Hosanna Past And Future

As we contemplate Palm Sunday today,  let’s look  back at Mark’s account of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” ~~Mark 11:1-10 (ESV)

Hopes soared high that day. Messiah had come at last, and surely He would end Roman oppression and usher in His kingdom. Finally, they thought, all the world would see how God favored Israel, and they rejoiced to witness this fulfillment of His promise.

A week later, feeling bitterly disillusioned, those same people demanded that Rome crucify Jesus. They didn’t understand that His kingdom would arrive in stages, allowing the Gentiles to come to saving faith.

But the completed canon of Scripture reveals that more must take place before the final consummation of His kingdom. We can rest assured that the King Who humbly entered Jerusalem riding on a  donkey colt will one day return in the clouds astride a white stallion as heavenly portals ring with loud Hosannas!

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Flashback Friday: Neglected Trinity

Originally published on February 13, 2016.

“God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!” Hymn singers will undoubtedly recognize that majestic closing line from “Holy, Holy, Holy,” a hymn that praises the magnificence of God by exploring various aspects of His glory. Yet, could our familiarity with the hymn (for Shamrock Shadedthose of us who still sing hymns) cause us to gloss over its doctrinal declaration that the one and only God exists as three distinct Persons–God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? And how often do we think about the Trinity anyway (except briefly when and if we sing “Holy, Holy, Holy”)?

The doctrine of the Trinity seems to receive very little attention in our present time, perhaps because our inability to “wrap our heads around it” embarrasses us. Of course our analogies of H2O (water, ice and vapor) and shamrocks fall short of providing adequate explanations of  how He could exist as three distinct Persons while being one in essence, and the shortcomings of those illustrations frustrate our desire to present convincing arguments. Mystery makes us uncomfortable. So we avoid the discomfort by simply minimizing or ignoring the topic altogether.

Additionally, few Scriptures state the doctrine in easy-to-use sound-bytes. Don’t misunderstand; the Bible certainly teaches that God is one Being in three distinct, co-existing Persons. But there’s no handy little proof-text to insert into a blog post to settle the question. We’d need separate essays examining the deity of the Father, the deity of the Son (Jesus Christ) and the deity of the Holy Spirit in order to clearly show that Scripture indeed teaches that God is a Triune Being.

Having said that, I’d invite you to examine Christian Apologetics & Resource Ministry‘s compilation of Scriptures at God As A Trinity. In authoring this article, Matt Slick links to several Scriptures that defend the doctrine of the Trinity, making it easy to study. He also counters common objections.

The strategy of neglecting the doctrine of the Trinity may buffer us from a good measure of intellectual discomfort. But that strategy also places people at risk of entering eternity without a true understanding of Who God is. Of Who Jesus is. And that’s very scary, since we must acknowledge Jesus as Lord (which necessarily assumes His deity) as a condition of salvation (Romans 10:9). So, while no human possesses the intellectual capacity to  comprehend how one God can exist in three Persons, it’s essential to understand that this doctrine is true. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are every bit as much God as the Father.

Having lost a dear friend who belonged to a cult that denied the Trinity, I believe it’s imperative that Christians regain an insistence on teaching this vital doctrine to young believers. A year before my friend’s death, I made the opportunity to tell her the true Gospel, and I emphasized the doctrine of the Trinity. Sadly, she gave no indication of accepting what I had to say, but I can hope that the Holy Spirit worked in her heart before she died.

And I pray now that evangelicals will increase the preaching of the Trinity, so people will know God fully. Rather than neglecting the doctrine for the sake of intellectual comfort, let’s boldly embrace it with joyful conviction, firmly established in the testimony of God’s Word. Oh, no one will actually comprehend how He could be a Trinity, since it is something far beyond the scope of our finite minds. But the very wonder of God in three Persons can draw us into worship.  “God in three Persons–blessed Trinity!”

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Flashback Friday: He Did It For Himself

I originally posted this article on April 30, 2016.

Cross of GloryAs Christians, of course we take great joy in the fact that Jesus shed His precious blood to pay the price for our sins. Indeed, the knowledge that He made that sacrifice fills us with awe, as we wonder why He would do such a outrageously generous thing.

Back in the 1980s, some evangelical churches taught that He redeemed us because He saw something in us worth saving. That explanation certainly boosted people’s self-esteem, but nothing in Scripture substantiated it. On the contrary, Ephesians 2:1-10 plainly tells us that nothing in us in any way merits the grace He has shown by taking our sin on Himself.

So if Christ had nothing to gain from us, why did He die for us? Obviously He loves us, although I don’t understand why He does. But Ephesians 2:7 offers an even fuller understanding of what motivated Him to such an incredible demonstration of love.

So let’s spend a little time looking at verse 7. Even though I’ll do my best to comment on this verse, I  hope you’ll take the time to look at the cross-references I’ll provide, as they offer deeper insight into the text. Scripture best interprets itself, so these cross-references will help you grasp the teaching in this verse.

But first let’s go back to the passage itself, shall we?

 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. ~~Ephesians 2:1-7 (ESV)

Paul begins verse 7 with the assuring statement that  God will, in the ages to come, give a fuller revelation

  • of the immeasuarable riches
  • of His grace
    • in kindness toward us
    • in Christ Jesus

Commentators differ on whether the “ages to come” denote succeeding generations of Christians who would understand the Ephesians’ conversions as a demonstration of God’s rich mercy or to the ages that will begin when Christ returns. The former interpretation finds support in 1Timothy 1:16, where Paul claims His own conversion as  an example of God’s mercy. Compare Titus 3:4-7, which states that the believers in the church Titus pastored experienced the same mercy as did the Ephesians. Yet 1 Peter 1:3-13 implies that God will display His mercy and grace at the time that Christ reveals Himself universally. I tend to favor the  latter understanding because Christ’s return is part of the Gospel.

God’s purpose in showering believers with grace and mercy benefits us, but ultimately it refers back to His character. Vincent’s Word Studies says that the grammar of the Greek phrase translated here as “He might show” implies that God does all this for His glory first, and then for our benefit. The primary emphasis on His glory,  over and above our blessing, must not be ignored!

The Lord showed similar mercy to Israel, not because they deserved it (they certainly didn’t!), but for the sake of His reputation (Ezekiel 36:21-23, Deuteronomy 7:7-8, Psalm  106:8, Psalm 115:1-2, Ezekiel 20:41). God bestows His mercy on us, just as He did on Israel, out of concern for His reputation among unbelieving nations. For this reason, as well as because of the way verse 7 flows from preceding verses, I tend toward the opinion that these “immeasurable riches” will coincide with Christ’s return when all will see Him (Matthew 24:30).

At the Lord’s return, He will at last become the focal point of all creation. While we will enjoy the privilege of spending eternity in His glorious presence, all the attention will center  exclusively on Him. Our only worth will come from His inexplicable love for us. And even that love, precisely because it refers back to His kindness, manifests  His glory. Truly, when He died for us, He did it for Himself.

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Hidden In His Protection

This world isn’t friendly towards anyone who takes Christ or His Word seriously. And since Obergefell, the hostility has become a great deal more open. No wonder we struggle with feelings of vulnerability!

Thankfully, we serve a Savior Who loves us passionately and tenderly. However the world may harm us emotionally, financially or even physically, He lovingly keeps our souls under His protection, assuring us of abundant spiritual blessings. He calls us to take refuge in Him as we delight in the pleasures of His glory and holiness. What a comfort to be hidden in His protection for all eternity.

I have always loved the hymn that I’m posting today because it reminds me to take shelter in the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps you also will find encouragement in its lyrics to trust Him as He hides your soul in the depths of His love.

 

 

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St. Patrick’s Breastplate

John and I listen to a variety of Christian podcasts and watch several Christian YouTube channels. I particularly enjoy Bruce Gore for his church history lectures. Bruce Gore isn’t a big Christian celebrity; he merely videotapes Adult Sunday School classes and classes he teaches in a Christian school. He’s informative and often amusing.

Last weekend, John and I watched Gore’s Sunday School class on St. Patrick. I’d heard and read about Patrick from other sources, so most of the information served as a refresher for me. He did add depth to the familiar narrative, most particularly in showing God’s hand in giving Patrick love and compassion for the very people who kidnapped and enslaved him.

But rather than focus solely on Patrick’s missionary work in Ireland, Gore wonderfully brought out Patrick’s love for Christ. As a matter of fact, Patrick clung to Christ as his breastplate Who shielded him.

But I was surprised when Gore said that Patrick wrote a hymn about Christ, which is sometimes referred to as The Breastplate of St. Patrick. When Gore mentioned that his church occasionally sings this hymn, I looked it up on YouTube. I love the way Patrick honored Christ in the lyrics. And what better hymn to post today?

 

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I Say It, But I Struggle To Mean It

Teardrop RoseHow many blog posts have I written piously declaring that life is about God’s glory rather than about what He can do on our behalf?  How many times have I insisted He created us for His purposes, not so that we can treat Him like a cosmic Butler Who exists to attend our every want?

Most assuredly, Christian bloggers run the risk of being gigantic hypocrites. Apparently, this little blogger isn’t immune from that risk.

Life at the Kespert household has been inundated with serious trials and pesky frustrations over the past six months, with very few good days mixed in. Lately I’ve been praying for just one week without trials. But crossing that threshold from 64 to 65 has convinced me that Continue reading

Adoring Him

Certainly, we should spend a lot of time adoring the Lord for graciously saving us. We lived as God’s enemies, rebelling against His standards and rebelling even more against His authority over us. Yet He loved us, through no merit of our own, and paid the complete price for our sin by shedding His blood on the cross.

Many beloved hymns rightly celebrate Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf, and I delight in featuring such hymns most Sundays. But once in a while, it’s good to shift our attention to His holiness and majestic nature — to set aside all He’s done for us in favor of worshiping Him for His own sake.

Today’s short hymn adores the Lord for His holiness and majesty. Maybe we need this sweet reminder.

 

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