The Human Jesus

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We saw that our beautiful Jesus became grotesque—taking our ugly sin on Himself so that He could clothe us with His perfectly righteous robe. In so doing, He became even more resplendent. His friend John saw Him in such radiant beauty that he crumbled to his knees at the sight of His majesty (Revelation 1:12-16)! 

Just like John and others in the Bible, when we see ourselves in contrast to His awesome beauty, we often feel shabby and unworthy to be in His presence. Job expressed his desire to somehow get away from this Perfection (Job 7:11-21). Ultimately, in his desperation, Job utters something prophetic—

God is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer Him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that His terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of Him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot. (Job 9:32-35) 

When we are confronted with the perfection of God, we all want “someone to arbitrate”—someone who will fairly represent both sides. We need someone both God and man. Since man cannot become God, only God can become man. Isaiah prophesied it this way, “God saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so His own arm achieved salvation for Him” (Isaiah 59:16). 

This Arbitrator or Mediator is Jesus the Christ! 

Jesus means “help from Jehovah.” This is His human name given to Him at His birth (Luke 1:31; Matthew 1:21, 25; Luke 2:21). 

Christ or Messiah means “anointed by God” and is His divine title. Often His title is used with the definite article “the” to signify that Jesus is the One and Only Messiah (Luke 2:26-27; John 1:41; Matthew 16:16; Acts 10:38). 

William Barclay commented on this: “Peter states [that Jesus was a human descendent of David] in the first recorded sermon of the Christian Church (Acts 2:29-36). Paul speaks of Jesus Christ descended from David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3). The writer of the Pastoral Epistles urges men to remember that Jesus Christ, descended from David, was raised from the dead (2 Timothy 2:8). The writer of the Revelation hears the Risen Christ say: ‘I am the root and the offspring of David’ (Revelation 22:16).” 

Many times this human name and divine title are linked together. In Hebrews, the name Jesus is used more times than any other title (19x), and Christ is the second-most used title (15x).

(For my Patreon supporters, I’ve shared a list of all of the titles for Jesus used in the book of Hebrews.)

Hebrews makes it perfectly clear how important it is that Jesus was made fully human just like us. We read phrases like

  • “made a little lower than the angels,” which was David’s way of talking about humans (see Psalm 8:4-6) 
  • “made perfect through suffering”—only humans can suffer 
  • “flesh and blood” 
  • “made like His brothers in every way” 
  • “His life on earth”

Remember that I said the most-used titles in Hebrews were Jesus and Christ. The third-most used title in Hebrews is high priest (14x). Only the Human Jesus and the Divine Jesus could be the perfect High Priest and Mediator that Job longed for, and that you and I have to have!

This post is a part of a bigger series on prayer with the subtitle: “Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus.” So what does it mean that we can pray in the human name of Jesus? 

It means we don’t have to pray majestic prayers in order for God to take notice. We can pray very human prayers, we can groan with real human pain, we can growl with real human anger. Our totally human Jesus understands us, and the totally divine Christ runs to help us! 

Don’t try to sanitize your prayers to make them sound acceptable. Jesus didn’t! How awesome it is to have a High Priest who is both fully human and fully divine! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series on prayer, you can find a link to all of them by clicking here. 

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Poetry Saturday—I Asked The Lord That I Might Grow

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray;
And He, I trust, has answered prayer:
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d grant me my request;
And, by His love’s constraining power,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this? I trembling cried;
Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?
‘Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free,
To break thy schemes of worldly joy,
That thou mayst seek thy all in Me. —John Newton

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Links & Quotes

I love Charle Spurgeon’s definition of godliness: “God Himself is the power of godliness. The Holy Spirit is the life and force of it. Godliness is the power that brings a man to God and bind him to Him. Godliness is that which creates repentance toward God and faith in Him. Godliness is the result of a great change of heart and reference to God and His character. Godliness looks toward God and mourns its distance from Him. Godliness hastens to draw near and rests not till it is at home with God. 

“Godliness makes a man like God. Godliness leads a man to love God and to serve God. It brings the fear of God before his eyes and the love of God into his heart. Godliness leads to consecration, to sanctification, to concentration. The godly man seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and expects other things to be added to him. Godliness makes a man commune with God and gives him a partnership with God in His glorious designs. And so it prepares him to dwell with God forever.”

Viz.Bible has a great way of portraying the data of the Bible in very picturesque ways. Check out this link to see an overview of the Bible like I have bever seen before!

The folks at Axis Ministry provide some amazing insights for parents (and youth pastors) of pre-teens through the early college years. I would highly recommend subscribing to their free weekly email. Here is their Parent’s Guide To Teen Emotions, which is a free PDF for you to download.

Self-Leadership

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I had a great time on the Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis and Dace Clifton. 

Kyle asked me how I lead myself so that I can stay effective in my leadership roles. 

Effective and long-lasting leadership really does start with the leader’s self-leadership practices. I have to know myself well, so I am a big proponent of taking as many assessments as I can. These give me a window of insight into how I’m thinking and how I’m communicating. As I get to know myself better, I can get to know the sheep around me better as well. 

We all have a native way of thinking, speaking, and leading. It’s arrogant to think we can just “say it like it is” and everyone around us will immediately understand. Instead, I need to understand how my thinking and speaking “dialects” are unique to me, and that everyone on my team and every sheep in my pasture also have their own unique dialects. It’s as I get a window of insight into the way God has uniquely wired me, that I will also begin to appreciate the uniqueness of those around me. This will allow me to lovingly speak in their native dialect. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I discuss how leaders can create the time that is needed to get to know themselves and the flock that God has placed under their care.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Be Careful

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Be Careful

Having a form of godliness but denying its power…. (2 Timothy 3:5)

     Time was when to be a Christian was to be reviled, if not to be imprisoned and perhaps burned at the stake. Hypocrites were fewer in those days, for a profession cost too much. …  Today religion walks forth in her velvet slippers. And in certain classes and ranks, if men did not make some profession of religion, they would be looked upon with suspicion. Therefore men will take the name of Christian upon them and wear religion as a part of full dress. …

     I do not doubt that a form of godliness has come to many because it brings them ease of conscience and they are able, like the Pharisee, to thank God that they are not as other men are. … 

     Many who have the form of godliness are strangers to its power and so are in religion worldly, in prayer mechanical, in public one thing, and in private another. True godliness lies in spiritual power, and they who are without this are dead while they live. … 

     In the depths of winter, can you warm yourself before a painted fire? Could you dine off the picture of a feast when you are hungry? There must be vitality and substantiality—or else the form is utterly worthless and worse than worthless, for it may flatter you into deadly self-conceit. Moreover, there is no comfort in it. The form without the power has nothing in it to warm the heart, to raise the spirits, or to strengthen the mind against the day of sickness or the hour of death. … 

     If you tremble at God’s Word, you have one of the surest marks of God’s elect. Those who fear that they are mistaken are seldom mistaken. If you search yourselves and allow the Word of God to search you, it is well with you. … 

     If the Spirit of God leads you to weep in secret for sin and to pray in secret for divine grace, if He leads you to seek after holiness, if He leads you to trust alone in Jesus, then you know the power of godliness, and you have never denied it.

From The Form Of Godliness Without The Power

Spurgeon mentioned the Pharisee that said, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people. Especially like that tax collector over there.” Jesus said that the tax collector who humbly said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” is the one who went home justified by God (see Luke 18:9-14). 

That’s where the warning comes in. When we begin to compare ourselves to others, when we begin to say, “I’m better than him” or “At least I don’t mess up as bad as she does,” instead of judging ourselves by God’s standard, we are in real danger of having merely a form of godliness without any real power. 

Paul said, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall,” and challenged each of us to “test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” (1 Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 6:4). 

I would challenge everyone that calls themself a Christian to be careful! Don’t fool yourself by saying, “I do all of the things a Christian is supposed to do, so I must be standing firm.” But ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you even your hidden sins, and then just as the tax collector who experienced God’s reassurance in his heart did, pray: “God, be merciful to me. Help me to correct what’s wrong. May my life be godly not just in outward performance, but in the power that can only come from a vibrant, growing relationship with You!” 

Let’s all strive to not only have the form of godliness, but to have the real energizing power of godliness on full display in our daily lives.

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11 Quotes From “Out Of The Depths”

John Newton’s autobiography Out Of The Depths contains a very interesting closing chapter. They are not the words written by John Newton, but the words spoken by him to his friends and parishioners. Here are a few that especially caught my attention. You can check out my full book review of Out Of The Depths by clicking here.  

“If two angels were sent from heaven to execute a divine command, one to conduct an empire and the other to sweep a street in it, they would feel no inclination to change employments.”

“A Christian should never plead spirituality for being a sloven. If he be but a shoe cleaner, he should be the best in the parish.” 

The remaining nine quotes are exclusive content for my Patreon supporters. In addition to book quotes, there are videos and behind-the-scenes views that only these supporters have access to. I would love it if you would prayerfully consider supporting my ministry for just $5 per month.

Panic From Puniness

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent (Isaiah 28:29). 

Throughout the Scripture, God always makes clear the two options we have: Our way or His way. 

Man’s way is described like this: “For it is: do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that, a little here, a little there” (v. 10). In other words, man says, “We’ve got this all figured out. We have a plan for everything.” 

Until they don’t. 

Until the world is not going according to plan, and worldwide panic sets in, and a new plan needs to be formulated. In the meantime, people are fearful, angry, confused, and panicking. 

God describes His way like this: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic” (v. 16). 

God has had a plan in place since before time began. Nothing disrupts His plan. Nothing derails His plan. So the one who trusts in Him “will never be stricken with panic.” 

So here’s the decision everyone will have to make: Will I trust the puny plans of a finite human, and experience the panic that sets in when those plans fail? Or will I put my trust in the only One whose plans are never thwarted? One plan leads to panic, and the other leads to peace. 

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Out Of The Depths (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I’ve heard it reported (and I quite believe it) that “Amazing Grace” is the best-known song in the world. This song of God’s unfathomable grace was written by a pastor who was once a slave trader. Out Of The Depths is the autobiography of slave-trader-turned-pastor John Newton. 

This story is told largely through the re-printing of letters that John Newton wrote to a friend over a lengthy correspondence. The original letters were not preserved, so as Mr. Newton wrote them again, he said that he added details that he hadn’t included in the first writing. Then the book closes with some remembrances of a dear friend, and a compilation of some short maxims that Pastor Newton used in his sermons and in conversations with friends. 

One of the real benefits of Newton writing these letters so long after the actual events is his ability to look back at the lessons he learned through his various trials. Granted, many of his trials were brought on by his own stubbornness, but still the beginning of the message of grace from his memorable hymn is heard in the recounting of these stories. 

Another key aspect of his story is his relationship with his wife. She and her family were much more committed Christians than Newton was at the time he began to show an interest in his bride-to-be, but neither she nor her family allowed the courtship to proceed until Newton had entirely surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. Their marriage was a source of great strength and encouragement to Pastor Newton. 

I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy learning about the key figures of church history. 

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The Beautiful Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I think we all know the cliche, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” But isn’t that too shallow? Are we really saying that beauty is only what we can see on the surface? Instead, I think we should say, “True beauty is in the heart of the beholder.”   

Where does beauty begin? What is its source? 

Jesus told us, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I can only love others to the level that I love myself, and that also means that I can only see beauty in others as I see it in myself. But if I try to achieve this by just loving myself or telling myself how beautiful I am, my pride comes in and crumbles the whole foundation. 

So the first thing Jesus told us was to go to the Source—to Love Himself: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30-31). When we come to our Heavenly Father through our beautiful Savior we discover how beautiful we are in Him. We are clothed in the righteous robes of Jesus, which makes us as beautiful as He is. Then our Father sings His love to us (see Song of Songs 2:10, 4:7). 

The dictionary defines beauty this way: “The quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind.” But the word beauty originated from a Latin word that meant good or virtuous. Sadly, our vain world has made beauty something that is only skin deep, and very rarely is someone’s goodness or virtue described as beautiful. 

Let me say it again: “True beauty is in the heart of the beholder.” Peter and Jesus both make this same point, reminding us that something beautiful on the outside can actually be covering up something quite ugly on the inside, or to say it another way: true beauty is far deeper than merely what we see with our eyes (1 Peter 3:3-4; Matthew 23:27). 

On the other hand, Isaiah prophesied about Jesus that, “there was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him” (Isaiah 53:2 NLT). Outwardly, especially at His crucifixion, Jesus was grotesque, but this ugliness was our ugliness—our sin, and our disease, and our pride that Jesus took on Himself. He willingly took on our ugliness to allow us to exchange ashes for beauty, mourning for rejoicing, and sin for righteousness (Isaiah 53:2-5; 61:1-2, 9-10). 

So in prayer, we go to the One who isn’t beautiful in the eyes of a vain world. Jesus made Himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, He came not to be served but to serve, He washed dirty feet, He hung out with sinners, He didn’t stay at the Ritz (He didn’t even have a home of His own), and He had only one set of clothes to wear. But He willingly took on all of our pain and sin so that He could take away our ugly robes and clothe us in His beautifully perfect robe of righteousness. 

It’s only when I know how beautiful and loved I am in God’s sight that I can begin to love others and see the beauty in them. 

Looking at True Beauty is the only way I can see myself correctly. Looking at True Beauty I can see the intrinsic worth and beauty in others. 

Prayer takes me to the beautiful Savior. Prayer reveals Christ’s beauty in me. Prayer brings His beauty to a vain world. 

“Without prayer the Christian life, robbed of its sweetness and its beauty, becomes cold and formal and dead; but rooted in the secret place where God meets and walks and talks with His own, it grows into such a testimony of divine power that all men will feel its influence and be touched by the warmth of its love.” —E.M. Bounds 

I pray that we will know this truth—that true beauty is in the heart of the beholder—and that we will truly know that Real Beauty is only found when we gaze at our beautiful Savior. 

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If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on prayer called Awesome: Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus, you can find all of the messages by clicking here.

Sanctity Of Human Life Sunday

We are blessed to have such an excellent pregnancy resource center in Cedar Springs. Alpha Family Center is a loving place to help families through some of the challenges of raising and caring for a family.

Calvary Assembly of God actively supports Alpha, and we invite you to join us in this.

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