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Meditations

Life Branded By Death

The only life peculiarly marked by the Resurrection of Christ is a life peculiarly lived in constant thought of the death of Christ.

A right response to the gospel is death to self and life to God because of, by the power of, and to the praise of His glorious grace. The only truly “Christian” life, then, is a life branded by death—the death of Christ.

May we live this day by faith, in this thought: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

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Meditations

Ignorance and Apathy

To learn is to grow. But not all learning inspired growth is the same. There are two arresting realities that press upon my heart as I continue to study, learn, and become more knowledgeable of divine truth: (1) that my learning increases the knowledge of my ignorance, and (2) that the more I learn the more sensible my heart becomes to the need for more than information. In light of these reflections, I am reminded that we must guard from both ignorance and apathy.

We must diligently grow in the knowledge of God — We must not settle for lesser things when our minds were created to intellectually pursue God and thus worship Him. This is not merely a matter of education. Knowledge is not our obsession, truth is. Not all information is true and therefore not all knowledge is truth. Moreover, not all truth is equal. Knowing truth is not equal to loving Christ, but we cannot rightly love what we do not rightly know. So, knowledge is key to love but is not love. May we continue to learn in order to love. There is so much to learn about our majestic awe-inspiring God, may we not complacently settle for ignorance, as though we will ever ‘know enough’.

We must diligently beware of graceless knowledge — We are moral creatures and not mere computers. All education is moral. All learning is moral. What we do with what we know is moral. No one is neutral. No one is unbiased. No one is truly objective. Therefore, we must not assume that we will do the right thing simply by having the right information. Theology saves no one, God does by grace. Preaching finds its distinctive from teaching here. Biblical preaching is teaching biblical truth with moral unction and urgency. May we not complacently settle for knowledge without earnestly entreating the God of grace for the grace we need to love and live rightly in light of the knowledge He gives. We know so much and often feel so little. God help us.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
(2 Peter 3:18)

In love, Pastor Manny

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Meditations

Substitution

I do not believe that we can overstate the importance of substitution. Salvation is stunningly simple and yet profoundly complex. There are many vital and essential truths that are necessary for an accurate apprehension of the ‘good news’. There are the truths of God’s holiness, righteousness, power, omniscience, justice, goodness, wrath, forbearance, mercy, grace, and love. There are the doctrines of depravity, sin, judgment, grace, justification, imputation, regeneration, adoption, faith, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

So, to say that substitution is “the supreme distinctive” of the gospel of Christ is only valid because without it there could be no forgiveness of sin, no justification of sinners, and no reconciliation with a holy God. Forgiveness would be outright injustice. Grace would be criminal partiality. Reconciliation would be the brazen compromise of holiness. The trustworthiness of God would be blatantly destroyed. Justice would be hopelessly shattered; and even more unutterable, God would be corrupt. The substitution of Christ is the kingpin of salvation (Is 53:10-12; Dan 9:24; Mt 26:28; Mk 10:45; Jn 10:15; Rom 4:25; 5:6, 8; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 1:4; 3:13; Eph 5:2; 1 Tim 2:6; Titus 2:14; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:18-19; 2:24; 3:18; Rev 5:9)!

Without Christ substituting Himself for us, in our stead, on our behalf, in the place of us, we would have to answer to God’s holiness on our own. No moral example and no enlightening influence will avail in the face of God’s wrath against sin.

Forgiveness hinges on substitution; otherwise God would be committing the injustice of dismissing willful moral evil without consequence. But God has promised that He will by no means acquit the guilty. Since “all have sinned” (Rom 3:23), the only way that God can say that He “forgives iniquity, transgression and sin” and at the very same time One who “will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Ex 34:7 NASB), is through a substitute. The Substitute voluntarily suffers the punishment due the criminal and since the crime has been punished, justice has not been compromised and yet the guilty has been acquitted. Only through a just substitute, can God forgive sin.

Justification hinges on substitution; otherwise God would be committing the abomination of declaring the wicked ‘righteous’. This He openly disdains: “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD” (Prov 17:15). God would be an abomination to God if He justified sinners without a Substitute. This is at the center of why Christ came. God put Christ forward as a substituting sacrifice “so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26).

In like manner, imputation hinges on substitution; God’s righteousness hinges on substitution; God’s grace hinges on substitution; God’s forbearance hinges on substitution; God’s holiness hinges on substitution; God’s trustworthiness hinges on substitution; God’s love is expressed in substitution.

The gospel is therefore most approximately summarized in the principle of substitution.

When Paul passionately emphasized that he determined to know nothing among the philosophically minded Corinthians except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2), he was driving one sacred stake into the ground with the mighty power of two heavenly hammers. The stake is the gospel and the gospel is God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself through the substitution of the one and only God-man. The gospel is Christ. And Christ rightly known is Christ slain in the substitution of sinners. This is the absolute uniqueness of the gospel, Christ and Him crucified as our substitute!

Pastor Manny, an unashamed substitutionalist

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Meditations

Jesus Wept

“Jesus wept” (Jn 11:35). As it has been said, “two little words: a whole verse, of infinite value.” It is not only the shortest verse in the Bible; it is one of the deepest. Volumes of meaning are expressed in the combination of these two words. Words that, separately, sound quite familiar to our ears, but summon pause when joined together. Both the term and the tense of the verb that is used may be more fully expressed: “began to flood with tears”—Jesus began to flood with tears. The Great I AM, who was and is and is to come, began to flood with tears. Selah.

The tears of God left their appointed place to spill-over and moisten the cheeks of the One who knew no sin and yet, in love, chose to bear sin’s penalty on behalf of sinners. He was afflicted with our penalty and suffered under consequences of our rebellion. Love has no deeper expression. This was a quiet weeping, a silent cry, a personal emotion not interested in sympathetic attention or credit for caring. It signaled deep emotional pain. He was the “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3). He asked His closest disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They reported that some said that He was Jeremiah, who was well known as “the weeping prophet”—after all, it was Jeremiah who wrote Lamentations. We never see Jesus laughing in the Scripture, and yet we are told that, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears” (Heb 5:7). We see Him, shortly after the scene of John 11, approaching the holy city, Jerusalem, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it” (Lk 19:41). His emotions were never more deeply expressed than when He looked upon unbelief in the hearts of His creatures. In three short years, Jesus faced more anguish of soul, more accumulated sorrow, and more acute pain than others meet in a lifetime. Yet, He was never embittered by it all. He did not become hardened of heart, cynical, or complaining. He was not impatient when repeatedly faced with human weakness nor vindictive with human rebellion. Instead, He cried out, “Father, forgiven them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).

Jesus wept with those who wept. He hurt with those who hurt over the consequence of their sin and the sin of the world. Jesus wept. Were we made to weep? Are tears of sorrow to be seen in the new earth? We are promised that this One, who wept, will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev 21:4) when we enter His final Kingdom. Although He knew no sin, He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3) and willfully subjected Himself to feel the pain of the curse and all of sin’s consequences (cf. Gal 3:13). He was touched by our infirmities. He was no less able to feel the depth of human pain than He was able to save human souls. Indeed, we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, “but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). Let us not forget that it was Jesus, the Word, who wept. The Word who was with God and who is God, wept.

We know that Christ knew the beginning from the end of this episode with Lazarus (cf. Jn 11:4, 15, 40). Yet, His intimate knowledge of past, present, and future did not prevent Him from entering into the pain of friends. How immensely instructive this is! While He works all things together for good to those who love Him (Rom 8:28), He fails not to feel our trials, with deep compassion. He sees our tears (cf. Is 38:5) and because of His sacrifice, all who trust in Him will someday have all tears personally transformed into joy (cf. Ps 126:5)—forever! May we pause and behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and worship Him as our divine Loving and Sympathizing High Priest.

Jesus wept. Selah.