My friend was doubting whether she was really a Christian. I was shocked, since I’d known her for years and had seen her serve with children and read her Bible. I didn’t know what to say, so I told her “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” and assured her that she was saved and she didn’t need to hear the enemy try to convince her otherwise. As the months progressed, her profession of faith continued to debilitate from blurry Christian to a complete denial of all things religious. I don’t blame myself for her falling away, but I do wish that prior to our conversation I had given more biblical counsel than misusing scripture to give her false assurance. In Gospel Assurance and Warnings, Paul Washer’s third book in his Recovering the Gospel series, one of my favorite preachers of all time has picked up the pen to aid in just that.
1 John 5:13 says “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” In Gospel Assurance and Warnings, Paul Washer spends a great amount of time going through the tests 1 John provides for discerning whether you are truly in Christ. I didn’t know how thoroughly one could explain how to discern whether you are a sheep or a goat, but Paul Washer blew me away with this almost exhausting volume. What I most appreciated about this book---and about Paul Washer’s teaching style in general---is that he takes scripture very seriously. Even what we would consider “obscure” passages in the Old Testament about the wrath of God are esteemed as truth that should teach us about God’s character today.
Gospel Assurance and Warnings is a sobering plea to professing Christians to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Paul Washer’s passion for the purity of the church---and more, the renown of Christ’s name---is what drove him to write this book, and I’d consider it a great gift to church leaders and laymen alike (though this work will probably be overwhelming for the average reader!) I’ve seen so many harmful responses from pastors to people who are struggling with assurance, and I think Gospel Assurance and Warnings will equip Christians for how to counsel others and how to struggle through this ourselves. What I appreciated most about this book is every page is full of footnotes citing Paul Washer’s sources---but probably at least 90% of them are purely scripture. On such a life-or-death subject as one’s own salvation he did not want to just take man’s word for it. I have never seen the whole counsel of scripture utilized as well as I did in this book. I highly recommend it.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.
I was talking to an eleven-year-old the other day and he was telling me about how he loves his Action Bible. He's too old for The Jesus Storybook Bible but the actual Bible is still a little overwhelming to him for daily reading. So a massive graphic novel based on the Bible has been a great fit for him.
But now The Good Book Company is coming out with something that I would say is even better than The Action Bible because it uses exact words from scripture in the HCSB. The Third Day is a sweet little volume that portrays Luke 22-24 in graphic-novel format with no supplementary verbage or glorified gore. I loved it, and I most certainly expect that kids in the preteen/teen age bracket will eat it up even more.
The art was skillfully crafted by Alex Webb-Peploe. I think he beautifully captured the aspects that Luke intended to emphasize: How foolish the disciples looked when they were arguing about who was the greatest. The agony and weakness during Christ's prayer in Gethsemane. The ugliness of Judas's betraying kiss. The brutality of the crowd demanding Christ's crucifixion. The desperation of the thief on the cross. The ecstatic amazement of the women who found the empty tomb. The wide-eyed surprise of the disciples when they realized it was Jesus walking with them on the road to Emmaus.
The Third Day is a wonderful depiction of the most important event in all history, and I very much look forward to the rest of the straight-from-scripture graphic novels in this series. At less than $7 each, I can definitely see myself giving these out to kids I know.
There have been a lot---A LOT---of times in which I thought getting married was one of the worst decisions I've ever made. There have been times when I've just glared at my husband and coolly told him, "I just want you to know that we are NOT on good terms right now." I mean seriously, marriage really---pardon my language---sucks sometimes.
Despite those sour moments, however, the flavor of our marriage is very sweet.
I owe this all to one factor: Jesus.
I think I know Peter well enough to be able to say that if he didn't have Jesus as the most perfect model of what a bridegroom should be, he would be an pretty terrible husband. But he is a wonderful husband because he loves Jesus and is constantly looking to Him for how he should treat his bride. He takes very seriously the Ephesians 5 call to love your wife as Christ loves the church. Here are some ways he shows me the love of Christ:
1) He works towards my beauty.
"I'm really glad you went shopping today and bought yourself some nice clothes." Wives probably don't hear this from their husbands very often. But Peter said it to me because he was aware that most of my clothes are still from high school and he wants his bride to look beautiful. Jesus also makes His bride beautiful and gives her the clothes---a metaphor, of course---to do so. Revelation 19:8 says "'it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure'- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. "
2) He washes my feet.
Peter literally washed my feet on our wedding night. He told me he wants to be continually lowering himself to serve me like Jesus set the example of lowering Himself. Jesus washed the feet of men who would deny and betray Him. (And Luke 12:37; apparently there will be another time when He washes our feet?) That is hard to comprehend. But it's made a little more tangible when my husband expresses the desire to serve me in that humble way. In that moment he blew to pieces any notions that he would perceive me as the woman in the kitchen who must answer his every request.
3) He's not okay with my sin.
When I try to talk bad about others, he will listen quietly for awhile and then say something like, "Hope, as long as I've known you, you've always had beef with someone. Why do you think that might be?" That hurts, certainly, but he is constantly helping me see the ugliness of my sin...and the glorious truth that Jesus died for it and has given me new life.
I think a lot of people think Jesus has the disposition of "Come as you are, and stay that way because I just love you as you and don't want you to feel uncomfortable." That is not very loving and that is not at all conducive to, you know, being the Holy God. Jesus knows the wretchedness of our sin even better than we do because Jesus paid for it personally and the Father punished it personally, so God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9.)
4) He loves me when I'm rather unlovable.
It's one thing for Peter to love me when the house is clean, there was a love note from me in his lunchbox, and a delicious batch of beef stew is in the crockpot. But when he comes home to a messy house and the kids are still in their pajamas and the trashcan alone is worthy of consuming the dinner I made, it means a lot more when he looks at me---with makeup that's two days old and a rat's nest in the back of my head---he still prizes me.
So how much more significant that God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
5) He's strong. (And even better, he's weak.)
For the past couple months, Peter's business has just been booming and he has been out pressure washing 10-14 hours a day, 6 days a week...and when he's not out of the house, there are plenty of calls to answer and parts to order and equipment issues to fix. We get to see each other about an hour each day, and he is understandably exhausted. But more often than not, he comes home with a cheerful attitude and is still ready to hug me and speak truth to me when I'm having a bad day.
It's even good when I see Peter's limits, though, because when he comes home in a bad mood and kind of exacerbates my frustration, he is also pointing me to Jesus, who never grows weary and always is able to relieve my burdens. (Matthew 28:11)
In conclusion, my husband is really great, but everything gets messed up whenever I forget he's a shadow of the perfect husband and not actually capable of being the perfect husband. So how grateful I am that the LORD is my husband (Isaiah 54:5.) And how grateful I am that I am able to have a husband who seeks always to remind me of this.
May single women hope in God and---if they want to be married---may they hold out for a man who looks to Jesus for his example of what a husband should look like.
May married women hope in God and see Jesus in our husbands---and when our husbands fail us (which they will) may we see how only Jesus can satisfy.
And may men hope in God and strive to show their wives (or future wives) a tangible idea of how Jesus loves His church.
I saw two movies recently that really put me in awe of Jesus. Stories speak to the soul, and my soul was thrilled at the sight of sacrifice and redemption.
No, Son of God wasn't one of the films (and I don't plan on seeing it.)
I was instead captivated by the Christ figures in the popular children's movie Frozen and in the dystopian action film Elysium.
As I was watching, I thought "It's almost like the directors were TRYING to point us to Jesus..." In Frozen as I saw (spoiler) magic transforming the whole icy Arendelle into a beautiful, blooming land, I thought "Why do I see this in every Disney movie?"
And during Elysium when I watched (spoiler) Max, coming from among the lowly, so willingly giving up his life so that the world could find healing, many films with a strikingly similar climax/resolution from this genre came to mind. I'm sure that if I read more books, both paradigms would apply as well.
Here's a more thorough example of how I saw Jesus in Frozen:
Elsa was living by what felt right to her---"No right, no wrong, no rules for me!"---possessing a false sense of freedom and oblivious to the destruction she was causing. Anna (the Christ figure) acknowledged that it didn't have to be this way...nor did it have to be the "conceal, don't feel" dynamic that her parents demanded, either. So she trekked the perilous wintry forest and sought after her sister...all to be rejected and hurt. Yet Anna was relentless, and eventually she willingly gave her own life to save Elsa. For that suspenseful frozen-statue moment our hearts were heavy with admiration mixed with sadness. Yet this love that was as strong as death proved to be stronger, and Anna was alive! Then restoration was brought to the whole land.
Christ exposes how it's a false dichotomy to believe your only options are reckless hedonism or joyless religion. He sought us when we didn't ask for Him, He gave His own life in exchange for ours, then He overcame death in order to make all things new and to show us that He offers life and freedom that is actually completely beneficial for ourselves and others.
No, the world's leading storytellers are not obsessed with the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. And neither are their audiences.
At least not as far as they realize.
This is nothing new. In my 9th grade English class my teacher showed us the very specific characteristics of the archetypal hero, examples of stories throughout history that had numerous character and plot elements in common...and you didn't need to be a seminary student to see how Jesus fulfills them all so perfectly. It's almost creepy how much archetypal heroes have in common, and Jesus stands at the top...possessing all power, giving the most selfless sacrifice by enduring the hardest suffering, and accomplishing more than any other hero even tries to do. Sure, Batman might save Gotham from Bane and Superman might save the world from a meteor, but obviously none of these heroes are even in the running for accomplishing eternal life for people from every tribe and tongue and from all time.
You might be thinking that it makes no sense to see Jesus in people and characters who never intended to symbolize Jesus. But Jesus Himself saw stories in this way. Jonah, by being swallowed by a big fish and being spat back out after three days, probably did not think he was foreshadowing the burial and resurrection of the Messiah, but in Matthew 12:39,40 Jesus made that exact comparison.
In Romans 5, Paul even refers to Adam---primary sinner Adam!---as a type of Christ; Adam's choice affected all mankind and so did Christ's (in completely opposite ways.) It's thrilling as I read the Old Testament as I can look for hints of Jesus all along the way...
I see Him in the bronze serpent on the pole that healed all who looked to him (Numbers 21:4-9.)
I see Him in the scarlet cord in the window that protected all in that room (Joshua 2:18,19.)
I see Him in the left-handed judge who stabbed a king (to have his hand swallowed up in the fat, eww) and left him in a shameful pile over his own excretion, fitting for the shameful enemy of God he was (Judges 3:12-25, a favorite for middle school boys.)
Of course the Old Testament was written by God to interpret all things as pointing to Christ (Luke 24:27), and today's storytellers hardly have the same intent. But let us redeem our entertainment by thinking and talking with others about how the heroes and themes expose the human heart's gaping desire for a savior.
Here are some movies, organized by child-appropriateness, that have a wonderfully clear Christ figure or strong biblical theme. I haven't read all the books and some of these movies at the bottom of the list do contain objectionable material (though most of them are devoid of any sexual content or excessive misuse of God's name), so before you decide to watch---depending on your convictions---look them up on Plugged In first or buy a ClearPlay DVD player. Please comment and contribute to this list and I will add your stories here!
These short descriptions are pretty much free of spoilers.
Chronicles of Narnia - Aslan, duh.
Lion King - Mufasa...that was devastatingly heartbreaking for me as a kid.
Frozen - as mentioned previously
For A Little Older
Harry Potter - Obvious. Apparently J.K. Rowling even intended it.
Lord of the Rings - There's even a prophet/priest/king dynamic with Frodo/Gandalf/Aragorn. Three very different characteristics portray three excellent offices of Christ.
I Am Legend - The power of the blood!
The Hunger Games - Katniss came from the lowest and was willing to give her life to accomplish much for her people.
A Tale of Two Cities - Sydney Carton's ability to save because of his matching resemblance to the guilty...Christ becoming like us to save us...it's wonderful!
More Mature Audiences
Road to Perdition - Never have I seen a movie portray our desire for justice and atonement more than I did in this movie. I wept and wept at the end as I was reminded how Christ has fully endured the punishment I deserved for my sin. (The language was really bad in this movie though.)
The Island - Ewan McGregor's character is an excellent Christ figure for letting captives taste freedom and real life. (There's a scene we always skip in this movie.)
The Matrix - My favorite moment in this movie was when one of the characters, like Simeon in Luke 2, said something to Neo along the lines of "If you're the one...then these are exciting times." They realized that the oracled one they had been waiting for very well might have come...and the implications of such freedom are thrilling. O, how much greater that the prophesied Christ has come! Some bad language.
Oblivion - The enemy must be defeated directly, and sacrifice is the only way...yet there can still be a happy ending. (I closed my eyes for one part and there was some bad language.)
Elysium - as mentioned previously; (Contains deluges of the f word, but refreshingly God's name was rarely abused.
What are some well-made movies/books/radio dramas you've seen/read/listened to that have Christ figures or heavily biblical themes?
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising four little people ages 1,3, and 5, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and Coke icees, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today