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Why it’s Good

In the end, Good Friday is not about guilt and shame. It’s about hope and love.

I’ve spent far too much of my life dwelling on the fact that my imperfection caused Jesus so much suffering. Understanding the impact of our sins is crucial to understanding the magnitude of the cross, but I’ve spent too much time agonizing over my mistakes. Sin is real and its consequences are dire, but that’s not the central message of Good Friday. If it were, we wouldn’t call it “good.”

Jesus endured the suffering I earned for myself. I could feel guilty about that, but that’s not what He wants. He just wants me to be grateful and live out that gratitude.

I do an awful job of it sometimes. I’ve done, said, thought things in the past couple days that He paid for on the cross. But that’s the point of the cross: it gives us a chance to try and fail. Our debt to God is paid, so He can extend overwhelming grace to us. The cross is our second chance.

Our extra life, if you will.

That’s the message of the day. Jesus’ sufferings mean hope for us. And think about it: if His death accomplished so much, what about His resurrection?

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
-Romans 5:10

There’s hope for us. That’s why we celebrate Easter. And that’s why it’s called Good Friday.

Jesus’ Character Sheet

I love my RPGs, my video games, my novels, my movies. I love a good adventure. And apparently, so does God.

Jesus was born into a poor family, in an unstable country with a burdensome, restrictive religion. He lived a life that made Him a household name 2,000 years later. That’s incredible. But the most incredible part is that Jesus was born at all.

God allowed Himself to be born as a child. Fully God, fully human. A level 0 character. That is absolutely insane. The burdensome religion He was born into was a caricature of what He had handed down from Heaven. The broken world He was born into was a fractured version of what He had created.

There is no indication in the Bible that Jesus was some sort of superbaby. There is no mention of Him feeding or changing Himself, or speaking early, or even being particularly quiet, as in “Away in a Manger.” It says He was a baby. And it says that as He grew up, “He was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was on Him.” (Luke 2:40)

Jesus rolled a starting character and leveled up like anyone else. He played through the whole adventure.

He robbed us of the illusion that God is far off, and doesn’t understand what life on Earth is really like. Know what’s extra crazy? He knew before coming to Earth. But by coming in person, He made sure we knew.

It’s really important to recognize that Jesus was fully God and fully human. There are so many implications that I could hardly list them here if I tried. But here’s one of the most important:

Temptation of Christ by Ari Scheffer

Do I even have to roll a Sense Motive?

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

-Hebrews 2:17-18

He lived a life like any of ours, with an important exception: He never sinned. He was tempted, just like we are, but He never gave in. Never failed a Will save.

Turns out that makes quite a difference, especially as we approach Easter. As the passage above says, Jesus lived a perfect life in order to cover over our brokenness.

At Christmas, we celebrated that God came to Earth for us. On Easter, we’ll celebrate what He did for us.

Why the Cross is the Most Epic Thing Ever

This last Saturday was the first Extra Life Ministries Bible Study. We’re off to a good start.

We spent about forty minutes talking about — as you may have caught in the title — why the cross is the most epic thing ever. I’ve posted my notes below, after the link to the recording.

After the study, we shared some lunch and hung out. I can heartily recommend Safeway-brand frozen lasagna, by the way.

Plans are already underway for next month’s study. We’re gonna try to have it in a local comic book shop. The lesson, I’m thinking, is gonna be about how holiness is practically a superpower. More details to come.

Until then, thank you so much to everyone who came on Saturday, and everyone else who follows XLM as it develops into what God made it to be. Here’s our first Bible study.

Why the Cross is the Most Epic Thing Ever (.mp3)

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We say things all the time like “Jesus died for your sins.” We call Him the “lamb of God.” We sing songs like “The Wonderful Cross.” All of Christianity seems focused around this one event: the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. It’s a big deal. And today, I want to talk about why.

Read the rest of this entry

XLM Bible Study!

You’re invited to the inaugural Extra Life Ministries Bible Study! We’ll discuss a Biblical topic for about 45 minutes, then have lunch and hang out. Questions are very welcome.

This week: Why the Cross is the Most Epic Event in All History.

There’s a reason Christians make such a big deal about the cross. It’s the central event of our religion. Without it, nothing else we preach about really matters. But even beyond that? It’s pure genius.

Come join us!

Apologetics Finale: Jesus

In the final lesson of the apologetics series, we touch on perhaps the most important question of all: how can Jesus be the only way to God? What about all the other religions of the world? And aren’t all religions basically the same anyway?

Apologetics: Jesus (.m4a | .mp3)

And thus ends my Sunday School series. I hope it’s been useful and enlightening to you.

After this week, I’ll be getting back to regular blog posts. I say after this week because I’m preaching this Sunday! I’ll be working on my sermon, which you’ll be able to hear on the Crossroads podcast.

In the meantime, check out the Extra Life Ministries Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. There’s already been a lot of cool news in gaming and technology this week, with more to come.

Also, my friends are trying to rope me into playing Warhammer 40k. And I’m tempted. Pray for me.

Below is the lesson as written.

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This morning, we’ll talk about our most central apologetic task: defending Jesus Himself. Without Jesus, there’s no point in discussing the rest.

Jesus says this in John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The term “lifted up,” according to my footnotes, also means “exalted.” Our job is to, in a manner of speaking, make Jesus look good. The best way to do that is to tell the truth about Him.

That means we’ll need to have answers ready for views that oppose Christianity. We need something to say when people ask, “how can Jesus be the only way to God?”

It may be good to start by asking for clarification. If someone asks that question, you still may not know their specific objection. Read the rest of this entry

Apologetics: The Problem of Evil

In this morning’s Sunday School class, I tackled one of the most troublesome questions in religion and philosophy: why is there evil in the world?

To hear my answer, click the links below. To save either file for later listening, right-click the link and select Save Link As… or Save Target As….

Apologetics: The Problem of Evil (.mp3 | .m4a)

Feel free to argue with me in the comments or send me an e-mail!

Below is the lesson as written.

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Today, we’ll talk about what may be the biggest philosophical question people struggle with day-to-day: the problem of evil. Whereas some people will look into the historicity of the Bible, and some will dig into deep theological issues, everyone wrestles with this issue. Everyone has had something bad happen to them, and frankly, everyone has done something bad to someone else. We feel the impact of evil every day. It affects our lives. And it’s often one of the issues that keeps people distant from God.

We’re going to talk about the philosophy of evil this morning. But before we do, we have to recognize that this is a very emotional issue for some people. Some people have been hurt very badly – either by other people, or just by circumstances, or even their own choices – and they’re angry with God because of it. Read the rest of this entry

The Cost of Mercy

The name Good Friday bothered me for a while after I learned what it was all about. It offended my sensibilities to call such a horrendous day “good.”

Today, Christians commemorate the death of Jesus on the cross. To be blunt, we remember the day humanity murdered God. And not in a swift, sanitary, humane way, either. Crucifixion is absolutely horrific. It’s a nightmarish way to kill someone. And we inflicted it on the only truly good man ever to live.

For a long time, I was preoccupied by our guilt. I focused on our sins, our actions that sent Jesus to the cross.

Then, I saw something else.

Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross. Not at all. He prayed not to go. But He was ready to do it if it were the only way. Soon after that prayer, armed men came to arrest Him. Peter, one of His closest followers, tried to take of the guys’ heads off with his sword.

Jesus stopped him and healed the man Peter had attacked.

Think about that. He had just begged His Father to let Him skip the cross. One of His followers then attacked His captors. A lesser man would have run. But Jesus apparently had His answer.

He went willingly.

Even when the men who had Him arrested taunted Him, challenging Him to get off the cross and prove that He was the Messiah, He stayed. Mind you, He could have blasted the cross to splinters with his mind and called down lightning on all the unbelievers. He didn’t.

That’s the “good” of Good Friday: that Jesus chose the cross for us.

We live in a culture that avoids discomfort at all costs. We see boredom, inconvenience, and pain as great evils. I don’t want that perspective.

For the past several years, I’ve fasted from the evening of Good Friday until Easter Sunday. This year, I’ll do the same, but I’ll be thinking about it differently. Before, I would think about the weight of our sin every time my stomach growled.

This year, it will be less for guilt and more for worship.

This year, the discomfort will be a reminder to say “thank you” to the God who paid the cost of mercy.

The Lynch Mob on Palm Sunday

Yesterday, the church commemorated one of the oddest, most ironic moments in history.

Around 2,000 years ago, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem during one of the major Jewish festivals. He’d been teaching for three years, gathering followers and gaining momentum. Some thought He was the Messiah, the conqueror God promised them in ages past.

As He entered the city, the crowds flipped out. They grabbed palm branches and their own cloaks and threw then on the road out of respect. They chanted, “save us!” They hailed Him as their savior.

He accepted their praise, knowing they would soon turn on Him. Through tears, He said, “If only you knew what would bring you peace.”

Somewhere in the following five days, public opinion shifted. The man whom they thought would wage war against their oppressors instead challenged their views. He defied expectation by portraying Himself not as a political authority, but a spiritual one above all others. He called them out for their sins and thereby offended a lot of people.

By Friday, the crowd was chanting for His blood.

Sadly, they had it right the first time. Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah they were waiting for.  And though He would prove it, they would kill Him first.

Whenever I look at the story of Palm Sunday, I’m relieved I was born into such an enlightened time. I mean, people today aren’t fickle like that. We don’t just turn on people when they say something we don’t like. No, we weigh the evidence and make sober, reasonable decisions, untainted by emotion.

Especially on the Internet.

Yeah, I think the main difference between us and the crowd back then is that we don’t actually kill people as often.

The contrast between Palm Sunday and Good Friday reminds me to slow down and choose my words carefully. It reminds me to examine what I really believe. It reminds me to breathe deep in moments of intense emotion, before I say or do something dumb.

And it reminds me that even though people make really bad mistakes, God forgives us.