Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sully Notes 16 | Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions Part 1 of 3

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Sully Notes 16 1 of 3 Soma Acts 29 Christian Reformed Network of Missional Communities


Sully Notes 16: Books in 25 minutes or less

Sully Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Here are links to the previous Sully Notes books:

3DM Missional Community Trilogy Sully Notes
Special Sully Notes



Emmaus City Church Sully Notes 16 Part 1 of 3 Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 Redeemer Network of Missional CommunitiesFor those who know me and ask what pastors, theologians, or authors influence me in the most in being a pastor, up to now, I have provided this answer. If a disciple is in essence "a learner," then, besides Jesus, of course, I am a disciple of two Tims: Tim Chester and Tim Keller. Of course, there are many other women (Nancy Guthrie, Ann Voskamp, Elyse Fitzpatrick, etc.) and men (John Perkins, Jeff Vanderstelt, Michael Goheen, etc.) I continue to learn from, but because of their voice, their testimony, their wisdom, and their lives shaped by the Word of God and the Spirit of God that have helped me follow Jesus, the two Tims are my favorites. The real shocker is, while I have already included two of Chester's books in our Sully Notes thus far (A Meal with Jesus and You Can Change), I have not included any of Tim Keller's books. But trust me, this is just the beginning. All of Keller's books have made an impact on me in various ways. So it's my pleasure to provide Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions as the first of Keller's works to be included.

Encounters with Jesus by Tim Keller Review of Quotes | Sully Notes 16: Part 1 of 3  

Introduction

" ... I was delighted to be asked to speak for five nights to students  most of them skeptics  in Oxford Town Hall in Oxford, England, in 2012. We agreed that I would explore encounters that individuals had with Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John. ... In many of them we see Jesus addressing the big, universal, 'meaning of life' questions: What is the world for? What's wrong with it? What (if anything) can make it right, and how? How can we be a part of making it right? And where should we look for answers to these questions in the first place? These were the big questions that everyone must ask  and that honest skeptics are particularly keen to explore. Everyone has a working theory about the answers to these questions. If you try to live without them, you will soon be overwhelmed by how meaningless life seems. We live at a time when some insist that we don't need any such answers, that we should admit that life is just meaningless busywork in the grand scheme of the universe and leave it at that. While you are alive, they say, just try to enjoy yourself as much as you can, and when you are dead, you won't be around to worry about it. So why bother trying to find the meaning of life? However, the French philosopher Luc Ferry (who, by the way, is in no way a Christian himself), in his book A Brief History of Thought, says that such statements are 'too brutal to be honest.' He means that people who make them cannot really believe them all the way down in their hearts. People cannot live without any hope or meaning or without a conviction that some things are more worth doing with our lives than others. And so we know we do have to have answers to these big questions in order, as Ferry puts it, 'to live well and therefore freely, capable of joy, generosity, and love.' Ferry goes on to argue that almost all our possible answers to those big philosophical issues come from five or six major systems of thought. And today so many of the most common answers come from one system in particular. For example: Do you think it's generally a good idea to be kind to your enemies and reach out to them rather than kill them? Ferry says this idea  that you should love your enemies  came from Christianity and nowhere else."  pgs. xii-xiv

"The Christian gospel says that we are saved  changed forever  not by what we do, and not even by what Jesus says to people he meets, but by what he has done for us. And so we can best discover the life-changing grace and power of Jesus if we look at what he has accomplished in the main events of his life: his birth, his sufferings in the wilderness and the garden of Gethsemane, his last hours with the disciples, his death on the cross, and his resurrection and ascension. It is through his actions in these moments that Jesus accomplishes a salvation in our place that we could never have achieved ourselves. Seeing this can move you from an acquaintance with Jesus as a teacher and historical figure to a life-changing encounter with him as redeemer and savior."  pg. xv

Chapter One | The Skeptical Student 

" ...  the Bible goes on to insist that the meaning of life is not a principle or some other abstract rational structure, but a person, an individual human being who walked the earth. As Luc Ferry notes, this claim (in John 1:1-3, 14) struck Greek philosophers as 'insanity." But it led to a revolution. If Christianity was true, a well-lived life was not found primarily in philosophical contemplation and intellectual pursuits, which would leave out most of the people of the world. Rather, it was found in a person to be encountered in a relationship that could be available to anyone, anywhere, from any background.– pg. 2 

" ... I want you to notice Nathaniel's problem (in John 1:43-51). Nathaniel is at least an intellectual snob, and maybe even a bigot. Philip comes to him and says, 'I want you to meet this new rabbi, he's got answers to the big questions of our time, and he's from Nazareth.' Nathaniel sneers, 'Nazareth!?' Everybody from Jerusalem looked down on people from Galilee. ... Though Nathanael was not from Jerusalem but from one part of Galilee, he felt he could look down on a place like Nazareth, which was considered to be in an even more backwater and primitive region of Galilee. ... Many people today view Christianity much like Nathanael viewed Nazareth. Christianity was from Nazareth then, and it is still from Nazareth today. People love to roll their eyes at their idea of Christianity and its claims about who Christ is and what he has done and can do for them. The knowing people, the suitable people, all say, "Christianity – been there, done that. I grew up with it, I realized early on it's not for me, and I've made up my mind.' So Jesus is still from Nazareth." – pgs. 5-6   

"Another idea foundational to our contemporary consciousness, as Luc Ferry points out, is the concept that every single human being, regardless of talent or wealth or race or gender, is made in God's personal image and therefore has dignity and rights. Ferry says that without Christianity's teaching that the Logos is a person, 'the philosophy of human rights to which we subscribe today would never have established itself.' Another view, taken for granted today, that came from the Bible, is that you should take care of the poor. In pre-Christian Europe, when the monks were propagating Christianity, all of the elites thought that loving your enemies and taking care of the poor was crazy. They said society would fall apart, because that's not the way the world works. The talented and the strong prevail. The winner takes all. The strong prey on the weak. The poor are born to suffer. Isn't that how everything's always worked? But the teachings of Christianity revolutionized pagan Europe by stressing the dignity of the person, the primacy of love, including toward enemies, and the care of the poor and orphans." – pgs. 6-7

"Another ancient cultural tradition revealed in Genesis is that in those societies, women who had lots of children were extolled as heroic. If you had many children, that meant economic success, it meant military success, and of course it meant the odds of carrying on the family name were secure. So women who could not have children were shamed and stigmatized. Yet throughout the Bible, when God shows us how he works through a women, he chooses the ones who cannot have children, and opens their wombs. These are despised women, but God chooses them over ones who are loved and blessed in the eyes of the world. He chooses Sarah, Abraham's wife; Rebecca, Isaac's wife; Samuel's mother, Hannah; and John's mother, Elizabeth. God always works through the men or the boys nobody wanted, through the women or girls nobody wanted. You might be thinking how nice and uplifting this part of Christianity is – God loves underdogs. You might say to yourself, 'I can agree with that part of the Bible. But all the other parts about the wrath of God and the blood of Christ and the resurrection of the body, I don't accept.' But those parts of the Bible – the challenging, supernatural parts – are central, not peripheral. Th heart of the unique message of the Bible is that the transcendent, immortal God came to earth himself and became weak, vulnerable to suffering and death. He did this all for us – all to atone for our sin, take the punishment we deserved. If it is true, it is the most astonishing and radical act of self-giving and loving sacrifice that can be imagined. There could be no stronger basis and dynamic motivation for the revolutionary Christian ethical concepts that attract us.– pgs. 8-9
"The essence of what makes Christianity different from every other religion and form of thought is this: Every other religion says if you want to find God, if you want to improve yourself, if you want to have higher consciousness, if you want to connect with the divine, however it is defined – you have to do something. ... Every other religion or human philosophy says if you want to make the world right, or make yourself right, then summon all your reason and strength, and live in a certain way. Christianity says the exact opposite. Every other religion and philosophy says you have to do something to connect to God; but Christianity says no, Jesus Christ came to do for you what you couldn't do for yourself. Every other religion says here are the answers to the big questions, but Christianity says Jesus is the answer to them all. So many systems of thought appeal to strong, successful people, because they play directly into their belief that if you are strong and hardworking enough, you will prevail. But Christianity is not just for the strong; it's for everyone, especially for people who admit that, where it really counts, they're weak. It is for people who have the particular kind of strength to admit that their flaws are not superficial, their heart is deeply disordered, and that they are incapable of rectifying themselves. It is for those who can see that they need a savior, that they need Jesus Christ dying on the cross, to put them right with God ... Christianity is about God coming to earth in the form of Jesus Christ, dying on the cross, to find you ... All the other revolutionary ideas about caring for the weak and needy, living for love and service instead of power and success, loving even your enemies sacrificially  all flow from the gospel itself; namely, that because of the depth of our sin, God came in the person of Jesus Christ to do what we could not for ourselves, to save us." – pgs. 9-11 

"(From the famous English poet, W.H. Auden) ... he observed that the novelty and shock of the Nazis in the 1940s was that they made no pretense of believing in justice and liberty for all – they attacked Christianity on the grounds that 'to love one's neighbor as oneself was a command fit only for effeminate weaklings.' Moreover, 'the utter denial of everything liberalism had ever stood for was arousing wild enthusiasm not in some barbaric land, but in one of the most highly educated countries in Europe.' In light of all this, Auden did not believe that he could any longer assume that the values of liberalism (by which he meant freedom, reason, democracy, and human dignity) were self-evident. 'If I am convinced that the highly educated Nazis are wrong, and that we highly educated English are right, what is it that validates our values and invalidates theirs? The English intellectuals who now cry to Heaven against the evil incarnated in Hitler have no Heaven to cry to. The whole trend of liberal thought has been to undermine faith in the absolute. It has tried to make reason the judge. But since life is a changing process the attempt to find human space for keeping a promise leads to the inevitable conclusion that I can break it whenever I feel it convenient. Either we serve the Unconditional, or some Hitlerian monster will supply an iron convention to do evil by.' ... The operational principle of the natural world is that the strong eat the weak. So if it's natural for the strong to eat the weak, and if we just got here only through the natural ... why do we suddenly turn around when the strong nations start to eat the weak nations and say, That is wrong? On what basis can we do that? On what basis can we say that genocide in the Sudan, where a strong ethnic group 'eats' the weak one, is wrong? If there is no God, then my views of justice are just my opinion – so how then can we denounce the Nazis? ... What if you say, 'I don't know if there is a God or not, and I don't think human beings were designed for anything.' Do you see your dilemma now? If you believe that, you should never speak about good or bad people again. If you believe we have no design or purpose, and you still say about some people, 'They are not living right – they are doing wrong,' then you are being inconsistent or disingenuous.– pgs. 13-16


" ... when you first come to Jesus you think, I'm probably not going to get answers to the big questions, but maybe he'll help me be a better person; maybe he'll deal with my loneliness or some other problem. You always come to Jesus hedging your bets, staying guarded as to whether you'll get your needs met. But when you actually find him, he'll always be far more than you ever imagined him to be. When he says that Nathanael will see angels ascending and descending on the son of man, he's referring to the time in the Old Testament where Jacob falls asleep and sees a ladder between Earth and Heaven, and angels ascending and descending on the ladder. Angels are a sign of the royal presence of God. Because people have turned from God and have destroyed one another, there's a slab, as it were, between Heaven and Earth. A wall between the ideal and the real. But Jacob has this vision, this dream that somehow, someday there will be some way to get into the very presence of God. And here Jesus makes the incredible claim that he is the way. He is the Logos of the universe, the bridge between Heaven and Earth. ... Though most spiritual seekers start their search afraid of disappointment, Jesus says that he will always be infinitely more than anyone is looking for. He will always exceed our expectations; he will be more than we can ask for or imagine. So shed your prejudices and come look along with Nathanael. Come look and talk about Jesus with your friends. Come and be ready to have your priorities and categories changed. Whatever you are expecting, whatever you are hoping, whatever you are dreaming – you will discover something much greater in Nazareth." – pgs. 19-20

Chapter Two | The Insider and the Outcast

" ...  What is wrong with the world the way it is? Because we can't move on to talking about what we should do to make the world better unless we understand clearly what is wrong with it. Diagnosis comes before prescription."  pg. 21

" ...  As different as the Insider and the Outcast are, what do they have in common? Because if these two people have something in common, then we all have something in common. ... Let's first address the Outcast's encounter with Jesus, because it starts us off with a picture of sin that most people would recognize. This encounter with a woman at a well is found in John 4. ... The first striking feature of this story is the radical move Jesus makes by initiating a conversation. It doesn't seem unusual to us to see these two talking, but it should. Notice her shock that he is even speaking to her, for the Jews and Samaritans were bitter enemies. Centuries before, most of the Jews were exiled to Babylon by their conquerors. Some of the Jews who stayed behind intermarried with other Canaanites and essentially formed a new tribe, the Samaritans. They took parts of the Jewish religion and parts of the Canaanite religion and created a syncretistic religion. So the Jews considered the Samaritans racially inferior and heretics. That's the first reason she is surprised he is even speaking to her. But on top of that, it was scandalous for a Jewish man to speak to any strange woman in public. What's more, she had come to draw water at noon. Many biblical scholars have pointed out that this is not when women ordinarily came to draw water. They came early in the day when it wasn't hot yet, so they could have water for the housekeeping chores for the entire day. So why was she there alone, in the middle of the day? The answer is, she was a moral outcast, a complete outsider – even within her own marginalized part of society. And so when Jesus begins to speak to her, he is deliberately reaching across almost every significant barrier that people can put up between themselves. In this case, a racial barrier, a cultural barrier, a gender barrier, and a moral barrier  and every convention of the time – that he, a religious Jewish male, should have nothing whatsoever to do with her. But he doesn't care."  pgs. 23-25 

"... The second interesting feature about this encounter is that, though he is clearly open and warm to her, he still confronts her. But he does so in a gentle and artful way. He begins by saying, 'If you knew who I was, you would ask me for living water; and if you drink that water you will never thirst again. ... Most of us know very little about real thirst, but those who live in an arid climate next to a desert knew a lot about it. Because our bodies contain so much water, to be in profound thirst is to be in agony. And then to taste water after you have been truly thirsty is about the most satisfying experience possible. So what is Jesus saying to this outcast? He's saying this: 'I've got something for you that is as basic and necessary to you spiritually as water is to you physically. Something without which you are absolutely lost. ... Jesus is saying, ... 'I can give you absolute, unfathomable satisfaction in the core of your being regardless of what happens outside, regardless of circumstance.' Something gets in the way of our hearing what Jesus is talking about, and I think it's that most of us aren't able to recognize our soul thirst for what it is. As long as you think there is a pretty good chance that you will achieve some of your dreams, as long as you think you have a shot at success, you experience your inner emptiness as 'drive' and your anxiety as 'hope.' And so you can remain almost completely oblivious to how deep your thirst actually is. Most of us tell ourselves that the reason we remain unfulfilled is because we simply haven't been able to achieve your goals. And so we can live almost our entire lives without admitting to ourselves the depth of your spiritual thirst."  pgs. 25-27


" ... American writer David Foster Wallace ... gave a now-famous commencement speech at Kenyon College. He said to the graduating class, 'Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god ... to worship ... is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure, and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before (your loved ones) finally plant you ... Worship power, and you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they are evil or sinful; it is that they're unconscious. They are default settings.' ... Jesus says, 'Unless you're worshipping me, unless I'm the center of your life, unless you're trying to get your spiritual thirst quenched through me and not through these other things, unless you see that the solution must come inside rather than just pass by outside, then whatever you worship will abandon you in the end.' ... (With the Samaritan woman at the well) Why does Jesus seem to suddenly change the subject from seeking living water to her history with men? The answer is  he isn't changing the subject. He's nudging her, saying, 'If you want to understand the nature of this living water I offer, you need to first understand how you've been seeking it in your own life. You've been trying to get it through men, and it's not working, is it? Your need for men is eating you alive, and it will never stop.' pgs. 29-31 

"Now let us turn to the encounter Jesus had just before this one with the Outcast. In John 3, Jesus meets a very important man, a Pharisee, a religious and civic leader (in Nicodemus). ... (With the woman at the well) He started off very gently, surprising her with his openness, and then slowly confronted her with her spiritual need. In his encounter with this Insider, however, Jesus is more forceful and direct. Nicodemus begins with courtesy: 'Ah, Rabbi, I've heard many wonderful things about you. People say you have a lot of wisdom that God has given you.' But Jesus confronts Nicodemus right up front, saying, 'You must be born again.' ... Rather than pressing him on his lack of satisfaction ('I can give you living water'), he's pressing him on his smug self-satisfaction ('You must be born again'). What did you have to do, Jesus is asking, with being born? Did it happen due to your skillful planning? Not at all. You don't earn or contribute anything to being born. It is a free gift of life. And so it is with the new birth. Salvation by grace – there are no moral efforts that can earn or merit it. You must be born again. This is an astonishing thing to say to a man like Nicodemus. Jesus is saying that the pimps and the prostitutes outside the street are in the same position, spiritually, as he is. There is Nicodemus, flush with his moral and spiritual accomplishments, and there is someone out on the street who is homeless and addicted, and as far as God is concerned they are equally lost. They both have to start from scratch. They both have to be born again. They both need eternal spiritual life or something will eat them alive. And that life is going to be a free gift. pgs. 32-35


"Sin is looking to something else besides God for your salvation. It is putting yourself in the place of God, becoming your own savior and lord, as it were. That's the biblical definition of sin, the first of the Ten Commandments. One way to do this is to break all the moral rules in your pursuit of pleasure and happiness, like the woman at the well. This makes sex or money or power into a kind of salvation. But then there is the religious way to be your own savior and lord. That is to act as if your good life and moral achievement will essentially require God to bless you and answer your prayers the way you want. In this case you are looking to your moral goodness and efforts to give you the significance and security that nonreligious people look to sex, money, and power to give them. What is insidious about this is religious people constantly talk about trusting in God  but if you think your goodness is even contributing to your salvation, then you are actually being your own savior. You are trusting in yourself. And while you may in this case not be committing adultery or literally robbing people, your heart will increasingly be filled with such pride, self-righteousness, insecurity, envy, and spite that you make the world a miserable place to live for those around you. So you see, Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman are equal sinners in need of grace. And so are we all. In every case, you are trying to be your own savior and lord, trying to put God in your debt, or at least trying to tilt the odds of the universe in your favor. Either way, Jesus calls it sin. He says that you need living water and that you need to be born again to get it. You need to repent, admit your need, ask God to receive you for Jesus' sake ... (For example) If your career fails, it won't forgive you. It can only punish you with self-loathing and shame. Jesus is the only savior who if you gain him will satisfy you, and if you fail him will forgive you. pgs. 35-37  

"Why did the Samaritan woman at the well find salvation? ... It was because Jesus was thirsty. If he had not been thirsty, he would not have gone to the well, and she would not have found the living water. But why was Jesus thirsty? It was because the divine Son of God, the maker of heaven and earth, had emptied himself of his glory and descended into the world as a vulnerable mortal, subject to becoming weary and thirsty. In other words, she found the living water because Jesus Christ said, 'I thirst.' That is not the last time Jesus Christ said, 'I thirst,' in the book of John. On the cross just before he died, he said, 'I thirst,' and he meant more than just physical thirst. There Jesus was experiencing the loss of the relationship with his father because he was taking the punishment we deserved for our sins. There he was cut off from the Father, the source of living water. He was experiencing the ultimate, torturous, killing, eternal thirst of which the worst death by dehydration is just a hint. That is both paradoxical and astonishing. It is because Jesus Christ experienced cosmic thirst on the cross that you and I can have our spiritual thirst satisfied. pgs. 38-39 

Chapter Three | The Grieving Sisters

"Early in John 11, Lazarus is called someone whom Jesus loved. That is a term used in the Gospels to describe Jesus' relationship to his most intimate disciples. Apparently, Jesus, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha thought of themselves as practically family. ... (After Lazarus dies) Martha comes to Jesus and says, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' Just moments later, Mary comes out and says the same thing, verbatim. Two sisters, same situation, exactly the same words. But strikingly, Jesus' responses are sharply different. When Martha speaks he almost argues with her. Her message is 'You came too late,' but Jesus replies, 'I am the resurrection and the life!' With me it's never too late.' The flow of her heart is toward despair, but Jesus is pushing against that flow. He's rebuking her doubt and giving her hope. Then he sees Mary, who says exactly the same thing, but this time his response is the complete opposite. He doesn't argue; in fact he's practically speechless. And instead of pushing against the flow of her heart's sadness, he enters it. He stands alongside her in her grief. He bursts into tears and can say only, 'Where is he?' Now, these radically divergent responses by Jesus are more than simply a counterintuitive curiosity. They point not only to Jesus' profound relational wisdom, but to an even deeper truth about his character and his identity. ... His encounters, first with Martha, then Mary, show us he is both God and human. In his encounter with Martha he says, 'I am the resurrection and the life.' That's a claim of deity. Only God can give life and take it away. Notice that he's not merely saying, 'I can revive Lazarus – I have special access to divine supernatural power.' He is saying, 'I am the resurrection and the life. I am the power that gives everything life and keeps everything alive.' Astonishing. pg. 40, 43-44


"The founders of many other major religions said, 'I'm a prophet who shows you how to find God,' but Jesus taught, 'I'm God come to find you.' This means we can't look at Jesus as only one more religious teacher supplementing the world's store of wisdom. He was either a conscious fraud, was himself deluded, or was in fact divine. This is what nineteenth-century Scottish Presbyterian minister John Duncan called a trilemma (later twentieth-century author C.S. Lewis also discussed this). ... Jesus says to us, in effect, 'You have to deal with my claims. If I am wrong, I am inferior to all those other founders who had the wisdom and humility to not claim to be God. And if I'm right, I must be a superior way to find out who God is and what ultimate reality is. But I am certainly not equal to all others. ... in Paul's letter to the Philippians, written only about two decades after Jesus' death, there is an early Christian hymn – probably older than the letter itself – in adoration of Christ's deity (Philippians 2:5-11). This means that belief in Jesus' divine identity did not develop long after Jesus' death, but was based on his own teaching and was the rule in the Christian community from the start. ... Historical scholarship shows us that, after his death, a fast-growing body of people, insisting they were faithful to Jewish monotheism – in which any suggestion that God could become a weak, flesh-and-blood human being would have been violently denounced because the idea of a God-man would never have occurred to Jewish men and women, no matter how high their regard for their leader – nonetheless began to worship Jesus as the one True God. What kind of life must Jesus have led to accomplish what no other person in history has ever done – convince more than a tiny percentage of unbalanced people that he is the Creator and Judge of the universe? What kind of person must Jesus have been to overcome the profound resistance of Jews to such preposterous claims? The answer is, he would have to have been like the incomparably beautiful human depicted throughout the New Testament.– pgs. 46-49   

"When Jesus meets Martha we indeed get a glimpse of his deity and power – he's God. But that doesn't explain the totality of who he is. The very next moment, he breaks down sobbing beneath the weight of Mary's grief and in the shadow of the grave. You would think that if a person were really divine, he wouldn't be that emotionally exposed, but he is. So here we see deity joined to human vulnerability. His love pulls him down into weeping. Despite his claim that he is the resurrection and the life – that he is God – he responds to Mary in this way because he is fully human as well. He is one with us. He feels the horrific power of death and the grief of love lost. ... None of us has the temperament or the patience or the insight to give people exactly what they need all the time. Some of us have personalities that are prone to confront even when sympathy is called for, and others of us are the opposite. But Jesus Christ is never strong when he should be tender or tender when he should be strong. Yet it isn't just that he is the perfect, wonderful counselor. He is the truth itself come in tears. He is deity incarnate in the flesh. It is this paradox – that he is both God and human – that gives Jesus an overwhelming beauty. He is the Lion and the Lamb. Despite his high claims, he is never pompous; you never see him standing on his own dignity. Despite being absolutely approachable to the weakest and broken, he is completely fearless before the corrupt and powerful. He has tenderness without weakness. Strength without harshness. Humility without the slightest lack of confidence. Unhesitating authority with a complete lack of self-absorption. Holiness and unending convictions without any shortage of approachability. Power without insensitivity. I once heard a preacher say, 'No one has yet discovered the word Jesus ought to have said. He is full of surprises, but they are all surprises of perfection.– pgs. 49-52


"(In John 11:38 when 'Jesus, once more deeply moved,' comes to Lazarus' tomb) ... this verse contains a Greek word that means 'to bellow with anger,' ... Dylan Thomas was right: 'Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.' Jesus is raging against death. He doesn't say, 'Look, just get used to it. Everybody dies. That's the way of the world. Resign yourself.' No, he doesn't do that. Jesus is looking squarely at our greatest nightmare – the loss of life, the loss of loved ones and of love – and he's incensed. He's mad at evil and suffering, and even though he is God, he's not mad at himself. What does that mean? First, it means that evil and death are the result of sin and not of God's original design. He did not make a world filled with sickness, suffering, and death. But you might ask, if God is that unhappy with the world as it is, why doesn't he just show up and stop it? Why doesn't he just appear on earth and end all evil? But that question reveals a lack of self-knowledge. The Bible says – and we know deep down  that so much that is wrong with the world is wrong because of the human heart. So much of the misery of life here is due to selfishness, pride, cruelty, anger, oppression, war, and violence. Which means that if Jesus Christ had come to earth with the sword of God's wrath against evil, none of us would have been left to tell about it. We all have evil and self-centeredness deep inside us. However, Jesus did not come with a sword in his hands; he came with nails in his hands. He did not come to bring judgment; he came to bear judgment. ... He knew that if he raised Lazarus from the dead, the religious establishment would try to kill him. And so he knew the only way to bring Lazarus out of the grave was to put himself into the grave. He knew the only way to interrupt Lazarus's funeral was to summon his own. If he was going to save us from death, he was going to have to go to the cross, and bear the judgment we deserve. That's why when Jesus approached the tomb, instead of smiling at the prospect of putting on a great show, he was shaking with anger and had tears on his cheeks. He knew what it would cost him to save us from death. Maybe he was able to feel the jaws of death closing in on him. And yet knowing and experiencing all that, he cried, 'Lazarus, come out.' The witnesses said about Jesus, 'See how he loved Lazarus'; but really we must behold how loves us. He became human, mortal, vulnerable, killable – all out of love for us.– pgs. 53-55

" ... God is not someone who merely lives in the sky  he is the creator of the whole universe, earth and sky and time and space, and of us. Our relationship to God, then, is more like Shakespeare's relationship to Hamlet. How much will Hamlet know about Shakespeare? Only what Shakespeare writes about himself into the play. Hamlet will never be able to find out anything about his author any other way. In the same way, C.S. concludes we can't find God just by going to higher altitudes. We'll only know about God if God has written something about himself into our life, into our world. And he has. ... God looked into our world  the world he made   and saw us destroying ourselves and the world by turning away from him. It filled his heart with pain (Genesis 6:6). He loved us. He saw us struggling to extricate ourselves from the traps and misery we created for ourselves. And so he wrote himself in. Jesus Christ, the God-man, born in a manger, born to die on a cross for us."  pgs. 55-57

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