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Archive for November, 2010

How Deep is your Lost?

(ESV) Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

The title Son of Man is His identification with humanity. The Lord uses it time and again to demonstrate the richness of God’s purpose for man. The Psalmist writes of this great purpose:

(ESV) Psalm 8:4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

The life of Jesus Christ is the manifestation of God’s care for man. The Gospel of Luke shows over and over the investment of God for man by the Son of Man’s ministry to man. What was it that brought the Son of Man to seek and to save the lost? You might say, “because, men are lost” and that would be correct. But let’s take this one step further. The word lost in the Greek is not just the simply idea of misplacing something that you once had—like you would a set of car keys. The word means, “something has been utterly destroyed” like you’ve lost your car to a fire. The Lord did not come to merely seek and save an item that had gone missing, the idea of this verse is that the Son of Man seeks and saves the utterly destroyed humanity of man.

Humanity was infinitely ruined and the Real Man—Jesus Christ—the Son of Man has come to seek and save all humanity to His new state. It’s very much like Robert Murray McCheyne once said, “He that created humanity in His own image at first must create you over again.” It’s not the idea that God wants to recreate you—instead you are a total new creation in Christ. You think I’m creating hyperbole? Listen to what Paul, says about Christ’s coming as the Son of Man.

(ESV) 1 Corinthians 15:47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.

He is the head of a new humanity! Jesus, the Son of Man is the second man from heaven—the author of a new creation! I think it’s very fitting that Luke, an associate and personal companion of the Apostle Paul, should be the one to capture the depths of Christ’s humanity. Luke seems to have a heightened awareness of the humanity of Christ and desires his readers know the same.

J. Robert Hanson


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I had an excellent question from a dear man on a recent topic that I’d love to answer. Here’s his question from the post “Success or Failure, What are My Options!”:

“This is a thorough indictment of society! Could you give some examples of how we practically live this, in terms of how to learn from worldly failures? Or perhaps this could lead into a post on how do you know if you’re following God’s will?”

These are great questions! Thank you for reading the post so thoroughly. Let me look at the first question backwards if you don’t mind. When I think of what we can learn from discovering worldly failures, what comes to mind is the story of the rich young ruler. At the end of the young man’s conversation with the Lord, he was visibly disturbed by the advice of selling possessions, redistributing wealth and following Jesus. The Lord’s comment to His followers:

Matthew 19: 24 “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

The rich man’s success would not buy him one square inch of real estate in the kingdom or one gram of satisfaction in this life. Sadly, his dissatisfaction with life and his impending future heaven sees as evidence of a colossal failure. He was unable to part with his riches and therefore walked off discontent. However, what I find most interesting are the disciples. They ask:

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

To those listening in on the discussion, the youth’s life was an astonishing success! No doubt, as is the case of most rich, young and powerful, the crowds knew exactly who this young man was. He was a success story that everyone, even the disciples, determined as good! He’d kept the commandments, He’d done many good deeds, and he’d even asked the Savior for the way of eternal life. What could be more perfect? He took all the right steps for a successful person and was therefore applauded by men. When the disciples saw the Lord expose his failure, their rightful quandary was “Who then can be saved?” If not this man with his success story then who? Surely if this man, with all his achievements, cannot find the kingdom who can? Who, who, who?

Now we learn the lessons from worldly failures. Of course, the world will never agree this man has failed. He will be asked to headline and speak at some dinner banquet for individuals aspiring wealth and happiness. But, for those who desire the kingdom of God, the lesson points to our need for a paradigm shift in ethics—which only comes spiritually. For the young man, heaven’s judgment was not success is good. For him, success fell short of the mark. Society applauds him, and those that hold the same value wonder why the Lord points out failure. Society’s judgment is out of whack; tough it’s natural. The Lord points out there is really only one thing He needs to do—the will of God which for him was sell and follow. His call was to accept Jesus’ judgment of what is necessary and do that “will of God.” To those listening in, they learn the possibility of the impossible. I’ve often wondered how the Lord would have helped this rich young man if only he’d chosen to do the will of God as Jesus put it to him.

Practically I catch myself every day judging and valuing people based upon the success or failure of a person. It is very ingrained into my way of thinking—too ingrained. Within my church fellowship I see achievement and allow myself to think as James warns against:

2:2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Oh, I would never do that outwardly (I’m much too good a Pharisee), but inside I catch myself making those judgments all the time. And, especially as a man with a pastoral ministry, I must repent of this every time I see it. I find my first inclination is to drift toward those I’m comfortable with and those I recognize as successful—this is not good! The paradigm shift necessary is to accept the judgments of God and do His will found in His Word. I hope this gets close to answering the question. Well, I gave you an ear (or eye) full on this one. I might just write a post on “how do I know if I’m following God’s will?” That is a great topic and I dare say I find many are interested in.

jrh

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(NAS) Mark 15:34 At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

There were two judgments at work upon the cross of Calvary: the judgment of men and the judgment of God. And while it is difficult to separate the one from the other, the two are unmistakably at work. In the Meaning of Sacrifice I mentioned Jesus suffering at the hands of man. After a manipulated trial came the beatings and brutal lashings. Walking the Via Dolorosa were steps of violence. The third to the ninth hour of the day saw man’s judgment with the crucifixion resulting in fatality. Yet, in the midst of being forsaken of all men we read He spoke, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

This alone is profound enough to break even the most hardened of hearts. Still, we must add to this lurid nightmare one more anguish—an overwhelming suffering—the judgment of God. This far outstrips in substance any torture man could conjure. It was the weight of God’s judgment that was placed upon Jesus as He was pinned inescapably to the cross by man’s judgment. It was the sins of humanity that held Him captive. You think I’m imagining this? Listen to what Peter says.

NAS 1 Peter 2:24 “…and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross…”

And, I might suggest, we can almost tell the exact hours God’s judgment was actively operational in His body as we read, “When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour.” Is it possible God’s judgment reaches climax when He cries at the ninth hour, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” It was just prior to dying that He uttered these words. When He spoke them He had the capacity of consciousness. He was fully aware of His surroundings. When offered wine mixed with myrrh He refuses it. When thieves on each side of Him argue, He answers one of them. From John’s gospel we know He is aware of His mother’s presence. We also learn just before expiring He said He was thirsty.

But what was the most penetrating of all the things? While enduring man’s judgment on the cross He was aware of God’s judgment taking place simultaneously in His body, soul and spirit: “My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Forsaken of men was manageable, forsaken of God was incomprehensible. What was specifically happening at that cry? Many great theologians have noted that death—spiritual death and God’s judgment is eternal separation from God. They point out that torture and death of the physical body is one thing, but eternal separation—that is true death. And while we know the pain produced upon the body of Jesus was excruciating, the thing that crushed the Son of Man in His humanity, the greatest quandary as a man was the awareness of God forsaking Him.

His plea on the cross was not “stop the physical torture, there’s been a mistake, the pain is too great.” Before He cries, “It is finished” is His question as a man—“My God, why have you forsaken Me?” You and I, we can understand full well why God would forsake us. Since children we have done things in complete violation to God. The Lord has every right to turn His back on us and forsake us! But Jesus is different. As a man He lived a perfect life in complete submission to God. As a man He experienced the power of God, the resource of God and did the will of God. And now, after a sinless life, Jesus as man is the only man who has the right to fellowship with God. Instead, He was forsaken of God and separated by reason of bearing our sins.

That is the true meaning of separation. As a man He endured the separation from God—carrying the judgment of God—that we might have fellowship. Don’t try to figure it out logically how it all works—you can’t. You’ve just got to believe this is what happened and what He did for us. It was our sins that caused God forsaking Him as man. It was for our transgressions that Heaven was silent to Him as a perfect man. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

J. Robert Hanson

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The Meaning of Sacrifice

(NAS) Luke 23:33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. 34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

These words of Jesus spoken while He was nailed and pinned down upon the cross of Calvary are some of the most extraordinary exclamations of humanity. There are seven utterances from Jesus while hanging upon the cross—this cry for humanity’s forgiveness was the first. His sacrifice as the Lamb of God was now at the threshold and He prays “Father, forgive them”; Matthew Henry writes of this moment, “One would think He should have said ‘Father, consume them.’”

Think for a moment what Jesus was going through. The judgment of men had condemned Him to death. He was now toward the end of a torturous execution. He had been beaten beyond recognition[1]. As a man, Jesus was feeling the weight of man’s judgment in the abusing His body. It is just after He is nailed to the cross that He offers the true meaning of sacrifice—in His judgment towards men He prays “Father, forgive them.” In contrast, theirs was not a verdict ending in forgiveness! The judgment of men was harsh, unrelenting and eventually overwhelming. And the final act of man’s judgment was nailing Jesus immovably to a cross where He remained until morality and fatality prevailed upon Him.

Do not think of the Son of Man as ignorant and naive of the whole episode. Jesus related to Pilate that at any moment His servants could end the nightmare[2] had He so chose. Instead, as a man in full surrender to the Father’s will, He offered prayer as Jesus, the Great High Priest. Even while mortality prevailed upon Him, He recognized the sacrifice was of much greater value than the vengeance and retribution that befell Him. He never cried, “What do you want out of me?” or, “Stop, the physical torture, it’s too great.” The sacrificial choice was to be separated and forsaken by men from man; and, while remaining silent toward humanity, Peter tells us of His actions:

(NAS) 1 Peter 2:23 “…and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…”

As man He committed Himself into the hands of His Heavenly Father—the one who judges righteously. Never did He rely on His deity to save Him from the situation. So the difficult question to me is, as man what enabled Him to make such a request for forgiveness of the Father? To Jesus, the prospect of calling down legions of angels for His defense (much less offense) was never an option. There really can only be one all-consuming reason to remain as a man in that painful state of Calvary’s cross—love for the Father’s will. Love is the meaning of sacrifice. Love for the Father and His will is the motivation for sacrifice. John records that Jesus said it this way:

(NAS) John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Jesus endured the judgment of men that man might escape the judgment of God[3]. That is the true meaning of sacrifice. And anyone who will be like Jesus, as sacrificial as Jesus, must learn the secret of the Father’s will in saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

J. Robert Hanson


[1] Isaiah 52:14 notes His body was marred beyond recognition. NIV reads: “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.”

[2] John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

[3] The Meaning of Separation

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The Meaning of Surrender

(NAS) Mark 14:36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

The difficult part of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is when He asks the Father, “…All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me….” What is going on here? It almost sounds like the Lord has doubts about His mission. Is it possible the assignment of salvation weighed in the balances as Jesus prayed? Was the Son looking for the Father’s approval of an opt-out strategy to the cross?

Here’s what’s happening. The fact that He is now God incarnate makes the pain real and understandable to the Eternal Son of God. Rest assured the plan of salvation through Calvary has never been in question since its conception between Father and Son sometime on the plains of eternity. But now, as Son of Man[1], He’s become fully man and could identify in all the aguish that a man’s body could suffer physically. He is flesh and blood and in this new physical element a surrendering to the Father’s will is what’s being presented. There is no question about doing the Father’s will. “Remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will” is a plea of His humanity in regards to suffering at the hands of sinful men. Jesus was not a fan of the macabre or lover of pain and death. He is a man like the majority of us with a threshold to torture and aversion to pain. Quickly that agony was becoming real to Him—shortly the cruelty would become too authentic.

Remember, after David numbered the people he was faced with choosing one of three consequences for his sin. What David didn’t want was suffering at the hands of men—and who could blame him! David chose to let God choose his option. Listen to the anguish in his voice in choosing:

(NAS) 2 Samuel 24:14 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the LORD for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”

Suffering at the hands of men was the choice Jesus made; the one that David could not choose. In fact, it is only Jesus that could ever make that choice. This was the will of the Father for Him. And, Jesus, knowing full well He was walking into real physical pain and torture, chose the Father’s will by surrendering to the judgment of man—the ersatz trials of religious and political leaders knowing cruel physical abuses were to follow.

It was necessary for Him to go to the cross of Calvary; there the divine learned the meaning of obedience as a man—His obedience to the Father was never in question. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:

(NAS) Hebrews 5:8 “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation…”

Flesh and blood learned the meaning of suffering! His prayer in Gethsemane is one of humanity and association. Knowledge about the meaning of surrender was the needful experience making Him both an empathic and sympathizing High Priest who could thereafter make accurate intersession in heaven for those in need. I’m very much inclined to thank God for His prayer in the garden that taught the meaning of suffering— “not what I will, but what You will!”

J. Robert Hanson


[1] Some argue as to whether He was eternally Son of Man or became such at the incarnation. For now let’s set that argument to the side.

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