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Weekly Feature...Park Cities Devotional

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. [1]Matthew 16:15–17

Atop the rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. you’ll find (now that the light bill will be paid through September) a perfectly surreal rendering  of George Washington, by Greek-Italian artist, Constantino Brumidi.  Entitled 'The Apotheosis of George Washington', the massive fresco depicts our first president sitting, as if in session among the clouds, surrounded by Roman gods and goddesses who typified features of our national existence—science, mechanics, agriculture, war, and commerce.

As the word apotheosis means the elevation of someone to divine status, Brumidi was successful in according the man Washington with all the supernal glory his nation would gladly ascribe to him. Yet I suspect Washington himself would prefer to be known as only a human who made necessary sacrifices.That’s part of the reason we esteem him. He would’ve likely blanched at having his persona embellished with heavenly regalia.


When I was in college and considering Jesus and His gospel with any scrutiny for the first time, C.S. Lewis’ helpful “tri-lemma” simplified my task. As Paul Settle quoted him last Sunday, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” Lewis’ logic struck me then, and now, as airtight.

Yet there was one other option for how we understand Jesus that seemed both possible and consequently troubling to me. What if Jesus had undergone the
same  kind  of  apotheosis  Washington had? That is, could history and admiration for the human Jesus have embellished his persona with such significance that it took on a divine quality? Could the celebration of Jesus’ heroic sacrifices have transformed perceptions of this Jewish son so that he became a He?

In fact, that’s precisely what one of Washington’s esteemed colleagues, Thomas  Jefferson, believed. So much so he edited a copy of the New Testament by removing every reference to the supernatural, leaving a purely ethical rendition of Jesus’ life and teaching. Gone were the miraculous signs and wonders, the allusions which, to Jefferson, were impingements on the  true value of Jesus. The  episodes  of exorcism, healing—even resurrection—now littered Jefferson’s floor, excised from his bible and his thought. Jesus was a sage to be reckoned with, Jefferson acknowledged, but not as one of heavenly origin or title.

Jefferson’s  logic remains a prevalent view among [7]many. It’s a view derived mainly from the Enlightenment’s uneasiness with the category of the immaterial. But it’s also premised on a particular view of how the New Testament was compiled.

We  know  that before the gospels were written their content was first transmitted orally; sayings, episodes, dialogues were told and retold within and between church communities until the early church saw the need to put these verbal remembrances into written form. Scholars who, like Jefferson, bracketed the supernatural from their thought concluded that the written accounts of Jesus’ life necessarily underwent such massive reshaping over time that what we have in the gospels is so embellished as to be unreliable.

But in recent decades, scholars like that of Richard Bauckham have revised the conventional view of how the gospels were compiled. His most recent book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, argues that numerous features of the events recorded in the gospels reveal language consistent with a particular category of ancient historiography aptly called “testimony.” The presence of names, vivid details, and often embarrassing inclusions in the accounts indicate that what we have in the gospels is more likely attributable to eyewitness testimony (or associates of the eyewitnesses) than to the product of communities reshaping oral memories of Jesus for their own purposes. Both the content of the accounts and their style establish testimony as their most plausible source.

To illustrate with a modern equivalent, Bauckham draws a delicate analogy between the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and the gospel accounts. The
“exceptionality” of what transpired at Auschwitz or Buchenwald ensured a far more accurate transmission of its record due to the effect it had on those who lived to disclose it. Similarly, the unexpected and unprecedented nature of what occurred in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus adds to the credibility of their vivid description of events because those who compiled the accounts would be just as interested in preserving and promulgatingtheir exceptional content. They had seen or heard what had happened and couldn’t be silent about it, while those who compiled the accounts would be scrupulous about  including only what could be considered trustworthy testimony (cf. Lk 1:1–4).

So the portrayal of Jesus’ glory in the gospels is no work of artifice. They are interpretations of His life and words, to be sure, but not an apotheosis of a mere—albeit influential—man.

Believers in the full divinity of Jesus may balk at Jefferson’s radical recasting. They may find efforts like Bauckham’s just a rehash of established doctrine. But we shall always run the risk of making a subtle Jeffersonian  shift  in  the  way  we  think of Jesus, in at least two interrelated ways.

One, we stop praying. We may respect His sagacity and wisdom, but we can insensibly begin to ignore that He sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us (Rom 8:34) and inviting us to commune with Him in prayer. Jesus knows we may sometimes find it a struggle to pray (cf. Mk 14:36–38),
but God is one with whom we share our heart, not just an idea upon which we reflect.

We also shift Jefferson’s way when we start seeking to embody Jesus’ virtue without appealing to His supernatural help. Jefferson relied upon his own  aptitude  and  fortitude  to  manifest  Christ’s rectitude. But if the transformation Jesus sought to bring us could be found within us why would He have to die for us? Because what we most need is not of this world. Denuding Jesus of His divinity makes your hope of holiness as realistic as Brumidi’s fresco.

You might never have thought of Jesus as anything less than divine, but have you unwittingly undergone a Jeffersonian shift?

by Patrick Lafferty

Free Health Fair: Body and Soul

 

 

First United Methodist Church, Louisa KY (across from Young's)

 

 

Saturday, April 30, 2011    9:00 AM- 1:00 PM


  • Free health screenings (by Our Lady of Bellefont Hospital and Three Rivers Medical Center):
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease screening, blood pressure, total cholesterol, blood sugar, body fat analys

  • Bone density testing, skin cancer screening
  • Educational information on several topics including: eye health, heart health, chiropractic care, mental health
  • The Prayer Room will be open with resources for care of the soul, including someone to talk and pray with

 

 

Door prizes, snacks, and give-aways!

Pastor Donna Aros

FUMC Office: 638-4435

 

Hey Folks,

We're less than 2 weeks away from Easter 2011, I hope you are able to be home, but if you are not you can listen to this years Cantata from FBC on www.louisabaptistmedia.com We'd love to see you, you and your family are in my personal prayers.

Thanks for who you are,
Ric
 

 

The Promise of Paradise                                             ...Luke 23:43

 

Today’s text reveals how people responded when they “intersected” with the gospel.  Where are you on your “life journey”? Open road?  Fast lane?  Detoured?  Stalled in Traffic? Lost?...wherever you might be, let FBC help you through this intersection that will make the balance of your trip in the right direction.

* A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons(5 and 3). The boys began to argue over who was going to get the first pancake. Mom recognized the teachable moment and said, “If Jesus were sitting here right now, He would say let my brother have the first pancake.” The five year-old turned to his little brother and said, “hey little buddy, today, you get to be Jesus!”

We smile at the story of a selfish five year-old, but we also know that our lives are filled with similar struggles of selfishness and sin. Many saints have found comfort in the honesty of the apostle Paul who openly confessed his struggle in Romans 7 to do the right thing when his flesh was pulling him toward sin. I mention the ongoing struggle with sin to illustrate how incredibly wonderful the forgiveness of God is for those who accept it. This forgiveness is made possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus did more than teach positive thinking; he offers a trip to paradise.

Of all the words spoken by Jesus from the cross, this promise of eternal life to a condemned criminal illustrates the unique holiness and majesty of the Lord Jesus as clearly as anything He ever said. He promised to provide what every person hopes for, but what no one could ever produce with human effort.  While we may never experience the horror a crucifixion because of our crimes, we need to respond as the thief did in order to enter paradise with Jesus.
 

1. Condition of a Sinner

A. The thief, graphically reveals the condition of every soul before a Holy God. The thief was physically helpless, unable to attend church, impossible to give an offering or perform good deeds. He was nailed to a cross! His condition reflects the insufficiency of our good deeds to accomplish salvation. There is nothing we could ever do physically to obtain forgiveness of our sins. No amount of discipline, no amount of service, no amount of financial resources, nothing we do qualifies us to enter paradise with Jesus. We are physically helpless.

B. The thief was also morally corrupt, which is why he was being crucified. He openly admitted his guilt when he rebuked the other thief for mocking Jesus, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Lk. 23:41). Though we have never committed a crime that is punishable by death, the Scripture clearly declares that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, none are righteous, and the wages of our sin/unrighteousness is death/separation from God. Like this thief, we are disqualified from paradise through sinful disobedience.

C. The thief was spiritually dead. The consequence of his crime was execution on a Roman cross, and his soul was headed into everlasting darkness until he cried out to Jesus. The apostle Paul speaks to our being spiritually dead. Eph 2:1-2, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Just as Adam and Eve died spiritually when they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we, like the thief of the cross share a spiritual death that disqualifies us from paradise. We need someone greater than our sin to make us alive so that we can respond to Jesus’ offer of eternal paradise.

2. Conversion of a Sinner

A. That process of being transformed from a dead sinner into a living child of God is beautifully portrayed in the conversion experience of the thief. This unnamed criminal leaves a lasting legacy of how any person receives forgiveness of sin and inherits eternal life. First, he admits his sin, “We are punished justly.” The sad reality is that many people are unwilling to admit their sin before a holy God. They want to boast of how good they are as if God needs their pitiful attempt at righteousness to make heaven a better place. If their unwillingness to admit sin were not so tragic, it would be amusing. Some think God is going to allow them to enter His holy heaven by bringing a house warming gift, as if God was too busy ruling the universe to think about the cute picture frame of your personal righteous to hang in the hallways of heaven. Only by admitting your sin, “confessing” your sin can you receive forgiveness.

B. The thief acknowledges the supremacy of Jesus. He rebukes the other thief and declares that Jesus has done nothing wrong. This repentant thief understands that Jesus is the King of kings. He understands what so many of the religious leaders failed to grasp, that Jesus came to establish a spiritual kingdom. Even with His hands nailed to a cross and a crown of thorns upon His head, a thief acknowledged the lordship of Christ. We find this truth proclaimed by the apostles. “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved,” is what Paul and Silas told a Roman jailer. The same truth applies to us today. Unless we acknowledge the lordship of Christ, we cannot enter paradise.

C. The thief owns his conviction and asks for salvation, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” I am convinced that the large majority of people, especially in the Bible belt where I live, have sufficient knowledge about the claims of Christ. They understand that Jesus is the holy Son of God who gave His life for the sins of the world. Some would openly admit their sinful condition, but they have never asked Jesus to be their Savior. They are unwilling to turn from their sin in repentance. Instead they choose to willingly reject Christ until they are “ready.” On too many sad occasions, I listened to a lost soul say, “Well preacher, I believe what you say is true, but I’m just not ready to do that today.”   What Jesus did for this thief, He will do for you.

3. Compassion of the Savior

A. The conversion of the sinner was made possible by the compassion of the savior. Jesus was not obligated to save the thief. Jesus could have said, “Look man, you had your chance. You heard me preach and saw the miracles, but you never responded to my gracious offer. It is too late for you.” But thank God for all that is contained in the precious word spoken by Christ when he said, “Today!”  No matter what you have done in the past, you can be saved today! You are not promised tomorrow but you can be saved today! The Scripture says, “Now is the acceptable time and today is the day of salvation.”

B. I love His words “with me.”  Jesus did not offer the thief some small apartment on the back side of glory; He told the thief that you will be with me. *Jackie Robinson was the first black to break the race barrier in major league baseball. One day while playing in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. The Dodger fans began to ridicule Jackie with racial slurs, so shortstop “Pee Wee” Reese walked over and put his arm around Jackie and stared at the crowd. The message was clear. Reese wanted everybody to know that Jackie was with him. Robinson was Reese’s teammate and friend. Jackie Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career. 

C. I wonder what James and John (Sons of Thunder---who asked for a special place in heaven) thought when they got to heaven. Perhaps they thought, What is that thief doing with Jesus.

He needs to go back to his proper place and make room for those of us who turned the world upside down with the gospel. Then I imagine Jesus who knows all things saying to the sons of thunder, “Welcome home boys. Let me introduce you to My special guest. He is with me!”

Do you want to have your sins forgiven? Do you want to go to heaven when you die? Do you want to live in the light instead of being enslaved by darkness? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then look to the cross and know the way of the cross leads home.

Hymn writer Jesse Pounds said it well, “I must needs go home by the way of the cross, There’s no other way but this; I shall never get sight of the gates of light, If the way of the cross I miss. The way of the cross leads home, the way of the cross leads home: it is sweet to know as I onward go, The way of the cross leads home.”

God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Don't Worry about What to Say!

    [Jesus said,] "But when you are arrested and stand trial, don't worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit."

    Mark 13:11 NLT

    Key Thought

    What an incredible promise! We are never alone, even when we are under the threat of persecution and martyrdom. We have the Holy Spirit of God within us. We are not abandoned in trial or torture. The Spirit who bore witness to Jesus through the centuries will bear witness to Jesus through us. The power of this promise is demonstrated in the story of Stephen: "But [the people arguing with Stephen] could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.... Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 6:10; Acts 7:55).

    Today's Prayer

    O Almighty God, please give me the courage to speak up for Jesus with grace and boldness trusting that your Spirit will give me the right words and attitude to share my hope with those who do not yet know your grace given in Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • Speaking by the Holy Spirit

    [Jesus said,] "David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: 'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."'"

    Mark 12:36 NIV

    Key Thought

    Jesus tells us that David's great Psalm 110 is Spirit-inspired. And that Psalm speaks to the greatness of the Messiah — the greatness of Jesus! He is Lord. Lord of the nations. Lord of all. Lord of even David. He will rule. He will triumph. And the power of David's testimony is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gave this testimony about Jesus being Lord through King David a thousand years before Jesus came. When the Holy Spirit is present, Jesus is praised, and his identity is proclaimed, as has been true for centuries!

    Today's Prayer

    O Father, I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Lord. I believe the Holy Spirit gave testimony to this truth through inspired witnesses thousands of years before Jesus came. I trust that as I draw close to you and as I am filled with the Holy Spirit my life will also be a testimony to the greatness of Jesus Christ my Lord, in whose name I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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