Category Archives: Gospel

O.G.C.J.M.

“Only God Can Judge Me” is the original YOLO (You only live once). For some reason or another, this annoying little phrase has made a bit of a resurgence. Why? I don’t know, but I wish it would go away. Let me explain why this, along with YOLO grates on me.

I most often hear this phrase from someone in my generation who says, “It’s my body, my mouth, my life—so I can do what I want to and only God can judge me.”

I don’t think you understand what you’re saying.

Now, I understand this to a degree. It is not our place to judge others, and I’m not arguing that we should. However, you say “Only God can judge me,” as if His judgments are like that of a grandparent, who says, “Stop that… now let’s go get ice cream!”

J.I. Packer writes:

Paul refers to the fact that we must all appear before Christ’s judgment seat as “the terror of the Lord” (2 Cor 5:11), and well he might. Jesus the Lord, like his Father, is holy and pure; we are neither. We live under his eye, he knows our secrets, and on judgment day the whole of our past life will be played back, as it were, before him, and brought under review. If we know ourselves at all, we know we are not fit to face him. What then are we to do? The New Testament answer is: Call on the coming Judge to be your present Savior. As Judge, he is the law, but as Savior he is the gospel. Run from him now, and you will meet him as Judge then—and without hope. Seek him now, and you will find him (for “he that seeketh findeth”), and you will then discover that you are looking forward to that future meeting with joy, knowing that there is now “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).

So, while you say, “Only God can Judge me,” know that you don’t have to know Him as such. Christ will judge, but rather than know him as judge, how about know him as advocate?

Holy Love—Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

On July 8, 1741 Jonathan Edwards preached the famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” on the precipice of the 1st Great Awakening. The text from which he was preaching  is found in Deuteronomy 32:35 and it reads, “Their foot shall slide in due time.” The way in which Edwards describes God in this sermon is troubling to many, and I would argue that if they walk away with a troubled view of God, rather than the state of their soul, they have missed his point. However, it is easy to see how some can misinterpret Edwards when he uses illustrations such as these:

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out ofhell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock. 

And again,

The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.

And again,

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment.

Taking into account sayings like these, it is easy to see why some have caricatured  Jonathan Edwards as a hell, fire, and brimstone preacher—as if some sense of pleasure arises in him because this fate awaits many. However, I will argue that this sermon is ultimately about God’s love, tender mercy, and compassion. It is ultimately about His abounding grace and His forbearance towards those who have greatly offended Him. He later says,

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God…How can you rest one moment in such a condition?

And again,

When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. Ezek. 8:18. “Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.” Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy.

Ultimately, this sermon is not about God’s hatred toward sinners, although that is definitely present. It is about the reality that the only thing that keeps us from being launched into eternal damnation and separation from the Creator is His good pleasure. The God who has every right to not show pity toward rebels stands ready to show pity through the blood of His son.

Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.

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Christian Cliches

“God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.”

I have often thought about this saying and I think the intention behind it is pure. I think we say and hear this so often because we want to be a community who emphasizes the overwhelming goodness, faithfulness, and grace of God. However, like many cliches, I do not know if they are helpful when all is said and done because I think the tendency can be some sort of attempt to remove sin from us and place it outside of ourselves so that when we sin, we claim it as uncharacteristic of us. However, sin is not just something that we simply partake in, it is naturally who we are at the core. Paul clearly states this in the first several chapters of Romans. He states that men have failed to honor God (1:21), they have suppressed the truth of who He is, and they have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images (1:23). For this, Paul says the wrath of God is on them (2:6-9).

In addition, if sin truly is something that is outside of us and rather than something we are, then why does Isaiah respond this way when he is confronted with the holiness of God: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! (Is. 6:5)” Isaiah never claims that his sin is simply something he does, but instead recognizes that he is ruined.

Then there are passages such as these that we must wrestle with:

“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evil doers.” Psalm 5:4, 5

“The Lord tests the righteous but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” Psalm 11:5

“But you, O God, will cast them down into the pit of destruction; men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you.” Psalm 55:23

Now the tendency might be for us to say, “Come on now, this is talking about really wicked people. The type of people who murder, rape, and commit horrible atrocious acts. However, apart from Christ, everyone is in league with the worst type of sinner. Apart from the redemptive work of Christ, I am a child and slave of Satan and God’s wrath rests on me just as it does on any other wicked person.

My point in bringing this up is not so I can correct people when they use the phrase, “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.” I have no interest in being a theological nit pick. However, if we so quickly dismiss God’s hate toward us as evil doers, then we miss out on a truly beautiful aspect of the Gospel. John Calvin, citing St. Augustine, describes this in The Institutes of the Christian Religion:

“God’s love,” says [Augustine], “is incomprehensible and unchangeable. For it was not after we were reconciled to him through the blood of his Son that he began to love us. Rather, he has loved us before the world was created, that we also might be his sons along with his only-begotten Son—before we became anything at all. The fact that we were reconciled through Christ’s death must not be understood as if his Son reconciled us to him that he might now begin to love those whom he hated. Rather, we have already been reconciled to him who loves us, with whom we were enemies on account of sin. The apostle will testify whether I am speaking truth: ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ [Rom 5:8]. Therefore, he loved us even when we practiced enmity toward him and committed wickedness. Thus in a marvelous and divine way he loved us even when he hated us. For he hated us for what we were that he had not made; yet because our wickedness and not entirely consumed his handiwork, he knew how, at the same time, to hate in each one of us what we had made, and to love what he had made (Book 2, Ch. 16, Sec. 4).”

Does God hate sin? Yes. Does God hate sinners? Yes. Does God love sinners? Yes! Do not so quickly dismiss the hatred of God toward the sinner because in his hatred we see the depth of His love. Only at the cross could God’s hatred for us and love for us meet.”He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).”

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Interesting and Irritating III

Dr. Joe Gibbs shares The Tragedy of Bioethics on the Western Seminary ThM website. I don’t pretend to understand it all, but it is encouraging to see godly men looking at their discipline Christocentrically.

When we approach people whose stories have taken a catastrophic turn and we wield only the calculus of good and evil, our bioethics is left lifeless, empty, and tragic.  According to Wernow, to address tragedy we must turn to mystery, to “Mystery-revealed:” Christ, in whom is Life.  The question we ask as Christians doing bioethics is not just, “What is good?” but “How do I bring eternal life into this tragedy?  How do I bring the mystery of Life into the abyss?”

A friend of mine (JT English) turned my attention to the following video and I think you will agree it is irritating.

I have to admit, seeing little Kanon open his Veggie Tales Bible made me laugh, but overall I think this is pretty sad.

A recent finding of mine, SAET (The Society of Advancement of Ecclesial Theology) has an excellent blog and Jason Hood writes about Love having a Context.

After citing Leviticus 19:18—So there it is. If I don’t reprove my neighbor, I myself will be guilty of lack of love. This requirement is obviously not a blank check to get “all up in others’ business,” even if the command requires an approach to community that would make most contemporary people comfortable. Gal 6:1 applies here: it’s when sin clearly arises that action is required.

It is shocking how many people I have heard abstain from the Lord’s Table because of their understanding 1 Corinthians 11:28, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Luke Stamps has contributed a post to The Gospel Coalition blog on this topic entitled It’s meant for Sinners.

Taking our cue from 1 Corinthians 11:28, we rightly wish to “examine” ourselves so that we do not take the Supper in an “unworthy manner.” But we distort this passage if we begin to think that it calls for worthy recipients, rather than worthy participation, at the Lord’s Table. Some might be so trained to think of the Supper as an occasion for introspection that they dread the meal… Surely something is amiss when believers in need of grace are hesitant to receive the sanctifying grace of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Examination is good. But being overly introspective is counter-productive, because it diverts us from the very gospel of grace that is displayed before us at the Lord’s Table.

Finally, Squidoo.com offers their take on the the Top 10 Movie Characters from 1960-Present. First they list 100 characters and then narrow them down to 10. My major problem with this list is the Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Doc Holiday in Tombstone didn’t even make the 100 list! Who would you add?

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Same Song

Reading the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus Christ continues to blow my mind. Seeing Jesus in the OT is often deemed unwise because it is reading something into the text that is not there. However, when you begin to investigate the New Testament and all the claims that Jesus makes about Himself, you do not have to read him into anything—you simply recognize that He is there.

I recently listened to a sermon by Tim Keller called Getting Out (You can watch it here. Where he parallels the life of the Christian with that of an Israelite during the Exodus. His point is that the Israelites were “getting out.” God delivered them and they got out of slavery and oppression. In Matthew 2:15 it says speaking of Christ, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”  This verse is a quotation of Hosea 11:1, which refers to the Exodus. The son in Hosea is the nation of Israel. However, Matthew attaches a completely different meaning to Hosea. He is claiming that Jesus is the true Israel, the true son. The point is in Christ we are experiencing the true, perfect “getting out.”

Keller shares a piece about how an Israelite would describe himself:

Think about it. Think about what an Israelite would say coming out of Egypt. Here’s what they would say. If you were to say, ‘who are you?’ They would answer, ‘I was in a foreign land, under the sentence of death, in bondage, but I took shelter under the blood of the lamb. And our mediator led us out and we crossed over. Now we are on our way to the promised land, but we’re not there yet. But he’s given us his law to make us a community and he’s given us the tabernacle because you have to live by grace and forgiveness. And his presence is in our midst and He will stay with us until we get home.’

Shocking. The church joins with the saints of old to sing the song of the redeemed!

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Grace Unexpected

Grace in and of itself is unexpected. Merited favor, that is favor that is earned through one’s actions is predictable, foreseen, and expected. But Grace—that humbling divine favor shown to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not expected. Like the wind, no one knows where it comes from or where it’s going, but all the while we see it’s effects.

Take Keith for example. Drugs define his life. He has forsaken all other things for that next bump, none of which fulfill him quite like the one before, thus he must do more. His teeth are rotted and he looks to be 7-10 years older than he actually is. Because of his addiction he has lost everything. He chooses to pay his cocaine bill rather than his utilities and as a result he has lost his family. His wife and four kids packed up and moved to North Carolina. Keith would never see them again. His wife and four children were devastatingly killed in an automobile accident. Left with nothing but drugs to comfort him, Keith chases the next high like a cat chases a laser pointer. That is, until unexpected grace occurred.  I met Keith today and he told me his story. A group of students and I were following Keith around downtown Oklahoma City, just blocks away from the OKC bombing that took out the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995. Keith tried to tell us before we started picking up trash the depth and magnitude of what we were doing and the truth is it was lost on each of us. To be quite honest, none of us thought there was anything great that could come out of simply picking up trash—but Keith knew otherwise. He brought us to an ally way that was sandwiched between a new Sonic Drive-In and an old auto garage. He told us that a little under a year ago he was strung out on drugs when a church group just like ours came through, simply picking up trash. What happened to him is incredible. One of the ladies in the group reached out and grabbed Keith by the arm and said, “Come with us.” At first, cursing under his inebriated breath, he refused—but eventually followed the group as they led him to City Rescue Mission just one street over from where he was in his drunken, drug induced stupor.

But what happened next is crazy, unpredictable, and definitely unexpected.

After getting involved in the rehabilitation program, Keith heard the Gospel. When I say he heard it, I do not mean that he listen to a preacher talk and was coerced into praying a prayer. What I mean is Keith heard the goodness, faithfulness, and unchanging love of God for him and he responded! From the alley to the Almighty, Keith’s life was unexpectantly changed by the grace of Jesus Christ, through His death, burial, and resurrection.

Now, Keith is still in recovery—clean since the day that woman grabbed him by the arm. Keith realizes that remaining clean day in and day out is a war, one in which he rests his hope in Christ alone to fight for him. This is the Gospel. It is the power of God that brings salvation to all who believe.

In whom was it possible for us, the lawless and ungodly, to be justified, except in the Son of God alone? O the sweetest exchange, O the incomprehensible work of God, O the unexpected blessings, that the sinfulness of many should be hidden in one righteous person, while the righteousness of one should justify many sinners!

Erasing Hell

 

The line that hit me the most in this video was when Chan talked about humility. Isaiah 55:8-9 says:

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

So when someone says, “I could never believe in a God who…” Who what? Doesn’t think like you think and act like you act? I thank God that He doesn’t think like me. I would have never thought to create, to be merciful to a rebellious people, or to send my Son to die at the hands of my creation.

All great thoughts by Chan. I appreciate this guy and look forward to this book. 

Erasing Hell by Francis Chan will be released July 5th.

 

O Sweet Exchange!

This morning I took a break from studying Hebrew and pulled my copy of the Apostolic Fathers off the shelf and began to read the Letter to Diognetus. The Apostolic Fathers are a collection of early Christian writings, ranging from about the second half of the first century to the first half of the second century. If you are ever looking for baby names, look no further than the Apostolic Fathers. I mean, who could say no to names such as Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius?

I came across a section of the letter to Diognetus and was gripped by the way the writer describes the beauty of the Gospel:

So then, having already planned everything in his mind together with his child, he permitted us, during the former time, to be carried away by undisciplined impulses as we desired, led astray by pleasures and lusts, not at all because he took delight in our sins, but because he was patient; not because he approved of that former season of unrighteouness, but because he was creating the present season of righteousness in order that we who in the former time were convicted by our own deeds as unworthy of life might now by the goodness of God be made worthy, and, having clearly demonstrated our inability to enter the kingdom of God on our own, might be enabled to do so by God’s power. But when our unrighteousness was fulfilled, and it had been made perfectly clear that its wages—punishment and death—were to be expected, then the season arrived during which God had decided to reveal at last his goodness and power (oh, the surpassing kindness and love of God!).

This next section is what stirred my heart for the Gospel today:

He did not hate us, or reject us, or bear a grudge against us; instead he was patient and forbearing; in his mercy he took upon himself our sins; he himself gave up his own Son as a ransom for us, the holy one for the lawless, the guiltless for the guilty, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else but his righteousness could have covered our sins? In whom was it possible for us, the lawless and ungodly, to be justified, except in the Son of God alone? O the sweetest exchange, O the incomprehensible work of God, O the unexpected blessings, that the sinfulness of many should be hidden in one righteous person, while the righteousness of one should justify many sinners! Having demonstrated, therefore, in the former time the powerlessness of our nature to obtain life, and having now revealed the Savior’s power to save even the powerless, he willed that for both these reasons we should believe in his goodness and regard him as nurse, father, teacher, counselor, healer, mind, light, honor, glory, strength, and life, and not be anxious about food and clothing.

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