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The Temple & The Church’s Mission (Book Highlights)

The Temple & The Church’s Mission (Book Highlights)

The Temple and the Church’s Mission

by G. K. Beale

Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2004.


 

In The Temple and the Church’s Mission, biblical theologian Gregory Beale answers two major questions. First, why does “a new heaven and a new earth” in Revelation 21:1 appear as a garden-like temple (Rev. 21:2–3, Rev. 10–22:3)? Second, how does this vision relate “to Christians and their role in fulfilling the mission of the church” (23–25)?

Beale’s thesis is “that the Old Testament tabernacle and temples were symbolically designed to point to the cosmic eschatological reality that God’s tabernacling presence, formerly limited to the holy of holies, was to be extended throughout the whole earth” (26).

The Symbolism of a Temple

In the first portion of the book, Beale examines the cosmic symbolism found in Old Testament and ancient Near Eastern temples. He argues that “the Garden of Eden was the first archetypal temple, and that it was the model for all subsequent temples . . . the Old Testament tabernacle and temples were symbolical microcosms of the whole creation. As microcosmic symbolic structures they were designed to point to a worldwide eschatological temple that perfectly reflects God’s glory. It is this universally expanded eschatological temple that is pictured in Revelation’s last vision” (26).

As Beale shows, “Ezekiel 28 explicitly calls Eden the first sanctuary, which substantiates that Eden is described as a temple because it is the first temple, albeit a ‘garden-temple.’ Early Judaism confirms this identification. Indeed, it is probable that even the similar ancient Near Eastern temples can trace their roots back to the original primeval garden” (79–80).

The mark of the true church is an expanding witness to the presence of God.

Adam, the kingly gardener, priest, and watchman over Eden, was to subdue the earth as God’s image-bearer (Gen. 1:26–28). Adam and Eve “were to reflect God’s kingship by being his vice-regents on earth” (81). Israel is also depicted as “corporate Adam,” as Beal calls it. “The nation’s task was to do what Adam had first been commissioned to do. Israel failed even as had Adam. And like Adam, Israel was also cast out of their ‘garden land’ into exile” (119–121).

Both Adam and Israel were given the role of expanding God’s temple on the earth: “Eden and the temple signified a divine mandate to enlarge the boundaries of the temple until they formed the borders around the whole earth. Sometimes the thought may be that the entire land of Israel, conceived as a large Garden of Eden, was to be expanded” (123). As Habakkuk writes, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14).

Christ and His Church: The Ultimate Temple

The role given to Adam and Israel—to expand God’s temple into all the earth—is fulfilled in the ultimate Israelite, Jesus Christ, and his church: “The New Testament pictures Christ and the church as finally having done what Adam, Noah, and Israel had failed to do in extending the temple of God’s presence throughout the world. Luke 2:32 and Acts 26:23 picture Christ as fulfilling this commission to be a ‘light’ to the end of the earth (an allusion to the Servant Israel’s commission in Isa. 49:6)” (169). Jesus’ Great Commission promise to go with his disciples to the ends of the earth (Matt. 28) gives further support to this conclusion.

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, with people from a multitude of languages being drawn in, is a reversal of Babel. Moreover, there are hints of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of the new temple at Pentecost: “The coming of the Spirit indicates a shift in redemptive history whereby forgiveness of sins derives from Jesus instead of Israel’s temple priests” (204).

We will not bear fruit unless we stay out of the shadows.

From the letters to the Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians, we see that the church is the temple of God. “Just as God’s glory uniquely dwelt in Israel’s old temple, so the glorious attributes of God are to be manifested in the Corinthians both individually and corporately, since they are the new temple. Similarly, the consummated temple in the new creation will perfectly reflect ‘the glory of God (Rev. 21:11), and ‘nothing unclean . . . shall ever come into it’ (Rev. 21:27)” (252). The temple of God has received its fulfillment not in a literal structure but instead in the church.

In Hebrews, Jesus is portrayed as the veil of the heavenly end-time tabernacle as well as the end-time tabernacle itself. Moreover, “Mount Zion” and the “heavenly Jerusalem” are pictured as equivalent to the end-time temple. Significant to this is the fact that “Hebrews 12:22–28 says that believers have begun to participate in an unshakeable mountain, temple, and kingdom, which are different images for the same one reality of God’s glorious kingship in a new creation” (306).

In Revelation, the Eden-like imagery describing the city-temple (Rev. 22:1–3) shows that the building of the temple that began in Genesis 2 but was abandoned will be commenced again and completed in Christ and his people, and will encompass the whole new creation. In addition, the Revelation imagery of lampstands points to the church’s temple-expanding mission: “The church symbolized as a ‘lampstand’ in Revelation 11 represents God’s temple-presence that is given power by ‘the seven lamps’ . . . a power primarily to witness as a light uncompromisingly to the world so that the gates of hell (Rev. 2:9–11, 13) would not prevail against the building of God’s temple. . . . The lampstands represent the church as the true temple and the totality of the people of God witnessing between the period of Christ’s resurrection and his final coming” (327).

The Temple and the Church’s Mission

Beale’s conclusion is that all Christians are now spiritual priests serving God in his temple, of which we are part. As priests we are called to fulfill the role originally given to Adam, “to keep the order and peace of the spiritual sanctuary by learning and teaching God’s word, by praying always, and by being vigilant in keeping out unclean moral and spiritual things,” and to continually offer our own bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), following the example of Jesus” (398–399). Moreover, “Believers are priests in that they serve as mediators between God and the unbelieving world. When unbelievers accept the church’s mediating witness, they not only come into God’s presence, but they begin to participate themselves as mediating priests who witness” (400).

In conclusion, “We as the church will not bear fruit and grow and extend across the earth in the way God intends unless we stay out of the shadows of the world and remain in the light of God’s presence—in his word and prayer and in fellowship with other believers in the church, the temple of God. The mark of the true church is an expanding witness to the presence of God: first to our families, then to others in the church, then to our neighborhood, then to our city, then the country, and ultimately the whole earth” (401).

 

 

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Jesus And Violence Against Children

Jesus And Violence Against Children

We are regularly faced with the horror and prevalence of violence against children:

  • Almost half of all sexual abuse victims are children: 15 percent of sexual assault victims are under age twelve, and 29 percent are ages twelve to seventeen.
  • Studies suggest that up to 10 million children in the U.S. witness some form of domestic violence annually and approximately half of them are also victims of domestic violence.
  • Children are also the victims of sex trafficking at horrific rates: In the U.S., the average age of entry into prostitution is between 12 and 14 years old. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that over 300,000 American children are at risk for sexual exploitation, and that an estimated 199,000 incidents of sexual exploitation of minors occur every year within the United States.
  • The global market of child trafficking is over $12 billion a year, with over 1.2 million child victims. Child trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world.
  • From 600,000–800,000 people are bought and sold across international borders each year; 50% are children, most are female. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade.
  • Today, as many as 300,000 children, some as young as eight years old, serve in armed government or rebel forces around the world.

The only thing more staggering than the prevalence of this violence is the acute emotional, psychological, and spiritual damage done to the children who experience it.

In light of all this, it’s important to look at Scripture and see how God feels about children and wants them to be treated.

Jesus and children

In his ministry, Jesus showed striking interest in and love for children. To the surprise of his disciples, he often including them in his teaching: “Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’” (Matt 19:13–14). When the disciples came to Jesus asking him which one of them was going to be the greatest in Christ’s kingdom, Jesus called a child to himself (Matt. 18:2) and said, “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:4). Jesus went on, telling his followers that part of their duty is to receive little children: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Matt. 18:5).

In Mark 10, Jesus upholds childlike faith as admirable: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:15; cf. Luke 18:17).

Jesus wants his followers to honor, protect, and care for those among them who are small and vulnerable, especially children. Part of Jesus’ ministry on earth involved healing children. In Mark 5:39, Jesus came into the house of a ruler of the synagogue, whose daughter had just died. Jesus said that she was not dead, but only sleeping. After they laughed at him, Jesus said to the child, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41; cf. Luke 8:54). Mark recounts what happened next: “And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement” (Mark 5:42). Similarly, in Mark 9, Jesus encounters a young boy who had been having demonic attacks. Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of him (Mark 9:25) and the boy fell down as if he were dead. Jesus took him by the hand and he was healed (Mark 9:27). Jesus, who calls himself “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), brings life and healing to children.

Jesus wants his followers to honor, protect, and care for those among them who are small and vulnerable, especially children.

God’s care for children

The tenderness and care Jesus showed for children is an expression of God’s heart toward the small, the weak, and the vulnerable, as seen throughout the Old Testament.

Part of God’s law, given at Mt. Sinai, was that no one should “mistreat any widow or fatherless child” (Ex. 22:22). Indeed, God is one who “executes justice for the fatherless” (Deut. 10:18) and curses anyone who perverts the justice due to orphans (Deut. 27:19). The Lord says that no one should do wrong or be violent towards innocent children and orphans (Jer. 22:3). Not only does God want his people to love and care for children, but they are called to do everything in their power to stop those who try to hurt, abuse, or oppress them. “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17). Children are a gift from God (Ps. 127:3) and a blessing, and are to be loved, disciplined, and cared for.

Response

As we react to the shock and horror of violence against children, we should mediate on Jesus’ love and care for children. But God’s love should do more than just make us feel better—it should lead us to imitate his care for children, take action against evil like this, and pray for God’s peace and salvation to cover the earth.

Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

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Ransomed Out of Slavery

Ransomed Out of Slavery

“You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:18–21

Writing to Christians, the Apostle Peter highlights both our desperate situation on our own (“futile ways”) and the high cost to God of rescuing us (“the precious blood of Christ”). These two are brought together when it says we were “ransomed,” which means “delivered from slavery upon payment.” In the ancient world, a slave would only experience freedom if their master set them free or if someone paid the price for their freedom.

In this context, Peter says we were ransomed when Jesus paid for our freedom. In the word “ransom” we see that:

  1. We needed to be redeemed, because we were slaves.
  2. Jesus Christ redeemed us with his death.

SLAVERY TO SIN

Peter’s use of “ransom” easily would have caused the Gentiles to think of slavery. And for the Jews, he referred to the Passover Lamb in verse 19, which would have triggered images of their ancestors’ slavery in Egypt.

Peter is underlining the point of our helpless situation under sin, using intense imagery to highlight the desperation of our situation.

Peter is not alone in using this language of slavery either. Jesus says, “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34), and Paul explains that when you sin, you’re offering yourself as a slave to sin (Rom. 6:16).

REDEEMED AT A HIGH PRICE

God responds to our desperate need by sending Jesus Christ to redeem us with his death. God’s action matches the desperation of our slavery. Our salvation cost God the precious blood of Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes that true grace “is costly because it cost God the life of his Son . . . God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life.”

This is why Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Paul also uses the language of ransom: “You were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 7:23).

Peter has the Passover lamb in mind when he says we were ransomed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pet. 1:19). That’s straight from Exodus 12 and Leviticus 22. Jesus is the Passover Lamb that was sacrificed for us.

Being ransomed by the blood of Christ is all about substitution. But the point about “without defect or blemish” highlights his perfect life, his purity—the fact that he was not deserving of death. The spotless Lamb without defect died for the blemished, spotted, and scarred—you and me.

The Bread Of Heaven

The Bread Of Heaven

“Seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?’ Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.” John 6:5–11

In John 6 we read how Jesus performs a major miracle, multiplying a small amount of bread and fish to feed over 5,000 people. Some have used this passage to try to say that Jesus had to wait for the boy to offer his food before Jesus would do his part. Applied to our spiritual lives, that message would be: “God cares about you, but he wants you to show that you really care about him before he will act. He wants you to make the first move and show him that you are serious. After you respond, God will look upon you with favor and good pleasure. God may even ‘use you.’”

Nothing could be further from the true meaning of this miracle.

JESUS: THE BREAD OF LIFE

When Jesus’ first-century audience sees this miracle, they corner him and beg him to explain: “What do your works mean? Come on! Tell us what you’ve come to do. We want to know. We’d like you to be our king. We have an agenda for you.”

Jesus reminds them about the bread (or manna) God provided in the desert with Moses and reveals, “It was my Father who brought the bread from heaven in the desert. And now my Father is giving you the true bread from heaven. And it’s me! I am the bread of life. I am the true life that has come down from heaven.” Jesus declares himself to be the one who can truly give the life of God: “If you do not have me you do not have life.”

In Jesus’ words about being the bread of life, claiming that he is the life of God on earth, we are looking at the heart of Christianity. We do not climb up to God; the bread comes down from heaven. We cannot climb the ladder to God through some technique or effort. Rather, Christianity teaches that we are alienated from God until Christ comes to us. God came near to us in Christ, so Christ could overcome the sin which separates us from God and then bring us near to God, giving us new life through his Spirit.

GOD HAS COME DOWN

To understand this is to get at the heart of what Jesus is about. We do not inherently have “spiritual life.” Christ is our spiritual life on our behalf (Col. 3:4), and he gives us the Holy Spirit. As the bread of life, Jesus disarms us of our self-reliant spiritual efforts. We do not naturally come near to God. He must come near to us. A relationship with God is based on God coming down to us through Jesus, the bread of life from heaven.

It is not that we have risen to spiritual heights, but that the bread of heaven has come down to us. It is not about what we do, but what Christ has done for us.

Abiding In God

Abiding In God

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” 

–1 John 4:15–17

I love this passage in 1 John. John shows us that life with Christ is not nearly as difficult as the religious people make it seem. It’s also a lot more simple than the burdened imagine. Here are four things that God has made available to all of us through Jesus Christ:

  1. Unbelievable simplicity & intimacy with God: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” If we confess Jesus, then God abides in us!
  2. Rock-solid assurance that God loves us: “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.”
  3. Confidence before God’s judgment: “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment.”
  4. Effectiveness in making us missionaries of God’s love: “As he is [loving], so also are we in this world.” We have received God’s love, and then we become agents of his love to the world.

What does it mean to abide with Jesus? There is a beautiful picture in the Bible of those who abide with Jesus in John 6. Jesus has finished making some intense statements: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). When he said this he scared off many of his followers and caused them to turn their back on him. Then Jesus asked the remaining disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom else would we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67–69).

Notice the sense of desperation in Peter’s response? “Where else is there to go? Only you give life!” That’s “remaining” with Jesus; that’s “abiding.” Abiding isn’t 10 secret (and difficult) steps to spiritual success. It’s clinging on to Jesus for dear life, because he is the source of true, abundant, never-ending life. With Jesus, we can always have hope and confidence.

What Is Scripture?

What Is Scripture?

Is Scripture divine or human? Authoritative? Is Scripture inspired by God? How should it be used?

What is Scripture? All religious traditions that ground themselves in texts must grapple with certain questions. In worship services and public and private readings, Christians often turn to Scripture for guidance: to the stories of Abraham or Moses, to the Psalms, to the prophecies of Isaiah, to the life of Jesus, to the letters of Paul, to the vision of John. Therefore, Christians must confront their own set of questions. What is Scripture? Is it divine? Human? Both? Is Scripture authoritative? If so, how and for whom? What is the scope of its authority? Is Scripture inspired by God? How should Scripture be used? How do Scripture and tradition relate? What does it mean for a Christian to call the Bible “the Word of God”? And if Jesus is also called the Word of God, how does Jesus as the Word of God relate to the Bible as the Word of God?

Helpful History

The good news is that we are not the first to try to answer these questions. In fact, 2,000 years of Christian history provide us a tradition of helpful answers as numerous Christian theologians have wrestled with these questions.

Theologians at different times have focused on different questions regarding Scripture. In the patristic and medieval eras, the focus was on relating the literal meaning of the text to allegorical or spiritual interpretations; during the Reformation, the debates focused on who had the authority to define and interpret Scripture; and after the Enlightenment, theologians tried to determine how the Bible was still the Word of God in light of historical-critical methods that seemed to challenge its historicity and reliability. However, in spite of all the various approaches, Christian theologians have been unified in dealing with a central issue: how the self-disclosure of God in Jesus relates to the Scriptures as the Word of God. A central question is always the relationship between “the Word” becoming human flesh (Incarnation) and “the Word” becoming human words.

The Word and the Christian

Christians believe that the Bible is inspired by God, is without error, and does not misrepresent the facts. It is entirely trustworthy and is the final authority on everything it teaches. The Bible records the drama of redemption in the history of Israel and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christians we acknowledge both Jesus (John 1:1–4) and Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16–17) as the “Word of God.” Christians should not focus solely on Jesus Christ and treat Scripture just like any other “classic text.” Nor should we focus primarily on the Bible as God’s divine inerrant Word and treat Jesus as simply a character in a small part of the texts.

Jesus Is The Ultimate Word

Jesus is the central message—God participating in human life, coming near to us, bringing his good news, expressing God’s love for us, dying as our substitute, rising as the victor over death, and building his church as a community of grace. Jesus is not just the main character in one of many events in the story of God’s people. Jesus is the final revelation of God’s drama of redemption. Humanity sees God in full light in Jesus. Jesus is God’s ultimate word about human life, and the Bible is God’s word about God’s self-revelation through human life. This is what Christian theologians have been saying in various ways for 2,000 years. In answering the question “What is Scripture?” theological giants like Origen, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karl Barth, and others have given us many categories to use, concepts to ponder, and doctrines of Scripture to consider and wrestle with. Yet in spite of their differences, they are unified in that their doctrines of Scripture are all surprisingly Christ-centered.

The Story About Grace

The deepest message of the Bible and the ministry of Jesus is the grace of God to sinners and those who are suffering. That is the story of the Bible. The problem of the human condition is that because of sin, we are guilty and we suffer. Throughout the Bible, we constantly see God taking the initiative to bring his grace to sinners and sufferers, from his gracious dealings with the people of Israel to the climactic redemptive work of Jesus Christ in his life, death, and resurrection. By taking us through the story of God bringing his grace to sinners and sufferers, Scripture reveals the heart of God and the heart of the Christian faith.

You Are Accepted

You Are Accepted

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9–10

You belong. You are accepted, and you don’t deserve it. You will never be rejected by God, who calls you his own.

Accepted. Isn’t that a great word? We all feel as if we don’t fit, as if we stick out. Whether it’s the person whose attention you want, or the law firm that doesn’t want you, or the mirror that lies to you, or the date who never called back, or the fraternity that didn’t invite you, or the voice in your head that says nobody cares about you, or the professor who makes you feel stupid, or the loneliness you experience, or the religious people who judged you—deep down, don’t we have a need to be accepted, one that is easily triggered by any sense of rejection?

We all suffer the wounds of rejection and judgment. We all long to hear that we are accepted, especially when we know we don’t deserve acceptance.

You will never be rejected by God, who calls you his own.

God’s Grace Takes the Guilt

Undeserved acceptance is a great way of explaining grace. Grace changes your guilt into assurance, and makes beauty out of things that were ugly. Grace means that God draws near to us when we are weak, not strong. When we feel separated and abandoned. When we despair over our failure, our compulsions. When we feel exhausted and hopeless.

At those moments, we remember God’s grace and we hear him say, “Because of what my Son did, you are accepted. Once you had not received mercy, but now you receive mercy. You belong to me. You don’t have to perform or accomplish anything right now. Just rest in the fact that you are in Christ, and you are accepted.”

Yes, you are flawed and you sin, but you are more accepted and more loved than you can imagine. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Rom. 5:20). Because Christ was your substitute, you are accepted and part of a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people who belong to God.

The Prince Who Came to Serve

The Prince Who Came to Serve

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

John 13:3–5

When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he exploded our normal ideas about what a god does. Creating, judging, and rewarding are things that sounds like divine activities—not washing feet, eating dinner with prostitutes, going to parties with tax collectors, and hugging lepers.

Jesus’ lowly service is a practical picture of how Jesus inverts our normal view of authority, dignity, and power. Jesus’ unselfconscious act of service was a picture of God’s upside-down approach to our world and to us. The ultimate picture of this is Jesus’ humbling himself to endure the death of the cross and bring us cleansing through his substitution in our place.

Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky gives us a picture of this upside-down approach in his novel The Idiot. It’s about a young prince, Prince Myshkin of Russia, who returns home to society after a long stay abroad. Prince Myshkin finds himself surrounded by people who are rage-filled, backbiting, power-hungry, and envious. They struggle for accolades and live like beasts.

Jesus Christ is the prince who came penniless and powerless to serve.

As Prince Myshkin is dropped into the middle of this depravity and forced to struggle with the reality of people’s sin, his interaction with this corrupt and immoral group is astounding! Prince Myshkin is frail and simple. He speaks clearly and without lies. He loves anyone he comes into contact with, especially the peasants and the servants. He is not self-aggrandizing, and he embodies grace and peace. And for all of his love and kindness, his meekness and his tenderness, the world around him dismisses him as an idiot.

Jesus Christ is like Prince Myshkin. Our world—in all its “wisdom”—finds him and his cross foolish. He is the prince who came penniless and powerless to serve: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45). In coming as a humble servant, full of grace and truth, Jesus reveals our sovereign God’s paradoxical approach to the world.

 

And Especially Hope

And Especially Hope

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

1 Thessalonians 1:2–3, 10

When it comes down to it, hope is what most of us are desperate for in our lives. We need something to look forward to, something to keep us from despair in the midst of all of the pain and difficulty we experience and see around us.

Most of what the world clings to is false hope, because it is based in our ability to get better. But what if you look at your life today and see the same struggles that you had yesterday? What if you’re faced with things that you have little or no control over, like losing your job? Or a spouse who abandoned you? Or unrelenting parents? Or sickness?

When we talk about hope, we need more than just the tired old clichés about the “little engine that could” and turning lemons into lemonade, because our problems are usually much bigger than a few lemons—we need sin and death overcome.

When we talk about hope, we need more than just the tired old clichés.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Paul refers to “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised for our salvation. Because of the work of Christ, you are declared pure, righteous, saved, blameless, holy, forgiven, and without condemnation. These are all words God uses in Scripture for those who are in Christ. This good news relates all the way down to the core of your identity: your depression, your memories of specific sins, your fears and insecurities, the shame you feel because of what’s been done to you, the addictive impulses that seem to control you.

Because all the work of Christ is done for you, your sins are forgiven, you are declared righteous, and you will arise and live with him. This is why we rejoice—because faith, love, and especially hope are possible for you because of Jesus.