Pastor's Blog

Christ Who Dies

I write this on my birthday. 

I was born on November 7, 1960, at the Jefferson County Hospital in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. That was a Monday, too. I was born the day before John F. Kennedy was elected President. Tomorrow voters across our great land will elect a President. If you're reading in this on the Monday it was written, then ... please vote.

I'll be shameless about this: if for no other reason then vote as a birthday present to me. I sincerely hope, my face crimson with embarrassment, that  you will vote for far more important reasons than my birthday. God knows there are a gazillion more important reasons! But, whatever. If scribbling my birthday to the bottom of the list of real reasons will tip the scale and provoke you to vote then so be it. Just go vote.

If you're reading this on a later day then I hope you voted. If you did, thank you. If you did not, well, you should have. And yes, I do hope you feel guilty for not voting. Come on: it was my birthday! Once every 28 years my birthday comes before election day. How could you forget that? You can redeem your negligence in 12 years. The election falls on my birthday in 2028. Mark it down. Don't disappoint me.

What does this have to do with Philippians 2.5-11 and "Christ Who Dies"? Not a darn thing. My birthday and who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office is, really, not important. My birthday comes once a year and this will remain unchanged until either I die or the Lord Jesus Christ returns in glory. If the Lord tarries then I'll be another year older. Glad for it and I hope future observances results in happiness and good meals. 

Elections and who sits where and is thus empowered to do this or that for a time: in our current circumstances these days come every four years. I take a rather jaundiced view. You may not. I do. 

"Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as dust on the scales;
behold, He takes up the coastlands like fine dust.

Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.

All the nations are as nothing before Him,
they are accounted by Him as less than nothing and emptiness."
Isaiah 40.15-17

Kind'a humbling to our vaunted sense of national exceptionalism to find ourselves lumped in with the rest of "the nations." Dust? Us?

Yep.

"Nothing and emptiness"?

Yep and more yep. Deal with it. God rules.

Figuratively, God in His sovereign power stands feet planted athwart the ravines and peaks of world history; nations rise and fall, powers come and go: God reigns in awesome majesty! Do you doubt this? Are you willing to say, "No, God does not rule over all times and all places and all peoples?" You may be willing to say that. I am not willing say that. 

At the center of all time and history one event - one singular event - dwarfs all else. All else either gains or shrinks in significance relative to this one event. What is this one event? My birthday? A quadrennial election? Heavens, no!

Jesus - God the Son - broke the plane of eternity and entered our world, lived in humiliation as a servant and died on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for sin. God raised Him from the dead, eternally affirming our forgiveness in Christ and securing our salvation in Christ.

Loved ones, many events may rightly be considered as important in their day and worthy of our responsible diligence. Wisdom ought inform our stewardship of these "many events." Vote your conscience as God has given you freedom and opportunity to do so. Celebrate special days ... like my birthday or your birthday.

But, above all, make most important in your life what actually is most important to your life. And ... spoiler alert: it's not a birthday and it's not an election. 

Christ upon the cross: the Savior slain for sinners!
Christ raised from the dead: King of kings and Lord of lords!

 

 

 

Posted by Tim Alexander with

Christ Who Empties

What is normal desired trajectory of a career? Think about it.

Often the career trajectory most people seek runs something like this:

  • start at the bottom
  • gain experience, expertise
  • seek advancement
  • attain promotion and/or greater influence
  • as much as possible, finish on top

Sounds about right, doesn't it? When this trajectory is not followed, don't we often wonder why? The Greek chorus chants in the background: "Unfulfilled potential. He was so promising. She never could get to the next level. Stalled. Ahh, what might have been."

The trajectory of Christ is exactly the opposite. He began in ultimate divine glory, lowered Himself to humanity, embraced the humiliation of servanthood and died a (seemingly) ignoble, powerless death. His was a trajectory which went from the praises of heaven to the silence of a cold grave.

But, continue thinking about it.

How often does our "normal" and "expected" career trajectory deepen our souls and nourish our relationships? Especially in our own era, how many soul-disquieting compromises will we make pursuing our precious "normal"?

Office politics. Looking over our shoulders. Job insecurity which (seemingly) forces us to harden ourselves against developing close ties. Transparency replaced by guardedness. Trust replaced by anxiety. Who is an ally? Who needs to be cultivated and who can be ignored? It all becomes so second-nature. We begin to see each other not as persons but as objects. Even the joy of pursuing our chosen interests and developing our skills gets overwhelmed: 

  • "I don't really want to get that degree, but if I don't I'll fall behind."
  • "I don't really want to make that trip or attend that conference, but I need to earn points, or I need to be seen: it will help my career."
  • "I don't feel good about the direction we're headed - it doesn't smell right. But I've got to be a team player ... or else. The family will understand."

Not Jesus.

He was free. Having released Himself from protecting His status, there was nothing He feared losing. He could not be threatened. Taunts and insults bounced off Him like ping pong balls off a brick wall. His heart was not bound to self-preservation. His personality was not addicted to being important. He had no place to lay His head. He washed the feet of His personal betrayer. With what could He be threatened? Being last in line? Didn't get a raise this year? Get passed by for promotion? Someone else's name on the bottom of the sale's contract? A transfer to obscurity? Demotion?

Jesus made an ultimately powerful decision affecting the lives of millions. He made it before He began His "career." He chose to love and live His entire life for the benefit of others, for the glory of God. He removed "Himself" from consideration. He chose the downward trajectory to eternal glory. 

Remember how Jesus prayed for "the cup" to be taken away from Him? (Luke 22.42) The "cup" was God's wrath against sin. But His higher priority was accomplishing the will of God and so He drank that cup.

But, if you can visualize it, would you please consider this image? 

The cup presented to Him had formerly been filled with the glory Jesus had enjoyed with the Father before the world was formed. (John 17.24) Filled to the brim! There was none like it in all of heaven itself. None possessed it and none could drink of it but Jesus alone: God the Son. And yet there had come a time, an instant of terrible and awesome silence which blanketed the halls of heaven, when Jesus had taken His cup and ... He emptied it.

What was ultimately precious and His alone: He poured it out.

And if you can visualize it (please, use your imagination) in the Garden as He prayed God comes to Him with this same cup: His and His alone. But now, what fills His cup is not eternal glory but just and righteous wrath. This He did not pour out. He did empty it, though. He emptied it by drinking it to the last bitter drop. 

"Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father."

Posted by Tim Alexander with

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