The Bloody Cross

Sounds rather grotesque doesn’t it? A naked criminal, hands and feet pierced by nails, hanging from a tree, drowning in his own blood and lung fluid.

 

And yet this is exactly how Jesus died–which is pretty strange, when you think about it. The King of glory is mocked and spit upon. The Prince of Peace is whipped and shackled, beaten and cursed.

 

Perhaps even stranger is that Christians love this particular execution. Christians glory in this death. Because, through the death of  Jesus on the cross, we are saved and forgiven (see Colossians 2:13-14). And so early on Christians began making the sign of the cross with their hands, putting it on their churches, and integrating into their art. Even today, it is not uncommon to see people wearing necklaces and bracelets with crosses.

 

It is the cross which has become a dominant Christian symbol. It is the Christian symbol. However, perhaps not everyone likes it this way.

 

When browsing through Spotify’s ‘Genre and Moods’ section, I noticed the Christian option. I was happy and surprised to find this secular music provider with a religious music selection (even if only because of the popularity of Christian music). Yet I was intrigued to find that Spotify had chosen a white dove as the symbol to represent this assortment of playlists. The ‘Party’ assortment has a disco ball, ‘Focus’ has a studying lamp, and ‘Romance’ has a heart. The ‘Christian’ selection has a dove.

 

What is so interesting about Spotify’s ‘Christian’ dove? It is evidence of the tempering and taming of Christianity. The dove represents hope and peace. Who can object to it? On a page dedicated to catering to the interests of customers, the dove offends no one. But the cross represents divine wrath, divine propitiation, and divine intrusion. Who can listen to this teaching? (see John 6:60)

 

Do Christians love peace? Yes! In many ways, the cross occured so we could be at peace with God and with one another (Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:14). Colosians 1:20 states that the (bloody) cross has actually brought us peace with God.

 

But the stubborn fact remains that Christianity is a bloody religion. At the center of our hope, as Christians, is that Jesus bore that divine judgment that we deserved. So let us keep the cross as our religion’s ‘symbol’, even if this disappoints those who want a more tolerable Christianity and a more tolerable Christ.

 

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).

 

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

 

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain…And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:6,9).

 

He is a bloody Savior and we will rejoice in this for eternity to come.

 

Reflection on ‘The Church’ (Mark Dever)

When I began this book I was anticipating a ‘typical’ 9Marks book. That is, some popular level references and arguments that are helpful and instructive, but in my opinion lacking in some of the substantive depth needed for a foundation. I had longed for a more rigorous exposition of the nature of the church. Happily, this was the book I had been looking for all along! The Church proved to technically proficient and dealt with the most basic issues of what (or who) a local church is.
Early on Dever makes the point that God has consistently been in the business of saving not just individuals, but a people. And specifically, a people that accurately reflects God’s character. And one of the attributes/adjectives that has been used to describe the church is holy. This is very helpful. The church is not merely a group of Christian extroverts coming together to exist however they want. Instead, Christians represent Christ. They are always promoting a message with their lives and doctrine of who God is.

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Does the Bible Prescribe Church Polity?

This Spring 2016 I hope to be at Together for the Gospel. That is, I hope to be worshiping and being equipped with my Presbyterian, Anglican, Bible church, and Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ (among others). I am glad that we can rejoice in and come together for the gospel that is of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). But just because a matter is of secondary importance, does not relegate it to the status of unimportance. Such is church polity. And I confess that I have often ignored and dismissed church governance as being unimportant (and maybe even unspiritual!). Thankfully, Bobby Jamieson’s Why New Testament Polity is Prescriptive gives a helpful corrective to such anti-authoritarian and post-modern thought by bringing us back to the Bible.

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Review of ‘Prayer’ (Tim Keller)

In general, I think Tim Keller is pretty good. I think he is great at engaging with skeptics and seekers, but I don’t agree entirely with his philosophy of ministry. I like Dever’s The Church more than Keller’s Center Church. He’s good, but I don’t think he is great. That is, until I read his recent work Prayer! I confess that this is one of the best books…that I have ever read. Yup. I was probably just as stunned by this admission as you are now! As I review my notes I am hard-pressed to choose what to highlight and what to leave aside.

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Review of ‘George Mueller Bio’ (John Piper)

Because I have already ready a Mueller biography, I was not expecting to learn much more by Piper’s efforts. And in some sense, much of what Piper expounded was review for me. Mueller was a great man of prayer, he was ultimately concerned with God’s glory as seen in His provision, and the Lord graciously blessed Mueller’s labors. But! I was surprised to see how Christian hedonism seemed so apparent in Mueller’s life. Of course, that is not how he would have put it. But Piper has a knack for finding these things.

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Review of ‘Deliberate Church’ (Mark Dever)

If one’s philosophy is ministry is like a building, then you might consider Mark Dever’s previous work The Church to be the foundation and The Deliberate Church to be the framing, drywall and plaster, with even some tips on painting and decor. Poor illustrations aside, this book is by far the most practical that I have read in the 9Marks series on healthy churches. And if there was any one 9Marks book to give to a pastor, it would be this one.

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Position Paper: the Church

Broadly put, the Church is the invisible body of elect Christians that have ever existed. And while the universal Church may be relatively easy to define, it starts to get a bit more tricky when one attempts to define the local church. Nevertheless since the Jerusalem Church in Acts 2 to the mega-church of the late twentieth century, I believe the Bible presents a standard pattern: a local church is a group of Christians that regularly gather together for the right preaching of God’s word and the right administration of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This definition begs for explanation and what follows is such an unpacking.
It must be noted that a true Christian local church is composed of Christians.

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Review of ‘A Call to Prayer’ (JC Ryle)

Ryle is concerned with the spiritual state of the universal Church. That is plainly evident from this tract on prayer. And Ryle’s concern is primarily directed at a perceived (private) prayerlessness among most church members and Christians. Of course, private prayer is a hard thing to measure, but I think Ryle’s accurate rebuke is just as fitting today as it was a century ago.

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The Relationship is in the Details

In a few weeks my wife and I expecting our first child. Lord willing, we’ll be having a baby girl about 14 months after we first got married. As we were reflecting on what has happened in the last year or so, my wife and I marveled at ‘how much better’ we know each other now. It feels like we must have been strangers when we married! Let alone when we got engaged. Or started dating.

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