Bible

Lamb Without Blemish

Lamb Without Blemish

The Lamb Without Blemish

“You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Peter 1:18–19

Peter’s use of the word “ransom” in 1 Peter 1:18 would have caused his readers to think of slavery. A slave would only get freedom if their master released them or if someone “ransomed” them (paid the price for their freedom). With this language, Peter is using intense imagery to underline our helpless situation under sin. We aren’t off in the wrong direction, just in need of a little guidance. It’s not that everyone makes mistakes and we just need to follow our hearts. Our problem is that we are slaves to sin and we need freedom.

We don’t like to think of ourselves as slaves. We prefer illusions of autonomy and strength. But if we’re honest, we can see how our relationship to sin has been more like slavery than just making a few mistakes. This isn’t just a theological proposition. This is experienced in life: in addictions, patterns of dysfunctional relationships, emotional impulses that erupt from the heart—evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander, greed, malice, deceit, envy, and arrogance. Think of that place where you feel caught or stuck—not in control, but rather controlled by impulses. That’s the slavery. We don’t master our weaknesses; they master us. Sin and death are cruel taskmasters that cause pain, despair, and destruction. In addition, the ultimate price for our slavery is death.

But God’s response to our slavery is for Jesus Christ to redeem us by his sacrifice. Peter was intense about our slavery, and he is equally intense about the cost of our redemption. Our salvation cost God the precious blood of Christ. 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 that Christ died like a lamb “without blemish or spot” (1 Pet. 1:19). That language comes 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: Jesus took on the consequences of the sins we have committed and died in our place for our sins. But the language of “without blemish or spot” highlights his purity and perfect life—the fact that he was not deserving of death. The spotless lamb without defect died for the blemished, spotted, and scarred.

Many of the marks we bear are from our cruel slave master who abused us. Some of these blemishes or scars are physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Some are from our own hands and some from the hands of others. But Jesus, the Lamb of God, died for all those blemishes, spots, and scars.

God The Rescuer

God The Rescuer

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” Exodus 14:21–22

The Exodus from Egypt and the journey to the Promised Land is the great story of deliverance in Jewish history. This passage recounts the parting of the Red Sea, when God miraculously opened the way for the Israelites to escape from the pursuing Egyptian army. It reveals God showing up to rescue his people in the middle of pain, insecurity, and confusion.

For thousands of years now, Jews have remembered and celebrated how God took them from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. The Psalms celebrate this deliverance: “Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him” (Psalm 66:5–6). At a crucial moment, on their way out of Egypt and to the Promised Land, God divided the Red Sea so the Israelites could avoid being slaughtered by the Egyptian army. If God had not provided, they would all have died.

For Christians, the Exodus foreshadows the ultimate story of deliverance. It points to the death of Jesus on a cross. We look back at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the work of God on our behalf. The Exodus and the ministry of Jesus tell us that God is a God of those in need, that God brings life and flourishing where death and destruction try to reign. The Exodus and the cross tell us that God’s nature is to rescue us. God comes near to us—down here in the thick of our fear and suffering.

There is no work we can do in exchange for this rescue. It is undeserved and unearned. The psalmist is highlighting the mighty works of God on our behalf, and now we see this fulfilled in Christ. Jesus did the work we couldn’t do, on our behalf. We couldn’t be good enough. We couldn’t fulfill the righteousness required by the Law. So God, in the person of Jesus, did the work we couldn’t do for us. God attributed Jesus’ work as our work. God exchanged our sin for Jesus’ righteousness. The work of God on our behalf is the best news possible to those under threat of destruction. God is our rescuer.

Jesus and the Day of Atonement

Jesus and the Day of Atonement

[The priest] shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. . . .

When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness. . . . The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.

Leviticus 16:15–16, 20–22 NIV

The priestly rituals described here were done on the most important day of Israel’s year: the Day of Atonement. And it is no coincidence that the word “atonement” (often translated as “propitiation”) is used throughout the New Testament for what Jesus did by dying on the cross. It is safe to say that these goats are a foreshadowing of the cross.

The scapegoat achieves purity and cleanliness for the people.

The first goat was sacrificed as a sin offering to God on behalf of the people. The second goat was presented alive before God, where the priest confessed all the sins of the people, symbolically placed them on the goat’s head, and then sent it out to the desert as a “scapegoat,” taking the sins of the people with it. The first goat deals with wrath: the slaughtered goat diverts the wrath of God from the people to the goat. The second goat deals with shame and guilt: the scapegoat achieves purity and cleanliness for the people by removing their sin far away.

Whatever Our Sins

The first sacrifice was for “whatever their sins have been.” This means everything—your dark secrets that only you know, the ones that you are too ashamed to tell anyone, the embarrassing sins, and the reoccurring sins. Four times, in the context of the second goat, the chapter refers to “all” the Israelites’ transgressions and sins—every last one of them, especially the shameful ones.

How can you know that God loves you? Not by just “feeling it.”

The Bible speaks of sins we’ve committed and sins committed against us by using words like “defiled”—which means filthy, unclean, dirty, and shameful. Many of us have a sense of defilement, and the consequence is feeling shame and judgment.

The Cross Tells Us So

So how can you know that God loves you? Not by just “feeling it” or because you’re inherently lovable. You know God loves you because Jesus was the fulfillment of the sacrificial goats. The cross tells you that God loves you and how God loves you—he willingly died for you to make you clean. The love of God is not sentimental or weak; it is effective, it redeems, it embraces, it renews. It is a courageous, restoring, transforming love. The cross expresses the love of God.

God calls you pure, clean, and without blemish.

Because of the cross, you can be fully exposed, because God no longer identifies you by what you have done or by what has been done to you. The cross is for whatever your sins may have been, what they are, and what they will be—all of them. You are forgiven. You have been made new. Now God calls you pure, clean, and without blemish.

Jesus’ Church Is Here To Stay

Jesus’ Church Is Here To Stay

The most famous and influential creed in the history of the Christian faith, the Nicene Creed, contains a line that modern Christians sometimes misunderstand: “I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.” The word “catholic” can be a source of confusion for those who think it is referring to the Roman Catholic Church, but actually the word simply means “universal.” This points to the important theological concept of the “universal church.”

THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL

The term commonly used for the church in the New Testament is the Greek word ekklesia. Jesus is the first to use the word ekklesia in the New Testament (Matt. 16:18), but it is used in various ways with various meanings. As theologian Louis Berkhof explainsekklesia can have the following meanings:

John Calvin explains the last two definitions in his treatment of the visible and invisible church. The “visible church” describes the Christianity that can be measured and counted externally:

The whole body . . . scattered throughout the world, who profess to worship one God and Christ, who by baptism are initiated into the faith; by partaking of the Lord’s Supper profess unity in true doctrine and charity, agree in holding the word of the Lord, and observe the ministry which Christ has appointed for the preaching of it.

However, Calvin recognized that not all who profess to be Christians and outwardly take part in church practices are truly united to Christ. Only God, who knows the hearts of all people, knows the exact membership of the invisible church:

The Church as it really is before God—the Church into which none are admitted but those who by the gift of adoption are sons of God, and by the sanctification of the Spirit true members of Christ. In this case it not only comprehends the saints who dwell on the earth, but all the elect who have existed from the beginning of the world.

BELONGING TO THE LORD

The English word “church” come from the Greek kuriake, which means “belonging to the Lord,” emphasizing that the true church is the people who belong to the Lord. This is simply another way of expressing the biblical truth that the church throughout the world is Christ’s “body” (1 Cor. 12). As Christians, we are not simply individuals; we are part of something much greater than ourselves.

JESUS BUILDS HIS CHURCH

The concept of the universal church is important for Christians to grasp as we trust Christ and look to the future. Movements will rise and fall, and individual churches will come and go, but God’s people—the church universal—will never be destroyed. Why? Because Jesus builds his church, and Jesus will not fail.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” These are the first words out of Jesus’ mouth in response to Peter’s powerful declaration that “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Beginning with “and I tell you” gives a hint that what Jesus is about to say is very important: he is explaining the significance of him being the Christ. Jesus announces that, as the Christ, his intention and task is to build his church. And Jesus makes it personal with the first person pronouns: “I will build my church.”

WEAKNESS AND FRAILTY

Jesus’ promise to build his church should give us hope and certainty that God’s purposes for his church will ultimately succeed, but it should not make us arrogant about our own abilities. God loves to use the weak and frail people of the world to shame the strong and powerful (1 Cor. 1:27–29). By paradoxically exalting the low and helpless, God shows that heis the strong and powerful one whose purposes cannot fail. This means that Jesus’ church will be built up not with outward, human strength, but rather in weakness and frailty dependent on the power of God’s Spirit to advance his kingdom and bring glory to Jesus.

Jesus’ very personal promise to build his church also reveals that there will be cosmic conflict involved—“the gates of hell shall not prevail against” the church Jesus is building.

The gates of hell convey the idea of the organized authority of the kingdom of darkness in a calculated, organized strategy again Jesus, his gospel, his kingdom, and his church. The demonic forces engaged in conflict with Jesus before he built his church, and they will continue to attack his church.

JESUS WILL NOT FAIL

This theme of cosmic conflict in Matthew 16:18 sets the existence of the church within the context of the ultimate conflict in Scripture, running from Genesis 3:15 to Revelation 20. The conflict in Genesis 3:15 is a divinely inaugurated hostility, which is a promise of conflict and redemption, but also victory. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, the work of God in the building of the church is set in a conflict that will be won by God in the end (Rev. 20). As Edmund Clowney writes,

This fallen, broken world is now Christ’s world. It is the theatre of his redemption (1 Cor. 4:9; Rev. 5), the place of his mission, over which he has total authority for the accomplishment of his saving work (Matt. 13:38; 28:18–20; John 8:12; 17:15–18). The rule of Christ will bring this present world to the glory of the world to come (1 Cor. 15:22–26; Rom. 8:19–20; Acts 3:20–21; Rev. 21:1). He will come again in glory to judge the nations and form a new universe (Matt. 24:14; Acts 1:11; Rom. 16:26; 2 Thess. 1:7–10; 2 Pet. 3:10).

God has always built a place for his own dwelling: Moses built the tabernacle, Solomon built the temple, and Jesus is Immanuel (“God with us”), but he doesn’t stop there as he builds his church. The church is his, and he has committed to build it, despite all the strategies of the enemy.

Jesus is the great church builder, and he will not fail.

Scripture Is True: Machen On The Bible

Scripture Is True: Machen On The Bible

This is the fourth installment in our seven-part series based on J. Gresham Machen’s seminal work, Christianity and Liberalism (1923). In the book, still relevant almost a century later, Machen contrasts the modernist theological liberalism of his day with biblical Christianity. This post covers Chapter 4, which contrasts the view of Scripture in Christianity and liberalism.

DO YOU CONSIDER THE CROSS CRUCIAL?

The Christian view of the Bible is that it is the revelation of God that shows how unholy, sinful people are brought into relationship with a holy God. The New Testament recounts the historical events and the meaning of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; the Old Testament foreshadows and predicts it. This unique, earth-shattering event is what makes Christianity Christian. But, as J. Gresham Machen argues, this unique historical basis of Christianity is rejected by modern naturalistic liberalism.

Liberalism is suspiciously critical of the past. Instead, it tries to create a salvation independent of history, such that it can be captured in present human experience alone.

Christian salvation is not a human religious experience disconnected from the event of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The truthfulness of Christianity is not confirmed by a person’s experience of this event. As Machen puts it:

Salvation then, according to the Bible, is not something that was discovered, but something that happened. . . . All the ideas of Christianity might be discovered in some other religion, yet there would be in that other religion no Christianity. For Christianity depends, not upon a complex of ideas, but upon the narration of an event. (p. 60)

DO YOU BELIEVE THE BIBLE?

The authority of the Bible is questioned by modern liberalism, which views the truthfulness of the Scriptures as unimportant and ridicules the plenary inspiration of Scripture. According to liberalism, the Bible contains as much (or more) error as any other book, and the idea that the Holy Spirit would enable the authors of the Bible to write Scripture is seen as foolishness.

Liberalism caricatures the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration as though it meant that the Holy Spirit dictated to the writers of Scripture and they just robotically scribbled. Machen corrects this caricature: each writer wrote as an individual, gathering information as any writer would and writing in a unique, individual style. The Holy Spirit didn’t turn them into a kind of mechanical Bible printing press, but directed them as they wrote and kept them from error.

Machen draws a distinction between 1) those Christians who believe that the Bible does contain error but is right in its overall message and who have trusted Jesus as their atoning sacrifice for sin, and 2) those within liberalism who have denied outright the central message of the Bible and supernatural act of God in human history.

It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men. (p. 67)

IS JESUS THE AUTHORITY IN YOUR LIFE?

What is important to the modern liberal is not the authority of the Bible, but the authority of Jesus. They claim that Jesus would disagree with antiquated views of the Old Testament and the fiery rhetoric of Paul. Machen points out the problem with this view: in the search for the “historical Jesus,” biblical criticism gets to pick and choose the parts of Jesus’ life and sayings that accord with the critic’s preconceived naturalistic notions.

The authority for a theological liberal does not reside in Jesus and God’s revelation through Scripture, but in individual experience, which Machen describes above as “the shifting emotions of sinful men.” Their authority is themselves or their experience—not Christ or Scripture.

Unlike liberalism, Christianity lives under the authority of the Word of God, an authority that does not enslave us, but frees us to have true knowledge of God and his world.

Next up, we look at the modernist liberal version of Jesus and how it differs from the real Jesus.

Can’t wait? Read the book for free online or listen to it as a free audiobook.

The Ultimate Theophany

The Ultimate Theophany

The topic of theophanies is often neglected in biblical and theological studies, though it is very important.

Theophanies are instances of divine self-revelation in which God manifests himself to humans. The word “theophany,” which means “appearance of God,” comes from the Greek roots theo [God] and phaino [to appear]. While theophanies occur in different forms in Scripture, the content of a theophany is always the same: theophanies consistently show God graciously revealing himself and his covenantal promises to his people.

TYPES OF THEOPHANIES

MOSAIC THEOPHANIES

No figure in Scripture had as many encounters with God through theophanies as Moses. God appeared to Moses in the fire of a burning bush (Exod. 3:1–6), causing Moses to hide his face. At Mt. Sinai, Moses went up to the mountaintop to worship God. He saw God at a distance and was invited into God’s presence, remaining there for 40 days. Later, Moses met “face to face” with God (Exod. 33:11; cf.Num. 14:14Deut. 34:10). This expression hints at the intimate nature of theophanies. Even though Moses experienced a special and intimate relationship with God, he did not experience full revelation. Moses asked God to reveal his full glory to him, but God refused, telling Moses that no one could see God’s face and live (Exod. 33:20). So God passed by Moses, allowing him to see his back (Exod. 33:21–23).

JUDGMENT THEOPHANIES

Many scholars consider Genesis 3:8 to be the first theophany in Scripture. Adam and Eve heard the Lord walking in the garden and hid themselves from his presence. Gordon-Conwell professor Jeffrey Niehaus translates the phrase “cool of the day” as “in the wind of the storm,” based on a rare use of a specific Hebrew word. God often appeared in a threatening form when he was coming to bring judgment. After Adam and Eve sinned, God’s presence was dreadful, declaring judgment for their wrongdoing. Similarly, God revealed himself as a warrior before the Israelites overtook Jericho (Josh. 5:13–15). As Tremper Longman writes, a judgment theophany, “though always threatening, brings both curse and fear to God’s enemies and blessing and comfort to God’s people (Nah. 1:1–9).”

COVENANT THEOPHANIES

God’s appearances to individuals in the Old Testament were frequently connected to his covenantal dealings with them. Specifically, God revealed himself in theophanies to provide assurance that he would maintain his end of the covenant (Gen. 26:2428:12–1335:1948:3). For example, after Abraham arrived at Canaan, God appeared to him, promising that Abraham’s offspring would inherit the land (Gen. 12:7) in accordance with God’s covenant promises. God appeared to Abraham in human form before Isaac’s birth, assuring Abraham and Sarah that they would conceive a child in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Additionally, God manifested himself in human form to wrestle Jacob in order to get him to embrace his covenant blessing (Gen. 32:24). By the end of the narration, Jacob is certain that he had met God “face to face” (Gen. 32:30).

THE ULTIMATE THEOPHANY

God’s self-revelation culminates in the incarnation of Jesus, making him the ultimate theophany. Those who saw the face of Jesus saw the Father (John 14:9), experiencing a much more profound theophany than Moses did. Moses asked to see God’s glory, and those who lived with Jesus received what Moses had asked for (John 1:18). Carl Henry writes in God, Revelation and Authority:

The New Testament channels all interest in the theophanies of God into the divine manifestation in Jesus Christ; the Old Testament (Septuagint) term for theophanic appearances is, in fact, used of the resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ (ōphthē,1 Cor. 15:5–8).

“Theophanies point to God’s gracious condescension to our weakness.”

Jesus is also the ultimate “judgment theophany.” He declares judgment on those who reject him (John 3:18) yet provides comfort and blessing for those who would come to him and receive the mercy of God. Jesus brings judgment by revealing the high demands of God’s righteousness (Matt. 5:48) and the depths our desperate condition under sin. His substitutionary death reveals the weight of the curse, which could only be lifted through the death of the Son of God: “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). This is the ultimate judgment theophany, one that leads to hope and salvation.

Again, Jesus is the ultimate “covenant theophany.” Jesus, as God, ushered in the final covenant in “in his blood” (Matt 26:28), the new covenant. In Jesus, God himself looked into the eyes of his disciples and promised to be true to his word. Jesus reveals the ultimate, eternal covenant (Heb. 13:20) between God and his people.

WHY DO THEOPHANIES MATTER?

1. GOD IS WITH US

Theophanies remind us of the famous words of Francis Schaeffer: “He is there and he is not silent.” God has not and will not leave his people to suffer in isolation. He will “descend far beneath his loftiness,” as John Calvin said, and reassure us that he will do as he promised. “I will be their God and they will be my people” (Jer. 24:7) summarizes the covenant promise that runs all through the Bible, and theophanies point to this comforting reality.

2. GOD IS HOLY, AWESOME, AND MAJESTIC

Theophanies should humble us. Our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). All the various pictures of Yahweh in the Old Testament highlight this truth. Theophanies, according to Walter Elwell and Barry Beitzel, “conveyed a sense of the awesome majesty and power of God who is to be approached only with reverence and humility according to divinely prescribed procedures.” Ultimately, God’s holiness is most clearly seen in his wrath against sin, revealed and satisfied at the cross of Jesus.

3. GOD CONDESCENDS TO US

Theophanies point to God’s gracious condescension to our weakness. Theophanies are visual—they give tangible and physical proof of God. In a sense, they are God “writing it in the sky” for us. Though God wants us to trust him even when we can’t see him (”Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,”John 20:29), theophanies offer a glimpse into the heart of our God who graciously condescends to help and comfort those who join Thomas in unbelief.

Christ Is Too Strong

Christ Is Too Strong

“‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:54b–57

Because of human rebellion and sin, death had been given free rein on earth. But from the beginning God knew the end, and the end is redemption. The whole story of the Bible, from beginning to end, is a story of redemption. God initiates to rescue us because of our weakness. God takes the evil on himself and redeems it. And Jesus’ resurrection is the core of the whole story. Death is swallowed up in Jesus’ victory, which results in life.

Because of sin, we all know we will eventually die, “for the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Because of sin’s entrance into the world, everything dies; every human suffers; animals suffer; rivers overflow their banks and sweep villages away; volcanoes destroy whole cities; diseases like AIDS , malaria, cancer, and heart disease kill millions of people; and droughts and famines cause starvation. Because of sin, we actively hurt one another and ourselves. As a result, we experience condemnation, guilt, shame, despair, and pain.

We collapse under the weight of this destruction. We cannot endure death. It always has the last word. But one man did endure it and, for the first time, came through victorious: Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2).

“Our sins hurled him to the ground and trampled him, but God delivered Christ and made him alive.”

If we don’t find our hope for redemption in Christ, we are left to our own pathetic strategies to fight back at death and guilt. One strategy for dealing with death is illustrated in a piece of art by British artist Damien Hirst. In 2007, he unveiled a sculpture titled For the Love of God—a diamond-encrusted platinum cast of a human skull priced at $98 million. The skull, cast from a 35-year-old 18th-century European male, was coated with 8,601 diamonds, including a large pink diamond worth more than $8 million in the center of its forehead. Hirst’s explanation of his work is fascinating: “I hope this work gives people hope—uplifting, take your breath away. . . . It shows we are not going to live forever. But it also has a feeling of victory over death.”

We need more than a feeling of victory over death—we need death to actually be overcome. And this is exactly what God has done through Jesus. Death reigns because of sin, and sin’s power over us is the condemnation of God’s law (1 Cor. 15:56). But “[Jesus our Lord] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Because of the work of Christ, you are declared pure, righteous, saved, blameless, holy, forgiven, and without condemnation.

At the cross, God turned his wrath away from you and toward Christ. Now, in the resurrection, God turns your eyes away from your sins and directs them to Christ. Our sins hurled him to the ground and trampled him, but God delivered Christ and made him alive. He has conquered our tyrants of sin and death. Christ is too strong for them.

Punching Through The Darkness

Punching Through The Darkness

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”John 8:12

Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of classic books like Treasure Island, spent his childhood in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 19th century. As a boy, Robert was intrigued by the work of the old lamplighters who went about with a ladder and a torch, setting the street lights ablaze for the night. One evening, as young Robert stood watching with fascination, his parents asked him, “Robert, what in the world are you looking at out there?” With great excitement he exclaimed, “Look at that man! He’s punching holes in the darkness!”

Jesus’ Primary Purpose

With that one statement of childish wonder, Stevenson captured the essence of Jesus’ words in John 8:12. Jesus came into this world and accomplished many great and miraculous wonders, yet his primary purpose was to punch great gaping holes in the darkness that shrouds all of us. He came to be the light to the entire world, and he came to punch holes in your darkness.

What does it mean for Jesus to punch holes in your darkness? It means that where you are weak or powerless to push against the darkness that closes in, that is the place where he wants to bring light bursting in. Jesus cares about punching holes in your darkness more than you desire for the darkness to go away. Our true hope is not that we can be strong enough to heal our own blindness, but that Jesus actually knows, sees, cares, and is powerful enough to do something about it.

No Matter What

Perhaps your darkness is something that you do or have done. Our rebellion against God brings disorder and decay to our lives. We have this crushing feeling that since we made our mess, we have to deal with it. In the midst of this, you need to hear that no matter what the darkness is, and no matter how much you have contributed to your darkness, Jesus can punch holes in it.

Perhaps your darkness is something that has been done to you. Maybe you are the victim. Maybe somebody trampled your trust, hurt you, or abused you in some way. Jesus wants to punch holes in that darkness.

Maybe your experience of darkness is the hovering weight of your depression or anxiety. Maybe the broken relationships in your life. Maybe you feel trapped. Or maybe your future looks dark and confusing. He wants to punch holes in that darkness, too. We need the One who is the light to cause us to see his light.

Darkness is not the final word on you. It may dominate your feelings right now, or it may come later, but it is not your final condition, because Jesus is a Savior who takes on the darkness so we can have the light. Instead of the death, decay, and darkness that we deserve, Jesus gives us life, liberation, and light.

The Theme Throughout The Entire Bible

The Theme Throughout The Entire Bible

“Salvation belongs to the LORD!” Psalm 3:8Jonah 2:9

This theme is repeated throughout the entire Bible: salvation belongs to the Lord. In the Old Testament, we see that God is always saving his people from danger. It is full of stories of God’s saving work, songs about God’s salvation from enemies in Psalms, and prophecies of salvation to come in the prophetic books from Isaiah to Malachi. When the angel came to Joseph, he said, “Name him Jesus, because he will save his people.” And then Jesus said, “I have come to seek and save the lost.” So when the Bible talks about salvation, it is proclaiming the central concept of the Christian faith and Scriptures.

Have you ever been asked by someone, “Are you saved?” That’s a great question—but saved from what? What does “salvation” mean?  We are saved from our sins, but why?

The Christian belief is that we are saved from God by God. This sounds odd at first hearing, and we may even protest. Often times we prefer to bail God out of actually being God. We are comfortable with a God who saves, but we don’t often like to think of God as judge. In order to be the saving God, he also has to be the judging God. It is his Law that we have broken and that stands in accusation of us. He has the final say over us. It is not me, or the devil, or the world; it is God, because he alone is sovereign. It is his call either to leave us condemned and dead in our sin or to raise us from the dead.

As theologian Mark Mattes has said, “God is so for you as your defender that he is against himself as your accuser.” This is the message of the cross, which is God saving you from God’s wrath by diverting it to Jesus. You are saved from God’s wrath by God’s mercy. Salvation belongs to the Lord!