Friday, April 3, 2015

Who did Jesus die for?

Today is Good Friday. But it wasn't always a Good Friday. It didn't seem like a good Friday for the disciples when Jesus was hanging on the cross. It didn't seem like a good Friday for Mary. It didn't seem like a good Friday for Jesus. It's the day that Christians remember the suffering and pain that the Lord Jesus Christ went through on the Cross, and in light of His resurrection, we can confidently proclaim that it is Good Friday.

Reflecting on this day, I had some thoughts that perhaps we all could consider, as we contemplate the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Let's contemplate the question: Who did Jesus die for?

1.) Jesus died for the Father

Isaiah 53:10 - "Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand." (ESV)

It was the will of the Father to crush the Son. God's ultimately holiness requires a payment for sin, no matter how small the sin is. But the sheer fact of the matter is that the sin of the world would require a perfect sacrifice. The world needed a sacrifice that was pure and blameless. And in obedience, the Son went to the Cross. Jesus died in obedience to the Father.

2.) Jesus died for the World

1 John 2:2 - "He (Jesus) is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (ESV)

Jesus, on the Cross, died for the world. Through Jesus' death on the Cross, the gift of salvation became open to the world. Just as God had once related to/with Israel, the Cross would mean that God relates to/with the world. It is also no mystery that Christianity, brought forth by Jesus on the Cross, has led to a torrent of grace, also to the nonbelievers. One could argue that Western literacy has increased to what it is now due to the spread of Christianity, as more commoners yearned to read the Bible.

3.) Jesus died for the Church

2 Corinthians 5:21 - "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God." (ESV)

Jesus on the Cross signified a new identity for the believers of God. Replacing Israel came the Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus' death signified a new collective of believers, not marked by culture or nationality, but a collective of believers marked by one thing. Jesus' death brought forth a peoples marked by faith in the work and person of Jesus Christ known as the Church.

4.) Jesus died for you

Isaiah 53:6 - "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (ESV)

Jesus died specifically for us, in the sense that He died for OUR sins. Jesus didn't simply die for the collective sin. He also died for each and single one of our sins. When Jesus Christ went to the Cross, how many of our sins were future sins? Jesus died for the sins we committed yesterday, today, and will commit tomorrow. In dying for our sins personally, He died to pay the debt for our sins.

Jesus' death has many different implications. In dying, He was supremely obedient to the Father. In dying, He showed how deep and wide His love is.

But if Jesus simply died and was buried, all we can do is count Him as a religious, moral teacher among the likes of Confucius, Gandhi, and the Buddha. 

However, the only thing that truly "vindicates" Jesus as the Lord of all things is His resurrection.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reading the Bible 101

Living in the 21st century, we have more access to the Bible than any other time in history. There is an abundance of Bibles, whether it be in the form of a book, an app, or even a website. Yet, it seems that Bible literacy is at an all-time low. Whereas the struggle during the Reformation was the inability to read the Bible, the struggle now seems to be the lack of desire to read the Bible. The real problem is that we have an aversion to reading the Bible. I believe that the primary reason why we have an aversion to reading the Scriptures is the lens in which we read it through.

Primarily, most people read the Bible as if it was written about themselves. This lens, or method, in which people read the Bible can be called the "Road-Map to Life" lens. When reading the Bible with such lens, you tend to believe that the Bible is about you. The event of David and Goliath becomes a story about you and how your faith must be like David in order to overcome your hardships. The story of Moses becomes a story about how you must persevere in spite of all odds. While seemingly valid, this doesn't hold up very well. Since God didn't write the Bible about us, looking for ourselves in the narrative of the Bible is going to lead nowhere. For example, the Bible doesn't say which school to pick, who to marry, or what career path you should take. Therefore, looking for the answers for those things in the Bible is going to create frustration.

The other lens which we can look at the Bible through is the lens that sees the Bible as being primarily about God. The event of David and Goliath becomes a real story, that is allegorical. Jesus is David defeating Goliath on behalf of his people. Jesus is the Moses that leads us out of slavery. This lens forces us to see that the Bible is primarily about the nature of God and who He is. 

With that in mind, here are some tools to help read the Bible on a regular basis. Maybe it'll help, maybe it won't. But this is what I do that helps and I want to share it with you. You're going to need:

1.) Bible: Pretty self-explanatory but you're gonna need one. In fact, I suggest a physical Bible over an app. Translation doesn't really matter but I highly suggest the English Standard Version which provides an accurate translation with readability.

2.) Pen & Highlighter: As you read you're going to see verses or phrases that stick out to you. I believe that's the Holy Spirit that illuminates the Word for you. Underline/highlight them but restrain yourself. The temptation is to highlight most of the Bible, and I strongly advise that you don't do that. Hi-light what sticks out to you at the moment.

3.) Reading Plan: You're going to need one so you can read in context with other portions of the Bible. You can create one yourself or get one online. I suggest picking on that you can follow through on. This is very important, else you're gonna open up the Bible and see the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah. Or the hanging of Judas.

4.) Journal: Journal as you read the Bible. It'll keep track of your spiritual progress and it really helps to get thoughts on paper.
  1. Start with prayer - Ask God to illuminate the Word and to seek Him in the Word.
  2. Read the Bible - Don't attempt to read the whole book of Genesis in one day. You will fail. Read small bite-sized portions to start off and let it grow bit by bit. 
  3. Journaling - Write out the verse that stuck out the most to you as you read. Then write down any observations. Then write a specific application that details how the passage applies to your daily life.
  4. End in Prayer - Write it out. By starting and ending in prayer, the goal is to mitigate the sole growth of knowledge and to grow in relationship with God.
Matthew 6:33 - But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

*Most of the content here is from Matt Chandler's Sermon "How to Study the Bible," with my own thoughts added on. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Response to Skeptics: "Religious Pluralism"

Growing up in a confused Korean household, with Christian influences, my parents believed and told me of a religious pluralism, or a belief that all religions are true. Growing up in the Church, there was distinct difference between what the Church was telling me and what my parents were telling me. The Church was saying that Christ was the only way, yet my parents were telling me different.

In The Reason for God, Timothy Keller says this:
"If Christians are right about Jesus being God, then Muslims and Jews fail in a serious way to love God as God really is, but if Muslims and Jews are right that Jesus is not God but rather a teacher or prophet, then Christians fail in a serious way to love God as God really is.'" The bottom line was - we couldn't all be equally right about the nature of God. 
Bottom line is, there is no such thing as religious pluralism. In fact, everyone believes that there is an inferiority of certain beliefs over others. For example, atheists believe that a supernatural worldview is inferior to that of a naturalist worldview. Additionally, if one claimed that the Earth was flat, most would consider his/her idea as inferior to the view that the Earth is round. Most would agree that a religion that requires the murdering of children, rape, and incest are inferior to any other major faith. In fact, when most think of the equality of religions, they think of major world religions, contending that the differences between, for example, Christianity and Buddhism was insignificant and that they basically taught the same things. But you cannot truly believe that Christianity and Buddhism teach the same things! Christianity teaches that there is a deeply personal, just, loving God while Buddhism doesn't teach about a personal god. While Christianity teaches that Jesus is the one who perfects us, Buddhism teaches that one must give up fleshly desires in order to become Enlightened. There is a clear distinction between those teachings. Also, by saying that there is an all-encompassing loving god that is present in all religious systems which teach essentially the same thing, one creates a doctrine of their own which insists that the doctrines in other religious systems aren't all that important. By doing so, one asserts that ones beliefs are superior to the beliefs of those who believe in other religions, which in turn breaks down the construct of religious pluralism.

I will be addressing apologetics as well in future blog posts. All of my writing in this post is heavily influenced by Dr. Timothy Keller's writings.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Debtors to Grace

"But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, thought it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me." - 1 Corinthians 15:10

When regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ, everyone has a response to it, whether they like it or not. There are those who don't know about the event, and there are those who are skeptical nonbelievers, who say the resurrection could not have happened. And there are those who believe. There are a myriad of responses even among those who believe. I believe that as believers we need to embrace the resurrection of Jesus and live in obedience to His commandments as John 14:15 tells us.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." - Jesus
You may be asking "Obedience? That sounds like we're working for salvation! As Christians, we believe that we're saved by faith alone and not by works. Surely you jest!" Just to clarify, I am in no way suggesting a works-based salvation, but I believe that genuine faith is followed by works. One implication of that is that if we are saved by works, there's a limit to what God could ask of us but because we are saved by grace, there's no limit to what God could ask of us and our obedience to Him must be unconditional. But how hard is it for each of us to obey even the simplest commandments such as loving our neighbors, let alone what God's called us to do? But there is hope.

In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul says that it is by the grace of God that he was able to work, which implies that we obey because God's grace allows us to. More often than not, we tend to say things like "I want to do more for You God," which while it's a noble thing to want to do more for Him, it is a misunderstanding of grace. It should be "God, You helped me in my time of need, and I need Your help in this very moment to obey You!" Without grace, we are unable to obey Him and being indebted to grace gives God all the glory, for it is not I, but the grace of God that is with me!

Soli Deo Gloria!

What is the chief end of man?

What is the chief end of man?
     The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
- Westminster Shorter Catechism
The question posed by the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  It's the one that everyone knows and remembers, yet the one that is the hardest to put into practice. At least I think it is for me. It is simple to understand, yet hard to grasp. Why is that? I believe it's because we have the wrong mindset when it comes to this idea.

The way that this question and answer is worded, it seems to imply that we need to glorify God, and we also need to enjoy Him, as if they were two different tasks. When I was younger and I heard this creed, I just memorized it and assumed that I needed to be giving God glory one day and I needed to enjoy Him another. But as I grew older I knew that couldn't be the case because God seemed to want me to rejoice in Him always. Then I came across a book called "Desiring God" by Dr. John Piper. He said it like this:
...[t]he old theologians didn't think they were talking about two things. They say "chief end." not "chief ends." Glorifying God and enjoying Him were one end in their minds, not two. How can that be? ...What does God have to say about the chief end of man? How does God teach us to give Him glory? Does He command us to enjoy Him? If so, how does this quest for joy in God relate to everything else?...The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever."
In this creed, there seems to be a misunderstanding of what our primary purpose is. Our primary purpose is to glorify God in all that we do, by enjoying Him in all that we do. I pray that we may be able to enjoy God in all that we do so that we may glorify Him.

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31