I was encouraged by this blog from Matt Reagan at Desiring God where he gives 10 different reminders for Christians concerning realities about God and ourselves. Reading through these, I’m compelled to remember these daily as I am weak and often need reminders. I agree with the writer where he says that somehow during the night, he’s forgotten the big realities about God and the universe and himself and the Gospel. He states, “I desperately need to steady myself with biblical truth rather than stumbling forward to live from unbelief… I’ve learned over time to put structures in place that remind me of those unseen things, especially during my bleary-eyed, half-conscious mornings.”
I pray that it encourages you as it encouraged me.
I often like to read online comments on various articles or news stories to see what people are talking about. They often give me insight into how viewers are thinking or processing the information contained in the story. It seems to be inevitable that there will be commenters arguing about anything from typos in the story to facts to what they think should have been the outcome.
This morning, I was reading a Facebook post by The Gospel Coalition where 2 commenters were going back and forth in a heated discussion. The discussion could have been civil, but one of the commenters had to go there. Where is there? There is where the conversation gains new heights of irritation, where fuel is heaped onto the fire. What took it there in this conversation?
“Are you smoking crack?”
Purely incendiary! Not to mention, offensive. However, we are all often guilty of saying the most unhelpful things in a conversation that ultimately bring up walls and end conversations quickly! Things like:
“Are you serious?”
“You can’t be serious!”
“You don’t really believe that!”
“You can’t be that _____!”
“You ARE that _____!”
“Where did you get THAT from?”
“You have LOST your mind!”
“No person in their right mind would think something like that!”
“Oh, you think you know everything. Right.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”
The list can go on and on and on… and on. Now, reading those, we will probably cringe, especially if we remember ourselves using any of those phrases before. I will admit, though embarrassed to do so, that I surely have. We become those that start the fire and create fury. As one who is a believer & follower in Jesus Christ, I understand that saying these things reveals a heart of anger toward the other person. In those moments, there is a failure to love that person as I should (Matt. 22:39) which is ultimately a failure to love God for He has commanded me to do so (Matt. 22:37). I am failing to see the other person as an image bearer (Gen. 1:27) who is deserving of my respect and dignity. It shows that there is a preoccupation with self as well, a self seeking preoccupation, a self serving preoccupation, and that is wrong as well. I am more concerned in those moments with winning an argument, than winning others & being kind to others.
When I think about the Gospel of Jesus Christ in regard to those moments, I’m reminded of Philippians 2:
 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:3-11 ESV
Jesus is my perfect example of humility. He was never concerned with winning an argument; He was concerned with winning people to the Kingdom of God. He was never self centered or self serving, but rather, Scripture says that He came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45). He loved God and He loved His neighbor. He did everything that I fail to do day by day.
But – there is hope in the Gospel! I fail daily because I sin daily! I am born in sin! I, Jenn, am a natural born sinner like everyone. I know that this presents a problem in light of God’s holiness, therefore I need a Savior. I need Jesus! Praise God that He provided His Son, Jesus, to save us. Christ lived the perfect life, the life that I could never live, yet He died the death that I deserve to die. We all deserve to die that death. We all deserve to bear the full brunt of God’s wrath. But Jesus bore that wrath on the cross so that all who repent and trust in Him would receive His righteousness. He died on the cross for sin, and rose 3 days later, ascending to the right hand of God, and He is there now. My sin, our sin, deserves wrath, but, because I have trusted in Jesus and have received eternal life, I don’t get God’s wrath or judgment. I am forgiven! I have received the Holy Spirit and He convicts me of sin when I fail. And when I fail, I can run to God for forgiveness, knowing that He is faithful & just to forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Christ is our only hope. He is the only way (John 14:6).
Because of Christ, there is hope for me. There is hope for all of us, all who are fire-starters and fury makers. When I am prideful and humility is the farthest thing from me, I can look to Christ, my perfect example, and hope in His glorious Gospel.
At the beginning of the year, I made it my mission to finally trek through the Old Testament as a whole. I’d started so many times before, only to start to fizzle at Leviticus, coast through Numbers, and finally crash and burn by Deuteronomy. Yes, I admit it! I had a hard time. I’d find myself eventually back in the New Testament, telling my husband that my brain needed a ‘break’ from the Old Testament. Lies! I’d never end up going back to the Old Testament and would camp out in my favorite, well known books of the New Testament.
However, because the Bible is one big picture of God’s plan from creation to redemption, everything fits together. It is all important. It all points to Jesus. Even the Old Testament? Especially the Old Testament! The Pentateuch (1st 5 books of the Bible) is replete with pointers to Jesus. Having this big picture mindset really made all the difference in my reading this time. I found myself excited to read each day, often running to find my husband to share with him the gems that I’d come across! He’d gotten me a journaling Bible for Christmas which is now filled with colorful writings in the margins now from my colored ink pens.
First, in Genesis 3:15, known as the protoevangelion, we see the promise of a Savior:
 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Genesis 3:15 ESV
Although, through Adam, sin had entered the world, there was a promise that one day, man’s enemy would be crushed by the offspring of man. That offspring would be Jesus (Gal. 3:13-18), and through His death on the cross, He defeated sin, death, and Satan. Praise Him!
As we read through Genesis, starting with chapter 37, we learn about the life of Joseph. Joseph is a main character in Genesis & he is a type of Christ. One of the 12 sons of Jacob (Israel), he was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery by them (while they led their father to believe that he was ravaged by wild animals), falsely accused, thrown into prison, forgotten, & elevated to positions that only God could orchestrate. Once sold, he was made to be an overseer over the house of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officers. Potiphar’s wife, attracted to Joseph, tried to get him to lie with her. Joseph told her no. One day, she attempted to lie with him again, grabbing him by the garment, and he fled, leaving behind that garment in her hand. She lied to her husband and accused Joseph of attempting to ‘come into her’, which led to his being thrown in prison & subsequently being made overseer of the prisoners. While in prison, he met Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker and rightly interpreted their dreams, being told by the cup-bearer that he’d remember him when restored to his position. Did he remember? Not at all. He forgot until some time later when Pharaoh himself began to have dreams. The cup-bearer remember Joseph and told Pharaoh about him. Joseph ended up rightly interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams and was then made an overseer by Pharaoh. The constant refrain that we see during these chapters in Genesis? The LORD was with Joseph. In spite of all of these trials, the LORD never left him. According to the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams, Egypt was about to experience a famine. Pharaoh had recognized that God was clearly with Joseph so he entrusted him to steward things rightly. And steward, he did. He stewarded the land and its crops well during the time of abundance so that there would be food during the time of famine.
Now, back home where his brothers and father were, they were affected by the famine so who did they have to see in order to get food? That’s right – Joseph. Once they got to Egypt to retrieve food, Joseph recognized them, but they did not recognize Joseph. Through a series of events that Joseph orchestrated, they came to find out that it was him.
 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.  And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.  For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.  So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
Genesis 45:4-8 ESV
He was reunited to his father, who eventually died. With their father dead, Joseph’s brothers feared that he would seek retribution, but he did not. He maintained the right perspective.
 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”  So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died:  ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him.  His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”  But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Genesis 50:15-21 ESV
So, how does this point to Jesus?
Joseph was rejected & despised by his brothers as was Jesus by the Jews. Joseph was falsely accused and punished according to that false accusation as was Jesus. We see that God sent Joseph to preserve people. Jesus is the One that was sent by God the Father to save His people. That is what His name means:
 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 ESV
Joseph is a type of Christ in the Old Testament, one of many. Jesus is the greater Joseph! What was done to Jesus was meant for evil, but God meant it for ultimate good – that those who repent (turn away from their sins) and believe in Jesus would be granted forgiveness & eternal life with God. This is great news!
But why is this good news?!
When God created man, He made us in His image and in His likeness. We were created good! But referenced earlier, Adam sinned by eating of the fruit of the tree which God commanded him not to eat. Because of Adam’s sin, all men sin. We’re born that way. We’re born with an inclination to do what’s wrong. If you don’t think babies deal with this problem, think – Have you ever had to teach a child to disobey? How to say no? You have to teach them to obey, to not hit, to not throw tantrums, to listen. They already know how to sin. It’s our very nature! And because God is holy, this presents a problem. God is perfect, pure, and in Him is no sin at all. He is what we are not. And because of this, there’s a huge problem. We’re sinners at war with God with futile weapons, fully deserving of God’s wrath because of our sinfulness. But like God sent Joseph, He sent Jesus. This Jesus, the Son of God, lived a perfect, obedient life. He lived the life that we should live! Yet, He died on the cross for the sins of His people. The death that He died was the death that we deserve. We deserve to bear the full weight of God’s wrath for our sins, yet Jesus absorbed it, dying on the cross, to be raised on the 3rd day because death could not hold him. He was innocent. On the cross, Jesus defeated sin, death, and Satan. He ascended to Heaven, where He sits at the right hand of the Father. For those that turn away from sin & put their trust in Jesus as their Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit Who helps us to obey. We’re forgiven and we’re redeemed solely because of what Jesus has done. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, is the better Joseph who preserves His people from eternal punishment, from spiritual famine, from the wrath of God. But only those that come to Jesus in repentance and faith are preserved. He is the only hope for our preservation, for our salvation. There is no other hope. And to this truth, we must respond accordingly for our lives depend upon it.
Joseph is just one one of many pointers to Jesus. Many more shadows, pointers, and types exist in the Old Testament, such as Noah, Moses, Jacob, and Isaac. As you read through the Old Testament, look for clues that point forward to Christ. He is there; all of Scripture points to Him.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luke 24:27 ESV
I remember every summer, my brothers and I, when we were younger, had reading lists full of books to complete. We were always excited to tackle those books, enjoying the new worlds we’d enter as we read. I was reminded of those times last week when I signed up for a library card at my local branch. What great times those were! My little brain could fly through those books at light speed! I can’t say that’s the case now. Now, I struggle to finish books. It’s not that I don’t desire to; my mind gets flooded with all of my other responsibilities – ones I didn’t have when I was a grade schooler.
In this current stage of my life, I am a homemaker. My days are spent taking care of our home, doing some reading, cooking, and running various errands while trying to learn, or improve upon, skill sets. While I have great and grandiose visions of voraciously reading books like I did when I was younger, it’s just not the reality. I have so many books that I dream of completing, and have even made my own reading list, but it’s a struggle.
I admire those pastors that find the time to read book after book, lovingly and faithfully pastor a flock, care for their families well, and even write a blog entry! This lets me know that it can be done.
Oh, Lord, help my mind. Make it able and agile. Grant me a hunger to read those books that would help me in my life as a Christian, as a wife, a woman, a homemaker, and some day (prayerfully) mother. Grant me the ability to retain and help me grow from what I read. May it pour over into all areas of my life, causing me to love and serve more, to desire greater things, and ultimately to love You and understand more of You. Although Your Word is more than sufficient, You have granted and blessed us with authors that have particular wisdom and insight. May I take advantage of all the resources You have placed in front of us. In Jesus’ name, amen.