Tag Archives: theology

Soap and Lye Don’t Cut it, Mister.

Of all the innumerable superlatives that can be said of Scripture, I think I treasure most the inexhaustible nature of God’s Word. It never returns void.

I’m reminded of that again today. I taught from Luke 1:26-35; 2:1-7 and Hebrews 2:5-10 today. I challenged the students at Chapel Hill Academy to recognize the miraculous fact that Jesus Christ carried the one attribute that no human being before or since has ever had. Holiness.

Jesus’ death on the cross means nothing if not for this perfect holiness. For me, Christmas is put in perspective only when I reflect on all of the sins I’ve committed in the past year. Countless.

I’m reminded of the fact that I so often throughout my life trust in ritualistic cleansings, much like Israel’s cleansing rituals depicted in Jeremiah 2.

“Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.” Jeremiah 2:22

It always strikes me how quickly I lapse into ritualistic cleansings. By that I mean, I often provide my token “I’m sorry for my sins, please forgive me God.” Prayer. The arrogance I show, genuinely believing that God doesn’t understand what I’m doing.

This is the God who has EVERYTHING under his control. Jesus Christ knew this kind of control. Everything was in subjection to him. We often don’t realize that. Hebrews 2:8 is a great reminder. We can’t hide our sin behind ritual, or behind veils.

This is why, this Christmas, I am humbled and utterly bereft of pride in myself, with God’s grace. Only by the grace of God can I understand just how useless all of my soap and lye is at the feet of a holy God. And only by the grace of God can I understand that my savior, my propitiation, my payment, my advocate, my redeemer, my hope, my salvation, my strong tower, my fortress, my deliverer, my shepherd…is holy.

He is holy. He was, is, and always will be. He didn’t start being holy. He is eternally holy. This is why his birth matters, and it’s why his life matters, and it’s why his death and resurrection matters. Let’s not forget it.

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Jesus: Righteous for a Reason

Today I spoke at the chapel service at Chapel Hill Academy in Chanhassen, Minnesota.  It’s a really cool school with a little over 300 students and a bevy of dedicated parent-volunteers that supplement the paid staff.  It truly is a humbling and inspiring experience every time I walk in the doors, because probably half of the people I run into are there on a volunteer basis.  I would encourage any parent to check it out here.

I spoke on Matthew 4:1-11 to the 6th-8th grade students, and the title of the talk was extremely clever: Jesus the Tempted.  Yes, that passage is about Jesus’ 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness being tempted.

One of the ideas that I wanted to really hammer home is the fact that we can relate to Jesus.  He sympathizes with us, as Hebrews 4:14-16 says.  But as I was up there talking, something else grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go.  I’ve read this a hundred times, but I’ve never tried to answer the question of why Jesus not giving in to temptation  was such a big deal.  I mean, really, is it that big of a deal?  I mean, he is Jesus, we all know he lived a sinless life, right?  Well here are a few portions of my talk that really got me reflecting, even in the midst of speaking, on our Savior.

 

Satan makes it clear what he truly desires here, and not only for Jesus, but for all people.  Satan desires worship.

Now Satan is referred to in many ways, but here are some that are particularly important when we look at this final temptation.

1. Ephesians 6:12 – Ruler of the darkness of the world.

2. Ephesians 2:2 – Prince of the power of the air.

3. John 14:30 – Prince of this world.

4. 2 Corinthians 4:4 – god of this world.

What these titles should tell us is that Satan works as if he has real power on the earth.  He doesn’t have any real power capable of defeating God’s purposes, but he will try to convince us he does, just like he tried to convince Jesus here.  He offers earthly dominion to Jesus.  But why is Jesus here at all?  And what is his future role?  His role is KING!  He comes to earth as the lamb of God, as John the Baptist describes him in John 1:29, dying for the sins of many, but when he returns to earth again?  He is described as the LION OF JUDAH, as it says in Revelation 5:5.

Jesus is powerful over ALL the earth.  He is God Himself come down to earth.  He does not need Satan’s permission to be Lord over it!  His mission on earth at this time though, was to die for the sins of many.  He was to be righteous for us who are unrighteous.  Jesus’ purpose was to direct God’s people toward God.  To direct our worship and submission to God in heaven, and his death on the cross, taking our sins, would accomplish our salvation.  That’s why Jesus responds the way he does in verse 10.

Jesus dismisses Satan’s last temptation so completely that there is nothing left for Satan to say.  Jesus shows that he can overpower Satan and force him out from his presence, just as he does throughout the gospels when he heals the demon-possessed.  In every response Jesus gives, he is quoting Scripture.  All of his responses can be found between Deuteronomy 6-8.  What is interesting about that, is that those chapters find the people of God, Israel, banished to the desert for 40 years for their unfaithfulness.

Jesus is doing, and has done, everything righteously that the people of God have done and will do unrighteously.

He is worthy.

Let us not gloss over the reason why Jesus must be righteous, as we praise him for the fact that he is.  We are unrighteous.  Praise God that we have a righteous advocate, who knows us and loves us as we inconsistently seek him.

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