Posts Tagged With: Matthew 28:18-20

Chaos and Pentecost: A Christian Response to George Floyd’s Murder and the Public Outcry

Yesterday afternoon, two astronauts lifted off in a SpaceX rocket, the world’s first commercially-operated spacecraft, for a trip to the International Space Station. Today, I continue to quote the words of an old Randy Stonehill song: “Stop the world, I want to get off.”

The last few weeks have been an emotional whirlwind. On a personal level, my family has mourned the death of my uncle, who succumbed to cancer about two weeks ago, about 25 years after he was first diagnosed. We have also celebrated the birth of my fourth grandchild. There have been other ups-and-downs in our lives recently. It has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

But then, there is the global scene. Probably most Americans are riding through a cultural house of horrors. Our lives have been upended for about two months by the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to slow the disease’s spread. Now, as things are settling down and communities are starting to return to normal, we hear of an all-too-familiar tragedy: an unarmed African American man named George Floyd died while being arrested by a white police officer, who restrained him by forcing his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck. For a few days, the vast majority of Americans spoke out against Derek Chauvin’s actions, mourning Floyd, who was being arrested for allegedly buying merchandise with a counterfeit $20 bill. (Take note of the charge: Floyd died over a small amount of money, and we may never know if he even knew the bill was counterfeit.)

The news over the last few days has shown horrific footage of riots, including people setting fire to police vehicles and buildings, looting stores, etc. What started as protests to demand justice for Floyd’s murderer has been overtaken by rioting, thuggery, and insurrection. On the third day of rioting, an African American federal security officer was murdered in a riot-related shooting. Apparently some people think “Black Lives Matter,” “Blue Lives Matter,” and “All Lives Matter” cannot all be true. This is no longer about justice or the value of human life.

This travesty occurs while Christians should be celebrating Pentecost. On the fiftieth day since we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection, we commemorate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It should be a time to remember the fact that Jesus sent His disciples to preach salvation to all nations:

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age'” (Matthew 28:18-20; all Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible).

This Gospel should create unity, removing cultural and ethnic boundaries of hostility. For Jesus’ first disciples, the clash between Jews and Gentiles was huge, perhaps as serious as the conflicts between Americans of different racial backgrounds. One outgrowth of the Gospel was to tear down those boundaries:

“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household…” (Ephesians 2:14-19).

Christians need to recognize that the horrific images splattering across our television scenes are visible reflections of the spiritual state of our society. When we look at the news reports, what do we see? Racism; hatred; vengeance; greed (nobody sincerely makes a statement about police brutality by stealing a flat-screen TV from a ransacked electronics store). Much of what we see in the media reports should remind us of those sinful attitudes which St. Paul referred to as “deeds of the flesh”:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

I highlighted a few terms that seem especially apparent in this case. As I mentioned in an earlier post, “idolatry” can refer to greed, covetousness, or putting things before God. Some of the other highlighted sins can be seen on both sides of the cultural debate. While most Americans agreed a few days ago that Officer Chauvin committed a crime and should be published, Americans are now arguing: Some blame Democrats who govern in the riot-riddled cities and states; others blame President Trump and his policies; others blame institutional racism by white people; others blame African American leaders. Many Christians are tempted to rationalize their political stance even when it conflicts with Scripture.

The blame, violence, and hostility will not bring healing to our nation or justice for Floyd’s death. The only true antidotes are the fruit of the Spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Christians must remember Pentecost as we see tongues of fire engulfing our cities. The earliest Christians shook the world with the power of the Gospel and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Having come through their own whirlwind (the Triumphal Entry, Last Supper, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension), they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and immediately began preaching the Gospel. The Church has always had its greatest impact when it relied on spiritual weapons to fight spiritual battles.

The Holy Spirit has torn down the barriers which divide us. As Christians, it is our responsibility to step across the demolished barriers and share the love, mercy, and righteousness of God with a sin-sick world. We have the weapons to conquer hate and bigotry. Let us use them while we share the good news of salvation with people of all nations.

Please share your thoughts about the recent events by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below and letting me know what you think.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

[If you do not have a place to worship, you may visit Cathedral Church of the Intercessor at http://live.intercessorchurch.com; services stream at 9:30 and 11:30 AM on Sundays, 12:00 noon on weekdays, and 6:00 PM Saturday evening (all times ET).]

Categories: Christians and Culture, Current events, Holidays, Spiritual Warfare | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Divine Sovereignty. IV. Bringing Perspective to Problems

“All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations” (Psalms 22:27–28; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version).

“My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” by James Tissot (1836-1902). Public domain, via Brooklyn Museum and Wikimedia Commons

God’s dominion extends to all nations. It extends to all people. It guides the perspective of His people. When we know God is in control and loves us, it allows us to see our circumstances from an eternal perspective.

Some of the Old Testament psalms illustrate this. Many believers read Psalm 22 as a messianic psalm. They look at all of the ways this psalm prefigures or reminds us of Jesus. However, it is also helpful to read it from King David’s perspective. When he wrote Psalm 22, he was thinking about his own difficulties and conflicts. Like many similar psalms, it begins with a negative, almost complaining tone. One could think he lost all faith in God:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest” (Psalms 22:1–2).

These verses should look familiar. Jesus repeated the first line while He was dying on the cross (Matthew 27:46), and it is possible that He recited the entire psalm. Whether David was consciously prophesying the coming Messiah or not, Jesus definitely found the psalm appropriate and relevant to His circumstances while on the cross. Yet, even though it could feel like His Father had forsaken Him, Jesus did not give in to despair. He kept a perspective of faith and trust, finally committing His Spirit to His Father’s hands (Luke 23:46). He looked beyond the pain, agony, and humiliation of the cross to the perfect divine will it would accomplish:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1–2).

When David wrote this psalm, he was thinking of his own problems. We do not know when he wrote it. It could have been during his youth, when King Saul was pursuing him and trying to kill him. Or, it could have been later in his life, when his son Absalom tried to overthrow the government, forcing David to flee for his life. Whatever the circumstances, at the beginning of the psalm, he felt totally abandoned by God.

God is always present and in control even when He seems to be absent. Jesus knew this, and was able to surrender His Spirit into the hands of His Father. David realized this. Even though he began the psalm by expressing doubts about God’s love and presence, he proceeded to pray from faith. He would describe his pain and the abuse he was suffering (e.g., vv. 6–8), but intersperse reminders of God’s care, power, and protection throughout (vv. 3–5, 22–31).

God had watched over David since his childhood.

“Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help” (Psalms 22:9–11).

David knew that God had protected and provided for him so far. He could still trust Him. We can still trust Him. He is always present and always in control:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.… And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18, 20).

God preserved David. He rescued him from King Saul’s murderous plots. He restored him to the throne after Absalom had grabbed control. David would eventually die of old age.

God resurrected Jesus. Even when everything seemed finished, God raised Him from the dead.

God is in control of your circumstances too. Even when things look hopeless, He is able to restore you. Bring your complaints to God like David did. He can handle it. Be brutally honest about your feelings. At the same time, though, remember how He has helped you in the past. He is sovereign over all of your days.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, divine sovereignty, God's Majestic Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Trinity: Trying to Explain It

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4, ESV).

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV).

Any discussion of biblical teaching about the nature of God is incomplete if it does not address the doctrine of the Trinity. While a handful of modern evangelical churches avoid using the word since it is not in the Bible, all true Christian churches agree with its basic tenet: There is one God Who exists throughout eternity in three Persons—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.

It is easy to get confused. Is there one God, or are there three? How can three Persons be one God? It is enough to make one scream, like a Monty Python character, “My brain hurts!”

People who have tried to explain the Trinity can fall into one of two extremes that should be avoided. Some will err on the “one God” side and say that Jesus is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They ignore or explain away any distinctions the Bible draws between them. On the other hand, I have known people who have tried to explain the Trinity and ended up making polytheistic statements. By focusing on the three Persons, they explain the Godhead as three different deities. (Note: Just because your three deities cooperate does not mean it is not polytheism; many polytheistic religions speak of gods who work together.)

People have tried to devise different illustrations to picture the Trinity. A popular one is the egg: a shell, a white, and a yolk are three parts that make one egg. One of my seminary professors, Dr. Gary McGee, tried a similar illustration with a cup of coffee (an important tool when trying to discuss the trinity during a systematic theology class at 8:30 AM!) containing hot water, sugar, and the precious caffeine-laden holy oils of the coffee beans). While the illustrations provide some help, they have their flaws. I can throw out an egg shell and scramble the white and yolk into a single substance; we cannot do that with the Trinity.

A diagram illustrating the relationships between the Persons of the Trinity. By AnonMoos (public domain), via Wikipedia Commons.

Another professor, Dr. Stanley Horton, offered very sound insight on this topic. During one class session, he pointed out the examples fail because God is unique. There is nothing in all of creation that is exactly like the Trinity. We will not understand it fully in this life. We will finally understand when we get to heaven and see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV).

Someday, we will understand fully. Until then, we live with our limited understanding mixed with our trust in an unlimited God.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Eternal God: Over All, But Near to All

“Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:13–14; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version).

The letters in the middle are the Hebrew letters “YHWH,” the Old Testament name of God. Photo by Ulf Carlbark, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

In our previous post, we saw that the covenant name of God reminds us that He is self-existent and eternal. Nothing else created Him, He owes His existence to no other entity or force, and He will always exist. Because of this, He is sovereign over all things.

Theologians associate this aspect of God’s nature with something they call His transcendence: The fact that He is over all things and beyond normal human comprehension:

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

Some Bible teachers think this transcendence contradicts another of God’s qualities, His immanence. This quality reminds us that God is everywhere and is especially close to His people. He is always with us. Jesus reminded His disciples of this shortly before His ascension:

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18–20).

Some people think these qualities do not go together; they think it is impossible for God to be transcendentally above from His creation, yet immanently close to His people. However, these qualities address different aspects of His nature. It would be like saying that I am six feet tall and a guitar player; one attribute describes physical qualities, while the other describes a personal interest. Likewise, God’s transcendence is a function of His power and glory. His immanence is a function of His love. They are separate qualities, but they are aspects of His singular nature.

Because God is eternal, transcendent, and immanent, He is sovereign over all creation. He is sovereign over all the world. Moses learned this at the burning bush and in the months that followed. YHWH was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Israelites had probably passed down stories about God’s faithfulness to these three ancestors. The Lord had been their God. He remained the God of the Israelite people. Yet, throughout the chapters 4-15 of Exodus (and beyond), He showed that He was more than the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants: He was, and always will be, God over all the nations, whether they acknowledge Him or not. Egypt’s Pharaoh believed his deities were the greatest gods; in fact, he thought he was a god. The plagues described in Exodus and the departure of the Israelites from his country proved that his gods were no match for the God of Israel. The God of Israel could prove His authority over Pharaoh and his false gods. The One True God could display His authority over the most powerful nations on Earth. He can accomplish His will even when the most powerful nations in the world rage in rebellion against Him (Psalms 2:1-4).

His immanence reaches deeper. God is sovereign not only over the nations. He is sovereign over your life. Your life matters to God. You owe your existence to Him. The world might think you are an insignificant accident of evolution and history, but God orchestrated history to bring you here. He has power and authority over your life. He has a purpose for your life, which He desires to reveal to you.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

God may not have appointed you as a prophet, but He appointed you for some purpose. His will for your life is perfect. God has a perfect will, not only for the world, but for you (Romans 12:2). Those who come by faith to Jesus can find His perfect will for their lives.

Come to Jesus. He has given you life. He is the ground of your being. He is and eternal, but more importantly, He loves you, forgives you, and offers you a life far greater than you can imagine:

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ascension and Pentecost IV: The Ascended Christ Sends the Indwelling Spirit

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7–8).

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20).

(This is Part 4 of a series. Part 3 appears here.)

stp-elp19

Stained glass depiction of the Great Commission, at the Cathedral Parish of Saint Patrick in El Paso. By Lyricmac at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

As we saw in an earlier message, Jesus breathed on His disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit on the night following His resurrection (John 20:22). This reception of the Holy Spirit was essential to their work of proclaiming the Gospel. He told them to receive the Holy Spirit; then they could go forth and preach. In Acts 1:4–8, Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them before going out to preach.

We often speak of Pentecost as “the birthday of the church” because it is the day when the disciples received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and began to fulfill the Great Commission (see Acts 2, especially verses 1–4 and 37–41).

Entire books have been written about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church and the believer, so this will be a very brief synopsis (if the Lord allows, I will write a more thorough series about the Holy Spirit one of these days). This conclusion to this series will show how the indwelling Holy Spirit provides our connection with the ascended Lord Jesus Christ and enables us to observe all that He has commanded us (Matthew 28:19–20).

As I have written several times in this series, several key themes tie the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost together. Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit tie Jesus’ transcendent power and glory closely together with His immanent and permanent presence in the believer’s life.

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

In the upper room discourse, Jesus said that He would ask the Father to send the Spirit (John 14:16). After His ascension, they would send the Holy Spirit to fill believers and empower them.

What does the Holy Spirit do in the life of a believer? Jesus lists these roles:

  • He dwells with believers forever, thereby providing a permanent direct link between the Christian and the real presence of God in his life (John 14:16–20).
  • He teaches us and helps us to remember what Jesus has said (John 14:26; 16:13–15).
  • He enables us to experience the peace of God (John 14:27).
  • He bears witness about Jesus to believers so that we are able to bear witness about Him to others (John 15:26–27).
  • Convicts the world regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8–11).

In Galatians 5:22–23, we read that the Holy Spirit also produces fruit in the lives of believers: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

At the end of Mark’s Gospel, we read that several signs will follow the disciples while they proclaim the Gospel. According to several passages in the Acts, these signs are gifts from the Holy Spirit:

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:15–18).

As mentioned earlier, this is just a brief summary. However, we can summarize the Holy Spirit’s work in a Christian’s life as follows:

  • He equips us to preach the Gospel to others.
  • He empowers us to serve Christ.
  • He brings the life of God into our lives so that we can live like beloved children of God, bearing God’s presence in our lives (the fruit of the Spirit).

Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus promised that He would be with us, even to the end of the age. The Holy Spirit brings the presence of Jesus into our lives. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He took a human body with Him. When the Holy Spirit enters our lives, we become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and God’s seed abides in us (1 John 3:9). While our bodies continue to preserve their human nature and the DNA we inherited from our earthly parents, we receive a sort of “spiritual DNA” from the heavenly Father Himself.

Ascension reminds us that Jesus is more than we can imagine. Pentecost reminds us that God’s plan is to make us more than we can envision. We are His children. Let us live like it. Let us rejoice in that special relationship we have with Him. Let us “be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1), living a life of holiness, forgiveness, and grace that draws others into our spiritual family.

Copyright © 2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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