In 1 Jn. 2, keeping (τηρῶμεν) the commandments (v3) is a companion to keeping the Word (v4, λόγον).
“The hireling,” Jesus says, “does not own the sheep.” But the Good Shepherd—the true and perfect shepherd—sees the sheep as belonging to Him. “I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”
The sheep, Jesus says, are His – His own. Here Jesus expresses more than mere ownership. This hymnbook is mine; it has my name on it. But more is happening here than just possession. I suppose that’s at the heart of what we call sin – seeing possessions, positions, and even other people as ours, such that we are masters, and everyone else is there to serve us.
But not so with Jesus. When He calls the sheep His own, two realities are coalescing in that one little phrase “My own”: The first is creation, and the second is incarnation.Read More
If we dare ask ourselves this question—“Why do I live this brief and fragile life?”—then the next thought is to accuse God, blame God for the problem – even insist we do not believe in Him, like a teenage son shouting at his father, “I hate you!”
So, into this world He made, the world which now hates Him – God comes. He has heard the cries, the accusations, and the laments. God walks to the tomb of His friend Lazarus. He listens to the accusations of Lazarus’ sisters. “Where were you? Why didn’t you come? If you had been here, this would not have happened!” The words sting like slaps to His face.Read More
When a child is adopted, he gets a new family and also a new story, the family’s story, with its history, and hardships, and heroes.
You who are baptized learn the story, your story. It’s the story of all mankind. But the unbaptized, and those who have wandered away from their baptism, have forgotten the story, the family history. Some have even developed competing stories, a falsified account. It is as though they came upon a beautiful mosaic, depicting with glittering tiles the image of a king. With malice they rearrange those tiles into the image of a fox.Read More
The thief on the cross is typically cited as an argument against baptism’s necessity. “He was saved, and he wasn’t baptized,” the argument goes, “therefore no one needs to be baptized.”
With this seeming exception, the Lord’s words, “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved, but whoever does not believe shall be condemned” (Mk. 16:16) are set aside, along with the other commands and promises concerning baptism.
But the good thief, whom tradition names Dismas, is not the exception. He’s the rule. Baptism gives through means what Dismas received directly.Read More
“The lie is the death of man, his temporal and his eternal death.” Thus wrote Hermann Sasse in 1933. Sasse was among the greatest theologians of the 20th century, and vigorously opposed the Nazis, a dangerous position for a German pastor to take. But Sasse saw the lies of the National Socialists as part of a larger lie – a single great demonic lie that holds the world captive.Read More
In the hour of darkness—when your career is collapsing; when your marriage is on the ropes; when you come face to face with the ugliness of your sin; when the stench of death cannot be sanitized by the wretched sterility of hospital antiseptic—when in the hour of darkness you despair, you don’t need a concept or a philosophy. A platitude won’t help. An ethic is worst of all, for the accuser gleefully reminds us that we have failed.
The supposed comfort of a nebulous better place I find revolting. Who are you to say there is a better place, and that my loved one is in it, or that I will go there? How do you know?
Leave me alone, incompetent comforter! I need a Lord, a real redeemer who is actually mine, who is coming for me!Read More
Renowned theologian Michael Scott once said, “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitous.” In the battle against modern philosophy, Christianity is seen as—and sometimes is—in a battle with the modern world itself. Modernity sees Christianity as mired in antiquated superstition. So the preacher has a problem on his hands with all this talk of the devil in today’s gospel, and the last two weeks. You can talk about a man “battling his demons” if he is, say, an alcoholic. And we understand those demons to be metaphorical. An occasional mention of the devil you can get away with, because many people are like Michael Scott: not superstitious, but still a little stitious.Read More
Do you believe in monsters?
Our word monster comes from the Latin monere, which means “to show” or “warn.” I’ve never seen for sure, but I suspect that monster stories arose to warn people about dangers in general. The monster put a scary, if imaginary, face on the general danger that is outside the safety of home and village.
So our history is filled with monster stories: Leviathan, the sea monster; Cyclops; Beowulf’s Grendel; up to more modern monsters like Tolkien’s Smaug.Read More
What happened in Mary’s womb was not a miracle to grab the world’s attention, like some juggler or illusionist. The world-altering event takes place in secret. It happens through God’s Word to one woman, without an audience.
But it is world-altering in the same category as when God first said, “Let there be light.” To God’s fallen creation God Himself enters.Read More