6 Things Jesus Does With Sin

Apr 08, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

cross of christ built into a brick wall
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
– John 1:29

John the Baptist commands a beholding of the sin-taking-away Lamb. What do we see in this beholding? How exactly does Jesus take away our sin?

Here are 6 things Jesus does with sin:

1. He Condemns It.

Jesus puts a curse on sin. He marks its forehead.

Romans 8:3 – “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”

Jesus says to sin in no uncertain terms, “Sin, you’re going to die.”

2. He Carries It.

Like the true and better scapegoat, Jesus becomes our sin-bearer.

1 Peter 2:24 – “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.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

3. He Cancels It.

He closes out the account. (Even better, he opens a new one, where we’re always in the black, having been credited with his perfect righteousness.)

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 – “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful”

That word resentful is more directly “to count up wrongdoing,” which is why some translations of this text say that “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

Colossians 2:13-14 – “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

That last proclamation leads us into this great truth:

4. He Crucifies It

1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”

At the cross, Jesus dies and takes our sin with him. Only the sin stays dead.

5. He Casts It Away

Jesus takes the corpse and chucks it into the void.

Micah 7:19 – “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

Psalm 103:12 – “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

6. He Chooses to Un-remember It.

Jesus is omniscient. He is not forgetful. But he wills to un-remember our sin.

Jeremiah 31:34 – “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Hebrews 8:12 – “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

Hebrews 10:17 – “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Astonishing. We bring our sin to him, repentant and in faithful confession, and he says, “What’re you talking about?”

This is how Jesus forgives sin: He condemns it, carries it, cancels it, kills it, casts it, and clean forgets it. If we’ll confess it.

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

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If Christ is True, Then Boredom is a Sin

Apr 08, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

91OLdHunH8L“If Christ is true, then boredom is a sin.

“Boredom is a sin so long as Christ is infinitely beautiful. Even the angels, for whom the gospel is that strange mystery purposed not for themselves, long to look into the deep, fascinating well of its revelation (1 Pet. 1:12). Because the good news proclaims the unsearchable riches of Christ, who opens the window looking out on the eternal mystery of the Trinity, it is endlessly absorbing, dazzlingly multifaceted. When we are bored, it can only be because we have stopped looking at Jesus. He can’t be boring. If we find him boring, it’s because we are boring. The deficiency is ours, not his.

“Boredom and his twin brother laziness are fundamentally theological failures, which is to say they are failures of belief, of worship. Thomas Aquinas wisely says, ‘Sloth is a kind of sadness.’ He has lifted the hood of the lazybones to peer at what’s beneath. ‘There’s your problem right there,’ he says, pointing. A worshipless heart. A joyless heart. The diagnosis is the same for the bored as for the lazy: a kind of sadness. And the prescription is the same for the bored as for the lazy: rejoice in the Lord.

“Laziness is not rest; this is why there is no joy in it. But when Jesus sets us free, he really sets us free—free to work, free to love, free to rest—with happiness and delight, awe and wonder, fulfillment and satisfaction.

“‘The soul has a palate and a throat, else Jesus would not bid us drink,’ John Piper says. It is not just our bodies that are built for enjoyment, but our spiritual senses, the insidest of our insides, and the problem of course is that we are bent to think our insides will have joy when our outsides do. But it doesn’t work that way. It is the other way around. Food and drink will not truly satisfy the body until the bread and wine of Jesus’s body satisfy our soul.”

– from Gospel Deeps, 80-81

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Of Whom I Am the Foremost

Apr 07, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

sinners-wantedThe saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
— 1 Timothy 1:15

In Mark 2:14, Jesus calls a man who taxes fishermen to join some of the fishermen who’ve been taxed in his band of merry disciples. Let’s not gloss over this historical-cultural reality. The tax collector Levi (Matthew) is thought to be a dog — a sinner, a thief, a traitor to the faith and the nation — and he is now joined together with those he has betrayed and stolen from. Eventually they’re all reclining together in Levi’s house at the table, and Jesus and his disciples are taking on the stigma of the “tax collectors and sinners.”

I think of Acts 9 when the repentant Paul tries to join the disciples of Christ and the disciples of Christ are thinking, “Um, what?” They’re reasonably afraid. Can you imagine perhaps being someone whose cousin was murdered by Paul and then later being under Paul’s apostolic authority?

Jesus goes around making enemies into friends, of himself and each other. He makes them family. How does this work?

The gospel.

We deduce from the gospel a few important points, things that are personal commitments to remember:

1. I am a sinner like they are sinners. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
2. My salvation did not come from being better than them but from the finished work of Christ.
3. Because I know me better than I know them, it is true, acknowledged or not, that I am the worst sinner I know.

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Good News for the Fearful and Tired

Apr 06, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

Calling-of-GideonNow the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”
— Judges 6:11-12

There is Gideon, laying low. The Midianites have infiltrated and oppressed. There is widespread fear and Gideon is not untouched. So there he is pity-partying, nursing his wounds and his grudges, hunkering down in the winepress writing that hit song “Alone With My Principles.”

The greeting from the angel of the Lord, who may be the preincarnate Christ himself (in vv.14-16 the angel of the Lord becomes “the LORD”), is strange. Would you call a hiding man a “mighty man of valor”? You would if the Lord was with him.

A legal climate cannot empower courage. Even if it is instructing positively. For instance, just as God did not answer Moses’ objections to his calling by telling him he was good enough, smart enough, and doggone it people liked him, the Lord does not tell Gideon to get in touch with his inner victor. He makes a statement of present tense fact: “You, cowering Gideon, hunkered down in the winepress, are a mighty man of valor.” Because, as God tells Moses, “the Lord is with you.”

For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.
— Psalm 18:29

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
— Romans 8:31

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The Attitude and Latitude of Christ’s Kingdom

Apr 06, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

Irvington-Covenant-Church-PictureMission begins with a kind of explosion of joy.
— Lesslie Newbigin

The juggernauty growth of the gospel (Col. 1:6) requires newness all around. It is bursting through our lives and structures. It is utterly transformative. This is what we see in the breakneck pace with which Mark records the Gospel of Jesus’ life and work. He wants us to see (1) the absolute depths of joy and (2) the extraordinary wideness of transformation this joy has. The sheer authority of Jesus’ teaching results in deliverance, healing, restoration, and resurrection. How come?

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

— Mark 2:18-22

How is this talk of cloths and wineskins connected to the question about fasts? I think it goes something like this:

The Mosaic Law only really required one regular fast. The others that occupied the Jewish calendar grew up around traditions. Not bad things in and of themselves. It is possible that John’s disciples were fasting because he had either already been imprisoned or executed. They likely fasted out of mourning. The disciples of the Pharisees likely fasted out of tradition, which became an idol for many of them (see Luke 18:12). One kind of fasting (grief, expectation) was legitimate, the other not. But Jesus’ disciples weren’t going with the flow of the traditions mainly because they had nothing to grieve (yet) and no merit to glory in. They had Messiah, and having Messiah means having fullness of joy (John 15:11).

Jesus goes on to connect the man-made traditions and ceremonies to outdated structures not suitable for the new wine of the gospel. This joy is growing, going forth into the world and bearing fruit. It cannot be grafted onto brittle, inflexible institutions. The gospel is not just for Jews, but for Greeks as well. It is for the unclean, the ungodly, and the outcasts. All that came before is fulfilled now in Christ. The light by nature cannot be confined to the shadows. It must spill out, shine forth.

There is a time to fast (Ecclesiastes 3), but those united to Christ are not to be typefied by grief but by joy, even in hardship (Hab. 3:17-18, Rom. 12:12, Phil. 4:4, 1 Thess. 5:16, 1 Pet. 4:13). This means that joy must run deep. And if joy runs deep, it will overflow and run wide.

When we have this deep joy, we navigate seasons of suffering and brokenness with both the firmness of faith and the flexibility of it. We are able to confidently say, “This day” — with all its troubles — “is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24) Because we know that the joy is so deep, it will buoy our souls for all eternity.

The ferment of the gospel needs the wineskin of the church, which shall be made up of every tongue, tribe, and nation. The Jewish ceremonial laws and temple system are no longer sufficient for the purposes of God’s glory covering the whole earth like the waters cover the sea.

The ferment of the gospel needs the wineskin of missional adaptability. Our traditions and structures must serve the joy of Christ and his kingdom, not the other way around.

The ferment of gospel joy needs the wineskin of new hearts (Psalm 119:32, 2 Corinthians 6:13, Ezekiel 36:26). We must be born again to be a new creation.

As we look to however many more days God will grant us, for ourselves as Christians and for our churches, let us commit to proclamation of the gospel, that it would settle deep into our bones, soaking into the marrow, enlarging our hearts that we might run in spreading the news that Christ is King, casting aside all that hinders us, including even religious, churchy things.

And when the gospel changes our attitude to depths of joy, it will change the latitude of our missional boundaries to widespread transformation. This is the joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8).

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The Proper Response to Easter

Apr 05, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

emptytombgrungewarm“So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” – Matthew 28:8

“And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” – Mark 16:18

“But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” – Luke 24:12

“They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road?'” – Luke 24:32

“Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed” – John 20:8

“Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!'” – John 20:28

The proper response to Easter is not warm fuzzies, but awe.

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The Friday That is Good

Apr 03, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

christ-on-the-cross-1627Today is Good Friday. Good Friday. The day of Christ on the cross — we mark this day as good.
In a day when alleged proclaimers of the Word define “life abundantly” as material goods and finite pleasures, a battered king nailed to a cross is still a stumbling block. And it is still a mandate.

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
— 1 Peter 4:13

Rejoice in sufferings?

This is not possible except for those who see being like Christ, who see being in Christ as the greatest good, the highest value, the best pleasure of all pleasures.

Many things can and will make us happy.
There is no joy but in Jesus Christ.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2

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Revival Interrupts Our Little Programs

Apr 02, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

Revival-Meeting-Elkton-CA“Every time we drive by a church with a sign out front announcing, ‘Revival meetings here next week,’ we are confronted with an understanding of revival that exaggerates the human dynamic. It may seem a small point, and I do not wish to be unfair. But how can we advertise a revival and expect to retain credibility? Presumably we do this because the very idea of revival has been diminished to an event on the church calendar. Evangelistic meetings — maybe that’s all people mean when they announce a revival — are a legitimate program. But true revival is not a scheduled program. It is a gift from the Throne wonderfully interrupting our little programs. The Holy Spirit blows like the wind, unpredictably, mysteriously, uncontrollably, wherever he pleases (John 3:8). We can’t announce him in advance. We can only pray that he will blow our way.”

– Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., When God Comes to Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2000), 19-20.

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Let Him Who Thinks He Stands, Take Heed

Apr 02, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

fetch.php“Why has Peter expended so much powder and shot on the false teachers? . . . Because he is primarily a pastor. He is concerned to feed his Master’s sheep (cf. John 21:15-17, 1 Peter 5:1ff.), and he is furious to find them being poisoned by lust masquerading as religion. It is only by paying very cursory attention to the contents of this passage that Kasemann can say, ‘The attack on the heretics has taken on a stiff and stereotyped character, because the writer is so no longer conducting the campaign on the basis of his own experience.’ It does our generation little credit that such passion for truth and holiness strikes an alien note in our minds. Peter’s plain speaking . . . has a very practical purpose, just as Jesus’ warnings had: ‘What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch!’ We would be mistaken to assume, ‘It could never happen to us.’ Both Scripture and experience assure us that it could. ‘Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall’ (1 Cor. 10:12). Covetousness, sophistical arguments, pride in knowledge, gluttony, drunkenness, lust, arrogance against authority of all kinds, and, most of all, the danger of denying the lordship of the Redeemer — are these not all the paramount temptations of money-mad, sex-mad, materialistic, anti-authoritarian, twentieth-century man?”

– Michael Green, “2nd Peter,” in The Second Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude, TNTC (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1982), 122.

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10 Reasons Big Easter Giveaways Are Unwise

Apr 01, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

peepsWe are nearing the day many Christians look forward to all year. Yes, there’s the somber reflection and penitence of the Passion week, culminating in the resurrection of Jesus to celebrate on Easter Sunday, but there’s also some fabulous cash and prizes. Every year some churches seek to outdo themselves — and their local competition — by luring unbelievers (and I suppose interested believers) to their Easter service(s) with the promise of big shows and in some cases big giveaways. One guy in Texas made national news a couple of years ago for giving away new cars. More and more churches each year are dropping prize-filled Easter eggs out of helicopters to gathered crowds below. Local churches with more modest budgets sometimes promise door prizes like iPods or iPads or gift certificates to local restaurants.

I’m not against “Easter egg hunts” and kids having fun and all that, but I think the sort of large-scale, giveaway promotion that takes over this time of year in the church calendar is profoundly unwise and in many cases very, very silly. I want to offer ten general reasons why, but first some caveats: I’m not talking about a church giving out gifts to visitors. Gift cards, books, etc. to guests can be a sweet form of church hospitality. What I’m criticizing is the advertised promise of “cash and prizes” to attract people to the church service. Secondly, I know the folks doing these sorts of things are, for the most part, sincere believers who want people to know Jesus. But I don’t think good intentions authorize bad methods. So:

Ten reasons luring people in with cash and prizes is not a good idea.

1. It creates buzz about cash and prizes, not the Easter event. When the media takes notice, nobody wants to interview these pastors about the resurrection. They want them to talk about the loot.

2. It identifies the church not with the resurrection, but with giving toys away. It makes us look like entertainment centers or providers of goods and services, not people of the Way who are centered on Christ.

3. Contrary to some offered justifications, giving prizes away is not parallel to Jesus’ providing for the crowds. Jesus healed people and fed them. This is not the same as giving un-poor people an iPod.

4. It appeals to greed and consumerism. There is no biblical precedent for appealing to one’s sin before telling them to repent of it. This is a nonsensical appeal. We have no biblical precedent for appealing to the flesh to win souls.

5. Yes, Jesus said he would make us fishers of men, but extrapolating from this to devise all means of bait is not only unwarranted, it’s exegetically ignorant. The metaphor Jesus is offering here is just of people moving from the business of fishing to the business of the kingdom. There is likely no methodology being demonstrated in Jesus’ metaphor. (But the most common one would have been throwing out nets anyway, not baiting a hook.)

6. It is dishonest “bait and switch” methodology. Sure, the people coming for the goodies know they’re coming to church. But it’s still a disingenuous offer. The message of the gospel is not made for Trojan horses.

7. It demonstrates distrust in the compelling news that a man came back from the dead!! I mean, if nobody’s buying that amazing news, we can’t sell it to them with cheap gadgets.

8. It demonstrates distrust in the power of the gospel when we think we have to put it inside something more appealing to be effective. What the giveaways really communicate is that we think the gospel needs our help, and that our own community is not attractive enough in and of itself in its living out the implications of the gospel.

9. The emerging data from years of research into this kind of practice of marketing-as-evangelism shows the kind of disciples it produces are not strong. I have no doubt these churches are going to see many “decisions” Easter weekend. We’ll see the running tally heralded on Twitter. As questionable a practice as that can be, I’d be extra interested in how discipled these folks are in a year or two years or three. Hype has always produced “decisions.” Would anyone argue that after 30 years or so of the attractional approach to evangelism the evangelical church is better off, more Christ-centered, more biblically mature?

10. What you win them with is what you win them to.

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