Jesus Christ: An Admirable Conjunction of Diverse Excellencies

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A couple weeks ago, I wrote here:

“Let’s represent Christ well.... We do not represent Christ well by portraying him as milquetoast and insecure.”
So then, how can we represent Christ well? The most important step in answering that question is to understand who Jesus was & how he presented himself to the world.

I would commend a very helpful (and somewhat short) book that has greatly helped my perspective on Christ: Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper. This Scripture-saturated book taught me that Jesus is truly beautiful: having every excellent quality in perfect symmetry.
"What makes Christ glorious, as Jonathan Edwards observed over 250 years ago, is 'an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.'

For example, we admire Christ for his transcendence, but even more because the transcendance of his greatness is mixed with submission to God. We marvel at him because his uncompromising justice is tempered with mercy. His majesty is sweetened by meekness. In his equality with God, he has a deep reverence for God. Though he is worthy of all good, he was patient to suffer evil. His sovereign dominion over the world was clothed with a spirit of obedience and submission. He baffled the proud scribes with his wisdom, but was simple enough to be loved by children. He could still the storm with a word, but would not strike the Samaritans with lightning or take himself down from the cross.

The glory of Christ is not a simple thing. It is a coming together in one person of extremely diverse qualities" (pp. 35-36).
Simply reading this book's table of contents gives a helpful glimpse at Christ's "glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14):
1. Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God: The Ultimate Aim of Jesus Christ
2. Jesus Is the Glory of God: The Deity of Jesus Christ
3. The Lion and the Lamb: The Excellence of Jesus Christ
4. The Indestructible Joy: The Gladness of Jesus Christ
5. The Waves and Winds Still Know His Voice: The Power of Jesus Christ
6. Something Greater Than Solomon Is Here: The Wisdom of Jesus Christ
7. The Glorious Poverty of a Bad Reputation: The Desecration of Jesus Christ
8. The Incomparable Sufferings: The Anguish of Jesus Christ
9. The Glory of Rescuing Sinners, Not Removing Satan: The Saving Sacrifice of Jesus Christ
10. The Incarnate Wealth of the Compassion of God: The Mercies of Jesus Christ
11. The Tough Side: The Severity of Jesus Christ
12. Invincible Life: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
13. The Appearing of the Glory of Our Great God and Savior: The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
Conclusion: Getting Right with God Through Jesus Christ

Take a few minutes to meditate on this passage (Luke 9:10-48) for a glimpse of
the diverse excellencies of Jesus:

On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. When the crowds learned it, they followed him (POPULAR), and he welcomed them (KIND) and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing (POWERFUL, COMPASSIONATE HEALER). Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, "Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place." But he said to them, "You give them something to eat" (INTERACTIVE). They said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people." For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, "Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each" (LEADER, EQUIPPER). And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied (POWERFUL). And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces (ABUNDANT PROVIDER).

Now it happened that as he was praying alone (INTIMATE WITH THE FATHER), the disciples were with him (MENTOR). And he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" (INTERACTIVE) And they answered, "John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen." Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God" (THE MESSIAH, SON OF GOD).

And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one (UNPREDICTABLE), saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised" (PROPHET, SACRIFICIAL SUFFERER).

And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (TOUGH, LIFE-CHANGING). For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (WISE). For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (BRINGS PERSPECTIVE) For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray (PROPER PRIORITIES). And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white (GLORIOUS). And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah"—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!" (UNIQUE, APPROVED BY HIS FATHER) And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him (POPULAR). And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not." Jesus answered, "O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here" (TOUGH LOVE). While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father (POWERFUL, COMPASSIONATE, IN CONTROL). And all were astonished at the majesty of God (MAJESTIC).

But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing (MARVELOUS), Jesus said to his disciples, "Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men" (FOCUSED). But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it (PERFECTLY IN CONTROL). And they were afraid to ask him about this saying (FEAR-PROVOKING).

An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side (LOWLY) and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great." (GREAT TEACHER)

If we as believers and churches make it our business to accurately represent Christ to the world - through our words and through our works - he will attract a crowd:

“I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." - Jesus (John 12:32)


That's My King!

If you've never heard this, it is well worth five minutes of your time.


Good Times with the Middle Schoolers

Monday, March 29, 2010

Last night in youth group we were talking about John the Baptist:

Me: "So locusts were crunchy, and he ate them with honey. Sort of like...graham crackers, maybe?"

Nick: "Locusts probably tasted like chicken."

Me: "You're right. So locusts and honey probably tasted like honey-glazed chicken!"

All the middle school girls: "EEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!"

(Check out the Harvest Students blog:


A Biblical Warning Against Pre-Game Trash Talk

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I read an interesting story last night in 1 Kings 20. The king of Aram decided to pick a fight with Israel. He trash talks them big-time before the battle, basically saying he's going to pulverize them:

"May the gods strike me and even kill me if there remains enough dust from Samaria to provide even a handful for each of my soldiers." (1Ki 20:10 NLT)
The king of Israel responds:
"A warrior putting on his sword for battle should not boast like a warrior who has already won." (1Ki 20:11 NLT)
Israel goes on to defeat Aram soundly:
Each Israelite soldier killed his Aramean opponent, and suddenly the entire Aramean army panicked and fled. (1Ki 20:20 NLT)
I smiled as I thought of certain athletes who are full of arrogant words before the game, then get beaten. Guys, learn a lesson from 1 Kings 20: do your talking after the game! :-)


Behold Your God!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A few weeks ago our Sunday morning Bible doctrines class was privileged to study the attributes of God. Be encouraged by this brief summary, and rejoice in our amazing God!

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!" (Isa 40:9 ESV)

Attributes of Greatness (Being)
• God is spirit (Jn 4:24). As such, he is invisible (Jn 1:18; 1 Tim 1:17).
• God is eternal – he has no beginning and no ending (Ps 90:2; Rev 1:8) and exists outside of time (Jn 8:58; 2 Pet 3:8). As such, he is immortal (1 Tim 1:17).
• God is independent – He does not need anything outside of himself (Acts 17:24-25; Ex 3:14). As such, he is free to do whatever he desires (Ps 115:3; 135:6; Dan 4:35).
• God is unchangeable in his being (Ps 102:27; James 1:17), his purposes (Ps 33:11; Is 46:11), and his promises (Num 23:19).
• God is all-powerful – able to do anything (Jer 32:17; Matt 19:26) in accordance with his character and his will (Heb 6:18; 2 Tim 2:13; James 1:13).
• God is omnipresent – present at every point of space with his entire being (Ps 139:7-10).
• God is all-knowing – aware of all things (1 Jn 3:20) past, present, and future (Ps 139:4).
• God is wise –bringing about the best results using the best means (Rom 11:33).

Attributes of Goodness (Morality)
• God is the standard of goodness in everything he is and does (Luke 18:19; Ps 100:5).
• God is the standard of righteousness (justice) and always conforms to his own moral character (Deut 32:4).
• God is the standard of truth (John 17:3) – ultimate reality. As such, he is faithful – he will always fulfill what he has promised (1 Cor 10:13; 1 Pet 4:19).

Attributes of Kindness (Relationship)
• God is loving toward his Son (Jn 17:24), believers (1 Jn 4:10), and the world (Jn 3:16).
• God is merciful, showing kindness toward the guilty (2 Sam 24:14) and distressed (2 Cor 1:3).
• God is gracious, granting favor to those who deserve none (Rom 3:23-24) and strength to those who have none (1 Cor 15:10).
• God is patient, often withholding punishment over a long period of time (2 Pet 3:9; Ex 34:6).

In Summary:
• God is perfect (complete) (Matt 5:48), united (1 Jn 1:5; 4:8), orderly (1 Cor 14:33), and beautiful (Ps 27:4).
• God is holy – uniquely set apart from his creation (Is 6:3), particularly from sin (1 Pet 1:15-16). As such, he is perfectly wrathful, intensely hating all sin (Rom 1:18; 1 Thess 1:10).
• God is fully happy (1 Tim 6:15; 1:11).
• God is glorious, having an excellent reputation (Ps 79:9) made visible in the light that radiates from his throne (Rev 21:23). Everything exists to display his glory (Rom 11:36). As the only perfectly glorious being, God is jealous for the attention and worship of his people (Ex 20:7).


Lift Your Eyes and Look to the Heavens

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One.

"Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

(Isaiah 40:25-26)


Christianity in China

Friday, March 19, 2010

I ran across some very interesting news regarding Christianity in China on the Desiring God blog.

* The official and highly controlled newspaper of the Communist government is featuring a story of a religious conversion of an exceptionally bright university student who found meaninglessness in existence apart from God.
* He was given a Bible by a colleague, and the reader is not led to believe this is a bad thing.
* He converted to Christ after reading it and now is experiencing fulfillment.
* And he's now happily attending an unregistered church (i.e house church).
Continue to pray for our brothers and sisters and the spread of the gospel on the other side of the globe!


Jesus Did Not Wear a “Kick Me” Sign

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Yesterday evening I checked my mailbox. Junk mail. As usual.

But this time, one of the advertisements caught my eye. It was a postcard from a church in my area – an invitation to their special Easter services. The front of the advertisement read: “We’re nearly as harmless as, well...a bunny.” Followed by a picture of one of those marshmallow “peeps.” I kid you not.

I flipped the card over and read:

“Does the thought of going to church make you uneasy, even a little queasy?
Maybe you’re worried about what to wear or what others will think. At ______,
we’ve worked really hard to make your experience non-threatening, beneficial,
and even fun. We have a no-pressure, laid-back style and everyone is welcome!
Stop by one of our ten Easter Services... it will be more than you expected and
everything you’ve been looking for. Wear whatever you want, just be yourself.
We’ll have the coffee ready for you.”

Now, I’m not aware of a single church that wants to come across as threatening, miserable, and a waste of time. I have no problem with churches that work hard on being welcoming. And I really appreciate good coffee. But something about their whole presentation seemed, frankly...a bit pathetic: Don’t be scared of us! We’re not that bad! We’re “harmless”! We’re nicer and more comfortable than all those other stiff, meanie churches.”

I know there are many “Christians” who have done horrible things in the name of Jesus. I know there are countless individuals who have been hurt by churches. Those situations are sad and should not be swept under the rug. But seems to me that some churches spend way too much time apologizing and trying to “fit in.” Like the kid in high school who will do anything to get friends – only to find out those “friends” mock him behind his back for being so insecure.

Last week I came across the website of a church in Ann Arbor. Their "About Us" page reads:
"Church: a word that has been around for thousands of years, with so many
meanings to different people. You do not need to throw out your definition of
church, but try ours on for size. At ______, church is about people. it's about
you. so we accept you just as you are: church background or not, student,
single, married, single again, with or without kids, rich, poor, young, old,
whatever, we are about real relationships, relevant speakers, real life stories
and rockin' music."

I resonate with some of that statement. I’m all about churches being welcoming and relevant. Nothing is more relevant than the gospel! But again, it comes across as a bit pathetic: "Try ours on for size"?!?

Reminds me of a quote I read on Kevin DeYoung's blog the other day:
"'Oh, please, approve of me'–the usual message of modern Christian churches–makes a feeble substitute for 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.' The trouble with Christianity is not flamboyance of conviction. The trouble is paucity of conviction, flaccidity, the turned cheek replaced by a 'Kick Me' sign" (William Murchison, Mortal Follies, p. 206).

My purpose is not to sit here and point fingers at other ministries. We will all give account of our own ministries before our Master (Romans 14:4, 12). But the two examples I referenced (and many others) make me think about our own church and how we ought to represent the convergence of grace and truth that Christ displayed. The spirit of our age seems to be: “If it sounds harsh, it’s not loving.” However, the Jesus who said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) is the same Jesus who also said,
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to
bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a
daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a
man's enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his
father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his
cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to
the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the
world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If
they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:18-20).

Here’s the point: let’s represent Christ well. We must certainly do that by welcoming visitors in love. In fact, we must go beyond that and seek the lost! But we do not represent Christ well by portraying him as milquetoast and insecure. A true encounter with him will radically change you forever. He is not “harmless.”

(UPDATE [March 30]: Read the follow-up post here)

(UPDATE #2 [May 13]: I just come across a church whose slogan is: "You won't hate us! We promise!" Seriously. Wow.)


Get Your New Clothes On!

Convicting words from Ephesians last Sunday:


What Would It Look Like If God's Spirit Swept Through Our Church?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I've been pondering this thought an awful lot recently - "What would it look like if God's Spirit swept through our church?" How would this change us? What would we do differently? What would I do differently? What would you do differently?

These are important questions in so many ways. So much of what happens in churches today is simply program driven. We have our well-run, well-organized ministries for every imaginable age group, yet sometimes I wonder if we've programmed God right out of the equation in some cases.

As I have studied some of the great revivals of the past they have all been marked by an unbelievable movement of God's Spirit that was irresistible and profound. People were truly humbled and changed because of the great conviction brought upon them by Almighty God. This conviction always resulted in a willing repentance from sin on the part of the people and leaders. Idols of the heart were identified, acknowledged, and cast down because they were finally seen for what they really were - cheap imitations and substitutes for the one and only living and true God.

I will tell you right now this much, I have been fervently praying for a sweeping of God's Spirit through our church. It is my desire to see Him work and move among us in such a profound, life-changing, ministry-altering way that we stand back in absolute awe of what He is doing. And that's just it, really. Its about what God does, not what we do, or attempt to do or manufacture. There is just too much "manufacturing" going on in churches today. My prayer is that God will really move and work among us and that we will let Him do whatever He needs and desires to do among us. May God's Spirit truly sweep through Harvest of Canton!

BTW, I was really challenged about this matter of experiencing God's manifest presence in my own life personally through a recent blog post by my good friend Gordon Zwirkoski. I highly recommend that you go read it here -


Why Jesus Couldn't Save Himself

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Good stuff from D.A. Carson on the atonement of Jesus Christ:

Why Jesus Couldn’t Save Himself

HT: Justin Taylor


Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor, stumbling toward the palace of the great king. You have become your prayer. As you shuffle toward the barred gate, the guards stiffen. Your smell has preceded you. You stammer out a message for the great king: 'I want to see the king.'

"Your words are barely intelligible, but you whisper one final word, 'Jesus, I come in the name of Jesus.' At the name of Jesus, as if by magic, the palace comes alive. The guards snap to attention, bowing low in front of you. Lights come on, and the door flies open. You are ushered into the palace and down a long hallway into the throne room of the great king, who comes running to you and wraps you in his arms.

"The name of Jesus gives my prayers royal access. They get through. Jesus isn't just the Savior of my soul. He's also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus. 'Asking in Jesus' name' isn't another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. It is one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect."

- Paul Miller, A Praying Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress 2009), p. 135.

HT: Of First Importance


The Convergence

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We are 3 guys who minister in Metro Detroit.

We strive to emulate the convergence of grace and truth that Jesus Christ displayed. We make it our goal both to preach the Word without apology and to love people unconditionally.

We believe in both the immanence and the transcendance of our God. He is very near to us, yet set apart from us as the awesome Creator.

We believe in the sovereignty of God, and we believe in the urgency of evangelism and the power of prayer.

We believe that churches should be focused on both evangelism and discipleship. We desire to minister to our church family in a personal way, but we also want to influence a greater number of people for Christ.

We desire to uphold the unadjusted gospel of Jesus, and at the same time to remove unneccesary obstacles to the gospel. We aim for relevance (nothing is more relevant than the gospel of Christ!) without compromise. We are passionate about reaching the lost, but we refuse to employ God-degrading gimmicks in order to do so. The glory of God is preeminent in our thinking as we seek to represent our Lord Jesus Christ.

Does this convergence of ideas resonate with you? Then we’re glad you’ve met us here at this intersection of thoughts about faith, life, and ministry. Soli Deo Gloria.

Dan McGhee, Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Church in Westland

Mike Moses, Assistant Pastor, Harvest Bible Church in Westland

Joe Haverlock, Worship Director, Harvest Bible Church in Westland


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