The Gospel Story in a Postmodern World

This past semester I was required to watch a Czechoslovakian short film called “Most” (translated “The Bridge” in English) as part of a class. This film was nominated for an Academy Award back in 2004 for best short film. As a lover of film and photography, I was excited to watch this film and it was simply amazing. The writing is captivating, the cinematography is brilliant (and regardless of whether you watch this film for what I have to say below, just watch it for the brilliance that is displayed), and the music is wonderful.

What made this film more interesting for me is that it was part of a soteriology class (a class on salvation). The professor does a wonderful job at stressing to the students the importance of being culturally relevant. That is, he wants the students to be theologically sound, hear what culture is saying and yearning for,  but also identify ways of connecting with culture and how to share the gospel message through a variety of ways.  What is the message that a person, group, or community is saying. What is that culture or person worshipping? What are the themes or narratives of the story? What is the story and how does one relate to it? Throughout this class, we have listened to songs from mainstream artists to Christian artists to those who were once Christian artists and now are not. Obviously, music and film is a huge factor in society.

In today’s day and age, connecting with the audience through storytelling is vitally important. Typically, being in a postmodern world, connecting with people is all about the story. If we think about how the Gospel message was shared during the Modern era, it is drastically different, not better or worse, just different. Change has brought adaptation. It is a different era. People of today tend to connect through stories. A more recent example is to think back to 20 – 30 years ago and the widespread use of tracts that the church community would use to share the gospel with a non-believer. While those still exist as well as other “older” and different techniques, in dealing with an ever changing world that is always connected and loves their social media, Christians have adapted and tried to venture into different avenues of telling the Gospel story.

The Bridge is a film that really stuck with me. It captivated me and engrossed me into the story. I went in not knowing what it was about or the outcome, but left with an appreciation for what the filmmakers did. The Bridge is an example of talented people sharing the Gospel message through film. It is an example of how we as Christians can show/tell the beauty and majesty of Christ and His work to a generation or population that connects with stories and film.

As a person who adheres, follows, and believes in a literal hermeneutic, there will be many that watch this who say that is not “really” the gospel message. There were many in my class who said or thought the same thing. The reason is the story does not tell the whole story of the gospel. It does not give the viewer insight into the Trinitarian relationship of the Father and the Son and how they put a plan into place for the redemption of the world. It does not show Jesus making a choice. Instead, it shows a split second decision of the father (which is far different from the All-Knowing and wonderful Father).

I say this with caution, watch the film and remember the various parts of the gospel. The cautionary part is to just watch, not through the literal lens of all the film didn’t cover, but through the lens of reflection and contemplation.  Through the lens of a father that made a choice. A choice that was not easy. You may have to put your allegorical hat on. You could also call it a modern parable if you wanted. It is a parable that tells and conveys a message of sacrifice, redemption, and hope.

Some will say, “Well, there is no resurrection.” That is a valid point. There is not a true resurrection of the boy. However, at the end of the film, you are left with a boy that looks very much like the son that died and a father that was sad at how much he lost. Upon seeing the boy, the joy returns with the father raising his arms, essentially seeing the sacrifice was worth it.

The message will focus on the sacrifice and decision of the father. It will show the lengths the father goes to in order to save all those passengers who were doomed and never knew it. There are many today that are walking around searching for answers. There are many who are broken and lost, who have turned to addictions to ease the pain. Many seek to fill the void with things (or “broken cisterns”) that will never leave them satisfied. We have tried to fill this emptiness left by sin with counterfeit gods that only leave us worse off and dissatisfied. Our lives yearn to have that fellowship with our Father that was lost. We long for the Garden.

There is hope though. That fellowship is repaired through Christ. Many have heard or seen the illustration that between God and man there is this canyon or valley that exists because of sin. Christ came, died, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven and will come back. The Cross and Christ essentially bridges the gap between Holy God and sinful man.

The topic of culturally relevant theology is a discussion for another post, but after seeing this amazing film I wanted to share it with you. Many have probably seen it, but think about the title. Think about where this happens. The analogy of the father making a decision by sacrificing his son to save the many has been used in several evangelism models. It is popular enough that you may have even used once before. This brings that analogy to life. The anguish, the hurt, the reluctance, the death, the sorrow, the pain, and the decision all come to life in this beautiful story.

I love the Gospel and love the Gospel story. I am not advocating changing the story or conforming it to “trick” someone into believing. As Christians we are to be strong and faithful to the true and accurate faith in Christ. Yes, I know there are many other stories/films/songs that show the gospel either overtly or covertly, but what I love about this film is how the Gospel story is being shown in a way that relates to this postmodern world. It meets those that are broken in hurting and shows how hard it was for the Almighty Father to sacrifice His only Son. As popular songs and movies play, they show the great need for a Savior and how culture looks for a Savior in all the wrong places. This movie meets the people where they are at with a story of brokenness and redemption. It leaves the viewer with gratitude, thanksgiving and hope.

A whole series and book could be produced on what stands out and touches each of us as we watch the film. What may have been impactful to us once, may be different the next time. Meaning, not just with this film but with songs or other films, a certain portion may stand out to us based on our life circumstances at the moment. If we were to listen or watch it again during a different life stage, something else may stand out. Film offers a wonderful way to share the Gospel. This film stirs inside questions and emotions and thanksgivings for what our Father did, and what our Savior did and endured. It shows that no matter how lost or broken or downtrodden a person may be, God can redeem, bring healing, and restoration.

I ask that you would spend the 30 minutes to watch the film. I gain nothing from it and in no way have any ties to it, nor do I get any monetary benefits. I love this film. Just watch. If nothing else moves you, look for the scene where the snow is falling in front of the camera and see the beauty of the snowflakes. See what comes out of pain. Place yourself in the fathers shoes, what decision would you make? What are ways we can relate the gospel to modern culture that we possibly have not done before?

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The Work and Ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Gospels

Today we begin a new series on the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit as presented in the Gospels. This series will not examine the various stories of the Spirit in the Old Testament or the activities linked to the Spirit in Acts and the Church age. The goal of this series is to examine two particular topics: (1) What role did the Spirit have in the life of Jesus; and (2) What did Jesus teach about the Spirit? This second question will be examined as to how it applies to the modern believer. For now, let us look at a further intro into this exciting series.


There is much to learn about the activities and workings of the Holy Spirit and much said about the Spirit of God in Scripture. From the Spirit moving upon the face of the waters  (Gen 1:2), working in men like Balaam, Samson and David to accomplish the Lord’s will, and even being linked to the prophecies concerning the future Messiah (Isa 11), the Old Testament discusses the Holy Spirit frequently throughout its pages. The theme continues in the New Testament as the Person and work of the Holy Spirit is set forth; the Book of Acts displays the Spirit coming upon the disciples at Pentecost, enabling healings, and empowering miracles. But what about the Gospels? What did Jesus say about the Spirit and what role did the Spirit have in the life of Christ and His ministry? The Gospels present the Holy Spirit as a divine Person sent by the Father and the Son to dwell in each believer guiding them in truth to worship and fulfill the will of God for each person just as the Spirit abided in Christ and empowered Him. This paper will examine the ministry of the Spirit during Jesus’ life, specifically the conception, baptism, temptation, and how the Spirit empowered Jesus in His ministry. Jesus’ teachings about the Spirit will be examined by looking at what Jesus taught regarding daily living, ministering, and worshipping in the Spirit. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus describes the Spirit as indwelling, training, educating, cleansing, and revealing truths to the believer.

The Modern Believer and the application of the Jubilee

Today, we finish our year of Jubilee research series by looking at the implications of this festival for the modern evangelical. It is a way to summarize what we have talked about and apply those principles for our daily living. In Christ we are free. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. This glimpse at an Old Testament festival provides many practical applications for us and how Christ and His work is a fulfillment of the Messiah.

  • In light of the biblical data, it seems that a general principle for applying the “Jubilee” is that the further we move away from the emphasis on forgiven sin and the restoration of the relationship between God and his people found in the NT, the less faithful we are to the meaning of Jesus’ Jubilee fulfillment.[1]
  • Furthermore, both the Roman Catholic Church and Protestants have all too often failed to proclaim Jubilee in the way that the NT teaches: striving for an economic and social justice that points to the reality of forgiven sin and the reconciliation of God, his people, and the world.
  • But God also designed and instructed us to rest. In fact, God considered it so important that his people rest that he built a rhythm of Sabbaths into the individual and corporate lives of Old Covenant Israel every seventh day (Leviticus 23:3), every seventh year (Leviticus 25:3–4), and every fiftieth year — the Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8–17).
    • This rhythm was intended by God to give his people regular and repeated experiences of receiving from him refreshment and provision so that they would not trust wholly in their own labors either for tomorrow’s survival or the next generation’s material security. It was a built-in spiritual discipline of laying aside works and laying hold of faith. If they observed his Sabbaths he promised them blessing (Deuteronomy 15:4–6), if they ignored them he promised them curses (Deuteronomy 28:15–68).
    • As New Covenant Israel, we now know that the fulfillment of the Sabbath is Jesus, who is both Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5) and himself our Sabbath rest (Matthew 11:28). We are no longer required to keep the Old Testament Sabbath laws (Acts 15:28–29).
    • But this does not mean that we are not to rest. It means that our rest is even more profound. We rest from trying to attain holiness and God’s acceptance through keeping the requirements of the law by trusting that Jesus kept all the requirements of the law for us (Romans 8:3–5). In fact, Jesus stressed that our most important work is to believe him — a form of resting in his promises — not producing a lot of stuff for him (John 6:29). All our productivity is to flow from the rest of faith, otherwise it’s just sin (Romans 14:23).
    • But this more profound rest still must include rhythms of ceasing from work activities for the purpose of refreshment, reflection, renewal, and recalibration. [2]
  • General Implications
    • Give generously
    • Trust
    • Faith
    • Obedience
    • redemption
    • God is the Provider
    • All we have we owe to God
    • Freedom in Christ
  • Certainly there is a Biblical basis for voluntary debt forgiveness. But there is a significant difference between a debt that is paid and the mandatory forgiveness of debt.  Jubilee is clearly an example of the former and not the latter.  Jubilee is not a celebration of forgiveness of debt but of freedom from debt now paid.
  • The Jubilee presents a beautiful picture of the New Testament themes of redemption and forgiveness. Christ is the Redeemer who came to set free those who are slaves and prisoners to sin (Romans 8:2; Galatians 5:1; 3:22). The debt of sin we owe to God was paid on the cross as Jesus died on our behalf (Colossians 2:13-14), and we are forgiven the debt forever. We are no longer in bondage, no longer slaves to sin, having been freed by Christ, and we can truly enter the rest God provides as we cease laboring to make ourselves acceptable to God by our own works (Hebrews 4:9-10).
  • This year of rest typified the spiritual rest which all believers enter into through Christ, our true Noah, who giveth us comfort and rest concerning our work, and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed, Gen. 5:29. Through him we are eased of the burden of worldly care and labour, both being sanctified and sweetened to us, and we are enabled and encouraged to live by faith. And, as the fruits of this sabbath of the land were enjoyed in common, so the salvation wrought out by Christ is a common salvation; and this sabbatical year seems to have been revived in the Christian church, when the believers had all things common, Acts 2:44.[3]
  • Those that were sold into other families thereby became strangers to their own; but in this year of redemption they were to return. This was typical of our redemption by Christ from the slavery of sin and Satan, and our restoration to the glorious liberty of the children of God. Some compute that the very year in which Christ died was a year of jubilee, and the last that ever was kept. But, however that be, we are sure it is the Son that makes us free, and then we are free indeed.[4]
  • his next kinsman might (v. 25): The redeemer thereof, he that is near unto him, shall come and shall redeem, so it might be read. The kinsman is called Goel, the redeemer (Num. 5:8; Ruth 3:9), to whom belonged the right of redeeming the land. And this typified Christ, who assumed our nature, that he might be our kinsman, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, and, being the only kinsman we have that is able to do it, to him belonged the right of redemption. As for all our other kinsmen, their shoe must be plucked off (Ruth 4:6, 7); they cannot redeem. But Christ can and hath redeemed the inheritance which we by sin had forfeited and alienated, and made a new settlement of it upon all that by faith become allied to him.[5]
  • This typified our redemption from the service of sin and Satan by the grace of God in Christ, whose truth makes us free, Jn. 7:32. The Jewish writers say that, for ten days before the jubilee-trumpet sounded, the servants that were to be discharged by it did express their great joy by feasting, and wearing garlands on their heads: it is therefore called the joyful sound, Ps. 89:15. And we are thus to rejoice in the liberty we have by Christ.[6]

[1] Chris Bruno, 100.

[2] Jon Bloom, “Lay Aside the Weight of Restless Work,” Internet, http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/lay-aside-the-weight-of-restless-work, accessed 23 November 2014.

[3] Henry, M. (1994). “Leviticus 25:1-7” Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (pp. 181–182). Peabody: Hendrickson.

[4] Henry, M. (1994). “Leviticus 25:8-22,” Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 182). Peabody: Hendrickson.

[5] Henry, M. (1994). “Leviticus 25:23-38,” Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 182). Peabody: Hendrickson.

[6] Henry, M. (1994). “Leviticus 25:39-55,” Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 183). Peabody: Hendrickson.

How does the Jubilee apply to modern believers?

So what you may ask about this year of Jubilee? What is the point of it now that Christians are under the Messianic covenant. How does this apply to me? Hopefully, in today’s post we will be able to answer these questions. The Jubilee reminds us of the great gift and work of Christ. Through studying the year of Jubilee, we can hopefully be more appreciative about Christ and what He has freed us from and done.

Application for Modern Believers

The Jubilee is fulfilled in Jesus as He forgives our debts, restores the relationship between God and His people, provides freedom from sin, and rest to all believers. Jesus’ ministry included other aspects of the Jubilee such as physical and economic relief, but the greater comparison between Christ and the Jubilee is found in Christ offering the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation of the relationship between God, his people and the world.[1]

An important facet of Jubilee is that of rest. God designed and instructed His children to rest by building an important “rhythm” of Sabbaths into the individual and community lives of Israel every seventh day (Lev 23:3), every seventh year – the Sabbath Year (Lev 25:3-4), and every fiftieth year – the Jubilee (Lev 25:8-17).[2] This rhythm of regular and repeated restful experiences was intended by God for Israel to receive His refreshment and provisions so that they would not trust in their own efforts for tomorrow’s needs or the next generation’s material security.[3] If the Israelites obeyed God’s Sabbaths He promised them blessings (Deut 15:4-6), but if they ignored them He promised them curses (Deut 28:15-68).[4] This was a discipline built by God to lay aside one’s own work and efforts and lay hold of faith in the Almighty Provider.

As Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath, He is both Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5) and is Himself our Sabbath rest (Matt 11:28). As Christians are part of the new covenant, they are no longer required to keep the Old Testament Sabbath laws (Acts 15:28-29). This does not mean Christians are not to rest, but it does mean believers rest from trying to attain holiness and acceptance through keeping the requirements of the law that only Jesus himself was able to meet. The Christian’s rest is more profound because they are to trust and believe in the work of Christ, which is a form of resting in His promises, not producing works (John 6:29).[5] All that the Christian is to do is to proceed from the rest of faith, otherwise “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom 14:23). “We are no longer in bondage, no longer slaves to sin, having been freed by Christ, and we can truly enter the rest God provides as we cease laboring to make ourselves acceptable to God by our own works (Heb 4:9-10).”[6] This does not mean a lifestyle of laziness since the Christian is to do all things for the glory of the Father (1 Cor 10:31), but it means that Christians are to rest in Christ and take regular intervals of resting from work activities for refreshment, reflection, and renewal.

“The Jubilee presents a beautiful picture of the New Testament themes of redemption and forgiveness. Christ is the Redeemer who came to set free those who are slaves and prisoners to sin (Rom 8:2; Gal 5:1; 3:22). The debt of sin we owe to God was paid on the cross as Jesus died on our behalf (Col 2:13-14), and we are forgiven the debt forever.”[7] As the slaves who were sold were redeemed and allowed to return to their families during Jubilee, so this reminds Christians of Christ’s redemption from the slavery of sin and evil, and the believer’s restoration to “the glorious liberty of the children of God.”[8] While some speculate the year Christ died was a Year of Jubilee and the last ever kept, we can be sure that whoever the Son sets free, is free indeed (John 8:36).

Jesus Christ, assuming a human nature, became the kinsman redeemer by redeeming the inheritance which all by sin had forfeited and alienated, and made a new covenant with all those who by faith became allied to Him.[9] As people under this new covenant, God promises Christians that if they surrender to Him and put His will first, He will provide for all of their needs (Matt 6:25-33).

[1] Christopher Bruno, “Jesus is Our Jubilee,” 100.

[2] Jon Bloom, “Lay Aside the Weight of Restless Work,” Desiring God, 2013, accessed 23 November 2014, http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/lay-aside-the-weight-of-restless-work.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Matthew Henry, “Leviticus 25,” Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 181.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid, 182.

[9] Ibid.

The Year of Jubilee in Scripture

In our continuing series on the Year of Jubilee, today we will look or try to identify other parts of Scripture that show the year of Jubilee actually being observed. Since there is some modern controversy about this special year, we also need to examine if  there is other Scriptural support for this Jubilee year occurring. Maybe it was a one time thing for the Israelites? Or maybe after they got into the promised land, it was no longer needed? So, the point is we may not find any passages on the actual observation but because it happened, the authors/Author decided it did not need to be included because it wasn’t the important emphasis of that piece of Scripture. Part of today is to look at other parts of the Bible that makes reference to the Jubilee to show possible observance. This also helps us see the great redeeming freedom found only in Christ 

The Year of Jubilee in Scripture

As mentioned previously, there are no biblical references that support the Year of Jubilee ever being observed, but there are several references throughout the Bible that make mention of the Year of Jubilee. In the original context (Lev 25), the Jubilee proclamation refers to the restoration of property and persons as well as giving the land rest. Later references refer especially to the restoration of property and persons.[1]

In Jeremiah 34, a command is issued for the release of Hebrew slaves, but is ultimately disobeyed. In Ezekiel 46, there is a reference to the continued practice in the Jubilee laws in the restored or idealized Israel. In this case, when the “prince” gives some of his lands to his servants, the land is returned in the Year of Jubilee. Finally, in Isaiah 61, God’s anointed one proclaims “liberty” as part of the restoration of Israel. Here, the release is specifically related to captive persons and seems to point forward to God’s permanent restoration of His people and covenant.[2] Bergsma argues that in its Old Testament development, the Jubilee, which was originally a legal stipulation, took on an eschatological/messianic significance.[3] The legal/economic significance of the Jubilee in Leviticus 25 certainly has an eschatological flavor in Isaiah 61 and perhaps Ezekiel 46.[4]

Because Isaiah 61 is linked to Jubilee, then it is likely that Luke’s emphasis on liberty in Luke 4 has a similar connection to the Jubilee. “The main feature of Jesus’ fulfillment of the Jubilee in Luke 4 is the proclamation of liberty, which in Luke-Acts probably refers mainly to forgiven sin and secondarily to release from physical/economic oppression.”[5] The claims that Jesus makes about fulfilling the role as the Messiah connect His role as the Redeemer to God’s people by offering forgiveness of debts and a restored relationship with Yahweh.

[1] Christopher Bruno, “Jesus is Our Jubilee,” 94.

[2] Ibid.

[3] John Sietze Bergsma, “The Jubilee from Leviticus to Qumran: A History of Interpretation,” VTSup 115 (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 2-3.

[4] Christopher Bruno, “Jesus is Our Jubilee,” 94.

[5] Ibid, 98.

The Year of Jubilee: What is it?

Over the next few posts, we will be looking at the year of Jubilee. This celebration where every 50th year, there was a year of freedom, rejoicing, celebration and rest. The purpose of this is to look at the reasons for the year, why was it set up, what was its significance and how does it apply to the modern believer today. We will start with a short introduction and build upon this the next few days.

the year of Jubilee: its significance and application for today:

Let the trumpet sound! Let the people rejoice! Hear the sound of joy and gladness for Yahweh is the God of peace. Liberty has been proclaimed. This is the year of the extraordinary. The year of faith and trust in the provisions of God. A year of restoration, redemption, and rest for the people and land of God. In Leviticus 25, the Lord spoke to Moses to institute the observance and instructions for the Sabbath year (Lev 25:1-7). In the fiftieth year, God introduced a special year that followed the Sabbath year, called the Year of Jubilee. The Year of Jubilee “was a kind of imposing memorial of the sacred rest, to see slaves emancipated and become suddenly free; houses and lands returning to their former possessors who had sold them; and in fine all things assuming a new face.”[1] The Year of Jubilee was a means of regulating the value of property, reminding the Israelites that God is the true owner of the land, preserving the inheritance from God, releasing the Hebrew slaves and is the year of the Lord’s favor.[2] This extraordinary year displays the provisions and faithfulness of God in addition to His forgiveness and redemption for His chosen people.

This discussion will examine the instructions and meaning for the Year of Jubilee, why it was significant for the people of Israel and how it applies to modern day Christian. Jubilee presents the perfect picture for God’s faithfulness, His call to believer’s obedience, and the freedom and redemption He provides in Jesus Christ.

[1] John Calvin and C.W. Bingham, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 451.

[2] Martin H. Manser, “Year of Jubilee,” in Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies, (London: Martin Manser, 2009), under sec. 7482, “The Year of Jubilee,” Logos Bible Software.