The Greatest Blessing

Why Jesus is My Hero #50 of 52

I’m getting married on Saturday. It feels a bit surreal that it’s quite so soon all of a sudden, having been waiting for it for months and months. Suffice it to say, I am very excited about this fact.

But I’ve had some good reminders recently that it’s not the most exciting thing going on in my life. Marriage is just a picture of the much cooler blessings that are coming to those who are Christians, and in Christ the good God who gave the gift of marriage has given us blessings far beyond comparison. Listen to the Apostle Peter:

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:4-10)

In Christ, God the Father has called Christians out of darkness into his marvellous light. Not out of singleness into his marvellous state of marriage. Not out of unemployment into his marvellous world of work. Not out of low self-esteem into his marvellous place of confidence in who I am. But out of darkness into his marvellous light – we were saved from God’s wrath and ignorance of him and an eternity of hell so that instead we could enjoy life forever in his presence, adopted as his children, living his way with all the blessings of life with him poured out upon us.

Getting married may well be one of the greatest temporal blessings I’m likely to ever enjoy in this life, and so it’s only right that I should be not a little excited and very very thankful to God. But ultimately it is only for this life, and I need to keep reminding myself of the much greater eternal blessings Jesus has won for me at the cross. As Peter writes a little later on, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

The Lord’s Chosen Servant

Why Jesus is My Hero #49 of 52

Isaiah 42:1-9:

“Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
‘I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.'”

I’m not really sure what I can add to this totally awesome passage about why Jesus is so fab.

The Puritan Richard Sibbes makes much of v3 in his book “the bruised reed”: “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench”. It really brings out Jesus’ tenderness and gentleness with his people – as Psalm 103:14 puts it “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Being a Christian isn’t all about being perfect all the time and never messing up – it’s about trusting in a great saviour who paid a great price to forgive us a great debt so that we can live a grateful life. However bruised we feel, however much we feel like the flame is about to die out altogether, Jesus knows our need and he longs for us to run to his grace-filled arms for strength.

I rather like v4 as well: “He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.” Here is someone who will not rest until his purposes have come to pass, and being God he will never run out of enthusiasm or patience before achieving his goal. “Justice” here is a picture of the created order being brought back in line with God’s will – of all of the effects of the fall being reversed and things being set straight that formerly were crooked. What a great day that will be, and what a relief for bruised reeds and faintly burning wicks!

“I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.”

The Long Promised King

Why Jesus is My Hero #48 of 52

On Thursday voters across London were turning out to choose their candidate for Mayor, and there were also many local council elections across the country. Yet however enthusiastic we are about the concept of democracy, it can sometimes be hard to get especially excited about local elections – sometimes there’s a sense that we’re voting for people we’ve never heard of into positions of very limited authority (but as somebody who’s about to do a Bible study on Romans 13 next week, let me encourage you that you should still vote!)

Yet there is one leader that we should be very enthusiastic about – God’s anointed king, his Messiah. King David was one of Israel’s greatest kings, ruling a united nation at a time of unprecedented political and economic power, and who most importantly had a healthy relationship with the Lord God. David has this bright idea that he’d like to build God a house – a temple for his name to dwell in – but it turns out that God has other ideas. God turns it around and says he’s going to build David a house instead – an eternal dynasty that will know no end:

“Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me. Your throne shall be established for ever.'” (2 Samuel 7:11-16)

This passage is the foundation for all of the Messianic expectation that follows in the rest of the Old Testament – this sure and certain promise from God that he’s going to raise up a ruler in the line of David to sit on the throne forever. Superficially it looks like it might be referring to David’s son Solomon, and indeed there certainly is a partial fulfilment through him. But at the same time there is much about the ruler described here that seems to go beyond any merely human king.

When Jesus shows up on the scene in Mark 1 he announces “The kingdom of God is at hand” – because at last, after years of waiting, the king of that kingdom has arrived. Read the book of 1 and 2 Kings sometime and you find yourself being perpetually frustrated, as king after king fails to obey God as they ought, bringing ruin and disaster on themselves and the nation as a whole in the process. It’s heartbreaking to see the prosperity that Israel had under Solomon, only to see him throw it all away as his heart turns away in idolatry and goes after the foreign gods of his many wives. As much as we like to complain about our leaders, it’s God’s grace and mercy to give them to us for our good. But our supreme good is found in our supremely good leader – Jesus Christ, the true son of David. He’s the one king we can depend on – his heart remains eternally true to his Father in heaven, and through his resurrection from the dead we know he will never die again. Unlike the temporary prosperity enjoyed under Solomon’s reign, the blessings of being part of Jesus’ kingdom will never end, because his godly rule will never cease.

That’s why Jesus is my hero – because he’s exactly the kind of ruler I need: one who will remain wholly true to the Lord his God for all eternity, selflessly ruling over his kingdom for good forever.

The Downsides of Cohabitation

Interesting article on the potentially detrimental effects on a relationship of living together before you’re married from the New York Times:

“I’ve had other clients who also wish they hadn’t sunk years of their 20s into relationships that would have lasted only months had they not been living together. Others want to feel committed to their partners, yet they are confused about whether they have consciously chosen their mates. Founding relationships on convenience or ambiguity can interfere with the process of claiming the people we love. A life built on top of “maybe you’ll do” simply may not feel as dedicated as a life built on top of the “we do” of commitment or marriage.”

(-HT Tim Challies)