Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Trusting God in the Dark

I needed this today.

From Dane Ortlund:

'Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love . . .'
--Genesis 22:2

The command to offer up the son of the promise, with whom the whole future lies, seems the complete contradiction of the Purpose of God on which Abraham has set his faith.

Abraham in the story is called by God to make a supreme sacrifice, an act of complete and entire worship, trusting God in the dark, committing everything to him: 'not my will but thine be done.' While God did not in the end demand this sacrifice to be made, that which he did demand was the entire willingness to make the offering.

Such is the meaning of the story as the writer tells it; and because this and nothing less is the true and original meaning therefore we, in interpreting it, may and must look onward to the self-giving of our LORD, in whose case no offering of a substitute was possible. Hence we may and must find the finalanswer to Isaac's question 'Where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?' and Abraham's reply 'God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son' (22:7-8) in the words of John 1:29, 'Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.'
--Gabriel Hebert, The Old Testament From Within (Oxford University Press, 1962), 34

Friday, June 15, 2012

J.I. Packer on Our Communion with God

I found this post from Justin Taylor to be helpful, especially as I've been reading Donald Fairbairn's book, Life in the Trinity, which is about the very subject of our communion with God, and its central importance.  Here is J.I. Packer writing about the subject. 

J. I. Packer:
. . . whereas to the Puritans communion with God was a great thing, to evangelicals today it is a comparatively small thing.
The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way that we are not.
The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it.
When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God.
Modern Christian books and magazines contain much about Christian doctrine, Christian standards, problems of Christian conduct, techniques of Christian service—but little about the inner realities of fellowship with God.
Our sermons contain much sound doctrine—but little relating to the converse between the soul and the Saviour.
We do not spend much time, alone or together, in dwelling on the wonder of the fact that God and sinners have communion at all; no, we just take that for granted, and give our minds to other matters.
Thus we make it plain that communion with God is a small thing to us.
But how different were the Puritans! The whole aim of their ‘practical and experimental’ preaching and writing was to explore the reaches of the doctrine and practice of man’s communion with God.
—J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (reprint ed., Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), p. 215 (chapter 12).

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Call for Tough and Tender Pastor's in Controversy

From John Piper, as posted by Justin Taylor:

It seems to me that we are always falling off the horse on one side or the other in this matter of being tough and tender—
wimping out on truth when we ought to be lion-hearted, or
wrangling with anger when we ought to be weeping. . . .
Oh how rare are the pastors who speak with a tender heart and have a theological backbone of steel. I dream of such pastors. I would like to be one someday.
A pastor
whose might in the truth is matched by his meekness.
Whose theological acumen is matched by his manifest contrition.
Whose heights of intellect are matched by his depths of humility.
Yes, and the other way around!
A pastor
whose relational warmth is matched by his rigor of study,
whose bent toward mercy is matched by the vigilance of his biblical discernment, and
whose sense of humor is exceeded by the seriousness of his calling.
I dream of great defenders of true doctrine who are mainly known for the delight they have in God and the joy in God that they bring to the people of God—who enter controversy, when necessary, not because they love ideas and arguments, but because they love Christ and the church. . . .
[Acts 15:1-3] is my vision: The great debaters on their way to a life-and-death show down of doctrinal controversy, so thrilled by the mercy and power of God in the gospel, that they are spreading joy everywhere they go.
Oh how many there are today who tell us that controversy only kills joy and ruins the church;
and oh how many others there are who, on their way to the controversy, feel no joy and spread no joy in the preciousness of Christ and his salvation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Our Significance

"Significance does not lie in what one can accomplish on one's own. It does depend on the one to whom one is connected. But everyone possesses true significance, because all are created in the image of God. There is no one else one could attach oneself to who could give a person greater significance than that person already possesses, by virtue of this connection to God. Furthermore, this significance is linked to creation, not to whether a person follows Christ. It is not just Christians who are inherently significant in God's eyes. All people bear the image of God in a way that unites them to one another and distinguishes them from the rest  of the beings in the universe. We do not have to be on the celebrity chasing carousel. We do not need fame or even a connection to famous ones. We already have something more, a direct connection to God, and this connection is the source of real significance. As we grasp the fact that this connection brings with it the opportunity to share in and reflect God's intratrinitarian relationship, then all of life begins to appear in a new light. The work we do, the human relationships we try to develop, the success we try to attain-these things need not be attempts to gain significance for ourselves. Rather, we can see them for what they are- opportunities to work out the implications of the significance we already have as people created in the image of God, people meant to share in his glorious presence."

Donald Fairbairn, Life in Trinity, 68. 

And, I would add: Jesus is the only way to restore us to this beautiful significance. Jesus is the way God has provided in order that we may fully share in life as it was meant to be lived, in connection to God. Without trusting in Jesus for our sense of significance, we will always be living on a carousel, trying to earn significance. Without Jesus, we will constantly be looking for significance, but will be doing so disconnected from the One from whom our significance actually comes. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Christian Life and the Trinity

"This doctrine of the Trinity is not an abstraction whose connection with Christian life is tenuous or even nonexistent. Rather, the doctrine of the Trinity is the gateway to understanding Christian life. A God who was completely alone would have had nothing relational to offer us in salvation; he could have offered only a right status before him or something of that sort. But because God has eternally existed as a fellowship of three persons, there is fellowship within God which we can also share."

Donald Fairbairn, Life in Trinity, 50.

These are marvelous truths with incredible implications. At the heart of the Christian faith is not simply an abstract change of status. More so, it is a completely new relationship with God. The heart of the Christian life is a sharing in the life of the Trinity. We receive new life in Christ because we are brought into this relational fellowship with God. As Christians, we can now be confident in all the benefits of salvation because they are rooted in Christ's relationship to his Father. We aren't merely forgiven of our sins as a simple declaration. Rather, we are seen as perfectly righteous. We are beloved children whom God 100% delights in. This is all because we share in the relationship that Christ has with the Father. The Father now sees us as he sees his only Son. Being a Christian is being brought into this relationship. It is sharing in this life. This is the source of the Christian life. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Basil the Great on the Holy Spirit

One of the most important Church Fathers, Basil the Great, writing about the Holy Spirit:

"If we ponder the meaning of His name, and the greatness of His deeds, and the multitude of blessings He has showered on us and on all creation, it is possible for us to understand at least partially the greatness of His nature and unapproachable power. He is named Spirit: "God is Spirit," and "the Spirit of our nostrils, the Lord's Anointed," He is called holy, as the Father is holy, and the Son is holy. For creatures, holiness comes from without; for the Spirit, holiness fills His very nature. He is not sanctified, but sanctifies. He is called good, as the Father is good; the essence of the Spirit embraces the goodness of the Father. He is called upright- the Lord my God is upright- but because he is truth and righteousness personified...The Spirit shares titles held in common by the Father and the Son; He receives these titles due to his natural and intimate relationship with them."

On HS, paragraph 48 (Anderson, 76). 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

In His Hands I Place My Cause

Prior to the Protestant Reformation, before the big names like Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, there was a Czech man by the name of John Huss. Though he didn't start the big movement, Huss served as the forerunner to the 16th century movement. Huss's fiery preaching was particularly aimed at the corruption of the clergy. He was an adamant opposer to the sale of indulgences for the forgiveness of sins. He also criticized papal authority, claiming that the Bible was the final authority, by which the pope or any other Christian would be judged. For his stance, Huss was brought to trial on June 5, 1415. The leaders of the trial wished to have Huss simply recant his position and admit his heresy in order to be let go. To this Huss replied:
"I appeal to Jesus Christ, 
the only judge who is almighty and completely just. 
In his hands, I place my cause, 
since he will judge each, not on the basis of false witness and erring councils, 
but on truth and justice."

I'll let Justo Gonzalez retell the rest of Huss's story. 

"He was then sent back to prison, where many went to plead with him; for what the leaders of the council sought was a recantation that would affirm the assemblies authority, not a condemnation that would cause many to question its wisdom. 

Finally, on July 6, Huss was taken to the cathedral. There he was dressed in his priestly garments, which were then torn from him. His tonsure was erased by shaving his head, which was then covered with a paper crown decorated with demons. On his way to the stake, they led him past a pyre where his books were being burned. When he was tied to the stake, they gave him a last chance to recant, and once again he refused. He then prayed aloud, "Lord Jesus, it is for thee that I patiently endure this cruel death. I pray thee to have mercy on my enemies." He was then heard reciting the psalms as he died."

Friday, June 8, 2012

Martyrdom of Polycarp

Here is an account of another hero of the faith's martyrdom. Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna when he faced his death in 155. He was one of the three chief Apostolic Fathers (along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch). Once again, I am inspired by the faith of these men, and thankful for their sacrificial deaths that were building blocks for the Church. Here is the account of Polycarp's martyrdom written by Justo L. Gonzalez:

"When the old bishop learned that he was being sought, he followed the advice of his flock, and hid for several days. But after having moved to another hiding place, and still being discovered, he decided that his arrest was the will of God, refused to flee any further, and calmly awaited those who came after him. 

The proconsul who presided at his trial tried to persuade him to worship the emperor, urging him to consider his advanced age. When Polycarp refused, the judge ordered him to cry: "Out with the Atheists!" to this Polycarp responded by pointing at the crowd around him and saying: "Yes. Out with the atheists!" Again the judge insisted, promising that if he would swear by the emperor and curse Christ he would be free to go. But Polycarp replied: "For eighty-six years I have served him, and he has done me no evil. How could I curse my king who saved me?"

Thus the dialogue went on. When the judge threatened him with being burned alive, Polycarp simply answered that the fire that the judge could light would only last a moment, whereas eternal fire would never go out. Finally, we are told that after he was tied to a post in the pyre, he looked up and prayed out loud: "Lord Sovereign God, I thank you that you have deemed me worthy of this moment, so that, jointly with your martyrs, I may have a share in the cup of Christ......For this...I bless and glorify you. Amen."

Martrydom of Polycarp, 14. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

To Attain Unto God

For the summer, I am taking a couple classes on  Church history. Studying history, for some, may seem more like cruel punishment than an enjoyable opportunity; a buffet of boredom rather than an exciting adventure. However, it has been such a joy to be able to dive into the story of Christianity and to study the faith of those who have come before us. It has been like opening up a small door into a vast storehouse, stretching beyond where the eye can see and mind can comprehend. And in this storehouse are the riches of God's faithfulness, seen in the generations of Christians whom He has faithfully worked in. His glory is seen through these countless testimonies of His grace.

Over the next couple days, I will post a few accounts of early Church father's that really encouraged me. The first is from Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch. Around the year 107, Ignatius was condemned to death by the imperial authorities. He was ceased in Antioch, then was brought from Antioch to Rome, so that his death might be a spectacle to many. It was on this journey that Ignatius wrote seven letters. It was also during this time that Ignatius was somehow made aware that Christians in Rome were planning to free him from the imperial authorities, thus freeing him from death. Contrary to how most of us would react, Ignatius was not in favor of this idea. He was ready to die as a witness to the gospel. His main concern was Christ, not himself. In one of his letters he wrote.
"I fear your kindness, which may harm me. You may be able to 
achieve what you plan. But if you pay no heed to my request it will
be very difficult for me to attain unto God.....so that I may not only be called a Christian, 
but also behave as such....My love is crucified...I no longer savor corruptible
food....but wish to taste the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ...
and his blood I wish to drink, which is an immortal drink....
When I suffer, I shall be free in Jesus Christ, and with him shall rise again in freedom....
I am God's wheat, to be ground by the teeth of beasts, so that I may be offered as pure bread of Christ."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sharing in Christ's Sonship

"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, 
but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, 
by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'"
Romans 8:15

At the heart of our relationship with God is our being adopted as true children. I sometimes wonder how this is possible and what this actually means. Becoming an adopted son of God is more often an abstract concept rather than the concrete reality in my life. So, how does this happen? And what does it mean?

The answer in our adoption does not lie in us. We were made to be sons and daughters of God, but we broke the relationship beyond human repair. Our hope is not in our ability to remake ourselves as sons and daughters. Rather, our adoption is rooted in the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Christ has perfect sonship with the Father. Our only hope of ever again becoming true children of God lies in our sharing in Christ's sonship that he already has with the Father. This is the good news of the gospel: that the Son of God became the Son of Man, so that he could unite men and women with God. He is able to do this because he is fully God and fully man, thus being able to mediate between the two and unite us to God. This is the foundation to our relationship with God. 

But, what does this mean on a day to day basis? Being united to Christ, and thus being made a son or daughter of God means that we are adopted into the same relationship the Son of God has with the Father.  In our adoption, we don't so much receive something from Christ, as much as we receive Christ himself. Jesus gives us his very self, and this is the heart of what we receive in adoption. Everything that is true of the Jesus Christ is now true of us. Jesus was God's beloved son, with whom God was well pleased. This is now true of us. Jesus and the Father were one. In Christ, we are now one with God. Jesus was sinless and incorruptible. We are now seen as sinless.  Jesus conquered death, resurrecting from the grave. Likewise, we will also be raised to life on the last day. 

One quick note on some of the things I just said. As those who have been adopted, we now share in the life of Christ and possess the many benefits of salvation. However, we do not share in the same substance that God has. We are still human. We are not divine. Yet, we are being restored to what it means to be made in God's image and what it means to be truly human. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Unless We Had Been United

"The Word of God was made man, and he who was the Son of God
became the Son of Man, that man, having been taken into the Word, 
and receiving adoption, might become the son of God. For by no other means
could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality,
unless we had been united to incorruptibility and immortality"
Irenaeus of Lyons writing on the Christians' participation in God

This quote is kind of a mouthful. It doesn't help that it was written around the year 180 A.D. But, Irenaeus  so beautifully captures such a central tenant to the gospel. The wonderful news of the gospel is this (and this is slight translation of what Irenaeus wrote above):

The 2nd person of the trinity, who had existed from all eternity, became man. The Son of God became the Son of Man. This is who Jesus Christ is. He did this, so that man (us), might be united to the Son of God (Jesus Christ), so that we could receive the same sonship that he has. We can be adopted as sons of God because we are directly united to the Son of God. We can only be restored to spotless perfection and eternal life by being united to the very one who himself is spotless, perfect, and from eternity. 

The Christian life is not a bunch of rules to follow or information to believe. It is living in this union with Christ. It is sharing in this life. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

What is Your Drift?

"People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward holiness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated." 
-D.A. Carson-

In this quote, I think Carson touches on a very important trend I've noticed within myself, and also among Christians in general. The trend is this: Grace and disciplined effort are opposed to each other. I'm afraid we have created a dichotomy between resting in God's grace and grace-driven effort as if the two are mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, a lot of times I find myself drifting into this mentality that mistakes laziness with true gospel rest. 

Yes, the gospel does save us from having to justify ourselves with our own works and from having to prove our selves day in and day out. However, it also saves us to something.  It frees us from the slavery of sin and of self-justification and, in turn, frees us to pursue righteousness. The gospel frees us to life as it was meant to be lived. 

In Christ, we are no longer slaves to drift into compromise, disobedience, and lifelessness. In Christ, we are free to drift towards God. We are free to experience his grace in such a way that we are driven to action. God's grace is the empowering force behind our discipline and it is our motivation. With that being said, diving deeper into in the gospel and the union we have with Christ necessarily results in actively sharing in this life. 

Further, as Carson points out, our default gravitation is not towards holiness. Our default mode is to sink deeper and deeper into self-worship. Therefore, we must run to the gospel everyday and look to God's grace as the source of our effort in order to live this life. It is a mistake to call this legalism or unnecessary effort. God longs for his children to live in him. He longs for his children to experience the power of his resurrection.  He longs for his children to freely obey him. We only find this in the gospel of God's grace. When we taste of this, only then will we be in hot pursuit of righteousness. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

"You No Longer Have to Spend the Rest of Your Life Chasing Your Tail"

A great post from Erik Most @ Glimpses of Grace. I am thankful for the gospel ministry of Tullian Tchividjian. This 6 minutes is well-worth listening to. Tullian is answering the questions posed in the book of Ecclesiates on purpose and meaning.

"He's saying look again at your sin. And be reminded that there is nothing you can do to save yourself. Then come up from that examination, and praise God! That in Christ, Jesus has done for sinners, like you and me, what we could ever do for ourself, EVER! And we can celebrate in this truth, that in my place he stood condemned, and sealed my pardon with his blood. Hallelujah! What a Savior!"

Friday, June 1, 2012

Morning Music Video

OK, the month of May was kind of a hiatus for me. But, since it is June 1st, I'm back and rolling and will hopefully will be posting more frequently.

A little over a week ago I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite bands, Page CXVI. Page CXVI started a project a few years back to remake hymns in order to make them more accessible. I love this band because of their creativity. They are simply great artists making great music; and they are doing it to some of the deepest, truest, and impactful lyrics ever produced. Below I'm posting one of their music videos to Come Thou Fount. I'm also attaching a link to the rest of their music videos that they have put out. I recommend checking out 'O Sacred Head', it's a great rendition.

How Deep the Father's Love For Us

O Sacred Head