The Lord of Heaven and Earth

February 25, 2009

I suppose most people in redemptive history have developed a sort of philosophic idea in their minds and hearts of who God is [even atheists]. They may develop these ideas from something they read from somewhere else or from someone they have talked to. They may even claim to develop ideas on their own. For example, a Muslim believes that Allah is God Almighty. A Jehovah’s Witness believes that “Jehovah” is God but apart from the deity of Christ. The Buddhist believes in Karma and many rebirths or an ultimate Nirvana or “spiritual enlightenment” that comes from self-suffering or ascetic performance. The common denominator among most religions is not only man-centered and revolving around religious performance, but the God they claim to be “the true God” has also been molded and shaped into their fashion, as an idol. In this they attempt to free themselves from the law. False doctrine results in false epistemologies and fails to observe depravity of the human soul in its truest sense because it does not acknowledge the only perfect righteousness acceptable by God or the true heinousness of sin.

The Word of God [apart from Allah, the Watchtower and other non-canonized Scriptures] speaks for itself, apart from man. The true Word of God describes not only ultimate authority over man with propositions in the Scriptures, but His complete character is described simultaneously. In other words, not only is the true God the one who commands every man everywhere to repent, but that He also demonstrates His character in exalting His name. How does He exalt His name? He first and foremost does not look to man for affirmation in His exaltation because He is self-sufficient and self-existent. Not only is He perfect in Holiness, which makes Him perfectly righteous, but He is omnipotent, omniscient and unapproachable apart from His Sovereign decrees. He is not only an infinite number of things that man cannot understand with an infinitely wretched, feeble and worm-like mind, but He is simply incomprehensible. As He declares His name to be above all things, He declares not only repentance, but also reminds us that He has made everything the eye can see. He has made heaven and earth, the human body, all animals, the universe and single-celled organisms.

These things are only able to be explained by a human to other humans because God has made them. The fact that God made me reminds me of how he captures the entirety of creation with His Word. He reminds me that He has made heaven and earth, which is everything I can see and beyond my scope of comprehension. At the same time, He declares His own righteousness and that He is infinitely above all things. Because He has caused me to see that He is infinitely above all things, He also causes me to see who other religions acknowledge a great deal, but without reverence. This infinitely incomprehensible Holy God who has made heaven and earth has made Himself knowable in the person of Jesus Christ. He therefore strips any self-exultation of man. He brings him to nothing. He causes all insolent ascetic and non-Christ exalting religions to falter upon the rebellious and man-glorifying epistemologies that end in self-destruction. This God-Man is the very manifestation of God to man in the flesh as He declared Himself to be when He walked this earth. Muhammad never claimed to be God in the flesh. Neither did Gandhi. Jesus did not claim to be a good leader or just a prophet. He claimed to be God. This proclamation ultimately lead to His bloody death on the Cross. His power reverberates in the resurrecting power of the Gospel. The true Messiah claimed to be God. The true Messiah died. The true Messiah also rose again and ascended to the right hand of the Father. The true Messiah, Jesus Christ, came to save sinners who will not and cannot save themselves. The true Messiah is still incomprehensible, majestic, excellent and infinitely glorious beyond all measure. His unfathomable Mercy is heard throughout the land. He humbled Himself to be a man and to wash the feet of His disciples. Yet, He is also the Judge and Lord of Heaven and Earth; the maker of all things.

“But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 4:2-6

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The Coming Branch

January 30, 2009

“Then the Angel of the Lord admonished Joshua, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts:

‘If you will walk in My ways, And if you will keep My command, Then you shall also judge My house, And likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk Among these who stand here.
‘Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, You and your companions who sit before you, For they are a wondrous sign;
For behold I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH. For behold, the stone That I have laid before Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription,’ Says the Lord of hosts,
‘And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts,
‘Everyone will invite his neighbor Under his vine and under his fig tree.’”

Zechariah 3:6-10

Consider yourself blessed if you are able and willing to walk in the ways of the Lord. For walking in His ways are indeed, keeping His commands. By keeping His commands, you have proven to have passed from death to life. Thus, you have received an eternal inheritance, being grafted into the BRANCH.
Sinners are only willing and capable to walk in the ways of the Lord after being shown they are ‘grafted in’ and that their iniquity is removed. In that day, the sinner is shown the utter helplessness and hopelessness without the only HOPE presented before them. They are then forever grateful for the infinite forgiveness of that iniquity that would otherwise stand against them in complete justice.
There are no offerings and sacrifices that will suffice for the forgiveness of our sins. Infinite transgressors of the law in utter finitude are justly and only deserving of Infinite punishment, according to the Law. We are therefore only forgiven from the Infinite Servant, The Branch. His body and infinite greatness is the eternally decreed wondrous and beautiful perfect once and for all sacrifice for the iniquities of mankind. The Branch provides the eternally living water and the only peace and satisfaction to reconcile us to the Father. We are then granted access to boldly enter the throne of Grace as adopted sons and daughters.

Hallelujah.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of the commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” Ephesians 2:13-17

In the conclusion of the salvation series, I wanted to pose the question, “Who is Jesus Christ to you?” I would like to team up with John Piper in the teaching and explanation of what Scripture explains about the Christ. The basics come from a sermon that was preached at the 2008 New Attitude conference.

In a nutshell, I appreciate the way that Dr. Piper explains human nature in such a simple, yet profound way. In our calloused, self-sufficient sinful hearts, we all fill our hearts and minds with something that we treat as a Savior. It may be our jobs, relationships, cars and even church itself. John used a common example of, “We treat God like a ticket at the movie theater. As soon as we get where we are going [inside the theater], we simply throw the ticket away.” It renders useless. As simple of an example as this seems, there is a profound spiritual implication that can be drawn from it. It explains exactly how professing Christians in America, in particular, respond to the Gospel. We don’t read the Bible, observe the biblical reality of sin, righteousness and judgment or have a clue about the Glory of God, but by golly, we are going to heaven. Our cultural mandate sifts through true spiritual affections to slide under the door of the church by meeting the bare minimum status quo for religion. We want church, tithing, mission’s trips, retreats and even heaven; but we don’t want Christ. As Piper explained, “We simply want a ticket to jump out of the line going to hell to jump in the line going to heaven.”

One of the things that I immensely cherish from the perspective of Dr. Piper [and obviously Scripture] that very few other Pastors preach or even understand is simply, “the treasuring of Christ.” It doesn’t take much time spent with anyone to find out what they treasure. If someone professes to love Christ but yet, never talks about Him and never seems to worship Him, how is it possible to treasure Him? The Scriptures say, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It is clear that we all worship and “treasure” something and the predominance of that worship is what the affections of the heart are set upon. Those who treasure Christ treat Him as the pearl of great price.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, ‘who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.’”
Matthew 13:45-46
Once you know Christ and have been effectually drawn into a relationship with Him [John 6:44], then your eyes begin to see and the heart begins to understand all that the Scriptures declare Him to be from eternity past. You realize that He is infinitely Glorious and forsake your entire life to follow Him.

One of the most captivating explanations of who Jesus is in the Scriptures concerning His Savior status may be Isaiah 53.

“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely he has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 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.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet he opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked- But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When you make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And he shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And he was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.”

If all knowledge or perfection of the Glory of Jesus Christ were to be written in a book, the whole world [Universe] could not contain it. The apostle John explained that the world could not even contain books written only about “the many other things” that Jesus did concerning only signs and wonders [John 21:25]. The eternally key measure to obtaining truth and knowledge about Jesus Christ of which the Gospels explain is to see and know Him as Savior. Although sinners have debated amongst themselves about who the Christ is since He walked this earth, He has clearly revealed Himself to man.
“Then they said to the woman, ‘now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” John 4:42
An unconverted sinner whose sins are not forgiven cannot begin to speak or write any righteousness word regarding the Christ, His Eternal Sonship, Righteousness, Infinite Glory and His Offices [as Prophet, Priest and King]. The only way to treasure Christ in even the smallest proportion is to renounce all self-sufficiency, worldly wisdom and carnal knowledge, acknowledge sin by having committed infinite transgression of the law, repent and embrace Him as Savior. It is only in the moment where Christ pierces the heart by His spirit, causing you to say to yourself, ‘He told me all that I ever did’, when you know who he is [as the Samaritan woman] and can speak a word of knowledge. Otherwise, the carnal mind simply acknowledges the reality of Christ and of God like a demon, who is completely cut off from Grace and the knowledge of His infinite worthiness.

The prayer of King Hezekiah to be delivered from the king of Assyria distinguishes the Eternal Lord from man-made idols.
“O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” Isaiah 37:16.
After knowing the eternal worthiness of the living God, King Hezekiah is able to discern the difference between the true God and worthless idols and pray for deliverance.
“Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, ‘and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. ‘Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord, You alone.”
Isaiah 37:18-20
So is the mindset of the converted soul. King Hezekiah knew only One Lord. He did not develop a mixture of carnal ideas to make up his own god. He publicly renounced those gods and idols [made of wood and stone]. It does not matter the substance of a foreign god, whether it is an idea or physical statue of some sort. Hezekiah pronounced and pleaded his God to be “God alone”, “of all the kingdoms of the earth,” and “who made heaven and earth.” He claimed to have only one God. He did not leave a chance to be taken that one of the other gods could actually be the true God in a sense. He literally brought the idols to ashes, while exalting the true, living God, who was his all-consuming eternal deliverer.

The eternally begotten Son of God was made [before the world began] into the likeness of man. This blessed decree was the manifestation of the perfect Glory of God in all things. God spoke in various times and in various ways, but in these days, He speaks to us through His Son, through whom He also made the worlds [Hebrews 1:1-2]. The incarnation of the Christ displays the visible image of the invisible God. He is in all ways like God, for He is God, perfect in character and likeness. He is the perfect God-Man in who dwells no sin.
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”
Hebrews 2:14-18
In order for Him to be Savior, God eternally decreed the incarnation. His plead was that He was in all ways like a man as He maintained a physical body, with blood and bones. He has a conscience and a brain. The only difference between Jesus Christ and any other man is that Jesus Christ is also God, infinitely maintaining moral perfection. So, the ‘only’ difference is truly an infinite difference in all ways. The One who created the human body in Genesis 1 chose to be subject to the weakness of the body, reflected in the incarnation, which perfectly demonstrates His infinite humility and Priesthood. He is then able to bear witness with those who are tempted of the flesh, for He was also subject to temptation from the Devil, yet without sin. That is the difference between Christ and all other flesh. He came to publicly triumph over death, Satan and to give life to others by his perfect sacrifice as the Lamb of God.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”
John 12:24

Jesus Christ is the bread of Heaven. His description of how He is the bread causes some to be appalled at the thought but others to treasure and bow in worship at the very utterance of how we become one with Christ. He says that we are to “eat of His flesh” and “drink of His blood [John 6:53-58].” If interpreted in the literal sense as the Jews thought, then it is a disturbing and abhorring word picture [v.52]. But, hardness of heart and perversion of the mind do not prevail the purpose of Christ’s words. How much more does one treasure food when they are hungry? It is the same with drink. How replenished does one treasure water after dehydration? Every sinner has had such an experience at one point or another. In the physical sense, we all must eat and drink something to survive. It is the same in the spiritual sense that Jesus describes. We all must eat or drink, but to either be eternally saved or eternally lost. “This is the bread which came down from heaven-not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever” [v.58]. Jesus displays His power and glory in that all other “bread” or “manna” simply ends in death. Each of us is eating from either the Bread of Heaven, or we are eating of sensual religion or worldly bread that ends in corruption and ultimately eternal destruction. This was and is a hard saying of Jesus that His disciples did not understand [v. 61]. Nevertheless, it divides true disciples or those who are in union with Him by the spirit who gives life, and those who are merely after worldly manna and to please themselves.

Those who are offended by the eating of Christ’s flesh and the drinking of His blood are not offended by the grotesque expression. They are offended by the proclamation of who Jesus says that He is. Eat of His flesh! Drink of His blood! “No, I cannot bear to hear it!” says the hardened sinner. If you cannot see it or hear it, then you do not have life. One who rejoices at the thought and description from the very Son of God about the eating and drinking of Him is one who has life. It is a blessed saint who sees the very reason for the eating and drinking of Christ. It is one who sees his reflection as one who is a fallen wretch and a broken spirit. He sees the heinousness of his infinitely sinful [i.e. lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterous, murderous] nature and heart. Each description of the eating of Christ’s flesh and drinking of His blood is merely a shockingly sober reminder that we each are personally the reason for His crucifixion and that He is merciful enough to give us Himself.

In the beginning of our lives on earth, we are each individually alone in the darkness and susceptible to the utmost corruptible crimes under the full fury of the wrath of Almighty God. As an unregenerate, lifeless soul, we are tossed to and fro with waves of deception that blind the conscience from the truth of the Glory of Christ. We care about nothing other than to please our flesh and satisfy our bellies to our own moral demise. We are truly lifeless and eat the bread of worthless idols to merely fuel the infinite fire of God’s wrath. An unregenerate life is like being on a ship that sails into the middle of the ocean. The sailing is a seemingly glorious experience with the wind blowing, birds in the air and sun shining in all its glory. It is not in trouble until the ship undergoes a furious storm with wind and waves under the darkest and gloomy of skies. It is soon torn in pieces and we are suddenly in the water, all alone and no land on the horizon. As we sink deeper and deeper in the water, we are further and further from life and ultimately drowning in the deep abyss. It is certain destruction unless there is a rescuer. Thomas Boston beautifully explains the life of professing Christians,
“Ye cannot take Christ, as a Redeemer, if ye take him not in all his offices. He offers himself to sinners no other way. And what God has joined together let no man put asunder. Many pretend to take Christ as a Saviour to save them from hell and wrath, who do not hearken to him as a Prophet to teach them the saving knowledge of God, nor submit to his laws and commandments. How many call Christ their Lord, and yet do not the things that he saith? O the folly of the world, that reject Christ’s teaching, saying, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways! O the stupidity of those who despise Christ as a Priest, and think to recommend themselves to the divine favour by their own works of righteousness, which they substitute in the room of his righteousness! O the madness of those who contemn Christ as a King, refusing to submit to his royal authority, and who spurn at his laws and government! And how foolish are the princes of the earth that will not suffer Christ to reign freely in their dominions, but encroach on his authority, and make laws opposite to and inconsistent with his!”

Upon the born-again sinner’s recognition of the righteousness of God perfectly fulfilled in Christ alone, he begins to continually see and understand the futility of his efforts in religion and life. Once grace upon grace is imparted from the wisdom of God to the soul of the redeemed by revelation of the Holy Spirit and the Word, the sinner learns to walk in the ways of the wisdom of God. Christ’s ways becomes his ways. Christ’s words become his words. This is no longer a man alone in his ship until it crashes in the middle of the ocean and is lost forever! His sins are no longer held against Him. In fact, his sins have been separated as far as the east is from the west. Some misrepresent the nature of man before he is born-again. Some say, “I was seeking and finally found God” or “the man was reaching out in desperate need to be saved.” But, what caused you to seek? What caused you to reach out in desperate need to be saved? It is the Holy Spirit of God alone, enveloping the soul and sealing it by Grace.

The testimony of Christ according to the revelation of the Scriptures is one that is signed and sealed with blood. The One who created all the nations is the One who inherits all the nations. He, who made the law, came as a man to fulfill it and make a New Covenant with His own righteous blood.
“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”

Hebrews 9:11-15

As Jesus was teaching His disciples, He opened their eyes as to who He was and His very purpose.
“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are all witnesses of these things.’”
Luke 24:44-48
There is an inexpressible, undeniable and all-consuming gratefulness of the crucifixion of Christ realized in the heart of God’s remnant. Picturing the inexhaustible worthiness of the Savior and heir of all things pouring forth His blood from a rugged tree for the transgressions of mankind, bearing the full wrath of God, is one that is eternally enamored. Just as horrid of a sight it is to see the King of Kings brutally scourged to an unrecognizable level and nailed to a cross, it is even more horrid to know God’s full wrath and infinite hatred toward sin and rebellion. An infinitely rebellious creature such as I should, according to the law, die for even one sin and suffer in hell for eternity. On the contrary, an infinitely glorious and righteous God-Man, Jesus Christ, according to the law, should never die because He never transgressed the law. Yet, it pleased God to bruise His Son.
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

The Creator of all things willfully separated Himself from perfect Triune love and harmony to be born of a virgin. He subjected Himself into the hands of sinners to be placed on trial; being accused of blasphemy. He withstood the mockery of Pontius Pilate and Roman soldiers and ultimately nailed to the cross as a sinless God-Man. After He died, He rose again on the third day in glory. He now imparts His Holy Spirit to those whom He has chosen in eternity past to reveal Himself in righteousness. Those to whom He imparts His Spirit are the nations that He has died for. That is His Bride. It is finished. The work is done. The infinite transgressions of these people are now nailed to the cross, and forgotten forevermore. They have now been reconciled to God because of the death and resurrection of the Savior [Romans 5:11] They now receive the Holy Spirit by faith, this great Grace from the Creator of Heaven and Earth, all things seen and unseen, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He has the authority to forgive sins. He forgives them for us by dying to bring us to Himself. It is for our eternal good. It is for His ultimate Glory. Once He becomes our Savior, then He becomes our Treasure.