Monday, August 31, 2009
To the heart-broken sinner, how attractive and glorious is this spectacle of the Almighty Redeemer sustaining the wrath and suffering the justice of God for transgression! Mourning soul! turn aside, and behold yet again this "great sight." "Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place whereon you stand eat is holy ground." Lay aside your fleshly reasoning, your carnal views of self-justification, self-salvation, and human power- put off all your fleshly ideas of God, of His grace, and of His goodness; divest yourself of all your unbelieving and hard thoughts of His power, willingness, and readiness to save you. Thus prepared, approach- gaze, wonder, and adore! (The Glory of the Redeemer, 90)
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Money, Greed, and God
The twentieth century was witness to a great battle between capitalism and communism. Early in the twenty-first century it is clear that capitalism won a resounding victory. Yet many people living in victorious nations continue to be uncomfortable with capitalism. They see it as a system of economics, a way of life that transfers wealth from poor to rich, that exploits the planet, that is somehow inherently biased toward the few at the expense of the many. An increasing number of increasingly vocal Christians even claim that capitalism is at odds with the teachings of the Bible. After reading Jesus’ words that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” they determine that capitalism, which seems to be founded on just such a love, must also be evil. Could it be, though, that such claims are based on a misunderstanding of capitalism? Could all these people be battling against a mere caricature? Jay Richards thinks so and he dedicates Greed, Money, and God to dispelling untruths and replacing them with hard facts. Through it all he seeks to show that capitalism is not the problem, but the solution.
Economics is undoubtedly a field that many of us take for granted. We may be able to define it in part, but rarely can we really explain it. According to Richards, economics is at its heart, “about us—what we choose, what we value, what we represent in language and symbols, how we interact with each other in a market, and especially how we produce, exchange, and distribute goods, services, risk, and wealth. Understand these things, and you’re well on your way to knowing what you need to know about economics.” A more traditional definition is this: “the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.” It is, then, fundamental to all we do. But how often do we think about it and how often do we do so from a distinctly Christian perspective?
Money, Greed, and God is just such a study. Richards structures the book around eight myths, eight common misunderstandings about the very nature of capitalism. They are:
The Nirvana Myth in which capitalism is contrasted not with a realistic alternative but with an unrealizable ideal. While we acknowledge that at some time God will triumph over all that is evil, we also know that in the here and now any system will necessarily be imperfect. And so we cannot rightly set our standards at perfection. The Nirvana Myth stood behind communism and its dream of building utopian nations where equality ruled. But the experiment was a dismal failure that cost tens of millions of lives.
The Piety Myth in which we focus on good intentions rather than the unintended consequences of our actions. A contemporary example of this myth in action comes when we look at “fair trade.” We are growing accustomed, I think, to being presented with the option of buying fair trade coffee, fair trade gifts, and so on. The promise is that when we do this we bring greater profits to the people at the very beginning of the process—the person who grows or picks the coffee beans or the person who pieces together the jewelry. We see it also in foreign aid where billions or trillions of dollars are sent from the first world to the third world. Though from the outside it may appear that these are kind and loving actions, the reality is that we do not see the unintended consequences of such actions. They often bring about more harm than good.
The Zero-Sum Game Myth where we believe that any trade or exchange requires that there be both a winner and a loser. This may be the case when markets are burdened with too many regulations, but where the markets are free, there can always be win-win transactions. Still, people are prone to the feeling that it is only through increased regulation that we can guarantee that there will not be losers.
The Materialist Myth which insists the wealth is not created but merely transferred (and usually from the poor to the rich). Though we are centuries removed from believing that there is a static amount of wealth in the world, centuries from the understanding that one person always gets rich at the expense of another, we remain prone to thinking this is true. When we see the fantastic wealth of the few we somehow forget that in many cases even the poorest are much better off than they were at one time. The fact is that wealth may be created, and not merely transferred.
The Greed Myth which believes that the very essence of capitalism is greed.
The Usury Myth which leads us to believe that working with money is inherently immoral and that charging interest is always exploitative. Many Christians look to Old Testament laws regarding usury and somehow feel, even if only in the back of their minds, that there is something ignoble about dealing with finances. But when we understand capitalism we can understand that such biblical precepts, even though they may guide us in some situations, are often not as hard-and-fast as we might think.
The Artsy Myth in which we confuse aesthetic myths with economic arguments. Many people argue that capitalism is inherently utilitarian, creating wealth at the expense of all that is beautiful. But here Richards shows that it is not capitalism itself that is to blame, but rather the materialist worldview endemic in our culture.
The Freeze-Frame Myth which says that things always stay the same (so that population trends will continue indefinitely or that a natural resource will always be needed in the same way that it is today). This leads to an interesting discussion about the supposed shortage of resources such as oil and the prognostications about the imminent demise of our planet due to global warming.
As Richards picks apart these eight myths and exposes the faulty thinking that underlie them, he raises a host of issues that will cause the reader to pause and consider. As I read, there were at least three big takeaways. First, I learned the importance of private property. There is something inherent in ownership that causes us to value possessions differently. Strong laws guarding private ownership stimulates an economy while lax laws or laws prohibiting ownership will depress an economy. Second, I learned of the importance of economic freedom. As we are seeing in this current downturn, the proposed solutions often entail greater restrictions, more government involvement. But as long as there is some structure of law to guarantee economic freedom, an economy can thrive. Excessive regulation hampers more than it helps. And third, I learned the importance of understanding that wealth is not static. There is not a static amount of wealth in the world that must be divided between each of the earth’s inhabitants. Instead, wealth can be created and, as that happens, it may be proportioned to those who are most in need of it. Hence there is something noble in laboring, in beginning capitalistic enterprises and in succeeding in them, provided that the proceeds are used in a way that honors God. In creating wealth we are acting in the image of the One who created us.
Capitalism is, in the mind of this economist, a special gift of providence. And as you read his book you will see how he arrives at this conclusion. Rather than being a system we are ashamed of, we can actually give praise and glory to God for it. While capitalism may not be the most perfect economic system we will ever know, it seems clear that it is the best so far. Countless others have been tried and have been found seriously wanting. God, in his providence, has given us a system in which we can work and create and labor for his glory.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Redemption, by the obedience and death of the incarnate God, was so honoring to the Divine law, and satisfactory to Divine justice, was so harmonizing to the attributes, and so illustrative of every glorious perfection of the Divine nature, and in its results so suited to the highest ends of human happiness, that it was the interest of the Divine government without demur to accept it. (55)
In Jesus' sacrificial obedience and death, we see sin fully punished, and the sinner fully saved; we see the law perfectly honored, and the transgressor completely justified; we see justice entirely satisfied, and mercy glorified to its highest extent- we see death inflicted according to the extreme tenor of the curse, and so vindicating to the utmost the truth and holiness of God, and yet life- present and eternal life- given to all whom it is the purpose and grace of the Father to save. Tell us, is not Jesus the great glory of the Divine wisdom? (55)
Where was there ever such a demonstration of God's infinite hatred of sin, and His fixed and solemn determination to punish it, as is seen in the cross of Christ? (59)
At whose hands did He suffer? From demons, from men? They were but the agents; the moving cause was God Himself. (59)
Had He emptied the full vials of His wrath upon the world, sweeping it before the fury of His anger, and consigning it to woeful and eternal punishment, it would not have presented to the universe so vivid, so impressive, and so awful a demonstration of the nature and glory of His holiness, of His infinite abhorrence of sin, and the necessity why He should punish it, as He has presented in the humiliation, sufferings, and death of His beloved Son. (60)
Your prophets have seen for you
false and deceptive visions;
they have not exposed your iniquity
to restore your fortunes,
but have seen for you oracles
that are false and misleading.
This morning I was reading in Lamentations and the verse above caught my attention. After attributing Israel's decimation to God in the beginning of the chapter, the author of Lamentations turns his sights on Israel's religious leaders; the prophets. The author labels prophets as 'false', and their failing is indicated; they have not exposed iniquity. And this deception has prevented restoration.
This reminded me that sin is present in my life and that to overlook it, to hide it, to deny it, to defend it, is a recipe for disaster. The only hope I have is to expose it, and to look to Christ for my restoration. Sin is present, but so is the One who conquered sin by who paying my penalty for it through His death. And His resurrection ensures my restoration.
Friday, August 28, 2009
For the most part the story has been ok, weird at times but ok. Today while reading I came across a couple of statements that struck me as totally incorrect. I could be wrong on these but I just thought I'd share them with you all and see what kind of feedback you give. Just to set up the context, Papa the name a black female character who is God. Mack is the main character who is visiting the shack.
"At that, Papa stopped her preparations and turned toward Mack. He could see a deep sadness in her eyes. "I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose to punish it; it's my joy to cure it."
There is also a Jesus character.
"It's one reason why experiencing true relationship is so difficult for you," Jesus added. "Once you have hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and the you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather then promote it. You rarely see or experience relationship apart from power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended you for."
I think the first quote has an obvious reason why I disagree with it. Implying that sin on its own is punishment enough for us I think is wrong. Wrath is an attribute of God's character and I think that if, as children of God we weren't punished (or disciplined as in Hebrews 12) that God would be going against his very nature.
As for the second quotation, I think we see examples of instruction in scripture for hierarchy in the church. We see in Titus and in 1 Timothy instruction given in selection of leadership in the church.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
1. To murmur when we enjoy an abundance of mercy; the greater and the more abundant the mercy that we enjoy, the greater and viler is the sin of murmuring.
2. A second aggravation of the sin of murmuring is, when we murmur for small things.
3. For men of gifts and abilities to whom God has given wisdom, to be discontented and murmur, is more than if others do it.
4. The consideration of the freeness of all Gods’ mercies to us
5. For men and women to murmur and be discontented and impatient, when they have the things for the want of which they were discontented before.
6. For those men and women to be discontented and murmur whom God has raised from mean and low estates and positions.
7. For those to be discontented who have been very great sinners and ungodly in their former life.
8. For men who are of little use in the world to be discontented.
9. For us to be discontented at a time when God is about to humble us.
10. The more palpable and remarkable the hand of God appears to bring about an affliction, the greater is the sin of murmuring and discontent under an affliction.
11. To be discontented though God has been exercising us for a long time under afflictions, yet still to remain discontented.
Clearly, murmuring was a heinous sin in the author's eyes. I need to learn to abhor murmuring to the degree that he did for I see myself too often in the list above.
But the Gospel is greatly assailed. Never, perhaps, was it more resolutely opposed on every hand; never did there seem to be a stronger combination formed to neutralize its power, and sap its very foundation, than at the present moment...Low views of inspiration; the exalting of tradition above Scripture, of reason above revelation, of human talent above the teaching of the Spirit, of forms and ceremonies above the vital power of godliness; are significant and fearful signs of our times. We need, then, every view of the Gospel, tending to illustrate its value and endear its preciousness...How God is revealed in Jesus Christ; how that "two should become one, and yet remain two still, as God and man do in Christ; that He who makes should be one with the thing which Himself has made; that He who is above all should humble Himself; that He who fills all should empty Himself; that He who blesses all should be Himself a curse; that He who rules all should be Himself a servant; that He who was the Prince of Life, and by whom all things in the world do consist, should Himself be dissolved and die; that mercy and justice should meet together, and kiss each other; that the debt should be paid, and yet pardoned; that the fault should be punished, and yet remitted; that death, like Samson's lion, should have life and sweetness in it, and be used as an instrument to destroy itself, -are evangelical truths and mysteries revealed alone in the "glorious Gospel of the blessed God"... In the creature He is the God above us; in the law He is the God against us; but in the Gospel He is Immanuel, the God with us, the God like us, the God for us." (Octavius Winslow, The Glory of the Redeemer, 74-5)
It seems, the more I read, the more it is evident that the Gospel has always been under attack. And yet, I am also convinced, that the true Gospel always prevails. That is a good thing if you're a sinner like me.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Jonathan Edwards on "a kind of love" based on "false notions of God":
A kind of love may arise from a false notion of God, that men have been educated in, or have some way imbibed; as though he were only goodness and mercy, and not revenging justice; or as though the exercises of his goodness were necessary, and not free and sovereign; or as though his goodness were dependent on what is in them, and as it were constrained by them. Men on such grounds as these, may love a God of their own forming in their imaginations, when they are far from loving such a God as reigns in heaven.
Religious Affections p 128
I can't imagine anything much more tragic in a human relationship than the discovery that someone you loved passionately is not who you thought they were - either in person or character. True to human nature, these types of events often (not always) involve someone concealing some event, character trait, behaviour, or habit about themselves (deceitfully or otherwise) that might make them unlovable. Graciously, God assures us that, in as much as we can know and comprehend of him, he is not trying to deceive us in any way about his character. He has made himself known through the entirety of the scriptures. He is entirely worthy of love! Coming to grips with what the bible says about God can be hard work and frightening. Justice, vengeance, sovereignty, grace, and love are often difficult to reconcile in our minds but I would rather persistently wrestle with the scriptures to possess a personal portrait of God with the utmost fidelity than worship my own distorted imagination.
Octavius Winslow descended from Edward Winslow, a Pilgrim leader who braved the Atlantic to come to the New World on the Mayflower in 1620. Octavius's father, Thomas, an army captain stationed in London, died when he was seven years old. Shortly after that, Octavius's God-fearing mother took her family of ten children to New York. All of the children became Christians, and three sons became evangelical ministers. Octavius later wrote a book about his family's experiences from his mother's perspective, titled Life in Jesus.
Winslow was ordained as a pastor in 1833 in New York. He later moved to England where he became one of the most valued nonconformist ministers of the nineteenth century, largely due to the earnestness of his preaching and the excellence of his prolific writings. He held pastorates in Leamington Spa, Bath, and Brighton. He was also a popular speaker for special occasions, such as the opening of C. H. Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1861. After a short illness, he died on March 5, 1878, and was buried in Abbey Cemetery, Bath.
The grand inquiries with such a soul are, "How can I be just with God? How can I satisfy His justice, appease His wrath, and propitiate His regard? How may I know that He is my God, my reconciled Father? How may I be assured that He loves, has pardoned and accepted me, and that I shall be with Him forever?" Traverse in imagination the extent of creation, wander over the most beautiful landscape, pluck the most fragrant flower, select the most costly gem, glide upon the surface of the fairest lake, scale the highest mountain, soar to the farthermost star, still the momentous question rushes back upon the mind, "How may I stand with acceptance before this holy Lord God?" Poor anxious searcher for peace, all nature unites in testifying, "It is not in me! It is not in me!" (The Glory of the Redeemer, 47)
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I’m not going to make a sustained case for penal substitutionary atonement here. I and others have done that elsewhere, over and over and over again. I will, however, assert (again) that penal substitution is not just one more image of the cross among many, from which buffet we may pick and choose depending on what we think will communicate best at any given moment. It is, rather, the underlying reality upon which all the other images depend and are built. So, you say you prefer to talk about the cross in terms of reconciliation instead of penal substitution? Great. All I ask is that you be honest about it and trace that image all the way down. Why, for starters, is reconciliation needed in the first place? Don't tell me you can avoid talking about anger by talking about reconciliation---reconciliation presupposes that somebody is mad at somebody else. So then, is reconciliation needed because we are angry at God, or is it because God is angry at us? And exactly how is reconciliation with an angry God effected at the cross? Is it by something other than Jesus taking the wrath that was owed to us, becoming a curse for us, the just dying for the unjust? You see? You can talk about “the Bible looking at the cross from a multiplicity of perspectives” all you want, but all those perspectives, when you trace them down, come right back to Jesus taking the punishment his people deserved—that is, to penal substitution. And if you argue for something short of that, you are missing the point of the cross, and therefore of the gospel, entirely. (Of course you can—and people have—simply made up a few perspectives that don’t trace back down to penal substitution. But that’s beside the point. We’re talking about biblical images here.)
Read the entire article here. Really, read it!
Monday, August 24, 2009
Towards the end of the book DeYoung makes a statement that threw me a little, it was definitely shocking, but so true.
"Likewise, the church is at the same time the bride of Christ and the Lord's harlot."
Ummmm what? The Lord's harlot? I've heard more times than I can count that the church is the bride of Christ. Right, got it. But the Lord's harlot isn't something that gets preached. I love the quote though. All of the "disgruntled Johnny's" (see intro.) of the world only think of the church as the eventual perfect bride of Christ. That we can somehow create this perfect heaven-on-earth scenario before the King returns. The fact that the church is still full of sinners is forgotten. The fact that we're a fallen people and cursed with original sin and total depravity isn't talked about, but is instead pushed aside as a misinterpretation. Things aren't going to be perfect in the world before Christ comes. Sin has always been the biggest issue, bigger than any social justice issue out there. This book has helped me to realize that the focus has got to come back to the gospel...not what I can do for God but what he's already done for me. There will be problems we (through the grace of God) can help solve, but there will always be more that we cannot. It's part of living in the age that we live, it sucks, but it's how it's going to be.
DeYoung talks about how it seems like everyone wants to be a revolutionary. He says, "Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren't ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (16:14) than an apostle Paul."
Maybe it's just a guy thing, but I've almost wanted to be the "hero". Someone who does something to benefit the world in someway. It comes with fame, praise, recognition...all that stuff. The "knight in shining armor" deal. This statement put 1 Corinthians 12 into perspective for me, when Paul talks about being members of one body and the different members of that body.
With all this talk about revolution and being revolutionary, it's taken a while, but I think I'm finally comfortable with being a "plodding visionary".
From an article by Sam Storm's entitled Is There Healing in the Atonement?
We know what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that God "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf." He was declaring that the guilt of our sins was imputed to Christ and that it was because of that guilt that he was punished in our place. But what can it possibly mean to say God made him 'to be sick' on our behalf? ...
But there is no guilt in disease or sickness. Having diabetes or a head cold is not sinful. The Bible tells us to pray 'forgive us our trespasses' and urges us 'to confess our sins', but nowhere does it say that we should pray 'forgive us our arthritis' or 'Lord, I confess that I have the flu.' Sickness is not sin. The Bible never issues the command, 'Thou shalt not commit cancer', or 'Flee the flu'. Nevertheless, many insist that Jesus 'bore the penalty for our sins and sicknesses'. But if sickness is not a sin, how can it incur a penalty?
Of course, ultimately all sickness is a result of sin, in that Adam's fall introduced corruption and death into the human race. But that does not mean that every time we get sick it is because of some specific sin we have committed. It does mean that had Adam not sinned, there would be no sickness. Sickness is the effect of sin (just like tornadoes, weeds, and sadness). But that is altogether different from saying that sickness is sin. We do not repent for having kidney stones, nor do we come under conviction for catching the measles. I don't rebuke my seventeen-year-old daughter for coming down with the chicken pox, and I certainly didn't ask my twelve-year-old to ask for forgiveness when she caught it from her older sister.
Jesus was not punished for our diseases. Rather, he endured the wrath of God that was provoked by our willful disobedience of the truth.
I came across this notion first while reading The Cross of Christ by John Stott. To get the full discussion Storms provides on this issue read the article here. Note that both Stott and Storms believe that God can and does heal.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood
At any rate, it lead to a brief but interesting theological discussion, when I asked what the bible meant by "elect exiles" which read "elect strangers" in my 8 yr old's Boys Adventure Bible (I'm still looking for the Adult Adventure Bible - maybe the market is too small for that particular version) (Sorry John Piper for the parentheses)(I'm also in the process of getting my kids an ESV)(If none of this is making you laugh then you need to go here)
So here is a paraphrase of the discussion:
Dad: What are elect exiles or strangers
Son 1 (age 13): ...foreigners, displaced people...you know ... this is not our home and all that ... you know
Dad: Why didn't they just write exiles or strangers then? What about the 'elect' part - what does that mean?
Son 1: It means elected or chosen.
My wife peaks over the top of Mark Buchanan's most recent book knowing where this is going
Son 1: But who does the choosing then?
I thought that was a pretty good question, so I let it hang out there.
Son 2 (age 8): ... we choose Jesus...God wants us to love him...He needs people to love him...that's why he made us ...
Buchanan's book gets closed
Dad: Some people believe that and some people believe that God chooses you! What do you mean that God 'needs' or 'wants' people to love him?
Son 2: ... He made us so we can choose him or not but He wants us all to choose him. He wants people to love Him but he didn't want to make us robots so we would just do whatever he said.
Son 1: (boxing ring announcer voice)FFFrrrrreeeee wwwwiiiiiillll baby!!!
Wife shakes head and smiles.
We went on to further discuss foreknowledge and sanctification. I took a few things out of this encounter:
1. Go ahead and punish your kids by making them read the Bible - it's good for them.
2. My children know a lot about theology, they just haven't told me ...and yes you can talk about theology with an 8 and 13 year old.
3. If you think your kids aren't already developing a world view - you're wrong.
4. The best classroom I have is my own living room.
That used to be me; nobody.
I had no real past, certainly no future, and no real existence.
But then, God had mercy on me, calling me, regenerating me, saving me.
Now? Now I am one of God's; I have received mercy.
This excerpt is from an article entitled The Atonement. It was published in 1976 by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company and appeared later in Volume I of the Encyclopedia of Christianity, which was published by the Sovereign Grace Publishers, Evansville, Indiana.
But love and wrath are not contradictory; love and hatred are. It is only because Jesus was the Son, loved immutably as such and loved increasingly in His messianic capacity as He progressively fulfilled the demands of the Father's commission, that He could bear the full stroke of judicial wrath. This is inscribed on the most mysterious utterance that ever ascended from earth to heaven, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34). God in our nature forsaken of God! Here is the wonder of the Father's love and of the Son's love, too. Eternity will not scale its heights or fathom its depths. How pitiable is the shortsightedness that blinds us to its grandeur and that fails to see the necessity and glory of the propitiation. "Herein is love," John wrote, "not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son a propitiation for our sins" (I John 4:10). Christ is truly the propitiation for our sins because He propitiated the wrath which was our damnation. The language of propitiation may not be diluted; it bespeaks the essence of Calvary.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Though in this great evidence of sincerity that the Scripture gives us, what is inward is of greatest importance; yet what is outward is included and intended, as connected with the practical exertion of grace in the will, directing and commanding the actions of the body. And hereby are effectually cut off all pretensions that any man can have to evidences of godliness, who externally lives wickedly; because the great evidence lies in that inward exercise and practice of the soul, which consists in the acts of the will, commanding outward acts. But it is known, that these commanding acts of the will are not one way and the actions of the bodily organs another: for the unalterable law of nature is, that they should be united as long as soul and body are united, and the organs are not so destroyed as to be incapable of those motions that the soul commands. Thus it would be ridiculous for a man to plead, that the commanding act of his will was to go to the public worship, while his feet carry him to a tavern or brothel-house; or that the commanding act of his will was to give such a piece of money he had in his hand to a poor beggar, while his hand at the same instant kept it back, and held it fast.(A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, 274)
Friday, August 21, 2009
Today I read from 1 Peter 1, which was actually yesterday's reading. I was catching up this morning. Verses 6 and 7 of 1 Peter 1 caught my attention.
1 Peter 1: 6-7
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Peter speaks of the 'tested genuineness of your faith'. That is, the trials show the genuineness of your faith. Is this test given so that God will recognize the genuineness of our faith? Does an all-knowing God really need to gather knowledge? Consider what Jonathan Edwards says about trials and testing in A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections:
If we put true gold into the furnace, we shall find its great value and preciousness: so the truth and inestimable value of the virtues of a true Christian appear when under these trials: 1 Pet. 1:7, "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory." True and pure gold will come out of the furnace in full weight, so true saints, when tried, come forth as gold... Christ distinguishes true grace from counterfeit by this, that it is gold tried in the fire... So that it is evident, that these things are called trials in Scripture, principally as they try or prove the sincerity of professors. And, from what has now been observed, it is evident that they are the most proper trial or proof of their sincerity; inasmuch as the very meaning of the word trial, as it is ordinarily used in Scripture, is the difficulty occurring in the way of a professor's duty, as the trial or experiment of his sincerity...And this is the most proper proof and evidence to the conscience of those that are the subjects of these trials. For when God is said by these things to try men, and prove them, to see what is in their hearts, and whether they will keep his commandments or no; we are not to understand, that it is for his own information, or that he may obtain evidence himself of their sincerity (for he needs no trials for his information); but chiefly for their conviction, and to exhibit evidence to their consciences. (Emphasis mine)
It seems the testing, as far as proving genuineness goes, is for our benefit and the benefit of others. It testifies to the genuineness of our own faith. We are to see what God has brought us through, by his grace, and see that either our faith is true or that it is false.
What do you think?
"Once the truth of the gospel is, by this divine and supernatural light, made known to the mind, all sorts of other biblical truths are seen. For example, once one is persuaded of the glory of the gospel, he sees the exceeding evil of sin, "for the same eye that discerns the transcendent beauty of holiness, necessarily therein sees the exceeding odiousness of sin: the same taste which relishes the sweetness of true moral good, tastes the bitterness of moral evil. And by this means a man sees his own sinfulness and loathsomeness; for he has now a sense to discern objects of this nature; and so sees the truth of what the word of God declares concerning the exceeding sinfulness of mankind, which before he did not see." Indeed, one can see the whole of the biblical revelation, for once a sense of true divine beauty is imparted to the soul, the believer discerns the beauty of every part of the gospel scheme. (Signs of the Spirit, 105)
Thursday, August 20, 2009
"But the Jesus [Emergent's] like is almost certainly not the Jesus who calls sinners to repentance, claimed to be the unique Son of God, and died for our sins. He is almost certainly a nice guy, open-minded, spiritually ambiguous, and a good example. He is a guru Jesus who resembles Bono in a bathrobe. If the church is the problem, it is likely because the church gives shape and form to an otherwise malleable and hollow Christ."
"Before the unhappy masses exit the church, they should consider what it is they are actually leaving. Is it merely some bad experiences they are fleeing? Or does the unrest go deeper? If Christians are interested in a Christianity free from doctrine, demands, and damnation, they aren't just sick of the church and its unflattering quirks; they're tired of the Christian faith altogether."
"The church-leavers can feel good tithing to the nonprofit of their choice, never stopping to think that this superspiritual, supercool outfit has a board of directors and an accountant, and filed the paperwork to become a 501c3 back in the day[...] They bemoan the over-programmed church, but then think of a hundred complex, resource-hungry things the church should be doing[...] They wish the church could be more diverse, but then leave to meet in a coffee shop with other well-educated thirtysomethings who are into film festivals, NPR, and carbon offsets[...] They chide the church for not doing more to address social problems, but then complain when the church gets too political."
"I sometimes find, especially among peers, that authenticity is not a self-abasing means of growing in holiness, but a convenient cover for endless introspection, doubt, uncertainty, anger, and worldliness. So that if other Christians seems pure, assured, and happy, we despise them for being inauthentic."
"What if belonging to a church is more serious than, say, choosing whether the new laundry detergent is "right for you"? What if your difficulty with church was God's means of sanctifying you and the church, instead of separating the two of you? What if we aren't always the best judge of what will help us most in "living like Jesus"? What if, in addition to the church, we feel like marriage "diminishes" our relationship with Jesus? Or that poverty doesn't seem to be good for us spiritually? Or our children get in the way of our walk with God? What if we need something to guide us that is more sophisticated, more sure, and less subjective that our own "freedom filters"? An what makes us think that after nearly two thousand years of institutional church, Christians are suddenly free to jettison the church and try things on their own?"
Burroughs enlightens the reader on the folly of murmuring with 5 sub-points, one of which I'd like to consider; Discontent and murmuring eats out the good and sweetness of a mercy before it comes. Here is the opening paragraph of his thoughts on murmuring removing the sweetness of mercy:
Discontent and murmuring eats out the good and sweetness of a mercy before it comes. It God should give a mercy for the want of which we are discontented, yet the blessing of the mercy is, as it were, eaten out before we come to have it. Discontent is like a worm that eats the meat out of the nut, and then when the meat is eaten out of it, you have the shell. If a child were to cry for a nut of which the meat has been eaten out, and is all worm-eaten, what good would the nut be to the child? So you would fain have a certain outward comfort and you are troubled for the want of it, but the very trouble of your spirits is the worm that eats the blessing out of the mercy.
I would like to twist the analogy of the worm and the nut just a bit in order to see the same point Burroughs makes using a true story my sister told me.
My sister and her family recently visited my father in northern Idaho. My father lives on a nice lakeside property which happens to contain a mini-orchard of different kinds of fruit trees. It so happened at the time of their visit that my dad's cherry trees were loaded with ripe, delicious cherries. Throughout the week my sister, her husband, and their 3 children enjoyed eating the sweet fruit.
Nearing the end of their visit, while enjoying some time on my dad's boat, they once again started in on a mound of cherries they had picked and brought for the trip. It so happened that my sister's husband broke open a cherry with his fingers instead of just popping it in his mouth. To his dismay, he could clearly see two small, white worms. After halting any further eating of cherries, he proceeded to examine 16 more cherries in similar fashion; he found 14 of them had worms. Needless to say, the cherries were no longer consumed and the thought of all the previous eating of the fruit brought an understandable amount of revulsion.
It is funny that when my sister's family where unaware of the worms they were more than happy and content with the delicious fruit. Nobody got sick from eating the worms and though I am no expert I'm guessing there would not be any serious consequences in eating them. They were 'CONTENT' with the provision when they were unaware of the worms. However, when they became aware of the worms 'DISCONTENT' entered the equation and the once enjoyable bounty was now understandably unworthy and unwanted.
That is what discontentment does. It ruins and undermines the mercy of God in our life. It takes something that was delicious and nutritious and morphs it into something that disgusts us. And though nobody could fault my sister and her family for rejecting the fruit after their discovery, I still think the story is a good example of why DISCONTENTMENT in general, and murmuring in particular, is a foolish endeavour.
Here is an excerpt from an excellent post on David Martyn Lloyd-Jones I came across on the Desiring God website:
Martin Lloyd-Jones' Criticisms of the Pentecostalism He Knew
These are remarkable teachings coming from the main spokesman for the reformed cause in Britain in the last generation. He helped found a publishing house (Banner of Truth Trust) that has consistently put forward cessationist, Warfield-like thinking on spiritual gifts. And lest you think Lloyd-Jones was a full-blown charismatic incognito let me mention some things that gave him balance and made him disenchanted with Pentecostals and charismatics as he knew them.
1. He insisted that revival have a sound doctrinal basis. And from what he saw there was a minimization of doctrine almost everywhere that unity and renewal were being claimed (see note 53). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and revival will be shallow and short-lived without deeper doctrinal roots than the charismatic tree seems to have.
2. Charismatics put too much stress on what they do and not enough emphasis on the freedom and sovereignty of the Spirit, to come and go on his own terms. "Spiritual gifts," he says, "are always controlled by the Holy Spirit. They are given, and one does not know when they are going to be given" (see note 54).
You can pray for the baptism of the Spirit, but that does not guarantee that it happens ... It is in his control. He is the Lord. He is a sovereign Lord and he does it in his own time and in his own way (see note 55).
3. Charismatics sometimes insist on tongues as a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit which of course he rejects.
It seems to be that the teaching of the Scripture itself, plus the evidence of the history of the church, establishes the fact that the baptism with the Spirit is not always accompanied by particular gifts (see note 56).
4. But even more often most charismatics claim to be able to speak in tongues whenever they want to. This, he argues is clearly against what Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:18, "I thank God I speak in tongues more than you all." If he and they could speak in tongues any time they chose, then there would be no point in thanking God that the blessing of tongues is more often given to him than to them (see note 57).
5. Too often, experiences are sought for their own sake rather than for the sake of empowerment for witness and for the glory of Christ (see note 58).
The aim is not to have experiences in themselves but to empower for outreach and making Christ known (see note 59) ...
We must test anything that claims to be a movement of the Spirit in terms of its evangelistic power (see note 60) ...
The supreme test of anything that claims to be the work of the Holy Spirit is John 16:14—"He shall glorify me" (see note 61).
6. Charismatics can easily fall into the mistake of assuming that if a person has powerful gifts that person is thus a good person and is fit to lead and teach. This is not true. Lloyd-Jones is aware that baptism with the Holy Spirit and the possession of gifts does not certify one's moral fitness to minister or speak for God. The spiritual condition at Corinth, in terms of sanctification, was low and yet there was much evidence of divine power.
Baptism with the Holy Spirit is primarily and essentially a baptism with power ... [But] there is no direct connection between the baptism with the Holy Spirit and sanctification (see note 62) ... It is something that can be isolated, whereas sanctification is a continuing and a continuous process (see note 63).
7. Charismatics characteristically tend to be more interested in subjective impressions and unusual giftings than in the exposition of Scripture. Be suspicious, he says, of any claim to a "fresh revelation of truth" (see note 64). (In view of what he said above concerning how the Holy Spirit speaks today in guidance, he cannot mean here that all direct communication from God is ruled out.)
8. Charismatics sometimes encourage people to give up control of their reason and to let themselves go. Lloyd-Jones disagrees. "We must never let ourselves go" (see note 65). A blank mind is not advocated in the Scriptures (see note 66). The glory of Christianity is what we can "at one and the same time ... be gripped and lifted up by the Spirit and still be in control" (see 1 Cor. 14:32) (see note 67). We must always be in a position to test all things, since Satan and hypnotism can imitate the most remarkable things (see note 68).
Read the whole article, which includes a biographical sketch of Lloyd-Jones, here.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
A Few Thoughts on Free Will
July 9, 2009 | By: John Piper | Category: Commentary
Before the fall of Adam sinless man was able to sin. For God said, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
As soon as Adam fell, sinful man was not able not to sin, since we were unbelieving,and “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
When we are born again, by the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to not sin, for “sin will have no dominion over you” (Romans 6:14).
This means that what Paul calls “the natural man” or “the mind of the flesh” is not able not to sin. Paul says this in Romans 8:7-9
The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (See also 1Corinthians 2:14).
How then shall we think of free will?
It is not a saving power. In his freedom to will, fallen man cannot on his own do anything but sin. Such “free will” is a devastating reality. Without some power to overcome it’s bent, our free will only damns us.
We could stop here and turn with joy to the gospel truth that God overcomes our resistance, gives us life, wakens our dead inclination for Christ, and freely and irresistibly draws us to himself (John 6:44, 65; Acts 13:48; Ephesians 2:5; 2 Timothy 2:25-26).
But it sometimes helps to answer objections. One common objection is that, if we “cannot” do what is right, and “can only” do what is sin, then we are not acting voluntarily and cannot be praised or blamed.
Here is part of John Calvin’s answer to this objection:
The goodness of God is so connected with his Godhead that it is not more necessary to be God than to be good; whereas the devil, by his fall, was so estranged from goodness that he can do nothing but evil.
Should anyone give utterance to the profane jeer that little praise is due to God for a goodness to which he is forced, is it not obvious to every man to reply, “It is owing not to violent impulse, but to his boundless goodness, that he cannot do evil?”
Therefore, if the free will of God in doing good is not impeded, because he necessarily must do good; if the devil, who can do nothing but evil, nevertheless sins voluntarily; can it be said that man sins less voluntarily because he is under a necessity of sinning? (Institutes, II.3.5)
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
You Will Not Abandon My Soul
A Miktam of David.
16:1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
I did not get far into the reading of this Psalm this morning before being stopped in my tracks. Verse two says "I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” I wish I believed that all the time. But I often ascribe good things in my life to myself; to my intelligence or my piety or my hard work or something else I have done. Ridiculous! There is nothing in my life that is good that did not come from and is not directly attributable to God. I realize that. But I need to constantly remember that!
I continue to work through the 864 page work by John frame entitled The Doctrine of God. It has been an enlightening read on many topics and I have enjoyed the journey. Frame writes with clarity and precision and leaves flourish to other writers. I really enjoy his straightforward approach and find it helpful when tackling some of the more difficult subjects.
I am currently reading his chapters on God's attributes. Frame approaches the attributes of God from a different angle then some of the books I have read on the topic. I wanted to share some of his opening remarks. Frame writes:
In chapter 12, I argued that the defining or essential attributes of God should not be considered parts of him, but rather are perspectives on his whole being, that is, his essence. In that sense, God is "simple." He is also complex, but each attribute describes God's entire complexity, not just a part of it. So no attribute is separable from the others. Each attribute has all the attributes: God's love is eternal, just, and wise. His eternity is the eternal existence of a just and wise person. Nevertheless, each attribute presents God's essence from a different perspective, so that the collection of the gives some insight into the complexity of his being.
Does God's simplicity mean, then, that his eternity is the same as his love, or that his knowledge and justice are identical? The attributes do differ in perspective and emphasis,but they ultimately coalesce. Yes, God's eternity is the same as his love, for his eternity is the eternal existence of a loving person, and his love is the love of an eternal person. That is to say, eternity and love are not abstract qualities that characterize many beings including God, and that exist in him alongside many other abstract qualities. Rather, they are God himself. Our standard of love is not something in God, alongside other things, but God himself. And to find what eternity is, we should not search among abstract "eternal objects" like numbers and and the properties of creatures; rather, we should look to God himself.
Ultimately, then, the rather abstruse notion of divine simplicity, which identifies God's attributes as his essence, reduces to divine personalism. That is, God is a person, not a collection of abstract qualities. It is tempting to think pf God as a collection of abstract qualities when we consider the divine attributes, but we must keep reminding ourselves that God is a person, and that the divine attributes represent his powers and character traits. (388)
Here's a few excerpts:
Ecclesial theology then, is rich, scriptural theology covering the entire Christian life; Christian living, ecclesiology, ministry, exposition of Scripture, church history, dogmatics, etc., --anything relevant to the mission and life of the church. And it addresses these issues not merely as an academic exercise--a raw quest for knowledge--but with the conscious and preeminent aim of building the church. It unapologetically purposes to advance the glory of Christ.
Here's a few works the author considered ecclesial theology:
Athanasius--The Incarnation of the Word
Augustine--Confessions, On Grace and Free Will
Luther--Galatians, Bondage of the Will
Calvin--Institutes and commentaries
Baxter--The Reformed Pastor
Edwards--Freedom of the Will, etc.
Bonhoeffer--The Cost of Discipleship
Stott--The Cross of Christ
Ecclesial theology is theological reflection written to the thoughtful, theologically informed, historically aware, biblically literate, ecclesial community. It's as intellectually robust as sound academic theology, but is driven by ecclesial concerns.
Heistand calls for a return of the Pastor-Theologian and I agree. I would take it a few steps further and extend the call to the Elder-Theologians, Deacon-Theologians, Ministry Leader - Theologians, Sunday School Teacher- Theologians, ... you get the idea.
Lastly, I really enjoyed this quote:
Luther didn't change the world because he was a successful academician. He changed the world because he wrote as a robust, theologically informed, intelligent, prophetic Christian.
Well worth the read despite my initial, erroneous misgivings about the title.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Edwards 6th distinguishing sign of truly gracious affections is stated as such:
VI. Gracious affections are attended with evangelical humiliation. Evangelical humiliation is a sense that a Christian has of his own utter insufficiency, despicableness, and odiousnesss, with an answerable frame of heart.
Legal humiliation differs from evangelical humiliation:
There is a distinction to be made between a legal and evangelical humiliation. The former is what men may be the subjects of, while they are yet in a state of nature, and have no gracious affections; the latter is peculiar to true saints: the former is from the common influence of the Spirit of God, assisting natural principles, and especially natural conscience; the latter is from the special influences of the Spirit of God, implanting and exercising supernatural and divine principles: the former is from the mind's being assisted to a greater sense of the things of religion, as to their natural properties and qualities, and particularly of the natural perfections of God, such as his greatness, terrible majesty, &c., which were manifested to the congregation of Israel, in giving the law at mount Sinai; the latter is from a sense of the transcendent beauty of divine things in their moral qualities: in the former, a sense of the awful greatness, and natural perfections of God, and of the strictness of his law, convinces men that they are exceeding sinful, and guilty, and exposed to the wrath of God, as it will wicked men and devils at the day of judgment; but they do not see their own odiousness on the account of sin; they do not see the hateful nature of sin; a sense of this is given in evangelical humiliation, by a discovery of the beauty of God's holiness and moral perfection. In a legal humiliation, men are made sensible that they are little and nothing before the great and terrible God, and that they are undone, and wholly insufficient to help themselves; as wicked men will be at the day of judgment: but they have not an answerable frame of heart, consisting in a disposition to abase themselves, and exalt God alone; this disposition is given only in evangelical humiliation, by overcoming the heart, and changing its inclination, by a discovery of God's holy beauty: in a legal humiliation, the conscience is convinced; as the consciences of all will be most perfectly at the day of judgment; but because there is no spiritual understanding, the will is not bowed, nor the inclination altered: this is done only in evangelical humiliation. In legal humiliation, men are brought to despair of helping themselves; in evangelical, they are brought voluntarily to deny and renounce themselves: in the former, they are subdued and forced to the ground; in the latter, they are brought sweetly to yield, and freely and with delight to prostrate themselves at the feet of God.
As to legal humiliation:
Legal humiliation has in it no spiritual good, nothing of the nature of true virtue; whereas evangelical humiliation is that wherein the excellent beauty of Christian grace does very much consist. Legal humiliation is useful, as a means in order to evangelical; as a common knowledge of the things of religion is a means requisite in order to spiritual knowledge. Men may be legally humbled and have no humility: as the wicked at the day of judgment will be thoroughly convinced that they have no righteousness, but are altogether sinful, and exceedingly guilty, and justly exposed to eternal damnation, and be fully sensible of their own helplessness, without the least mortification of the pride of their hearts: but the essence of evangelical humiliation consists in such humility, as becomes a creature, in itself exceeding sinful, under a dispensation of grace; consisting in a mean esteem of himself, as in himself nothing, and altogether contemptible and odious; attended with a mortification of a disposition to exalt himself, and a free renunciation of his own glory.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons,the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
I've had a fair bit of difficulty in my life, as I'm sure everyone has at some point. There are things that I gone through in my past, stuff that I'm walking through right now, and events that I know will take place in my future that are going to be incredibly difficult, emotionally draining, and just an all around unpleasant experience. I have no clue what God is doing sometimes. I just don't get it. I get frustrated. I wonder when this rollercoaster ride is going to end. I stand speachless sometimes before him, not knowing how to put my prayers in words.
But I thank God for his Spirit that intercedes for me when I can't put my feelings and emotions into words. Even though I'm left standing confused, angry, hurt... I rejoice and give praise because I know that no matter what I go through, no matter how much my life feels like this whirlwind, no matter how much I want to throw in the towel and say "Enough is enough God," I know that he is working this all together for the good. The good of me becoming more and more like Christ, and less and less of the world's. It sucks going through some of this stuff, seriously it does, but I thank God that I can stand on those scriptures and feel a sense of relief because I know that his sovereign hand is in control and in turn, I'll bear better fruit for his kingdom.
Piper Interview on Bible Reading, Free Logos Copy of Finally Alive
John Piper answers the following questions in the latest Bible Study Magazine:
* How do you keep from growing indifferent to the Bible when you're so familiar with it?
* How do you approach the Bible?
* How can we make time for the Bible?
* How do you memorize Scripture?
* Is the Bible easier for you to understand than for other people?
* What would you say to someone who hasn't read their Bible in a long time?
They are also giving away free copies of Finally Alive for Logos Bible Software, for one month only.
See the post and accompanying links here.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Answer: Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience.
So says the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
"A saving grace." God alone can awaken repentance. That's how sleepy our consciences are. We need the smelling salts of the gospel waved under our noses to wake us up. Most of the sins we commit we don't notice. We might even feel good about them at the time.
"Out of a true sense of his sin . . . with grief and hatred of his sin." Not just embarrassment over getting caught but sorrow over offending the Father. Self-assurance dissolves into self-hatred. A new thought enters in: "I hate my heart."
"Apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ." If we suspect that God despises us for our sins, we will have no incentive to turn back to him. It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. The Father rejoices to honor his prodigals. This truth sets us free to repent.
"Turn from it unto God." We don't make ourselves better first. We just turn, we turn back to God, spattered with our filth. It is God himself to whom the penitent go. Not to deeper self-fixation but to the all-merciful Father God. We fall into his arms.
"With full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience." Not "Oh, I'm so broken," with no follow-through, no change. "Brokenness" can be an excuse for inaction. True repentance gets traction for "new obedience," unprecedented obedience, bold new steps in obeying the Bible we've never taken before, such that our family and friends start wondering, "What's gotten into him?"
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
From Edwards' A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections:
A holy love has a holy object. The holiness of love consists especially in this, that it is the love of that which is holy, as holy, or for its holiness; so that it is the holiness of the object, which is the quality whereon it fixes and terminates. A holy nature must needs love that in holy things chiefly, which is most agreeable to itself; but surely that in divine things, which above all others is agreeable to a holy nature, is holiness, because holiness must be above all other things agreeable to holiness; for nothing can be more agreeable to any nature than itself; holy nature must be above all things agreeable to holy nature: and so the holy nature of God and Christ, and the word of God, and other divine things, must be above all other things agreeable to the holy nature that is in the saints. (3.iii)
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Thus we have showed in many respects the excellence of this grace of contentment, laboring to present the beauty of it before your souls, that you may be in love with it. Now, my brethren, what remains but the practice of this? For this art of contentment is not a speculative thing, only for contemplation, but it is an art of divinity, and therefore practical...Now that we may come to grips with the practice, it is necessary that we should be humbled in our hearts because of our lack of contentment in the past. For there is no way to set about any duty that you should perform, you might labor to perform it, but first you must be humbled for the lack of it... Now to the end that you might be humbled for lack of it, I shall endeavor in these headlings to speak of it: First I shall set before you the evil of a murmuring spirit. There is more evil in it than you are aware of.
Burroughs goes through 13 points to humble the reader for their lack of contentment in the past. His fourth point was one that I found challenging me above the others. It reads "IT [a lack of contentment] IS A WICKEDNESS WHICH IS GREATLY CONTRARY TO GRACE, AND ESPECIALLY CONTRARY TO THE WORK OF GOD, IN BRINGING THE SOUL HOME TO HIMSELF."
Burroughs delivers his first argument for the point above:
The usual way is for God to make the soul to see, and be sensible of the dreadful evil that is in sin, and the great breach that sin has made between God and it, for, certainly, Jesus Christ can never be known in his beauty and excellence till the soul knows that. I do not say what secret work of the Holy Ghost there may be in the soul, but before the soul can actually apply Jesus Christ to itself, it is impossible but that it must come to know the evil of sin, and the excellence of Jesus Christ. A seed of faith may be put into the soul, but the soul must first know Christ, and know sin, and be made sensible of it. Now how contrary is this sin of murmuring to any such work of God! Has God made me see the dreadful evil of sin, and made my soul sensible of the evil of sin as the greatest burden? How can I be then so much troubled for every little affliction? Certainly, if I saw what the evil of sin was, that sight would swallow up all other evils, and if I were burdened with the evil of sin, it would swallow up all other burdens. What! am I now murmuring against God's hand? says such a soul, whereas a while ago the Lord made me see myself to be a damned wretch, and apprehend it as a wonder that I was not in Hell?
I have been challenged several times in the past few weeks about sin and the degree to which I hate it. I came across a quote by Thomas Goodwin on the blog Miscellanies which is as follows:
“Work in your hearts a hatred of sin… If a man had killed your friend, or father, or mother, how would you hate him! You would not endure the sight of him, but follow the law upon him. Send out the avenger of blood with a hue and cry after thy sin; bring it afore God’s judgment seat, arraign it, accuse it, spit on it, condemn it and thyself for it, have it to the cross, nail it there, if it cry I thirst, give it vinegar, stretch the body of sins upon his cross, stretch every vein of it, make the heart strings crack; and then when it hangs there, triumph over the dying of it, show it no pity, laugh at its destruction, say, Thou hast been a bloody sin to me and my husband, hang there and rot. And when thou art tempted to it [sin], and art very thirsty after the pleasure of it, say of that opportunity to enjoy it, It is the price of Christ’s blood, and pour it upon the ground. … Shall I live upon that which was Christ’s death? Shall I please myself in that which was his pain? Shall I be so dishonest, so unkind, as to enjoy the pleasure for which he endured the smart?” (Christ the Mediator in The Works of Thomas Goodwin 5:294)
It seems the Puritans believed strongly in learning to despise sin. They certainly understand that God has that perspective. I would do well to apply this to my life.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
"That some Christians fall into doubt regarding the state of their souls is not always a bad thing. Their failure to believe and trust in the certainty of their salvation is not a failure of faith on their part but a merciful gift from God. "For so hath God contrived and constituted things, in his dispensations towards his own people, that when their love decays, and the exercises of it fail, or become weak, fear should arise; for then they need it to restrain them from sin, and to excite 'em to care for the good of their souls, and so to stir them up watchfulness and diligence in religion. But God hath so ordered that when love rises, and is in vigorous exercise, then fear should vanish, and be driven away""
I'd never really considered the possibility that questioning your salvation in times of hardship is a gift from God. A gift that will ultimately lead us back to living a Christ centered life.
John Frame on creation ex nihilo from The Doctrine of God:
So the doctrine of creation ex nihilo is perhaps best understood as a negative doctrine. It does not attempt, positively, to explain the process of creation, but leaves that mysterious. Its whole purpose is to deny two false views: creation from preexisting reality, and emanation from the divine essence, Since there are no other possible sources for the material being of the world, we say that there is no such source, or, in other words, that the source is nothing-however confusing that expression may be. (300)
Monday, August 10, 2009
I appreciated what Edwards had to say about the enlightening of our understanding in regards to spiritual affections:
Truly spiritual and gracious affections are not raised after this manner; these arise from the enlightening of the understanding to understand the things that are taught of God and Christ, in a new manner, the coming to a new understanding of the excellent nature of God, and his wonderful perfections, some new view of Christ in his spiritual excellencies and fullness, or things opened to him in a new manner, that appertain to the way of salvation by Christ, whereby he now sees how it is, and understands those divine and spiritual doctrines which once were foolishness to him. Such enlightenings of the understanding as these, are things entirely different in their nature from strong ideas of shapes and colours, and outward brightness and glory, or sounds and voices. (3.iii)