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Posts Tagged ‘Savior’


Some time back I did a rather brief review of Paul Tripp’s new book on marriage, What Did You Expect?”  As I mentioned there, I think this is one of the best books on marriage.  Tripp goes beneath the surface of marriage (and this is applicable to ANY relationship).

In the DVD, taken from a conference, is similar but not identical to the book.  In the DVD, he focuses on the big picture of marriage.  And that heart of a marriage is determined by worship.  What you worship will determine the quality of your marriage, and other relationships.  The more you worship someone or something instead of God, you will be in conflict because you don’t have the same desires and priorities.

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This week I’m working through Matthew 1:1-17.  In part I’m grappling with the incarnation.  The Eternal Son, who was fully God, became man.  This is pretty much how one of the children’s catechisms puts it.  Simple, but utterly incomprehensible.

We have a tendency to keep Jesus in the cradle.  My kids love “baby Jesus” and are excited to see the holiday (a compound word meaning holy day btw) lights and manger displays.  But we run the risk of trying to keep him baby Jesus, meek and mild.

One of the funniest scenes in Talladega Nights is the debate over which Jesus to pray to- grown up Jesus or the  8 lbs. 6 oz Christmas Jesus with his little baby Jesus powers.  And it gets worse.  “I want to be formal, but I’m here to party.”  “I like to picture Jesus as a ninja, fighting off samari.”  It is a guilty pleasure, teetering on blasphemy (If you watch the clip, it does contain foul language and violations of the 5th commandment).

They have domesticated Jesus in order to serve their own interests.  They grapple with the mystery of the incarnation, but don’t bow before it.  A domesticated Jesus.  A made in their own, or preferred image Jesus.  A counterfeit Jesus!

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Joseph is one of the forgotten men of Scripture.  Matthew’s Gospel is the only source we have for information about this pivotal man.  He is one of the links in the chains of God’s providence without which we have no Messiah, no Savior, no hope, no peace with God or one another.  Joseph … how can we not be thankful for Joseph?

Joseph is called a righteous man, and as a result he was going to divorce a mysteriously pregnant Mary.  We can see that his righteousness is like that of Abraham, who trusted God, instead of the Pharisees who sought to put God in their debt with their goodness.

They were betrothed, which in that day meant you were as good as married.  It was not broken off without just cause, and sexual indecency of some sort was about the only just cause.  It appeared that Mary had either been unfaithful, or raped.  Joseph sought to put her away quietly.  He did not want her exposed to severe penalties.  He was compassionate as well as righteous.

But here we find the first of many relevatory dreams Joseph receives.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”   24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

The message is inconceivable.  A child by the Holy Spirit?  Unheard of.  Even Abraham’s child of promise was conceived the old fashioned way.  It was a miracle, though it used ordinary processes.  This was a different order of miracle- for this promised Son was to be the Savior.

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I’m not sure if enjoying is the right word.  I guess the right word would be benefitting.  I am greatly benefitting from my reading of The Prodigal God by Tim Keller.  He is able to expand on some ideas found in his sermons on the Parable of the Lost Sons.  He develops a better understanding of both sin and lostness.

We tend to tie sin in with rebellion- which it is.  But sin is craftier than that.  It can look like obedience!

It is not his sins that create the barrier between him and his father, it’s the pride he has in his moral record; it’s not his wrongdoing but his righteousness that is keeping him from sharing in the feast of the father.

His obedience produces a pride that keeps him apart from his father and younger brother.  Sin can work thru “obedience” to keeps us from Christ and His people.  We seek to save ourselves.  This is the work of the religious fanatic Martin Luther said lives in each of us, the default of our hearts, trying to earn merit before God.

You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws.  If you do that, then you have “rights.”  God owes you answered prayer, and a good life, and a ticket to heaven when you die.  You don’t need a Savior who pardons you by free grace, for you are your own Savior.

Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.

Keller continues to say that these 2 conditions are not equal.  It is easier for the licentious to see his sin and seek to return home.  The legalist thinks he already is home!  He is more blind to his sin because he looks so good.

What are the signs of an elder brother (legalist, self-righteous, Pharisee)?

The first sign you have an elder-brother spirit is that when your life doesn’t go as you want, you aren’t just sorrowful but deeply angry and bitter.

Keller notes this can function in 2 ways.  If I perceive I have been obedient- I am angry with God and rage against him.  If I perceive I have not been obedient- I am angry with myself and become filled with self-loathing.  Hey, been there, done that- and still take trips there.

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I recently had a conversation with some people who were uncertain about Sonship, a ministry of World Harvest Mission.  They thought the idea that we “never move beyond justification” (accepted by God on the basis of Jesus’ obedience) meant that Sonship did not move on to address our progressive sanctification (becoming more like Jesus in character & obedience).

I tried to explain that “not moving beyond justification” means that our acceptance before God is always based on Jesus’ substitutionary obedience and punishment.  We never become so good, so righteous that we no longer need the work of Messiah on our behalf.  We never out-grow our need to hear, and believe, the gospel.  As such, Sonship is a grace-oriented lifestyle.  Our salvation by grace alone through faith alone includes our sanctification.  As Paul chastized the Galatians, we do not start by grace and persevere by the flesh.  It is from grace to grace, as we trust God to apply the work of Jesus to us by the power of the Spirit.

I think that what throws some people off is that Sonship focuses on our new identity as adopted children of God as a foundation, with justification, for our progressive sanctification.  You find this most clearly in Walter Marshall’s Gospel Mystery of Sanctification.  Counterfeit sanctifaction is when we change through self-effort rather than by grace.  It is an attempt to earn or maintain our standing before God.  But properly understanding and believing in our justification and status as heirs frees us from such attempts, and we rely further for his grace to transform us.

Another aspect that throws some people off is the focus on sins of the heart instead of the external behaviors or sins.  Many people only address that which is seen- words, actions.  These are but the tip of the iceburg, or the stem of the weed.  Beneath them are attitudes of the heart and mind- idols- which produce these effects.  Our sinful attitudes and attachments are the ice below the surface, or the roots of the weed.  To truly make progress in our Christian experience, we must address these in addition to the visible sins.  If you don’t pull up the roots, the weed just grows back.  So, by grace, we seek to kill the root.

So we find that Sonship is concerned about sanctification, but it keeps our progress rooted in our justification, our new status, and addressing our heart in addition to our actions.  I find it to be a more biblical approach to life change, for, after all, grace teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness (Titus 2).  I discover that I’m a bigger sinner than I ever imagined, but that Jesus is a greater Savior than I could ever imagine (1 Timothy 1:15).  Sonship is about gospel transformation!

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