The Incarnation of Jesus Leads to Worship

This past weekend I not only spent some time with great friends serving college students, but I was once again brought face to face with the greatest truth and mystery of the Christian faith. Over the course of three-and-a-half days I celebrated The Lord’s Supper five times. It would be easy to think that doing something this regularly would have a negative effect in appreciating it. In fact, the opposite effect is felt.

One of the most poignant verses of scripture related to Communion is found in 1 Corinthians 11:26. While the Apostle Paul is trying to correct some of the errors and abuses that were happening in the Corinthian church.

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

This truly is a wonderful mystery. Every time we participate in communion and celebrate The Lord’s Supper we are able to witness how God can dissolve the concept of time into one moment. Just take the time to consider how Paul does this in this verse.

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup (in the present),
you proclaim the Lord’s death (in the past)
until he comes (in the future).

During one of the moments of Communion was struck by the glorious truth of what we as Christian’s call the Incarnation. I do not believe it would be a stretch to say that the without the Incarnation there is no Christianity. This single teaching of the Christian church is so important that without it every hope is lost. The entire prospect of salvation hinges on whether or not God became like one of us. I have included my thoughts below. I offer it as a meditation on how the incarnation of Jesus leads to worship.

The glorious mystery of the incarnation reveals the utter majesty of our great God and King. He who is full of glory and with unquenchable power has entered into a broken world. He has come so that I, a wretched sinner might know the unhindered presence of grace. This is the offer of true grace. Nothing withheld. Nothing denied. Nothing lacking. Complete salvation. Once and for all delivered through the womb of a woman.

Oh mystery of mysteries. How could this be? How could God accomplish so much through what appears to be something so weak–a baby weeping? Only an all powerful God could use one of the weakest images of the human experience and accomplish the redemption of, not just one man or woman, but of all of them. Now and forever. God has come in the flesh.

What great love this is. What a demonstration of unbridled and wasteful grace. God has so much grace to give he gives and gives and is not bothered by the fact that it will not all be consumed.

How could I ever feel unsatisfied by the grace of God? Only if I have accepted a substitute. Only if I have allowed another Gospel, which is no gospel at all, to pollute my heart and mind with lies about Jesus.

The incarnation is a glorious mystery. I don’t understand it. But then again. I don’t really want to.

RANT WARNING | One Word Describes Sanctions Against Penn State…

That word is Pretentious.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Ok, so I may be all wrong about this. I will admit that right up front. I am not a Penn State or Paterno fan. When I saw the news conference about the sanctions imposed I was incensed.

I think that the actions or in-actions of those in power during the period that Jerry Sandusky was terrorizing and abusing children were despicable. The cover up of these abuses and the failure of the leadership of Penn State to do something as soon as the allegations came to light cannot be accurately described. This entire situation is terrible. There are no winners. Joe Paterno’s name is mud. All that he worked for has been completely dismantled by a failure of moral courage.

Here is where I am mad because of what the NCAA did. Why is the ENTIRE Penn State community getting hit with these stupendous fines and penalties when the people responsible kept them in the dark? How is doing this going to bring about the “intended cultural changes” needed at the school. The culture is changed, people. Penn State will never be the same. Ever.

Trying to make an example of an institution makes about as much sense as trying to kill a ghost. Penn State the institution is not self-aware. It does not run itself. The university is amoral. The problem was the people in charge who lacked any sense of personal honor and were more interested in covering their own behinds. Why is nobody going after them? Why are they not being tried and convicted of their roles. Oh, they got fired. That makes it all right now? The student body, faculty and community surrounding Penn State should not have to pay like this. This is ridiculous.

A few years ago in the political world we were told that there were institutions that were too big to fail. Now, we find out that there are times when something is too big, and it should fail. Give me a brake. Then we are told that the option of completely suspending the program would have unintended harm to people who were not involved. Please! The NCAA has essentially amputated both legs of the Penn State football program. They may never recover from this.

I do not have a problem with the sanctions. I just can not stand all the moralizing that was included in the press conference. The NCAA is just trying to make itself look better because in the end they failed to keep tabs on a member school.

I may be all wrong. But, something about all this does not sit well with me.

Gospel Basics: Seeing the Goodness of the Good News

Purchase here: Kindle Edition or Paperback

No Running from Romans 1

Romans 1:16-17 has been the catalyst for a radical transformation in my understanding of what God desires in us as his people. Paul writes these words after a brief introduction:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

These two clauses have done more to ruin my tendency to sugarcoat what it means to be a pastor and a Christian than any other verses I can imagine.

The message and retelling of what Jesus did and what he secured for all who believe is so incomprehensible, the longer I think about it, the more my brain hurts and my heart yearns to see him. The Gospel is something that will never grow old, tired or weak. What happens is that our sensitivity to its message wains because we do not fully see its depth.

The Power of God For Salvation

This phrase, “the power of God for salvation,” can be difficult to understand on the surface. But, what stands out is that whatever it means there is an undeniable and unbreakable link between the Gospel and salvation. These two realities are so closely link by this text that if the Gospel is not proclaimed, then there is no salvation. And, if no salvation occurs, then the Gospel was not preached. The power, the dynamic active component necessary for salvation is the Gospel proclaimed. Why is this the case? I have no answer other than to say that is the way that God designed it.

If we take Peter’s declaration in Acts 4:12 that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” then we have to draw a straight logical line from the Gospel to Salvation. When the Gospel is clearly and intentionally presented, and the work of regeneration is done by the Holy Spirit, then salvation is the necessary byproduct. If this is not the necessary effect, then the power that Paul talks about is not present.

I think you can begin to see the problem. IF we, the modern church, are proclaiming the Gospel, then why are there not more people “getting saved” in our churches? We have one of at least two choices. Either, we are not preaching the Gospel. Or, the Gospel has no power? But, we know that the second of these options is not reasonable. Therefore, we are left with the first. There is something wrong in our Gospel presentation. The conviction that the Gospel should elicit has somehow been tamed, softened, dulled.

The Righteousness of God Is Revealed

Clause number two is just as potent as the first. This clause is interesting because it makes an unusual assertion. What makes this assertion unusual is that it ties God’s righteousness to the Gospel itself. Paul said that “in it” the “righteousness of God is revealed.” Wow! That means that every time the Gospel is accurately, faithfully and completely proclaimed God’s righteous acts toward sinners are on full display for all to see. If anything qualifies as a theological mouthful, this is it. The danger inherent in this claim is that the opposite is also true. When the Gospel is NOT accurately, faithfully and completely proclaimed God’s righteousness may be missed at best, and diminished beyond recognition at worst.

What I realized, as the weight of these verses landed on my heart, is that I do not want to be the reason that someone else does not hear the Gospel accurately. If you have not discovered that the Gospel can be unpopular at certain times among certain people, you will. It can be difficult to preach, teach, proclaim and tell the Gospel without shrinking back. However, I realized that I was unwilling to fail at being a faithful steward of God’s News to a fallen world. I do not want to be the one who would deny sinners the opportunity of encountering the righteous God and creator of the world. That is too high a cost for being liked by my peers.

My Hope For Gospel Basics

This book is my attempt at deciphering the fullness of the Gospel’s message. It is not an exhaustive treatment of the Gospel. I do not think that such an approach would be wise. I just wanted to remind myself and any who read it, of the Gospel’s beauty and simplicity.

It is not written with a lot of technical language, but there are important biblical concepts and theological ideas discussed. It should not take to long in reading. My hope and prayer for Gospel Basics is that it might serve as a reminder of what we have received in and because of Jesus.