The Confident Christian

First Peter 3:15 says “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (NIV)”. Ever since the Pilgrims set out for the New World in 1620 in search of religious freedom, the Christian faith has played an integral role in shaping American culture. For many, the Christian faith was a stabilizing and positive influence in society. However, with the rise of secularism in the United States as well as the broader western world, many people increasingly look at the Christian faith with a skeptical, even hostile attitude. Will it be said of us that we as believers responded to this challenge with composure and grace, or that we shrank when skeptics asked the tough questions?

Many Christians live in fear of someone asking them a question such as: Why do you believe in God? Why do you call Jesus your Savior? Why is attending Church services so important to you? While we should always be ready to admit that we don’t have all the answers, we should also be equally confident of the fact that we serve a God who does. In James 1:5 we are given the promise that if we pray and ask God for wisdom he will give us the wisdom we so desire. Thus, we should always remember that before we set out to gather knowledge, we must first ask for wisdom from God. Only then will we know how to wisely apply the knowledge we gain from study and reflection.

Christians should receive a boost of confidence from the fact that the tradition we are a part of is filled with intellectual and spiritual giants. Indeed, great thinkers today still mine the words of Augustine, Anselm, Calvin, and of course, Jesus of Nazareth, for insight on topics as diverse as ethics, philosophy, history, and theology. Indeed, these thinkers ably defended the faith on intellectual grounds in the face of questions from skeptics from many different backgrounds. Leaning heavily on the thinking of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1, Christian apologists have often pointed out that the order and beauty of the universe points to the existence of a wise, master creator. Indeed, Psalm 19:1 proclaims “The heavens declare the glory of God (NIV)” Furthermore, the very existence of the disciples’ faith after Jesus’ crucifixion points to the truth that they actually saw their Savior resurrected on the third day. These are just a few of the arguments that have been put forth in favor of the reasonableness of our faith.

It should be noted that 1st Peter 3:15 is just as concerned with the spirit in which we defend our faith as well as the reasons we suggest for why we think our faith to be true. Christians are to be people who show love to all persons, in all situations. Indeed, the command to love our neighbor is given without qualification. When we share our faith with others we should always take care to be fair and respectful to those who disagree with us.

Perhaps it is only fitting that I should save what I believe the most important aspect of sharing one’s faith for last. While I do think Christians should be both intellectually and emotionally fit witnesses for the faith I think it is perhaps eminently more important, and probably more persuasive, for Christians to be ready to share at a moment’s notice what God has accomplished in their lives personally. Oftentimes, people will be more impressed by someone’s account of how God brought them through a battle with cancer, or how God healed them from bitterness and resentment towards a person who wounded them earlier in life. We should also be ready to share our testimony of how Jesus Christ drew us unto himself and brought us out of darkness into his marvelous light. All the knowledge and eloquence this world has to offer fare poorly when placed in juxtaposition with how God can transform people for the better. Indeed, this must be the most effective evidence for the truth and vitality of what we believe.

 

 

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How Should Christians face discouragement?

 

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Discouragement is a universal human phenomenon. Christians are not excepted from this unhappy aspect of human experience. Discouragement is a very real and present danger in the life of the believer. Many different events in our life can lead us to despair- Death of a close friend or relative, prolonged sickness, multiple failed endeavors, or not being able to find stable employment. Sometimes just being a faithful witness for Christ in this sin sick world can lead us to depression. Any number of things that life throws at us can lead us to despair and allow us to slip into a lifestyle plagued by discouragement. When we get discouraged, and it is not a matter of if it is a matter of when, how should we deal with it? How should we face this age old problem in a fashion that honors Jesus Christ and is becoming of our Christian proclamation. In the following paragraphs I have listed a few things to remember if you are facing discouragement.

1st Kings 19 tells us that right after Elijah witnessed God’s power and glory on Mount Carmel (no not Mt. Caramel) that he fled to the wilderness due to the persecution wrought by the wicked Queen of Israel named Jezebel. Rather than being energized by the incredible victory, Elijah ran to the desert and fell into a deep depression. In fact, 1st Kings 19:4 tells us that Elijah begged God for death. If you are discouraged remember that you are in good company. Elijah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament and even he succumbed to discouragement. The fact is, sometimes doing the right thing for God will make some people very unhappy and we will face persecution for our efforts. It is difficult to remain unaffected by such harsh rejection. Now, I am not saying that we should see our plight of discouragement as a badge of honor or develop a martyr complex but nor should you go to the opposite extreme and think that you are less of a Christian for sometimes getting discouraged.

I also find it interesting that Elijah found himself discouraged immediately after he witnessed God sending down a pillar of fire in an incredible show of his might. For Elijah, this must have been and unforgettable and emotion filled experience. It is a simple fact of human psychology that after extremely joy filled moments in our life we can often experience a letdown. So when this does happen remember that this is normal. When you feel discouraged after a great spiritual victory I would recommend that you take the time to remember what God just did for you in this very special time. Do not be like the fickle children of Israel who often rejected God right after he did something kind for them. Sometimes you will have to make a conscious effort to remember God’s goodness but it will be well worth it! It is also helpful to remember that God is going to continue to do great things with you. Philippians 1:6 says this “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NIV). If you have been gloriously saved by Jesus Christ (And I hope that you have) and Jesus has not returned yet (Which he hasn’t) then you can be confident that God will continue to give you spiritual victories.

In 1st Kings 19:5-8 we are shown, albeit indirectly, another beautiful truth about God. While in the wilderness and still in the throes of depression God does not forsake Elijah. Rather, he feeds and cares for him by way of Angels. As Christians, we can take comfort in the fact that God does not care for us only when we are faithful and bold, but even when we are broken. God’s love toward us is not conditioned upon our performance. Roman 5:8 echoes this thought in perfect harmony when it says “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (ESV). If you are discouraged, reflect on this truth and be encouraged by the goodness and faithfulness of God.

 

In 1st Kings 19:14 Elijah is quoted as saying “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Pretty much everything Elijah says in this statement was indeed true at the time with the exception of one phrase “I alone am left”. Sometimes when we are discouraged we blow things way out of proportion. Things were certainly bad in Israel in Elijah’s day but he had clearly lost perspective. For one, he was not alone because God the Father is still on his throne, Jesus is still Lord, and the Spirit is still at work. God has indeed promised us that he will “never leave us, nor forsake us.” For these reasons we should never fear being truly alone. We should also rejoice in the fact that God will always have a remnant of people on earth who will follow him. Consider the words of 1st Kings 19:18 “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” God gently reminds Elijah that he is not the only person standing up for what is right and, by the way, modern Christian, neither are you. God in his grace has given us the Church-Not the building we worship in or hear the word of God preached but the people who make up the community of the redeemed. Dear Christian, when you are discouraged this is the time when you should lean on your fellow believers all the more. You should look to them for guidance, comfort, and care. All too many people when faced with struggles exit the church. This is the last thing you should do when you are discouraged. If you think that by leaving the church your problems will fade, then you are deceived. Cling to your fellow believers all the more. That is what God would have you do.

As you can see, the word of God has not left us without an answer as to what we should do when we are discouraged. In the previous paragraphs we have only considered one chapter of the Bible and It speaks directly to our present struggles. If I could leave you with one final encouragement I would simply say that if you are discouraged you should take even more time out of your day to search the scriptures for wisdom and encouragement. God has given us the Bible so that we might be taught, encouraged, and reproved. Sometimes the words of the scriptures challenge and sting but they are always instructive-And they will always draw us closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has promised us that all who follow him will indeed find rest.

 

 

 

John Wycliffe and the Beginning of a New Era.

John Wycliffe has often been called the “Morning Star of the Reformation” by historians and for very good reason. Wycliffe was born sometime around 1331 and died in 1384. Wycliffe lived his life for Christ and completed his work a century before Luther would write his Ninety Five Theses and nail it to the churches’ door. In the following paragraphs it is my desire to give a brief summary of Wycliffe’s life and work. Every English speaking Christian ought to know something about this great man of God who began many important reforms which would resonate in the church all over the world.

John Wycliffe was an ordained Roman Catholic priest and preacher but he was first and foremost an Academic. From his position at Oxford University, which was already one of the world’s finest colleges, he had a pulpit from which to preach his views. Although Wycliffe was a part of the Roman Catholic communion he quickly gained a reputation as something of a radical within the English church. He made not a few enemies including the Bishop of London, and later the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Courtenay. However, he also had some powerful friends as well. Perhaps his best known supporter was John of Gaunt who was the son of Edward the Black Prince. John would do his best to protect Wycliffe throughout the years though eventually Wycliffe grew a little too radical for even John of Gaunt. Wycliffe was primarily controversial because of his ideas about theology that were in direct contrast to some of the teachings of the larger church. Let us discuss them now.

Most Roman Catholic theologians of the time thought that the final authority and arbiter of doctrine should be the Papacy and the leadership of the church. Wycliffe thought very differently and suggested that the foundation should be Christ and the Holy Scriptures. He also argued that secular government and the church were far too intertwined. Perhaps what angered the Bishops and Priests the most was when Wycliffe began to criticize their opulent lifestyle. He argued that the church had lost its’ love and compassion for the poor and hurting common people. Wycliffe also began to send out other men into the countryside to spread these ideas. These poor preachers were often called Lollards and they did much to spread the Gospel around the whole of England.

While the Lollards continued to spread the truth all over Britain, Wycliffe continued to study at his home in Oxford. However, in 1381 Wycliffe was about to proclaim a doctrine that would shake the very foundation of the English church. Wycliffe proclaimed that the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation had absolutely no scriptural support. This made many in the church livid with Wycliffe and by now many were starting to turn against him and his ideas. John of Gaunt would desert Wycliffe and William Courtenay who was now the Archbishop of Canterbury was ready to mount a synod against him. The synod was successful and condemned much of what Wycliffe taught. Because of this Wycliffe lost his position at Oxford and was officially censored by the Roman Catholic Church. However, Wycliffe’s work was not yet completed and when he returned to the village of Lutterworth God was calling him to the work that was perhaps his very greatest contribution to the cause of Christ.

By the time he had returned to the little village of Lutterworth in 1382 Wycliffe was gathering his followers to begin a translation of the Holy Bible. Wycliffe would use as his text the Latin Vulgate which had earlier been translated from the Koine Greek one thousand years prior. This project would consume the rest of Wycliffe’s life. It is very probable that Wycliffe translated the Gospels himself and was actively involved in the rest of translation of the New Testament. The significance of this work cannot be understated as it was the very first translation of the Bible into the English language. However this work would not make him popular in Roman Catholic circles. In fact after Wycliffe’s death in 1384 the church would condemn his teachings, exhume his body, burn the remains, and persecute his followers. However, Wycliffe’s work for the Kingdom of Christ could not be undone.

In retrospect, it is easy to see the great effect of John Wycliffe’s work. Because of him and his followers more and more people were willing to speak out against the more egregious doctrines of the church and Wycliffe through his example inspired other reformers such as John Hus, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. Even today, Wycliffe’s influence can be felt every time someone reads a translation of the Bible in the English language. Also many people read Bibles in foreign languages translated by Wycliffe translators who have used his namesake and continued to spread the Gospel around the world. For every one who seeks to live a life for Christ John Wycliffe stands out as a bold inspiration. We can always look to his life as an example of what one person can do when they follow Jesus with reckless abandon.

Review of Christopher J. H. Wright’s book “Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament”

th Christopher J.H. Wright succeeds in his book Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by giving us a better understanding of just exactly who Jesus Christ was and is in light of the Old Testament. He begins his work by using the example of the average carol singing Christian at Christmas time. He reflects that many Christians do not fully understand Jesus in the proper light of his Jewish identity. Many probably don’t even care to. I think Wright is mostly correct in assessing how often times the average western Christian has divorced Jesus from his heritage and pictured him as a blonde haired, blue eyed westerner. In the following pages I wish to show how Wright reconnects Jesus to the Old Testament in a mostly proper and balanced way. I have personally been blessed by reading and studying this book as it has given me new insights into just exactly who Jesus Christ is and what he came to do.
After Wright has finished with his fitting “Christmas Carol” example he begins his objective of introducing us to Jesus Christ as revealed in the Old Testament. He quickly gives a cautionary note that it is not his desire to artificially stuff Jesus Christ into every page and passage of the Old Testament but rather show how we can know him better by studying the Old Testament. I think Wright is quite right in stating that many Christians consistently undervalue the Old Testament. They often times simply see it as “What happened before Jesus”. While this statement is somewhat true it also reflects a profound misunderstanding of what the Old Testament is. Wright over and over again reminds us that all orthodox Christians have affirmed it’s place in the canon and for good reason. So, if the Apostles and the church fathers saw the greatness and necessity of the Old Testament, shouldn’t we as well?
One of the first points Wright covers is the Jewish identity of Jesus. Sadly, many Christians have westernized Jesus to the extent that he is almost like the caricature presented in Jesus Christ Superstar. Wright does his best here to emphasize that Jesus Christ was a Jew in the fullest sense of the word. Not only did Jesus look Jewish and dress and eat like a Jew but he was weaned on the great truths of the Old Testament just as all Jews were. This was for me a favorite section of the chapter as reacquainting myself with the Jewish Jesus helped me to realize that Jesus was a real historical person with a real ethnic identity. He is not some mythological demi god life Hercules or Thor but a real man who was God at the same time. Wright also discussed some of the perceived problems with the genealogies with ease, which I thought was interesting, and also emphasizes Jesus’ link to King David and that he can rightly be called the King of the Jews.
Continuing in the first chapter Wright discusses how Jesus can shed light on the Old Testament and how the Old Testament can shed light on Jesus. This to me is the high mark of the chapter and the most interesting as Wright shows how the person of Jesus Christ brings the New and Old testaments together to make one unified whole. Wright shows us how it is impossible to appreciate the saving work of Christ without seeing how God was pointing to Jesus Christ the whole time in the Old Testament. Jesus did not merely show up on the scene unannounced but rather he is the very culmination of God’s work in the Old Testament. Furthermore, we can better understand the saving work of Jesus Christ by seeing the parallels in many Old Testament narratives. Wright focuses on the Exodus in particular and talks of how God was delivering his people not only from a very literal kind of slavery but a spiritual one as well. God truly redeemed his people in the Exodus but the work was completed in the person of Jesus Christ.
Probably the last truly major point that Wright emphasizes is God’s hand in the history of the Hebrew people. Wright does not contend that God was not actively working in the lives of the other nations but rather he was molding the Hebrew nation for a special purpose. He was setting them apart from their wicked pagan counterparts and turning them into a righteous people. A righteous people that would bless the whole world. The kind of people that could father the Messiah who brings salvation and redemption to the whole world. Gentile and Jew alike.
Wright in his first chapter impressed me especially with his observation on how Jesus Christ and the Old Testament are to be taken in tandem and how both shed light on each other. This point reinforced my belief in the importance of the Old Testament. Also, his view of the unfolding of history brings to light an oft forgotten truth even in Christian circles. It was God’s intention to bless the world through the Jewish people all along. This blessing is Jesus Christ and we as Christians should thank God daily for his people and the blessing he brought to us through them. Sadly, many Christians have often succumbed to the pull of antisemitism and this is a tragedy. A proper understanding of the Old Testament and Jesus’ Jewish identity would put to rest this movement at least amongst Christians.
In chapter two of the book we move into even more fascinating material. Wright spends a great deal of time discussing Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Wright specifically wants us to view the fulfillment of these prophecies as God keeping his promise with his beloved people. He indicates that we must see a difference between a promise and a simple prediction. He quite deftly shows how a promise requires a relationship while a prediction can be quite cold and unfeeling and require no relationship. I found this concept to be incredibly enlightening and probably one of the finer points in the whole book.
Wright begins to discuss the issues of fulfillment and promise by using the book of Mathew as a springboard. This is probably a very wise choice as Mathew is the most Jewish of all of the Gospels. Even a cursory reading of the Gospel gives us the strong idea that the intended audience is Jewish. Mathew at appropriate times emphasizes Jesus’s Jewishness as well as the Old Testament prophecies (or should we say promises) that Jesus Christ fulfilled. While reading the text I noted that Wright seems to have a bit of an Apologetic touch at times. While he rarely goes into great detail and almost never runs a rabbit trail he does deal with some common criticisms of the Gospels by modern day critics. This is certainly welcome in a day when books by Bart Ehrman sell millions of copies. The criticism that he deals with in the second chapter is that perhaps Mathew is simply lifting Old Testament texts to suit his theological needs. Many critical scholars have asserted this claim and it deserves a good reply. Wright asserts that if Mathew was simply trying to get his points across by taking Old Testament references out of context it is far more probable that he would have used quotes that were far more sensational. Wright indicates that the only one example that Mathew cites requires real hard evidence for support. This is the prophecy in the book of Micah that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. The rest of the examples clearly imply the need of a Savior (and he is Jesus Christ!) but they are not taken out of context by Mathew.
Wright also spends a great deal of time connecting the concept of a promise and a covenant. His own words on the matter state. “A promise is different. Because it involves personal relationship and commitment, it has a dynamic quality that goes beyond the external details involved.”. Essentially, Wright is saying that a promise implies a future in the relationship as well. Without getting too carried away we could say that because of the relationship more promises are on their way. Perhaps it is best to discuss some of the covenants in a little bit of detail so that we can better understand what Wright is really getting at. Although it would be beyond the scope of this paper to discuss all of the covenants I do think we can get the idea of what Wright is trying to get across from the covenant God made with Abraham. When God made the covenant with Abraham he promised that his line would continue and prosper and that he would make of him a great nation. This promise implies that God would continue to work in the lives of Abraham’s descendants. Although the time the people of Israel spent in Egypt was mostly bleak God used this time to multiply the numbers of the Hebrews greatly. It is clear God was active in their lives as he kept his promise to multiply and deliver them. We also see God continuing his work in establishing the law covenant as well as the Davidic covenant. We could go on but I think the point has been made. The covenants must be seen as a chain and the New covenant, brought about by the work and person of Jesus Christ, is the next in line. The New Covenant also implies further promises as well! What a glorious thought that is!
I was really impressed by chapter two as a whole. I thought the concept of promise as explained by Wright was very interesting and thought provoking. It truly demonstrates that God is not a cold and distant magician but rather a loving father who intimately deals with people in supernatural ways. This chapter serves as a ready argument to those Christians who lean towards deistic interpretations of God the Father. I was also impressed by Wright’s understanding of the covenants. They always implied a further and unending relationship. Again, this does much to shatter a deist’s understanding of our world. In the future I hope to possibly use this material in some of my teaching. The material discussed in the chapter is deep but ultimately rewarding if you are willing to respond to it with an open mind.
The third chapter goes into great detail about the very identity of Jesus. Wright frames the discussion in terms of Jesus’ identity in relation to God the Father. Wright spends a great deal of time emphasizing the fact that Jesus is really and truly the Son of God. He understands himself that way and the Father understands him that way. Wright is very wise in spending a chapter on this topic as many people have misunderstood Jesus identity and denied his divinity because of their lack of understanding. This chapter is helpful in clearing up some of the perceived problems with Jesus nature. Wright uses the baptism of Jesus as a springboard for the entire chapter. He believes that Jesus’ baptism was a pivotal point in his life as it revealed his mission and identity. When God said “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased” he was making a bold statement about who Jesus was. Jesus was not merely a great prophet or teacher but rather he was God’s only begotten son. No other person ever has, nor ever will, enjoy such a station.
Wright connects this point to the Old Testament by showing us how important the Father and son relationship was in the Old Testament. In the modern day our understanding of fatherhood is blurred as we are often more accustomed to neglectful, and abusive parenthood. Fortunately the Biblical model, and the Old Testament model in particular, stand in stark contrast to the modern understanding of being a father. Wright uses abundant scriptural references from both the Old Testament and the New Testament and he mostly accomplishes his goal of painting an accurate picture of Jesus Christ’s identity.
For me, this chapter had many good insights like the previous ones. However, I disagreed with Wright a little on his understanding of Jesus. I want to emphasize the word little as I did not disagree with him on a major point of doctrine. Really, my disagreement stems from one statement. “It was the Old Testament who helped Jesus to understand Jesus”. I think I grasp Wright’s point in that Jesus was versed in the Old Testament scriptures but to me this statement does not recognize Jesus’ implicit understanding of who he was and is. To me it almost sounds like Wright is arguing that Jesus discovered a bit of himself in the Old Testament. I find this problematic. Perhaps this is not what Wright is saying but I do think the statement could have used some clarification. The concept of Jesus being fully divine and yet learning is difficult to understand but I think we must recognize the fact that when people heard Jesus speak they said he spoke with unique authority. We must recognize that he spoke with authority because he was God not because he was simply better studied than the other rabbis.
In Chapter Four Wright contends that we must understand Christ’s “mission” in light of the Old Testament. He asserts in the first page of the chapter that Jesus understood that He was sent of God the Father to complete a mission. On the matter Wright says “One thing that is very clear about Jesus is that he knew he had been sent. He was no self appointed savior, no popularly elected leader. He had not just arrived. He was sent.”. This point is important. In the Old Testament the presence of God and being a person sent of God added divine significance to an event no matter how great or small. That Jesus is fully divine and yet sent of the Father gives us a good idea of the weight of his purpose in the land of Israel.
One of the more interesting facets of this chapter was Wright’s discussion of inter testamental literature. This broad collection of literature constituted writings by religious Jews who produced their work sometime between the roughly three hundred years of silence that took place between the writing of Malachi and Mathew. Again, it must be stated that these books covered a great many topics but many of them focused on the coming Messiah. Wright tells us that many of these writings portrayed the coming Messiah as a man who would restore the national greatness of Israel and lead them to independence and military might. The thought of a spiritual Messiah was probably a foreign concept to many of these writers. In fact we can see in the Gospels that even many of Jesus’ followers did not understand what he had come to do. Reading this reminded me of an important truth. We can be sure that God is actively working in our world. The Old Testament attests to this time and again. But we should not assume that God will necessarily work in the way that we desire nor in the way we even think most likely. He certainly did not act within the expectations of many Jews at the time of Jesus’ coming but his plan was perfect nonetheless.
One of the more interesting aspects of this chapter is how Jesus understood and used the term Messiah. Wright brings up a very interesting point here. One that I had virtually no familiarity with before reading this but now see it as almost obvious. Wright points out that Jesus almost never referred to himself as the Messiah and when others proclaimed him as such he told them to keep quiet. This is remarkable! Was Jesus denying who he was? Some have suggested that this is a major problem in the Bible because as we read different Gospels we get a very different idea of who Jesus claimed to be. Wright offers the interesting solution that Jesus eschewed the Messiah title because it’s meaning had been greatly corrupted by the writers of inter testamental literature. This is indeed a very interesting assertion that seems to solve some problems in understanding how the Gospels portray Jesus. Now that we have learned that Jesus preferred other titles than Messiah, what other titles did he use?
The title that Jesus probably used more often any other is the title the “Son of Man”. This is interesting as we see this title in the Old Testament but not in the inter testamental witness. I believe that Jesus was doing this so that it was clear that his identity and mission were grounded in the God breathed literature of the Old Testament rather than the sensationalism of the inter testamental writers. But what does the term “Son of Man” mean. Well, Wright contends that Jesus took an Old Testament term found in Daniel and Ezekiel and imbued it with new meaning. As a student who has just begun his seminary studies I really appreciated this section of the chapter. I have read a lot of different views about what this term means and have not been able to come to a satisfying conclusion. Wright’s demonstrates how this term can act as an umbrella term to demonstrate Christ’s authority over sin and death, his person as a sacrifice, and his future glory with the Father. It was very helpful to see how this term could encapsulate many meanings instead of forcing you to see it as having only one function or dimension.
By the time I began to read chapter five of Wright’s book I was wondering how much more information about Jesus’ identity in the Old Testament I could still stuff into my brain. The book is loaded with interesting and sound information. Finally, when it came time to write the paper on this book I was wondering not what to put in but what to leave out. The final chapter is called “Jesus and His Old Testament Values”. I thought this was an interesting topic to complete this volume with. However, I think the reason for Wright’s choice is that it is his desire to emphasize just how strongly Jesus relied on the word of God in his ministry. At the time of his ministry on Earth the New Testament was not a reality yet. For Jesus, his Bible was the Old Testament. From the Old Testament the Jews derived their morality and their understanding of what was really important in life. Jesus affirmed these teachings for they are necessarily apart of his nature. Wright uses the classic example of Jesus being led into the wilderness and being tempted by Satan. What is fascinating about this account is that Jesus could have responded however he wished to Satan’s temptations and yet he responded with selections from the book of Deuteronomy. Anything Jesus would have said could have carried divine authority. From this we can see just how much the Jewish scriptures meant to Jesus.
For me, reading this point about Jesus’ love for the Old Testament led to feel a deep sense of conviction. Although as a Christian I have always held the belief that the Old Testament is inspired I have often thought of it as having only secondary value to the Christian. How wrong I was! As Christians I think it is high time we reclaim the law and recognize it as the foundation for our values as well. Jesus apparently thought the Old Testament was important enough to memorize and proclaim it and therefore as Christians we should do the same.
Speaking of the law, what exactly was Jesus attitude towards this system? It is true that Jesus came to bring in the New Covenant of grace but does that mean the Old Testament law is no longer relevant. The obvious answer by now should be absolutely not! Jesus himself stated his view of the law in Mathew chapter five. Jesus made it plain that he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Although as Christians we are no longer condemned by the law we are now better able to live by it’s precepts. With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we can live out the law in precisely the way God meant for us to. Jesus summed up the law quite simply “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself”. Simple words with much power. What better standard could we ever hope to live by?
It has been said that more sermons have been based on the book of Psalms than any other. Many Christians since the days of our Lord have uses the Psalms as their hymnal. To Jesus and his Jewish contemporaries they were absolutely essential expressions of worship to a holy God. In many ways the Psalms were an incredible link to the past for the Jews. Many of the Psalms were written by David and one was even written by Moses himself. Jesus affirmed the Psalms in what they taught and the God they spoke of. Even while Jesus was dying on the cross the words of the Psalms could be heard on his lips. The Psalms were truly the expressions of the very deepest portion of the Jewish soul. The Psalms affirm through stately poetry much of what Jesus believed and taught. For a mostly illiterate society the memorizing and singing of Psalms was probably very important because of all the doctrinal truths they contain. The Psalms affirm the greatness, goodness, mercy, faithfulness, and long suffering of God. We can be sure that as a Jew the Psalms were an important part of the Jesus spiritual makeup. The Psalms declared the very truths that he wanted the world to know about God the Father. If Jesus had a hymnal of sorts then it would have been the Psalms.
And so starting with the example of the “carol singing Christian” Wright brings his work to a fitting end by finishing with a few more examples from that Psalms and brings us full circle back to the illustration of the “carol singing Christian”. And so we are left with the question of how do we as “carol singing Christians” respond to Wright’s message about Jesus? Does Wright teach a radical and new view of Christ that would not fit in mainstream Christian circles? Perhaps in some, but Wright introduces to us a Jesus that is fully God and fully man. He is the same humble carpenter who loved children and helped those who could not help themselves. However, Wright presents a Jesus that is unfamiliar to many Christians because he is rightly connected to his Jewish identity. Many Christians might also be surprised just how much they can come to know Jesus better by reading the Old Testament. To separate the two is to do incredible damage to the message that God intends for us to understand. In his final words Wright sums up his premise by stating “We have seen that the Old Testament tells the story which Jesus completed”. After completing Knowing Jesus Through The Old Testament I have come to the conclusion that we can only fully appreciate the person of Jesus Christ and the Old Testament if we take them together. They both shed light on one another and leave us more knowledgeable about God’s plan and his very nature. While I enjoyed many of the insights the book offered the very best part of reading it was coming to a better knowledge of who my Savior really is. I know this year when I sing Christmas carols with my lovely wife and my new born daughter (just listening of course) I will be thinking of a divine, loving, caring, human, sacrificing, and certainly Jewish Jesus Christ, who affirmed the Old Testament while ushering in the New!