Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sully Notes 16 | Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions Part 2 of 3


Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Sully Notes 16 2 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 is the link to the previous Sully Notes 16:


Encounters with Jesus | Sully Notes 16: Part 2 of 3 

 

Chapter Four | The Wedding Party

"Ancient and traditional cultures put far more emphasis on the family and the community than on the individual. Meaning in life was to be found not in individual achievement but in being a good husband or wife, son or daughter, father or mother. The purpose of a marriage was not primarily the happiness of the two individuals but instead to bind the community together and to raise the next generation. In other words, the purpose of marriage was the good of the commonwealth. The bigger, the stronger, and the more numerous the families of a town, the better its economy, the greater the military security, the more everyone flourished. And this meant that weddings and wedding feasts were a far bigger deal than they are today. Each wedding was a public feast for the entier town because marriage was about the whole community, not merely the couple. At the same time, it was also the biggest event in the personal life of both the bride and the groom. This was the day they came of age and became full adult members of their society. It is no surprise, then, that the ancient wedding feasts went on for a week at least. pgs. 58-59

"Reynolds Price ... a very prominent professor of English literature at Duke University ... wrote an interesting booked called Three Gospels ... he argues that the Gospel of John was not a work of fiction but rather was written by 'the hand of a clear-minded thoughtful eyewitness to the acts and mind of Jesus.' One of the many reasons for his conclusion is the account of the first miracle (at the wedding in Cana). Price asks: 'Why invent  for the inaugural sign of Jesus' great career – a miraculous solution to a mere social oversight?' No one would have made something like that up!"  pgs. 61-62

" ... when Jesus turns water into wine and saves the day, do you see what Jesus is saying? He is saying, as it were, I am the true master of the banquet. I am Lord of the Feast. 'Wait,' someone says. 'I thought he came to humble himself, to lose his glory, then to be rejected and to go to the cross.' Of course that is right, but in a way, Jesus is putting even that terrible loss and pain into context. 'Yes,' he is saying, 'I'm going to suffer. Yes, there's going to be self-denial. Yes, there's going to be sacrifice – for me first and then for my followers as well. But it's all means to an end, which is festival joy! It's all in order to bring about resurrection and the new heavens and new earth. The end of all evil and death and tears. You know all those Dionysian legends about the forest running with wine, dancing, and music? That's nothing compared to the eternal feast that is coming at the end of history. And those who believe in me will have within them a stream of that joy, a foretaste of that joy, now. A taste that will be profoundly consoling and refreshing in the hardest and driest of times – like living water. That, ultimately, is what I've come to bring. That's why this is my first sign.' Indeed, the Bible often uses sensory language to talk about God's salvation and even God himself. In Psalm 34 the author David says to his Israelite readers, 'Taste and see that the Lord is good' (Psalm 34:8). But don't they already know that the Lord is good? Yes, the do, but when David invites them to 'taste' he wants them to go beyond mental assent to a proposition, however true it may be. 'Of course you know  that the Lord is good,' David is saying, 'but I want you to taste it.' He wants them to experience it deeply.– pgs. 62-63   

"'Is everything sad going to come untrue?' The whole Bible says that's essentially what Jesus is going to do in the end. We're not going to be taken out of this world into heaven, but heaven is going to come down at the end of time to renew this world. Every tear will be wiped away. In essence, everything sad is going to come untrue. That's what he came to do. ... (In Fyodor Dostoyevsky's great novel The Brothers Karamazov ... Ivan Karamazov is talking about there being any possibility that we can make any sense of suffering, and here's what he says: 'I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world's finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they've shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.' That's Dostoyevsky's Christianity surging through his literary imagination and craft. He says that he believes that at the end the reality will be so astonishing, the joy will be so incredible, the fulfillment will be so amazing that the most miserable life will feel (as St. Teresa of Avila was reputed to have said) 'like one night in a bad hotel.' Jesus Christ says, 'I am the Lord of the Feast. In the end, I come to bring joy. That's the reason my calling card, my first miracle, is to set everyone laughing.'"  pgs. 64-65

"(Jesus) is going to rescue this young bride and groom from their gaffe, but how will he do it? By filling up jars used by the Jews for ceremonial washing. ... the Old Testament Judaism contained a great number of rites and regulations, which required many and various courses of physical cleansing and purification, all in order to point to our spiritual need. These vividly got across the idea that God is holy and perfect and we are flawed and that to connect with him at all, there needs to be atonement, cleansing, and pardon. We cannot just walk right into his presence. So Jews had many purification rites leading up to the blood sacrifices. That's what the jars (at the wedding Jesus used to make water into wine) were normally used for. And here we should remember that the failure of the wine supply was more than a mere embarrassment. Imagine how deep the humiliation can be if you've let your family down in a shame-and-honor culture. We don't understand that dynamic very well today in the individualistic West. But these young people were facing certain public shame and guilt. Jesus rescues them from all of that. And by employing the jars normally used for ceremonial washing, he is saying that he has come into the world to accomplish in reality what the ceremonial and sacrificial laws of the Old Testament pointed to. pgs. 65-66

"Consider the possibility that your success in life is just a big fig leaf. Consider the fact that in the end it will never be enough to cover up what you know is wrong with you. I firmly believe we know we need to be cleansed, even those of us who are very uneasy with the idea of sin. It's awkward to put it so boldly, but there is more self-centeredness, more sin, in us than we want to believe. There's plenty in you that you would like to deny, theologically and philosophically. Ah, you will say, 'I'm a humanist, I don't believe that human beings are inherently evil.' But if you live long enough and you are honest enough with yourself, you will learn beyond any doubt that there are things in your heart that will bite you and even shock you. You'll say, 'I didn't know I was capable of that.' ... You can chose to say the Nazis were subhuman, that they were nothing like us, and that we are not capable of doing what they did. But there are serious problems with that view. The scariest thing about that whole chapter of history is not the few individual architects of it but the complicity of vast numbers of people across a society that was producing so much of the world's best scholarship, science, and culture. That makes it impossible to write off the whole era as the world of a couple of isolated monsters. Besides that, to call the Nazis 'subhuman' or 'not like us' is in fact the very reasoning that led the Nazis into their unthinkable atrocities. They, too, thought that certain classes of people were subhuman and beneath them. Are you prepared to deny our common humanity with them? Do you want to make the same move that they did? ... it would actually be more honest to say, 'I'm somehow the same as those who have done terrible things. I am made of the same human stuff. There must be something down deep in me that is capable of great cruelty and selfishness, and I don't want to see it.' Jesus of course knows that it is in there. 'Many ... believed in his name. But Jesus did not entrust himself to them ... for he knew what was in each person' (John 2:23-25). And while, for most of us, the self-centeredness and sin of our hearts has not led to overtly criminal acts of violence and cruelty, it has still caused misery for the people around us, and it has kept us from serving the God who created us and to whom we owe everything. And Jesus came to cleanse us of this, to purify us from what is spiritually wrong with us. pgs. 68-71

"Why does (Jesus) connect this simple request for wine with the hour of his death (when his mother, Mary, asks him to help)? Well, think of the symbolism. The miracle will be a sign of what he has come to do. What does the wine represent in his mind? What is missing from the picture that's necessary to turn the shame into joy? We know because he creates the wine in the jars for purification and cleansing. You see, when Jesus makes his enigmatic statement it's as if he were looking far away, past his mother and past the bride and groom and past the whole wedding scene. He's seeing something else. He's thinking, 'Yes, I can bring festival joy to this world; I can cleanse humankind from its guilt and shame. I have come into the world to bring joy, but, oh, Mother. I'm going to have to die to do it.' I actually think that there may be even more going on in his mind than this. In the Old Testament, God wants to show us that he doesn't want to relate to us only as a king relates to his subjects but as a groom relates to his bride. He wants a love relationship with us, as profound as the relationship between a husband and a wife. So often in the Hebrew Scriptures God presents himself as the bridegroom of his people. Then at one point in John's Gospel, in the New Testament, the disciples are criticized for not fasting, and Jesus says, 'Why should the friends of the bridegroom fast when the bridegroom is still with them?' Did you hear that? Jesus calls himself the bridegroom! He does so in full awareness that, according to the Scriptures, only the creator, God of the universe, is the husband of his people. ... Maybe he is thinking of his own wedding, with infinite joy and utter horror at the same time. And so let's paraphrase what he is saying one more time: 'Mother, for my people to fall into my arms, I'm going to have to die. For my people to drink the cup of joy and festival blessing, I'm going to have to drink the cup of justice and punishment and death. So here is the answer to the final question. How is Jesus going to bring us our joy? By losing all of his. By leaving his heavenly existence with his Father. By leading a lonely, misunderstood life. By going to the cross and dying in our place. Many people say, 'I don't like the church and I don't accept Christian doctrine. I don't believe in hell and God's wrath and blood atonement and all of that. But I really like Jesus. Look at how he loves people, how he gives to people. If people just imitated Jesus and followed his teaching, the world would be a better place.' The problem with that view, as common as it is, are many and profound. If Jesus was thinking about his death at a wedding feast, that meant he was nearly always thinking about his death. He did not come primarily to be a good example. And I'm glad he didn't. Do you know why? He's too good! He's so perfect that as an example he just crushes you into the ground. Anyone who really, seriously, seeks to make him a life model, who pays attention to the details of his character and practice, will despair. He is infinitely beyond us, and comparing yourself to him will only grind your genuine aspirations to moral excellence into hopelessness. But we see here that he did not come to tell us how to save ourselves but to save us himself. pgs. 72-75

"He came to die, to shed his blood, to take the cup of curse and punishment so we can raise the cup of blessing and love. This centrality of Jesus' death is a most important insight for understanding the Gospels. Another is the meaning and purpose of Jesus' death, namely substitution. By choosing the ceremonial jars, Jesus was signaling something that the book of Hebrews expounds at great length: that Jesus fulfilled the whole Old Testament sacrificial system. The tabernacle and the temple, the veil, the inner chamber called the Holy of Holies – at the heart of the system was a blood sacrifice. Why? Because I'm a sinner and sin needs to be punished. Something atones for my sin. Something dies in my place. The question over all those centuries when animals were being slaughtered could have been, how can a lamb take a man's place? Yet when John the Baptist sees Jesus for the first time, he says, 'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.' In other words, John realized, all those little lambs could not and did not take away our sins. But they were pointing to the truly innocent, unblemished One, Jesus, who does. Jesus Christ came to die in our place and to take our punishment. pgs. 75-76

" ...  every time God chooses a metaphor to help us see him better, it also shows how he sees us. If he is like our bridegroom, then if you give yourself to Jesus in faith, it means he must really delight in us. Every time God chooses an image for himself, he is saying something about us. Do you know what the bride looks like to the bridegroom as she walks down the aisle? She wears the most beautiful garments and jewels, and when he lays his eyes on her, he is absolutely delighted in her. And he wants to give the world. How dare Jesus Christ use a metaphor like this, evoking this powerful human experience? Could it be that he loves his own like that? That he delights in you like that? ... (Dr. Edmund Clowney) 'Jesus sat amidst all the joy of the wedding feast sipping the coming sorrow so that today you and I who believe in him can sit amidst all this world's sorrow sipping the coming joy.' We can have enormous stability because of the coming joy, the Lamb's party. Every time you participate in the Lord's Supper by faith, you are getting a foretaste of that incredible feast. Even if right now you are in the midst of sorrow, sip the coming joy. There is only one love, only one feast, only one thing that can really give your heart all that it needs, and they all await you. Knowing that, you possess something that will enable you to face anything. pgs. 79-80

Chapter Five | The First Christian

"We must keep in mind that Jesus had been telling his disciples over and over that he would die and then rise on the third day. This is particularly striking in the Gospel of Mark. In chapter 8 of Mark's Gospel he says, 'The Son of Man ...  must be killed and after three days rise again.' Then in chapter 9 of Mark he says, 'The Son of Man ... They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.' Again in chapter 10 he says, 'The Son of Man ... they will ... kill him. Three days later he will rise.' Jesus' claim was so widely known that his enemies hear of it and stationed a guard at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). ... (But) belief in the person and work of Christ does not come naturally to anyone. Some theologians call this 'inability.' You may know that different theological traditions in Christianity have somewhat varied views on the degree to which we have the ability to respond to God. But all of them agree that we can't produce saving faith in Jesus Christ solely through our own ability. All the compelling evidence for Christianity may be laid out in front of us. The message might be as clear as can be. But there in every human being an inherent spiritual blindness. We can't see the truth. We can't connect it to ourselves. ...  here (with Mary in John 20:1-18) we witness the aftermath of the greatest act of redemption in history  God breaking the power of sin and death through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And this had been accompanied by months and years of teaching by Jesus about this event and its meaning. And yet here is Mary staring right at it  the empty tomb  and yet she can't 'see' it. She can't process it at all. And so faith is impossible without supernatural intervention by God himself."  pgs. 84-85

" ... many skeptics at some point make the argument that believing in God is simply an intense form of wish fulfillment. But seldom do people point out that we all have enormous emotional and psychological reasons to disbelieve in God. How so? In looking at a book like the Bible or at a message like the gospel, anyone sees fairly quickly that if it were true you would lose some control over how you can live your life. Who can say they're objective and neutral about that proposition? Thomas Nagel, prominent American philosopher, honestly acknowledges this in his book The Last Word. He knows he can't say, 'I am completely objective and indifferent in looking for the evidence of God, but I just don't have enough evidence.' I hope you see that no one can truly say such a thing with integrity. We all have deep layers of prejudice working against the idea of a holy God who can make ultimate demands on us. And if you won't acknowledge that, you're never going to get close to objectivity. Never. pgs. 86-87
" ...  you should recognize that if Christianity is true, it is not just a set of rational, philosophical principles to adopt – it is a personal relationship to enter. So, take seriously at least the possibility that it is true, why not consider praying? Why not say, 'God, I don't know if you're there but I do know what prejudice is like, and I'm willing to be suspicious of it. Therefore, if you are there and if I am prejudiced, help me get through it.' Break the ice with Jesus – talk to him. No one has to know you are doing it. If you're not willing to do that, I suggest that you're not willing to own the prejudice that we all start with. But a lot of people have the opposite problem: They are actually overly anxious about having enough faith. They are too concerned about their doubts. Often I've had people say to me, 'I'm interested and motivated to be a Christian, but I'm afraid my motives aren't right,' or 'I'm not sure I have enough faith to be a Christian.' They think faith depends on getting their mind and heart in the right state. In the end, just like the first group, they are making the mistake of relying too much on themselves. They don't see what this passage (John 20:1-18) teaches – you aren't capable of belief without outside help, without intervention by God, without Jesus coming to you and helping you, as he helps Mary in all of her consternation. See, Mary didn't believe Jesus until Jesus met her. She was agitated, panicking, in tears, and not able to see Jesus right before her eyes. But Jesus clears her mind and assures her heart. You will need his personal help, too, so ask him for it. In fact, if you are very concerned about finding faith in Jesus, that might be a sign that he is already helping you get there. We aren't even capable of truly wanting Jesus without his help. A sense of Jesus' absence might be a sign of his presence – a sign that he's already in your life. As in Mary's case, Jesus might be by your side right now and you can't see it. So, in ourselves, faith is impossible. And yet, as Jesus says, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible' (Matthew 19:26).– pgs. 88-89

"We modern readers think of ancient people as being very superstitious, and that is right to a great degree. Ancient people believed all sorts of claims about magic, miracles, supernatural beings, and powers that we don't believe today. And, we reason, therefore Jesus' followers would have been very gullible about the claim of his resurrection. They would have eagerly expected it and then, if anyone at all gave out even the most fragmentary claim of having seen Jesus, thousands of credulous people would have instantly accepted it as a truth to be proclaimed. The problem with this theory is that it is all wrong (neither Jews nor Greeks nor Romans thought the bodily resurrection of an individual was possible – Greeks believed that all things physical were the source of weakness and evil, only some Jews believed that at the end of time there would be a general resurrection of the righteous, but nobody – Jew, Greek, or Roman – believed God would raise an individual from the dead right in the midst of history). The Gospel accounts of the resurrection do not show even the disciples expecting the resurrection at all. Ironically, the disciples were just as incredulous as modern people would be." – pgs. 90-91

"There is in this passage another significant piece of evidence that these resurrection accounts are not made up. Who is the first eyewitness? John the Gospel writer tells us that the first eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ was Mary Magdalene, a woman. And all Bible experts and historians will tell you that in those times women could not testify in Jewish or Roman courts. In those patriarchal cultures, a woman's testimony was considered unreliable and so inadmissable as evidence. This means that if you were fabricating an account of the resurrection in order to promote your religion or your movement, you would never make a woman the first eyewitness. And yet, in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the first eyewitness to the resurrection are women. The only historically plausible answer to why women are in the account at all – why the men who wrote these accounts would put women in when their testimony was considered unreliable – is because it must have happened. Mary must have been there. She must have seen Jesus Christ first. There's no other motive or reason for the author to say she was." – pgs. 93-94

"There are several places in the Old Testament where God confronts people who are seriously mistaken or wayward, doing so not with intimidating declarations but with gentle, probing questions. In the Garden of Eden, God asks disobedient Adam and Eve, 'Where are you?' and 'How did you come to feel shame?' To the rebellious prophet Jonah God asks, 'Are you right to be angry?' Counselors know that it is not enough to simply tell people how to live. Asking questions helps the person to recognize their errors, to discover and embrace truth from their hearts. The questions of Jesus to Mary are similar. 'Why are you crying?' is really a gentle rebuke to Mary, a call to wake up. 'Why is it you are looking for?' is a more penetrating invitation to, as commentator D.A. Carson writes on this verse, 'widen her horizons and to recognize that, grand as her devotion to him was, her estimate of him was still far too small.' Notice, however, that Mary misinterprets Jesus' questions. She thinks perhaps he is the caretaker of the place and that he might know where Jesus' body had been moved to. So Jesus makes another effort to break through to her heart, and does so with a simple word. Earlier in this Gospel, Jesus said that he was the Good Shepherd, that he 'calls his own sheep by name' and 'his sheep follow him because they know this voice' (John 10:3-4). And that is what he does here, simply saying, 'Mary.' Real faith is always personal. If you only believe that Jesus died to forgive people in general for their sins – but you don't believe that Jesus died for you – you aren't taking hold of Jesus by faith. You haven't heard him call you by name. The graciousness of Jesus is palpable. Mary is running around frantically but (as he hints) she's looking for the wrong Jesus. For a dead Jesus. For a Jesus infinitely less great than he really is. So she would never have found him unless he sought her. He comes to her, gently works to open her heart, and then breaks through with a personal address. Her faith comes by grace – she doesn't earn it. ... Jesus could have easily arranged to make anyone the first messenger. He chose her. And that means Jesus Christ specifically chose a woman, not a man; chose a reformed mental patient, not a pillar of the community; chose one of the support team, not one of the leaders, to be the first Christian. How much clearer can he be? He is saying, 'It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done. My salvation is not based on pedigree, it's not based on moral attainments, raw talent, level of effort, or track record, I have come not to call those who ares strong, but to call those who are weak. And I am not mainly your teacher but your savior. I'm here to save you not by your work, but by my work.' And the minute you understand that, the minute you see yourself in Mary Magdalene's place, something will change forever in you.– pgs. 97-99
  
Chapter Six | The Great Enemy

" ...  it is important to recognize how the baptism and temptation are connected tightly by the single word then. God spoke words of powerful assurance: 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.' Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Then is almost therefore. After great blessing and success came trial and temptation. ... God the Father has just said that Jesus' life is perfectly pleasing to him. And the Spirit of God has descended on him to guide him. And look what happens. He is loved and affirmed and empowered by God, and then ... then! He is ushered into the clutches of the devil. So here's the order: God's love and power, then evil, temptation, wilderness, terrible hunger and thirst. That little word then is an amazing word. It is almost like Matthew is trying to tell us, 'Read my lips: No one is exempt from trials and tribulations. In fact, this is often what happens to people God loves very much, for it is part of God's often mysterious and good plan for turning us into something great.– pgs. 106-107

"This is how many people think – maybe even most people. When people who are middle-class look at the poor, they assume the poor just aren't working as hard as they are. When people in healthy families look at people with struggling and dysfunctional ones, they assume they haven't cared enough to do things right. If we are not suffering at the moment, there is a tendency for us to take credit for it in our minds. It's not luck or grace – it's because we are living good and smart lives. Right? But in Matthew 3 we see the one person in the history of the world who really did live a good life, even a perfect life, and merited the full love of God. He actually earned a pass from suffering and inconvenience. Yet his life went terribly!– pg. 108

"Secular people see the world as made up of strictly material forces. There is no soul or spirit, no demons or angels. Everything has a natural scientific explanation. In this view, we can deal with evil in the world (if there even is such a thing) by educating the ignorant, changing the social systems, and providing better psychological and pharmacological treatment. Yet time and again over the last century, Western thinkers have been shocked anew by the depth and power of the forces of evil in the human heart and in the world. ... the Bible can bridge that gulf and account for all that we experience personally and witness in the sweep of history. It says that evil is more multidimensional, nuanced, and complex than the sciences alone can suggest. It maintains that, in addition to systemic injustices and personal ignorance and physiological imbalances, there really are forces of spiritual evil in the world – and behind them all, there is a singular supernatural intelligence. The Western world has largely rejected this dimension of evil that the Bible gives us, and as a result, we, like Job's friends, are always underestimating – and sometimes misdiagnosing – the power of evil in our lives. For example, deep down we cling to the simplistic idea that if we are good, life will go well. Yet if there are demonic forces, it stands to reason that true goodness and godliness would actually attract and stir up those powers to attack. And that is just what we see here in the baptism and temptation of Jesus account. (To believe that moral goodness will result in a good life is also a simplistic understanding of God's purposes for us. He is infinitely wise, can see the end from the beginning, and has good purposes for us hidden on the far side of the wilderness. Just as Job's patience in suffering turned him into an example that has helped hundreds of millions of people, and just as Jesus' temptations prepared him for his history-changing and world-saving career, so God's Spirit leads us into our wilderness for our good.)– pgs. 108-110

"The Bible says that evil is both natural and supernatural, that evil is both inside of us and outside of us, that evil is both individual and socially systemic. There's no human way to get fully away from it or even get to the bottom of it in our understanding. Historically there have been two main rivals to the biblical view that try to explain the nature of evil. On one end you have dualism, which says there are equal and opposite forces of evil and good in the world. ... Most forms of paganism say that there are good gods and bad gods, good powers and bad powers. This means, however, that the world is fundamentally and irremediably a violent place, not a place of order and beauty and hope. It consists of multiple power centers that are forever at war with one another. You can perhaps create an island of peace and order, but eventually something will overrun it. There's really no hope in the end for any way to resolve the struggle and bring lasting peace. The other philosophical approach to evil is monism, or pantheism. This view goes to the other extreme and claims that all reality is One. Everything is part of God, God is everything, and therefore everything is ultimately one with everything else. Individual selves, in this view, are something of an illusion. ... Evil and suffering, then, are not eternal and undefeatable, as in dualism. They don't even really exist – so we could say they are an illusion. It is interesting to observe that modern secular culture regards evil in a rather fragmented, incoherent way, borrowing both of these views. On one hand, secularism is like ancient polytheism in that it sees the world as not created by a single, all-powerful Artist but as the product of violent and uncontrolled forces. Not only is the physical universe itself the product of an unending series of explosions and combustions, but we ourselves are only the products of evolution, of the survival of the fittest. If this account of the world is correct, then violence has no cure – it is the fabric of all reality. We got here through violent and purposeless means, and we will continue to exist and evolve in the same way. ... More contemporary secular thought is relativistic. What looks evil from a certain cultural perspective, it is said, goes away when looked at from another perspective. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. So – evil is all in the eye of the beholder. If you look at it differently, it goes away. It is an illusion." – pgs. 111-113

"In Columbia professor Andrew Delbanco's book The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil he quotes from Thomas Harris's novel The Silence of the Lambs, where the monstrous killer Hannibal Lecter is talking to Officer Starling. He's describing the bad things he's done, and she looks at him and says, 'What happened to you that you could do this? Who did something to you that you could be so bad?' And he looks at her and says: 'Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. You can't reduce me to a set of influences. You've given up good and evil for behaviorism, Officer Starling. You've got everybody in moral dignity pants – nothing is ever anybody's fault. Look at me, Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I'm evil?' Delbanco goes on to say that these words are the epitome of modern horror – our generation's growing awareness that we cannot answer the monster's question. He says, if you get rid of the idea of sin, Satan, and cosmic evil, then every bad deed has solely psychological or sociological roots. And that trivializes the suffering of the victims and the magnitude of what happened. Hannibal Lecter knows Officer Starling is the result of modern secular thinking, and so he knows he's got her. He asks a question her worldview doesn't have the resources to answer. He says in effect, 'You have to tell all the families of those poor people that I beheaded and ate that my mother didn't love me. You can't hold me responsible. You can't even hold her responsible.' He has the modern world right where he wants it." – pgs. 113-114

"Notice that several times the devil says, 'If you are the Son of God ... ' That is his main attack, not only against Jesus but against us as well. God has just assured Jesus that he is God's beloved Son, and Satan immediately and directly assaults Jesus at that very spot. He asks Jesus, essentially, to make God prove that he loves him and empowers him. But you don't need to ask someone for demonstrations and assurances and proofs unless you doubt. And that's Satan's main military goal – he wants Jesus to lose the certainty, the assurance of God's full acceptance, of his unconditional fatherly love. Now, if that is Satan's main front of attack, how does he seek to accomplish this with us? To begin with, he wants to keep you from believing Jesus is really the Son of God and Savior of the world. Notice carefully what God said from heaven in the baptism. First he says, 'This is my Son, whom I love'  a quote from Psalm 2, a song about God's messianic king who is going to put down all rebellion and evil in the world. But then God says, 'with him I am well pleased.' That is a quote from Isaiah 53, where it describes the figure of the Suffering Servant, a mysterious person who Isaiah says will someday suffer and die for the transgressions of the people. This is an important key to understanding the whole Bible. Throughout the Old Testament (as in Psalm 2) we find the promise of a great messianic king who would come and put everything right in the world. Many of the Jews awaited him eagerly. But there was also this suffering figure in the prophecy of Isaiah. The Jews were told that this servant would be rejected, that 'by his wounds we (would be) healed' (Isaiah 53:5). And no one, until God blessed Jesus at the baptism, had put those two people together. God was trying to get us to understand this: Jesus is not just a good man who by word and example tells us how to live. Nor is he merely a heavenly king who came to destroy all evil in one stroke. As we have seen, evil is deep within us. And if he had come to end all evil on the spot, he would have ended us. Instead, he is a king who comes not to a throne but to a cross. He comes to be tempted and tried, to suffer and die. Why? So that we can receive God's love as a gift. ... if we rest in Christ's work for us, we can be adopted into God's family by grace (John 1:12). It means that we can know that we are also God's beloved children, and that – in Christ – we are well pleasing.– pgs. 116-118

"J.C. Ryle ... the Anglican bishop of Liverpool, England ... In an essay titled 'Assurance' ...: 'Now assurance goes far to set a child of God free ... It enables him to feel that the great business of life is a settled business, the great debt a paid debt, the great disease a healed disease, and the great work a finished work; and all other business, diseases, debts, and works, are then by comparison small. In this way assurance makes him patient in tribulation, calm under bereavements, unmoved in sorrow, not afraid of evil tidings; in every condition content, for it gives him a FIXEDNESS of heart. It sweetens his bitter cups, it lessens the burden of his crosses, it smoothes the rough places over which he travels, and it lightens the valley of the shadow of death. It makes him always feel that he has something solid beneath his feet, and something firm under his hands – a sure friend by the way, and a sure home at the end ... " – pgs. 120-121

"Jesus uses the Scripture every time he is assaulted by the devil. ... According to the Bible, the heart is not just the seat of the emotions but also the source of our fundamental commitments, hopes, and trust. And from the heart flow our thinking, feelings, and actions. What the heart trusts, the mind justifies, the emotions desire, and the will carries out. If Satan can get you to consent with your mind to a God of loving grace but get your heart to believe that you must do X, Y, and Z in order to be a worthy, lovable, and valuable person, he will be most satisfied. This is why everything Satan says that insinuates or openly denies the promises and revelations of God is answered with Scripture itself. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, then 6:16, and finally 6:13. Even as he was dying on the cross, when he was in his deepest agony, he quoted Psalm 22:1: 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' When you are in moments of pain or shock, the things that come out of your mind and mouth are the most primal things in your being. And when Jesus was in such moments, out came the words of the Bible. Something like 10 percent of all the things he says in the Bible are quotations of, or allusions to, the Hebrew Scriptures. ... If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did not presume to face the forces of evil in the world without a profound knowledge of the Bible in mind and heart, how could we try to face life any other way? It's true that this takes a great deal of time and effort. Worship, daily reading, meditation and memorization, singing, listening to teaching  all of these are necessary to become as acquainted with the Scripture as we must be. And when we are under attack – tempted to sin, or to be discouraged, or to just give up altogether – it is then that we must wrestle the words and promises of the Bible into the center of our being, to 'let the message of Christ dwell among you richly' (Colossians 3:16). It will feel very much like a fight indeed. J.C. Ryle wrote: 'True Christianity is a fight.' ... Like Jesus, we battle with Satan not merely in our hearts but out in the world when we seek to undo his work. When we seek to help a person find faith in Christ, or when we love our poor neighbor through deeds of compassion and service, we are fighting him on that front, too. ... as we fight Satan's lies in our hearts, and his works in our world, let's rely not only on the Word of the Lord, but also on the Lord of the Word. We don't simply have a book, as perfect as it is – we have Jesus himself, who has been through fiery trials so intense that we can't imagine them.– pgs. 122-126
    

 Sully
 
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