Blood stains. No cleaning product advertises that it contains blood. Yet Christians sing of being washed in Jesus’ blood.
There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains. — William Cowper
Now there’s a truly unpleasant image. Hardly anything makes me want to wash my hands faster than handling raw meat and getting the blood on them. If sinners are plunged into a fountain of blood, it might cleanse their guilt, but they’ll never get their clothes clean!
To understand the imagery of being washed in the blood of Jesus, we need to consider both the connection between blood and cleansing in the Bible and the role of blood in our own bodies.… Read the rest
God is the God of everyone and calls everyone to rejoice in him. The Bible clearly teaches that from beginning to end, but people have often had trouble accepting it.
At one point, God confided in Abraham that he intended to investigate Sodom’s evil. Abraham knew well their wickedness, but prayed for whatever righteous people lived there, declaring, “Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:19).
But the nation of Israel ignored God for centuries as they pursued other gods. Then, purged of that sin, they came to regard God as exclusively their own.
Heaven is God’s throne, and the earth is his footstool (Isaiah 66:1). By grace, we have not only been raised with Christ, but seated in the heavens (Ephesians 2:6). Scripture commands us to seek what is in the heavens with Christ (Colossians 3:1). So isn’t the earth properly our footstool, too?
When I was growing up, we had some easy chairs in the living room with matching footstools. Those footstools were fairly substantial pieces of furniture. We could sit on them.
But now, most of my chairs are recliners. I pull on a lever, and the footstool rises from the front of the chair.… Read the rest
Jesus had a way of saying offensive things. At least if you stop to think about them.
In Matthew’s gospel, the first words out of Jesus’ mouth as a preacher called people to repent (Matthew 4:17). Next, he began the Beatitudes by proclaiming blessings for spiritual poverty (Matthew 5:3).
What does “poor in spirit” mean? The Greek for “poor” is ptochos, which means destitute of wealth, influence, position, or honor. Reduced to beggary. Now, he wasn’t making a virtue of being broke. He didn’t invite scorn for the rich. After all, he specified poor in spirit.
As one of Jesus’ last words to his disciples before his arrest, he said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
He didn’t mean apart from him we can’t bear fruit. He meant we can do nothing.
He didn’t just mean his followers. He meant anyone at all.
Consider the simple act of sitting in a chair reading a book. “Through him [Jesus, the Word of God who is God] all things were made; without him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3).… Read the rest
Proverbs 31 ends with a description of a virtuous wife. More than one Christian woman has confessed a love-hate relationship with that chapter. Men have their own frustrations with it.
Here is a caricature that captures the problem: this wonderful woman possesses every virtue. She effortlessly runs the household. And a prosperous business. Everyone respects her. Her husband adores her, but he spends all his time hanging around the city gate chattering with his buddies.
Many women look at her in frustration, because some of her stellar characteristics are completely absent from their lives. Many men look at her in frustration because their own wives fall so far short of that ideal.… Read the rest
Religion and church seem so intertwined that many of us consider those terms pretty much interchangeable. The New Testament, among other things, has a lot to say about the church. The Greek for church, ekklesia, occurs 115 times (including three as “assembly”).
Wouldn’t it stand to reason that it would also have a lot to say about religion? That word, threshkeia, appears only four times, once as “worshiping.” “Religious,” threshkos, appears once.
Religion in modern discourse
“What religion are you?” I have been asked that more than once, and when I have said, “Christian,” the person asking has always been disappointed.… Read the rest