Category Archives: Jesus

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?

Communion with Christ

I’m sure we have  heard that all men naturally have an insatiable desire to search for something to satisfy their soul, which in observing the world,  appears to be true. However, not everyone goes about their search in the same way. One person might fix themselves on one certain end, such as a relationship, or even religion. Another might pursue some end without really knowing what it is they seek. They might start down one path with the aim of satisfying their soul, but then become discontent, only to take up a new object that might bring relief. Such is the argument that John Owen makes in his work Communion with God (a fascinating work wherein Owen argues that true communion with God is one that involves all three persons of the God-head, by thinking upon their distinct roles and turning our affections toward the Father, Son, and Spirit). In one particular section, Owen attempts to address both parties, those who are fixed on an end, and those who seek satisfaction without any idea of where it might be found. He writes of Christ,

Behold here a fit object for your choicest affections,—one in whom you may find rest to your souls,—one in whom there is nothing [that] will grieve and trouble you to eternity. Behold, he stands at the door of your souls, and knocks! Pray study him a little; you love him not, because you know him not. Why doth one of you spend this time in idleness and folly, and wasting of precious time,—perhaps debauchedly? Why doth another associate and assemble himself with them that scoff at religion and the things of God? Merely because you know not our dear Lord Jesus. Oh, when he shall reveal himself to you, and tell you he is Jesus whom you have slighted and refused, how will it break your hearts, and make you mourn like a dove, that you have neglected him! and if you never come to know him, it had been better had you never been. Whilst it is called To-day, then, harden not your hearts.

You that are, perhaps, seeking earnestly after a righteousness, and are religious persons, consider a little with yourselves,—hath Christ his due place in your hearts? is he your all? does he dwell in your thoughts? do you know him in his excellency and desirableness? do you indeed account all things ‘loss and dung’ for his exceeding excellency? or rather, do you prefer almost anything in the world before it?

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Behold Your Redeemer

 

Do you know your Redeemer? Do you know who He is and what He has done? I don’t mean that you vaguely have some knowledge about a cross and resurrection, but do you know what benefits he has purchased for you with his own blood? If the extent of your knowing Him is that you know Him only as a Savior who gets you out of hell, then I would encourage you to take a long look at your Savior.

In his person he is himself the sum of all those blessings: the light of the world (John 8:12), the true bread (6:35), the true vine (15:1), the way, the truth, the resurrection, and the life (11:25; 14:6), our wisdom, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 15:45), the head of the church (Eph 1:22), the cornerstone of the temple of God (Eph 2:20); and for that reason there is no participation in his benefits except by communion with his person.

Yet from him flow all the benefits, the whole of salvation (Matt. 1:21; Luke 2:11; John 3:17; 12:47), and more specifically the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28; Eph 1:7); the removal of our sins (John 1:29; 1 John 3:5); the cleansing of deliverance of a bad conscience (Heb. 10:22); justification (Rom 4:25); righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30); sonship (Gal 3:26; 4:5-6; Eph 1:5); confident access to God (Eph 2:18; 3:12); God’s laying aside his wrath in virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, that is, the sacrifice of atonement (Rom 3:25; 1 John 2:2, 4:10; Heb 2:17; […] the second birth and the power to become children of God (John 1:12-13; sanctification (1 Cor 1:30); […] deliverance from death and from the fear of death (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:55; Heb 2:15); escape from judgment (Heb 10:27-28); and finally, the resurrection on the last day (John 11:25; 1 Cor 15:21) [where we will experience] ascension; glorification; the heavenly inheritance; eternal life already beginning here with the inception of faith; and one day fully manifesting itself in glory; the new heaven and new earth; and the restoration of all things.

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids:Baker, 2006) 339-40.

To him be the glory forever and ever! Amen.

 

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At All Times & Every Hour

I have nearly decided to stop praying using my own words. I simply cannot say what I mean as well as the the faithful of old. I just started my last fall semester at DTS, which means a whole world of change lies just around the corner. If I think to deeply about the future I tend to struggle with anxiety. Something about this prayer is very calming and soothing to my soul.

Christ our God, who is worshipped and glorified at all times and in every hour in heaven and on earth; who is most patient, loving and kind; who loves the just and shows mercy to sinners; who calls all to salvation through the promise of the blessings to come; Lord, at this time receive our prayer and direct our lives according to Your will. Bless our souls and bodies. Correct our thoughts and purify our minds. Protect us from all evil and distress. Surround us with Your holy angels, that guided and guarded by them, we may attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of Your unapproachable glory, for you are blessed forever and ever. Amen

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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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Communion with God

For those whose stories God has graciously given us in His word, we can see that people who have truly communed with God were different. They lived, and many died in order to spread the name of the one true God. Looking at these stories leads me to ask the questions of myself, have I every truly communed with God? Is communion with God something a lot of people, even believers, can miss out on in their lifetime? Is it possible that a person be redeemed by the blood of Christ, be united with Him, and be brought into the family of God, yet never experience the fullness of that community?

In his book Communion with the Triune God (with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Each Person Distinctly, in Love, Grace, and Consolation), Puritan Pastor John Owen writes about the believer’s communion with the God-head and here focuses on Communion with the Son (I had to read it slowly but don’t miss what he is saying):

The souls of men do naturally seek something to rest and repose themselves upon,—something to satiate and delight themselves withal, with which they [may] hold communion; and there are two way whereby men proceed in the pursuit of what they so aim at. Some set before them some certain end,—perhaps pleasure, profit, or, in religion itself, acceptance with God; others seek after some end, but without any certainty, pleasing themselves now with one path, now with another, with various thoughts and ways like them,—because something comes in by the life of the hand, they give not over though weary. In what condition soever you may be (either in greediness pursuing some certain end, be it secular or religious; or wandering away in your own imaginations, wearying yourselves in the largeness of your ways), compare a little what you aim at, or what you do, with what you have already heard of Jesus Christ: if anything you design be like to him, if any thing you desire be equal to him, let him be rejected as one that hath neither form or comeliness in him; but if, indeed, all your ways be but vanity and vexation of spirit, in comparison of him, why do you spend your “money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not?” […] You that are, perhaps, seeking earnestly after a righteousness, and are religious persons, consider a little with yourselves,— hath Christ his due place in your heart? is he your all? does he dwell in your thoughts? do you know him in his excellency and desirableness? do you indeed account all things “loss and dung” for his exceeding excellency? or rather, do you prefer almost anything in the world before it?

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More Than We Can Ask or Imagine

It has often been said that Jesus Christ loves you and accepts you just the way you are. The flip side of that coin is that Jesus loves you too much to allow you to stay the way you are. As a Christian, it can often be hard to tell what God is doing in your life because we don’t really know the subtle ways the Spirit chisels us and how those subtle changes lead to an all together “new creation.”

When I was about 8 years old, my family moved into a new house. It was a house that my dad designed. The inside and outside of the house was built to his specification, but there was one thing that he couldn’t really control—there were no trees around our house. My dad loves trees so he decided he would just plant his own, knowing that it would take a long time for those trees to grow. Several of the trees began no larger than my thumb. My dad nurtured them, fertilized them, and placed supporting beams when necessary. The problem was it was not working. From my perspective nothing my dad did working. The trees remained the same exact size.

Nevertheless, my dad carried out the daily routine of watering, shading, fertilizing etc. I, on the other hand, quickly lost interest. In my mind the trees would eventually shrivel up and die.

A few weeks later I walked past one of the trees and it was no longer the length of my thumb, but was now about as tall as my middle finger. I was astonished but my dad was not surprised. Now, 17 years later, most of the trees are tall and stable. My parents have since added more landscaping and our yard is almost unrecognizable to what it was when we first moved in.

Such is the Christian life. It is slow and at times painful because it doesn’t feel like you are making any progress but we have hope because the process of growing is not our responsibility. We only need to be like trees. My dad took the responsibility to water, fertilize, trim, and support—the tree had nothing to do with that process. The tree grew when it acted like a tree. Had it been possible that the tree try to be something else, the process would not have worked. The trees could not provide for their own needs, rather they are completely dependent on other elements (water, sunshine, etc.)

So do not be discouraged if you feel your progress is slow, because radical change takes time. It could be that Jesus is doing something in you that you never thought possible. Maybe God is in the process of exceeding your expectations, which may not have immediate, over night results.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right, and stopping the leaks in the roof, and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably, and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to?

The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of– throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

–C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (London: William Collins, 1970), 172.

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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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Let the Children Come: Nuisance or Blessing?

When I read the Old Testament, one thing that seems apparent to me is that children are seen as a blessing, not an inconvenience. When God made a covenant with Abraham, He promised to bless him, give him land, and a son. If God would have gone 2-for-3 on his promise, but left out the heir part—the whole thing would have been shot. That is because children were a sign of God’s favor and a symbol of life within the family. The same concept can be seen in the book of Ruth where Boaz redeems (if you don’t see Jesus in the story of Ruth there is no hope for you) Ruth and gives her a son—Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David. Prior to Boaz, Ruth couldn’t have children. This is a bad thing! For Boaz to take a barren woman is quite a risk. As a matter of fact the people probably thought he was out of his right mind. Ruth reminds us of the importance of children because through Boaz and Ruth comes King David, who in part paves the way for King Jesus.

Children are pivotal to the story of God. Through children the promises of God continued from generation to generation in the OT. Through A child, THE child Jesus Christ—the infinite become infant— salvation has come to men.

So it should be no surprise that God holds children in high esteem, even when culture depicts them as a nuisance. My wife and I do not have kids and we are constantly told, “Enjoy yourselves as long as you can.” “If you have kids you will never sleep again.” “Say goodbye to traveling once you have kids.” “Wait to have kids as long as you can. They just drain you dry of your time and money.”

Here is what really bothers me—I listen. This has not only made me want to wait as long as possible to have kids, it has also made me short and impatient with other kids. I have the tendency to see kids as an inconvenience rather than a blessing.

I am at a family get together in Branson, MO this week with my family and we are staying at an RV park. Randomly, this 8 year old girl named Kaylee takes a liking to my wife Emily. Kaylee is here for 3 weeks with herself and her grandpa, so it took about 5 minutes for Kaylee to attach herself to Emily. Kaylee immediately started calling her, “my friend” and “my Auntie.” The problem is I have been traveling a lot this summer and I wanted my wife to myself. In no time I was scheming ways to get rid of this child. She reminds me of mix between Russell from the movie UP, and Bessie from THe Mighty B.

 

 

 

 

In other words she likes to talk… a lot! In all honestly the last thing I wanted to do is entertain an 8 year old who I have absolutely no relation to whatsoever. I just wanted to be able to lay by the pool and read The Heresy of Orthodoxy in peace. Likewise, my wife works a tough job and I wanted her to be able to relax. To me she was a nuisance who was getting in my way—a problem of mine that I had to get solve by getting rid of her.

I suddenly realized that I have bought into the idea that kids are a curse. They are a kill joy who come to rob you of your time, money and freedom. My view of children is far from the Kingdom view, the view that says, “Let the little children come to me for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these [Matt 19:13-15].”

I think one of the ways Christians can live missional lives as ambassadors for Christ is to change the way we view children—yes, even ones like Russell and Kaylee. The world, America in particular tends to look down on children as joy killers and thieves of time and money. Christians should know better. Children are gifts. They embody grace, faith, and humility. They hope for things bigger than themselves and embrace the simple joys of life.

My wife was Christlike in this situation and I was not. She let Kaylee lay on her float with her, she talked to her, she ate breakfast with her (yes, we fed her), and she did not shun her. God should have seen me as a pesky nuisance, but he did not. At the expense of his one and only Son, He has brought me into His family and He has called me, “mine.”

Esau’s [Seemingly] Denied Repentance

I don’t know that I have come across a more Christ exalting book in all of Scripture than the book of Hebrews. It feels strange to pick one book because the reality is, the whole Bible is about exalting Jesus! However, the point of Hebrews is to show Jesus Christ as bigger and better than anything else. He’s better than angels, He’s the better prophet, He’s the better priest, He’s the better sacrifice, He’s better than Moses and He’s the true Sabbath Rest. In some ways, I feel like the book of Hebrews is the interpretive key for the whole Bible. Of course, Hebrews may not mean that much if we did not have the Old Testament, Gospels, Acts, and the rest of the Epistles. So I am not saying we should throw out other books, but what I am saying is we should know Hebrews well.

If you have never read Hebrews through in one sitting, you should. Recently I read the book of Genesis and half of Exodus—then I read Hebrews. The author does such a great job of weaving these stories together and showing how Jesus is the true and better Moses, Aaron, sacrifice, and priest. The book is beautiful!

I reached a bit of a snag in Hebrews 12:17 where it says, “For you know that afterward, when [Esau] desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears (ESV).” My question is, what is the referent of “it” at the end of v. 17? Is the author of Hebrews saying that Esau sought after repentance with tears and God denied him? It sure seems so, which makes me very uncomfortable. However, just because it makes me uncomfortable does not mean it is wrong. If that is what Scripture is saying, I must submit to it but how does that fit with Jesus’ teaching of Ask, Seek, Knock?

So the question is, what is “it?” Looking at the story as it is written in Genesis 27, Esau wasn’t really seeking repentance.

34  As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” 35       But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” 36       Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37       Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” 38       Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.
39       Then Isaac his father answered and said to him:
“Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be,
and away from the dew of heaven on high.
40       By your sword you shall live,
and you shall serve your brother;
but when you grow restless
you shall break his yoke from your neck.”
41       Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob (ESV).”

Nothing in Esau’s lament leads me to believe he actually sought out true repentance. Seems to me after he realized he gave away his birthright, he pleaded and wept for his father to undo what he had done. Repentance was never denied to Esau. He wanted the consequences of his choices removed, but he never truly sought repentance. Never once in that story did he cry out to God, rather he resents his brother and vows to kill him.

In all of this let’s not miss the point of the author of Hebrews. He is telling his listeners to “see to it that no one becomes an imoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal (v. 16, NET).” All this time the author is trying to convince his readers that Jesus is better! Esau serves as a model of the worldly, sensual person. He traded his blessing for a meal! Christian, don’t trade Christ for anything! He is better!We might look at Esau and think, “How stupid! He traded everything for a meal!” For a moment let’s turn this criticism of Esau on ourselves. We trade Christ consistently—daily, maybe even hourly for the lusts of our flesh.

Christian, don’t be like Esau. Don’t trade Christ for anything. Not for money, sex, power, notoriety, your wife, kids, mom, dad, technology etc… He is BETTER!

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