, they didn’t even come close to recognizing him.
Stages of knowing Jesus for the follower of Jesus.
You are hungry. You need to eat. Here are some menus from you to order from.
This is a type of Scripture (i.e., something written). Can you benefit from it?
This is a Scripture in a language you can understand. Can you read the words? Do you know what the words denote? Can you meaningfully order from the menu?
What is the problem? Are words known?
Assuming this menu satisfies your tastes, it it easier for you to order? Why?
And, finally, check out the last menu.
It is easy to order from it? Why? How is it different from the last menu?
That’s out goal – come to the last stage of discerning spiritual realities. Eyes of the heart.
Now, assume you at this stage of Scripture knowledge. God-realities are like in the last menu. What you do still have to do to benefit? Hint: something that no one else can do for you.
How often do you have to do this thing?
Now, here are two most common ways of resolving Scripture disputes.
– Two men have an argument about what a certain word in a menu means. How to resolve the dispute? One is to write books, form groups around interpretations of menu items. What’s a second way?
Logos – Greek philosophy – not just word, but the reality that’s a driving force behind the seen world, the reason for being. For Christ followers, Logos has a name.
Devil is also a master at quoting Scriptures. That doesn’t make him a Christian. Why?
II. MOST IMPORTANT TOOL FOR A BIBLE STUDENT
2 Timothy 2:15
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
The word divide – in Greek ὀρθοτομέω (orthotomeó) – means “cut on a straight line”. That’s the biggest divider of the Scriptures, and it is the beginning of the New Covenant.
When did the New Covenant begin?
For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.
All of those record the beginning of the New Covenant right at the crucifixion of Jesus. The description of these events begins in second to last chapters of each of the 4 Gospels. The New Covenant is fully inaugurated in Acts chapter 2.
Here’s Paul’s attitude regarding the ministry of Jesus
1 Corinthians 2:2
For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Paul never went in time in his theology further back than the crucifixion.
12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
Now, what did the birth of Jesus signify? What was “the sign” that the angels told the shepherds about?
Here’s a relatively faithful representation of swaddling cloths (see picture). This was not one big blanket, but strips of linen meant to restrain a baby. You didn’t hire a babysitter back in the day. Everyone had to work. You restrained a baby by wrapping him tightly, and would put him in a secure place.
Now, compare that with this picture (these are replicas of Egyptians mummifications of dead people. That’s roughly how Jesus looked like, after he was lain in the tomb):
Here are pictures of authentic ancient limestone mangers in Israel. Contrary to popular representations, they were most commonly made of stone.
Compare them with this (it’s a picture of an ancient tomb near Jerusalem. After crucifixion, Jesus was lain in a similar one. Some represent that it’s the actual tomb where Jesus was buried):
Do you see the parallels? What did the birth of Jesus point to?
The cross is the spiritual singularity of world’s history.
III. BIGGEST “SACRED COWS” OF EVANGELICALISM
What are “sacred cows”? Things that should bring you nourishment, which instead you choose to venerate but stay hungry. Being irrationally pious can be a detriment rather than an asset.
Here’s now Nehushtan (the bronze serpent) came about:
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against theLord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
It meant to represent God’s depiction of Jesus taking the sickness and everything corrupt upon himself, and carrying it away to the grave, to be risen to new life, without any of that junk left. It happened roughly in 1300 BC.
Here’s the visual for you:
Here’s the situation, roughly a whopping 600 years (!!) later.
2 Kings 18:3-4
3 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.
4 He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.
How could the children of Israel turn something that was once God-ordained into an idol? What is that process of turning God-things into idols and sacred cows?
Are we doing similar things? If so – what are they? The answers might surprise us …