Awakening Grace

20 12 2011

Sometime in the 1520′s, William Tyndale published his “Pathway into the Holy Scripture,” which was a brief introduction to how to read the Bible. Tyndale had to write this because he had of course translated the Bible into English and people were beginning to read it. As a Pastor, I found this little tract (approx 36 pages) introducing people to the Bible to be immensely valuable. What I was most taken by however, was Tyndale’s description of the Gospel. It had me dancing in my chair, which I think is what Mr. Tyndale intended. I thought about updating the language but I have left it as is. Enjoy!

Evangelion (that we call the gospel) is a Greek word and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy: as when David had killed Goliath the giant, came glad tidings unto the Jews, that their fearful and cruel enemy was slain, and they delivered out of all danger: for gladness whereof, they sung, danced and were joyful. In like manner is the Evangelion of God (which we call gospel, and the New Testament) joyful tidings; and as some say, a good hearing published by the apostles throughout all the world, of Christ the right David; how that he hath fought with sin, with death, and the devil, and overcome them: whereby all men that were in bondage to sin, wounded with death, overcome of the devil, are, without their own merits or deservings, loosed, justified, restored to life and saved, brought to liberty and reconciled unto the favour of God, and set at one with him again: which tidings as many as believe laud, praise and thank God; are glad, sing and dance for joy.

This Evangelion or gospel (that is to say, such joyful things) is called the New Testament; because that as a man, when he shall die, appointeth his goods to be dealt and distributed after his death among them which he nameth to his heirs; even so Christ before his death commanded and appointed that such Evangelion, gospel or tidings should be declared throughout all the world, and therewith to give unto all that (repent, and ) believe, all his goods: that is to say, his life wherewith he swallowed and devoured up death; his righteousness, wherewith he banished sin; his salvation, wherewith he overcame eternal damnation. Now can the wretched man that knoweth himself to be wrapped up in sin, and in danger to death and hell hear no more joyous a thing, than such glad and comfortable tidings of Christ; so that the cannot but be glad, and laugh from the low bottom of his heart, if he believe that the tidings are true.

C.S. Lewis:What Satan has done to us humans

C.S. Lewis: “What Satan has done to us humans”

19 12 2011

I have excerpted below from Lewis’ classic work Mere Christianity. The following paragraphs are for me, some of the most significant of the whole book. Admittedly, I stopped right when it gets good, but perhaps I will post that as well when my fingers are rested a bit

The better stuff a creature is made of- the cleverer and stronger and feer it is- then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better and worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best- or worst- of all.

How did the Dark Power go wrong? Here, no doubt, we ask a question to which human beings cannot give an answer with any certainty. A reasonable (and traditional) guess, cased on our own experiences of going wrong, can, however, be offered. The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first- wanting to be the centre- wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught to the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake. (The story in the Book of Genesis rather suggests that some corruption in our sexual nature followed the fall and was its result, not its cause.) What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was theidea that they could “be like gods”- cold set up on their own as if they had created themselves- be their own masters- invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history- money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, empires, classes, slavery- the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

The reason why it can never succeed is this. Godman us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on Gasoline, and it would not run on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended- civilisations are built up- excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfich adn cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans.

C.S. Lewish, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan 1977) pg 54-55

Re-Imagining Radical Discipleship (Part I)

Re-Imagining Radical Discipleship (Part I)

16 04 2013

In two short posts, rather than critique some of the “radical” books we brought up a few weeks ago I think I’d rather re-imagine them a little bit, hoping to (in some small way) contribute to the conversation as it plays out among friends, church members, and visitors.

There has been a steady stream of literature introduced into the Christian marketplace offering substantial criticism of modern day, North American Christianity.  I would say that the so-called “radical” books fit well within this niche, as they all, on different levels offer critiques at what the church in North America has produced or for that matter failed to produce.  So far so good.  On these points I find it hard to disagree with them.  To be blunt (and brief!), I think North American Christianity is theologically shallow, materialistic, and not particularly Christian.

The first two should be easy to understand.  The last may need some qualification.  When I say that North American Christianity is “not particularly Christian,” I mean the link between the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the practice of many North American Christians (and their churches) is not entirely apparent.  The link could be entirely detached, as it appears to have been with the Episcopal Bishop M. Budde, who called the resurrection of Jesus an “outlandish proposition” (!) or it could be the more subtle detachment but more Jesus and Bible friendly moralistic, therapeutic, deism of much of the Evangelical world.  After all, reducing Jesus from the incarnate Son of God and necessary atonement for sin to some exemplar for a better career, a more proficient parenting, or the key to time management has just as little to do with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as Bishop Budde’s denial of such things.  They appear different in full bloom but they come from the same seed.

If this is the current state of affairs, and I believe it is, what then is the fix?  What the “radical” books suggest, that I wholeheartedly endorse, is discipleship.  But what does this word “discipleship” mean?  Perhaps it means teaching others about Jesus.  This is discipleship.  On this front, recovering some old school catechism, a strategy advocated by J.I. Packer, couldn’t possibly be a bad thing.  Discipleship could also be teaching people to do, or not do, certain things.  This too is a good thing.  Whereas praying, Bible reading, serving the poor, sharing the faith, etc. come quite naturally to some, others must be taught the hows and whys of such things.  That is discipleship.  But discipleship, particularly the radical kind of discipleship I think we want to see, is more than simply knowing and doing the right things.  I would suggest a truly radical discipleship is also, if not primarily, about loving the right things.  This is where I think we’re coming up short.

In the old days (like 1500 years ago) people thought quite a lot about why they did the things they did and why they thought the things they thought.  Within the Christian tradition, knowing and doing are not activities in an of themselves but rather were the fruit of the deeper, more substantial activity of loving.  So for example, Gregory of Nyssa describes love as the “inherent affection towards a chosen object” that “attaches” one being to another through affection (On the Soul and the Resurrection).  Love doesn’t just attach emotion, but it attaches the whole being (emotions, thoughts, actions, etc.) to the object.  Similarly, Augustine describes love as that which “allures and unites us” to the things we love (Confessions IV.XIII).  If you ask the old dead guys, they’ll tell you that your thoughts and actions are dictated by your love.  What you love you think.  What you love you do.

It may be worth pausing for a moment to answer at least one objection.  We are after all, rational creatures are we not?  Loving is not central, thinking is!  Well, I’m not so sure.  Perhaps you have friends with children.  Perhaps your friends think that everything their children do is blog worthy, exceptional, unique, and magnificent.  But you and I know better!  We know that “little Johnny” is not blog worthy, but rather he’s a little devil!  So how is it that the parent‘s thoughts about the child are so distorted?  It is quite simple actually.  The parents love “little Johnny,” and their love has shaped their thoughts.

The point is argued well by Freud and later C.S. Lewis.  Freud called belief in God (thinking) a “collective neurosis” that was really a longing for a father (loving).  So the longing (loving) shaped the believing (thinking).  This appears to be a damaging obstacle to those of us with faith.  But years later Lewis showed this argument to be a bit of a double edged sword.  Lewis argued that unbelief in God (thinking) must be “an admirable gratification of one of our strongest impulses” (loving) because it gives us permission to live without fear of judgment or any higher authority (see Lewis, “On Obstinancy in Belief).  All that to say, you think what you love.  You do what you love.

If love is as central as what we argue above then perhaps the formation of the heart, not simply our thoughts or our behavior, ought to be the chief concern of a would be disciple maker.  So then, how is love formed?  Consider the following from Richard Sibbes:

Things work upon the soul in this order: 1. Some object is presented. 2. Then it is apprehended by imagination as good and pleasing, or as evil and hurtful. 3. If good, the desire is carried to it with delight; if evil, it is rejected with distaste, and so our affections are stirred up suitably to our apprehension of the object. 4. Affections stir up the spirits. 5. The spirits raise the humours, and so the whole man becomes moved.

-Sibbes, The Souls Conflict with Itself

What’s he saying?  You see something, then you imagine if it is good and pleasing or evil and hurtful.  If good and pleasing, you love it and attach yourself to it and pursue it with mind and body.  The more you perceive the goodness and pleasure in something, the great attachment it has over you.  So if we want people, mind and body attached to God, what must we do?  It seems obvious and simple . We must hold God up to be our highest and most pleasurable good, activating the imagination and firing up people’s love.

The English reformer, Thomas Cranmer, knew this well.  Consider the following:

But if the profession of our faith of the remssion of our own sins enter within us into the deepness of our hearts, then it must kindle a warm fire of love in our hearts towards God, and towards all other for the love of God, —a fervent mind to seek and procure God’s honour, will, and pleasure in all things, —a good will and mind to help every man and to do good unto them, so far as our might, wisdom, learning, counsel, health, strength, and all other gifts which we have received of God and will extend, —and, in summa, a firm intent and purpose to do all that is good, and leave all that is evil. (Cranmer, quoted in Null’s Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of Repentance pg 185)

Perceive the goodness of God in the remission of sins, says Cranmer, and it kindles a warm fire of love in the heart.  Once this is done, everything else (might, wisdom, learning, counsel, health, strength etc.) falls into place.
For a short post, I’m out of room to discuss method.  But I’ll leave you with one or two thoughts to leap off of from here.  When we teach people to think rightly about Christ, or when we teach people certain distinctive Christian behaviors we must aim at the heart.  The goal is not right thinking, nor is the goal right doing, the goal is right loving.  We must ask “how can I convey this information in such a way as to increase love and delight in God?” or “how can I teach this practice or behavior in such a way that love for God is increased?”  Starting here is a hard road, but I’m convinced it bears good fruit, and warm hearts in the long run.

Getting Radical: Christianity Today Gives Tough Review of the Radical Movement

21 03 2013

There has been a little bit of buzz on staff regarding the cover story of the latest Christianity Today.  If you have not seen it, the cover story is a theological critique of the so-called “Radical” movement which encompasses books like Radical, Not a Fan, and Crazy Love among others.  Because the authors of the aforementioned books have not been dead for 200 years, I have not read them.  That is, I had not read them until last night.  Seeing as how the article was getting traction, and also seeing as how I got quite a few e-mails yesterday regarding the article, I thought I should finally read these.  I read Radical and Not a Fan last night.  I will offer some additional thoughts in a few days.  In the meantime, I’ve excerpted what I thought was one of the more interesting critiques in the article, namely that the authors of said books feel the need to use superlatives to describe the Christian faith.  It’s worth noting that previous generations used superlatives to describe Christ, not Christians.  Anyway, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the below or the article as a whole.  Be sure to follow the links at the bottom.

Really. If there’s a word that sums up the radical movement, that’s it. Platt’s Radical opens with it, by describing what “radical abandonment to Jesus really means.” Idleman says he’s going to tell us “what it really means to follow Jesus.” Furtick says that “if we really believe God is an abundant God … we ought to be digging all kinds of ditches [for when he sends the rain, as Elisha did in 2 Kings 3:16-20].” Do those who lead mediocre, nonradical lives for Jesus really believe at all?

The question has ample biblical warrant, of course. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to test themselves to see whether they are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Chan draws on this verse explicitly, calling for “a serious self-inventory.” Idleman draws on it implicitly as he calls readers to have a “define the relationship” talk with Jesus to “determine the level of commitment.” (Idleman draws on Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”) In his latest work, Follow Me, Platt makes his warning explicit: “There are a whole lot of people who think that they’ve been born again, but they’ve been dangerously deceived.” It’s really hard to read these books, one after another, and confidently declare yourself a Christian at the end…..

(a few paragraphs later the author picks up the thread again)

These teachers want us to see that following Christ genuinely, truly, really, radically, sacrificially, inconveniently, and uncomfortably will cost us. Platt wants to safeguard the distinctness of God’s saving work over and against our effort. But his primary concern is for the “outflow of the gospel.” This means “putting everything in our lives on the table before God” and being “willing to sacrifice good things in the church in order to experience the great things of God.”

The reliance on intensifiers demonstrates the emptiness of American Christianity’s language. Previous generations were content singing “trust and obey, for there’s no other way.” Today we have to reallytrust and truly obey. The inflated rhetoric is a sign of how divorced our churches’ vocabulary is from the simple language of Scripture.

J. Gresham Machen’s Testimony Before the House and Senate Committees on the Proposed Department of Education (1926)

J. Gresham Machen’s Testimony Before the House and Senate Committees on the Proposed Department of Education (1926)

19 12 2011

Machen was the New Testament professor at Princeton and founder of Westminster Theological Seminary. Machen’s testimony before the House and Senate committees is terribly thought provoking. Note how he attacks the presuppositions behind the creation of the department and note his critique of the stated goals of the department. Also noteworthy is the type of person that Machen believes educating people after this fashion will produce. In short, he believes it will produce a “reduced” (my words) person, who is unable to exceed the appearance of things but strives to simplify and reduce everything to categories.  As a committed and thoughtful Christian, Machen foresaw the effects that reductionistic  (and ultimately atheistic) philosophies would have on impressionable students.  Read it carefully.

It is for the latter reason that I am opposed to the bill which forms the subject of this hearing. The purpose of the bill is made explicit in the revised form of it which has been offered by Senator Means, in which it is expressly said that the department of public education, with the assistance of the advisory board to be created, shall attempt to develop a more uniform and efficient system of public common school education. The department of education, according to that bill, is to promote uniformity in education. That uniformity in education under central control it seems to me is the worst fate into which any country can fall. That purpose I think is implicit also in the other form of the bill, and it is because that is the very purpose of the bill that I am opposed to it….

The principle of this bill, and the principle of all the advocates of it, is that standardization in education is a good thing. I do not think a person can read the literature of advocates of measures of this sort without seeing that that is taken almost without argument as a matter of course, that standardization in education is a good thing. Now, I am perfectly ready to admit that standardization in some spheres is a good thing. It is a good thing in the making of Ford cars; but just because it is a good thing in the making of Ford cars it is a bad thing in the making of human beings, for the reason that a Ford car is a machine and a human being is a person. But a great many educators today deny the distinction between the two, and that is the gist of the whole matter. The persons to whom I refer are those who hold the theory that the human race has now got behind the scenes, that it has got at the secrets of human behavior, that it has pulled off the trappings with which human actors formerly moved upon the scene of life, and has discovered that art and poetry and beauty and morality are delusions, and that mechanism really rules all. I think it is very interesting to observe how widespread that theory is in the education of the present day.

Sometimes the theory is held consciously. But the theory is much more operative because it is being put into operation by people who have not the slightest notion of what the ultimate source of its introduction into the sphere of education is. In this sphere we find an absolute refutation of the notion that philosophy has no effect upon life. On the contrary, a false philosophy, a false view of what life is, is made operative in the world today in the sphere of education through great hosts of teachers who have not the slightest notion of what the ultimate meaning is of the methods that they are putting into effect all the time.

For my part, I cannot bring myself to think, with these persons, that the lower things in human life are the only things that remain, and that all the higher things are delusions; and so I do not adhere to this theory. And for that reason I do not believe that we ought to adopt this principle of standardization in education, which is writ so large in this bill; because standardization, it seems to me, destroys the personal character of human life.

Calvin: Enter boldly into God’s presence by the blood of Christ

Calvin: Enter boldly into God’s presence by the blood of Christ

20 12 2011

Below is Calvin’s exposition of Hebrews 10.19.  I’ve italicized what I think is one of the most profound thoughts on the passage that I’ve come across

He says first, that we have “boldness to enter into the holiest”.
This privilege was never granted to the fathers under the Law, for the
people were forbidden to enter the visible sanctuary, though the high
priest bore the names of the tribes on his shoulders, and twelve stones
as a memorial of them on his breast. But now the case is very different,
for not only symbolically, but in reality an entrance into heaven is made
open to us through the favour of Christ, for he has made us a royal
priesthood.

He adds, “by the blood of Jesus”, because the door of the sanctuary
was not opened for the periodical entrance of the high priest, except
through the intervention of blood. But he afterwards marks the difference between this blood and that of beasts; for the blood of beasts, as it soon turns to corruption, could not long retain its efficacy; but the blood of Christ, which is subject to no corruption, but flows ever as a pure stream, is sufficient for us even to the end of the world. It is no wonder that beasts slain in sacrifice had no power to quicken, as they were dead; but Christ who arose from the dead to bestow life on us, communicates his own life to us. It is a perpetual consecration of the way, because the blood of Christ is always in a manner distilling before the presence of the Father, in order to irrigate heaven and earth.

Spurgeon Part II: How Do We Battle Spiritual Depression?-

19 12 2011

Last week I put out a post on a particularly striking sermon of Charles Spurgeon called “Songs in the Night.” I found the sermon not only spiritually edifying but also tremendously practical. Below is a brief attempt to summarize Spurgeon’s thoughts on battling spiritual depression.

Spurgeon says in times of “night”, which he here uses as a metaphor for spiritual depression, we may “sing” about three things to cheer our hearts. “Either we sing about the yesterday that is over, or else about the night itself, or else about the morrow that is to come.”

In times of spiritual depression we may first sing about the “yesterday that is over.” By this Spurgeon means that we take the time to remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past in order that we may gain comfort in our present difficulties. He writes:

“Christian, perhaps the best song thou canst sing, to cheer thee in the night, is the song of yester-morn. Remember, it was not always night with thee: night is a new thing to thee. Once thou hadst a glad heart, a buoyant spirit; once thine eye was full of fire; once thy foot was light; once thou couldst sing for very joy and ecstacy of heart. Well, then, remember that God, who made thee sing yesterday, has not left thee in the night. He is not a daylight God, who can not know his children in darkness; but he loves thee now as much as ever: though he has left thee a little, it is to prove thee, to make thee trust him better, and serve him more.”

So what kind of things did Spurgeon have in mind when he encourages us to remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past? We can remember the electing love of God (Eph 1.4), which is a faithfulness to us which began before the foundations of the world. We can remember his mighty act of redemption in Jesus Christ. We can remember his giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But we can also remember when we were first called to Christ. We can remember times of particularly intense fellowship with him. We can remember when he has delivered us from evil, temptation or strife. If for one reason or another we cannot think of God’s faithfulness to us in the past, Spurgeon encourages us to think of God’s faithfulness to others most often applied to the great protagonists in the scriptures. Spurgeon’s exhortation to remember when we were first called to Christ is particularly moving. He writes:

What! man, canst thou not sing a little of that blessed hour when Jesus met thee; when, a blind slave, thou wast sporting with death, and he saw thee, and said: “Come, poor slave, come with me?” Canst thou not sing of that rapturous moment when he snapped thy fetters, dashed thy chains to the earth, and said: “I am the Breaker; I came to break thy chains, and set thee free?” What though thou art ever so gloomy now, canst thou forget that happy morning, when in the house God thy voice was loud, almost as a seraph’s voice, in praise? For thou couldst sing: “I am forgiven! I am forgiven:”

“A monument of grace, A sinner saved by blood.” Go back, man; sing of that moment, and then thou wilt have a song in the night.

We might also sing of “the night itself”. This is the shortest section of the sermon and perhaps the most brutal in its honesty. Whatever “night” you and I are enduring, Spurgeon reassures us that things are not as bad as they could be, nor are they as badas we deserve. Psalm 103 vs 10 reads “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor repaid us for our iniquities.” The application of this verse is the crux of Spurgeon’s argument in this section. To make it very simple and very clear, no matter what you are currently suffering through it is not hell. When describing a particularly trying event people will occasionally say “it was hell.” But of course it wasn’t. Hell is a place of unimaginable torment. Spurgeon’s point here is that you are not in hell, even though you deserve to be. So take some comfort and derive some joy from the fact that God has indeed had mercy upon you through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Spurgeon says we can sing a song in the night by singing about the day to come. I was speaking with a man recently who suffers from depression. He said to me, “at least I know I will one day be happy in heaven.” This is true! He will one day be happy in heaven, and he can derive some joy from that now by resting in that hope and allowing some of that future joy to break into his present life. Perhaps the most ready analogy is that of a pregnancy. When a family is expecting a child, the day they long for and wait for is the day when their baby is born. But in the meantime, the imminent birth of that child breaks into their present day lives. They put together a crib, they paint a nursery, they buy diapers and blankets, they select the perfect teddy bear. The expectation they have of the future gives them joy and motivates behavior in the present. So too can our joy and expectation of a future with Jesus in heaven break into o

Rob Sturdy: Martin Luther’s Personal Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper

19 12 2011

The essay below is about how Martin Luther conceives of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper.  Luther’s particular contribution is a Christological contribution, articulating the nature of the “personal” union between Christ’s divine and human natures.

How, if at all, is Christ present in the Eucharist?  The question itself was one of the most hotly contested of the Protestant Reformation.  Though the question is formally a matter of sacramental theology, the answer to the question for the Reformers often rested upon their own Christological presuppositions.  After all, how one understands the relationship between the divine and human natures of Christ, as well as what limits (if any!) one believes should be placed upon the physical body of Jesus, will influence how one understands the possibility of the presence of Christ in the elements of bread and wine.  One could say that Christology sets the ground rules for sacramental theology.

For many of the Reformed, the Christology that sets the ground rules for their sacramental theology has come to be known as the extra-Calvinisticum. Oberman defines the extra-Calvinisticum as the theological conviction “that the immutable God became man without diminution or loss as regards any of his attributes” joined with the conviction that the “existence of the second person of the Trinity et extra cernem.” [1]To put it more simply, the extra holds to the ubiquity of the divine Word and the local presence of the physical body of Jesus contained in heaven, while emphasizing the unity of the two in the person of Christ.[2] The doctrine lends itself to a real, albeit spiritual, presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper in opposition to memorialism.  Because of Christ’s physical presence in heaven, the doctrine prohibits a carnal presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper in opposition to transubstantiation.  It is typically supposed that because the doctrine of the extra-Calvinisticum prohibits a true, carnal presence it must then also oppose Luther’s doctrine of consubstantiation.  This paper will argue that this is not necessarily so.  Using Luther’s writings from 1520 up until the eve of the Marburg Colloquy in 1529, I will argue that the highly nuanced Christology underpinning Luther’s doctrine of consubstantiation is thoroughly consistent with the extra-Calvinisticum.  It will be shown that Luther believes that the humanity of Christ is locally present at the right hand of God and that the divinity of Christ maintains a ubiquitous or extra presence in the world.  Furthermore it will be shown that by virtue of the union between the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, Christ can really and truly be said to be present in the Lord’s Supper.  This will serve to benefit a larger project of historical theology, tracing the development and significance of the extra-Calvinisticum in Christian thought and practice Read the rest of this entry »

Martin Luther: Christ’s Duel with Sin

20 12 2011

What a wonderful excerpt from Luther’s 1535 commentary on Galatians.  Below Luther outlines a duel between Christ’s eternal righteousness and sin’s most powerful destructive force.  It is edifying and fascinating to see how he works it out.  Enjoy!

This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable and inestimable mercy and love of God. When the merciful Father saw that we were being oppressed through teh Law, that we were being held under a curse, and that we could not be liberated from it by anything, He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: “Be Peter the denier, Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who at the apple in Paradise; the thief on teh cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them.” Now the Law comes and says: “I find HIm a sinner, who takes upon Himself the sins of all men. I do not see any other sins than those in Him. Therefore let Him die on the cross!” And so it attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated from all sins, and thus it is set free from death and from every evil. But when sin and death have been abolished by this one man, God does not want to see anything else in the whole world, especially if it were to believe, except the sheer cleansing and righteousness. And if any remnants of sin were to remain, still for the sake of Christ, the shining Sun, God would not notice them.

This is how we must magnify the doctrine of Christian righteousness in opposition to the righteousness of teh Law and of works, even though there is no voice or eloquence that can properly understand, much less express its greatness. Therefore the argument that Paul presents here is the most powerful and the highest of all against all righteousness of the flesh; for it contains the invinncible and irrefutable antithesis: If the sins of teh entire world are on that one man, Jesus Christ, then they are not on the world. But if they are not on Him, then they are still on the world. Again, if Christ Himself is made guilty of all the sins that we have all committed, then we are absolved from all sins, not through ourselves or through our own works or merits but through Him. But if He is innocent and does not carry our sins, then we carry them and shall die and be damned in them. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.” (1 Cor 15.57)

Now let us see how two such etremely contrary things come together in this Person. Not only my sins and yours, but the sins of the entire world, past, present, and future attack Him, try to damn Him, and do in fact damn Him. But because in the same Person, who is the highest, the greatest, and the only sinner, there is also eternal and invincible righteousness, therefore these two converge: the highest, the greatest, and the only sin; and the highest, the greatest, and the only righteousness. Here oneof them must yield and be conquered, since they come together and collide with such a powerful impact. Thus the sin of the entire world attacks righteousness with the greatest possible impact and fury. What happens? Righteousness is eternal, immortal, and invincible. Sin, too, is a very powerful and cruel tyrant, dominating and ruling over the whole world, capturing and enslaving all men. In short, sin is a great and powerful god who devours the whole human race, all the learned, holy, powerful, wise, and the unlearned as well. He, I say, attacks Christ and wants to devour Him as he has devoured all the rest. But he does not see that He is a Person of invincible and eternal righteousness. In this duel, therefore, it is necessary for sin to be conquered and killed, and for righeousness to prevail and live. Thus in Christ all sin is conquered, killed, and buried; and righteousness remains the victor and the ruler eternally.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians 1535, American Edition, pg 280-281

Tim Keller: The Acid Test of Being a Christian

20 12 2011

Perhaps what I noticed most about this excerpt from Dr. Keller’s sermon was that a “real Christian” has a spirit of wonder that permeates their whole life.  There is an old woman at Trinity, who whenever a promise of the Gospel is put forward she exhales loudly and will say something like “oh how marvelous!”  This woman has a host of difficulties in her life that would cause many of us to be miserable.  But what is most striking about her life is that she is utterly amazed at Jesus Christ and is therefore a very happy woman.  My heart breaks for people who spend their whole life in church and are never amazed at what God has done in Christ, who never rejoice in the gift of his Holy Spirit or who are never moved with gratitude at the gift of his word.  People who live out their Christian lives in such a way are like folks who turn their nose up at a banquet table to munch on stale, moldy bread.

A real Christian is a person who says, “it is an absolute miracle that God’s loves me. “It’s just a miracle that I am a Christian.” This is actually an acid test; let me just lay it on you here at the end. There are two kinds of people that go to church: there’s religious people and real Christians. And the way you can tell the difference is that a Real Christian is somebody who sees everything that comes as a gift.  In other words a real Christian sees that you are totally in debt to God, but a religious person is someone who is working hard and making an effort and trying to be good, going to Bible studies and just saying “no” everywhere, and denying themselves a lot of pleasures, and so forth, and a religious person is someone who is trying to put God in their debt. That is the difference.  A religious person is someone who is trying to save themselves through their good works. A religious person is somebody who thinks they are putting God in their debt since they have tried so hard. A Christian is somebody who sees themselves as in God’s debt.

Here is the acid test: If you are a Christian you have a spirit of wonder that permeates your life. You are always saying “how miraculous”, “how interplanetary”, “how unreal”. You are always looking at yourself and saying, “me a Christian … incredible, miraculous, unbelievable, a joke!!! ” but a person who is trying to put God in their debt – there is none of that spirit of wonder at all.  For example, when you show up to get your paycheck.  I am assuming that most of you work hard for your money.  When you show up for your paycheck do you say “Ah, BEHOLD!!!, you’ve paid me, you’ve given me money!!! Oh!! Are you real?.” No, you don’t do that, you say “of course you paid me, I worked.”  If you ask a religious person who does not understand the grace of God. you say, “Are you a Christian?” They say “Of course I am a Christian, I have always been a Christian. Sure I am a Christian. “  My friends, if you are a Christian there is no “sure” about it and there is no “of courseness” about it, not a bit.

The acid test is your spirit of wonder stays there even when things go bad.  You see when things go bad, when problems happen, here you can tell the difference between a moralist and a Christian.  A moralist says, “what good is all my religion, what good is going to God, I have tried hard to be a Christian, I am trying hard to be obedient to God, and what good is it? God owes me.” And you see you get mad. You say, “I have been trying hard and look what’s going on in my love life, look what’s going on in my career”, and you get bitter. Why? because God owes you.  But A Christian keeps that spirit of wonder.  A Christian may say “my career has not gone too well, my love life has not gone too well, it’s astonishing… Its amazing that God is as good as He is to me. Its all grace. Its all grace.  That spirit of wonder. That sense of being a miracle. That everything that comes to you being an absolute mercy. That is an acid test.  In fact, in some ways I have made a dichotomy that is unrealistic.  Christians, to the degree that you behold the free grace of God, to the degree that you meditate on it and you let it become a holy fire in your heart, to the degree you experience and behold the love of God, to that degree you are going to find that to difficulties you will be able to say “oh well, my Father must have a purpose here because He loves me, and besides that, He does not owe me a good life. He owes me a far worse life than I’ve got.” You can handle anything. And when good things come you will say “Behold! what a miracle”  And the very fact you can get up in the morning and say, “I am a Christian. Who would have thought it?” There is a spirit of wonder about you, and if you have lost that you are slipping back into moralism, you are slipping back into thinking “well I guess what it means to be a Christian is just to do.”  Here is Christianity:

And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior’s blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

The wonder is a mark that you know the Lord. The ability to handle anything with that sense of almost childlike wonder. That sense of being a miracle.  That tells you that you know him.

Let us love and sing and wonder,
Let us praise the Savior’s Name!
He has hushed the law’s loud thunder,
He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame.
He has wash’d us with His blood,
He has brought us nigh to God.

J.C. Ryle: Five Dangers for Young Men

19 12 2011

A fine little sermon by the famous English Baptist, Charles Spurgeon

NO ONE HERE requires to be told that this is the name of Jesus Christ, which “shall endure for ever.” Men have said of many of their works, “they shall endure for ever;” but how much have they been disappointed! In the age succeeding the flood, they made 20 12 2011 via theresurgence. Read the whole thing here 5 Dangers from Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle 1. Pride “Young men, take to heart the Scriptures just quoted. Do not be too confident in your own judgment. Stop being so sure that you are always right, and others wrong. Don’t trust your own opinion, when you find it contrary to that of older men, and especially to that of your own parents. Age gives experience, and therefore deserves respect. “ 2. Love of Pleasure “Youth is the time when our passions are strongest—and like unruly children, cry most loudly for indulgence. Youth is the time when we have generally our most health and strength: death seems far away, and to enjoy ourselves in this life seems to be everything… “I serve lusts and pleasures:” that is the true answer many a young man should give, if asked, “Whose Servant are you?” “ 3. Thoughtlessness “Not thinking is one simple reason why thousands of souls are thrown away forever into the Lake of Fire. Men will not consider, will not look ahead, will not look around them, will not reflect on the end of their present course, and the sure consequences of their present days, and wake up to find they are damned for a lack of thinking. Young men, none are in more danger of this than yourselves. You know little of the perils around you, and so you are careless how you walk. You hate the trouble of serious, quiet thinking, and so you make wrong decisions and bring upon yourselves much sorrow.”” 4. Contempt of Religion “This also is one of your special dangers. I always observe that none pay so little outward respect to Christianity as young men. None take so little part in our services, when they are present at them—use Bibles so little—sing so little—listen to preaching so little. None are so generally absent at prayer meetings, Bible Studies, and all other weekday helps to the soul. Young men seem to think they do not need these things—they may be good for women and old men, but not for them. They appear ashamed of seeming to care about their souls: one would almost fancy they considered it a disgrace to go to heaven at all. “ 5. Fear of Man’s opinion “”The fear of man” will indeed “prove to be a snare” (Proverbs 29:25). It is terrible to observe the power which it has over most minds, and especially over the minds of the young. Few seem to have any opinions of their own, or to think for themselves. Like dead fish, they go with the stream and tide: what others think is right, they think is right; and what others call wrong, they call wrong too. There are not many original thinkers in the world. Most men are like sheep, they follow a leader. If it was the fashion of the day to be Roman Catholics, they would be Roman Catholics, if it was to be Islamic, they would be Islamic. They dread the idea of going against the current of the times. In a word, the opinion of the day becomes their religion, their creed, their Bible, and their God.” the brick, they gathered the slime, and when they had piled old Babel’s tower, they said, “This shall last for ever.” But God confounded their language; they finished it not. By his lightnings he destroyed it, and left it a monument of their folly. Old Pharoah and the Egyptian monarchs heaped up their pyramids, and they said, “They shall stand for ever,” and so indeed they do stand; but the time is approaching when age shall devour even these. So with all the proudest works of man, whether they have been his temples or his monarchies, he has written “everlasting” on them; but God has ordained their end, and they have passed away. The most stable things have been evanescent as shadows, and the bubbles, of an hour, speedily destroyed at God’s bidding. Where is Nineveh, and where is Babylon? Where the cities of Persia? Where are the high places of Edom? Where are Moab, and the princes of Ammon? Where are the temples or the heroes of Greece? Where the millions that passed from the gates of Thebes? Where are the hosts of Xerxes, or where the vast armies of the Roman emperors? Have they not passed away? And though in their pride they said, “This monarchy is an everlasting one; this queen of the seven hills shall be called the eternal city,” its pride is dimmed; and she who sat alone, and said, “I shall be no widow, but a queen for ever,” she hath fallen, hath fallen, and in a little while she shall sink like a millstone in the flood, her name being a curse and a byword, and her site the habitation of dragons and owls. Man calls his works eternal—God calls them fleeting; man conceives that they are built of rock—God says, “Nay, sand, or worse than that—they are air.” Man says he erects them for eternity—God blows but for a moment, and where are they? Like baseless fabrics of a vision, they are passed and gone for ever.