preacher and writer in Chicago


Promises are powerful. Whether a parent promises to come their kid's baseball game or I promise my wife I will love her and be true to her "until death do us part” … promises are powerful. With words we regularly attempt to assure those around us of our character or behavior, particularly as it relates to the future. So making promises is a primary way our love and invisible qualities are revealed. But every promise involves risk. We risk words not become reality. And so when promises are made we decide whether we will organize our lives differently as a result. Either way—whether or not promises are kept—when we change our expectations or behaviors or plans our relationships are effected deeply. The more promises are made, trusted, and kept the stronger a relationship becomes. The opposite is also true. When promises are made and not kept our relationships grow weaker. This is our primary motivation for making and refrain from making or trusting in promises—we either want to strengthen our relationships or we are fearful to commit and risk harming them. Promises are powerful. 

One of the central themes of the Bible is that God makes promises. He makes promise for the very same reasons we are drawn to do so—he desires to reveal his love and invisible characteristics. In other words God makes promises to make himself known. And when we take him at his word our relationship grows because God always keeps his word. In fact one way to grow in our relationship with God particularly around this special week in the Christian calendar is to reflect on the promises God made and then fulfilled through the passion of Jesus Christ. Here are four … 

  1. God will be our God. In Exodus 6:7 God spoke to Moses and said, "I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” This is a promise God consistently made and kept. It was and is a promise of his faithfulness. Through history by his grace God made Israel his people and their defining reality was his allegiance to them. This was especially in the face of their disobedience and unfaithfulness. Through the cross and resurrection we see God continuing to be true to his promise to be faithfulness, even in the midst of our unfaithfulness. Namely in his prayer prior to the crucifixion Jesus takes ownership for God’s people, "I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (John 17:6). So in Christ we see God continuing to be our God. And through his death and resurrection Jesus remakes the people of God by his faithfulness to be a new creation and a new people. 
  2. God will put death to death. Genesis 2:17 makes it pretty clear that sin leads to death, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Yet when our first parents took and ate of the fruit and began to inhale the fumes of death creeping into God’s good world, God gives grace and hope. In particular the promise of life after death made its way into the words of Daniel, Job, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. Jesus ultimately fulfills these promises to put death to death. The vanquishing of death is put well by Paul in 2 Timothy 1:9-10, God ”has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not because of our own works, but by His own purpose and by the grace He granted us in Christ Jesus before time eternal and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” God promised to put death to death and he fulfills his promise in Jesus, but that’s not all his victory accomplished.
  3. God will crush evil. Satan is the fallen angel who rejected God as God because he wanted to be God. And so what we see in Satan is the picture of evil. Biblically speaking evil is fully comprehended when we consider Satan, the sinful inclinations and idolatry of human hearts, as well as the persistent brokenness of the world—often illustrated through the motif of darkness. All of these led to death. Therefore evil enters the Garden through the Evil One himself and the hearts of Adam and Eve. These characters introduced the prevailing darkness we still see in this world. However from the start God said he would crush this evil. As he delivered the consequence of sin and evil God said, "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). And when Jesus is born to Mary to die for guilty sinners, he then rose in victory over Satan, sin, and evil. That’s why Paul could write to the churches in Colasse, Jesus "disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15). Jesus crushed evil—just like God promised—so that he could bring life.
  4. God will renew all things. God’s promises do not merely cover paying for and having victory over Satan, sin, death, and evil. But also his promises are full of life. And this promise of renewal is not merely personal and spiritual. God promises to renew all things. These whispers of wholistic renewal are heard in the Old Testament, like in the words of Isaiah, "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). But Scripture begins to shout this reality on the other side of the resurrection as in Revelation 21:5 when Jesus says from his throne, “Behold, I am making all things new.” In this scene heaven and earth are made one by Jesus, the King of the universe. This universal renewal will one day be fully realized in the age to come when everyone will acknowledge Jesus as King, but this fresh reality was inaugurated at the resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Promises are powerful and God keeps his promises. Specially he keeps his promises in Christ. You see, "all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20). These are only four. In doing so God not only reveals his love for us in making himself known to us, but he puts on display his countless invisible qualities—especially his faithfulness. And seeing the faithfulness of God grows us. The more we see and believe the faithfulness of God the more we realize his faithfulness is the bedrock of our relationship with him. So this Easter may the promises of God be on your heart and mind. And may his character change yours, making you and I more and more like him. Through his kept word would we become a more faithful people—whether of baseball games or marriage. And may the faithfulness of Jesus lead us to great rejoicing.