Archive for the ‘Doctrine’ Category
On December 20, 2013 a U.S. District Judge ordered Utah’s defense of marriage legislation unconstitutional, in effect overturning a legally approved ban on same sex marriage that was passed by Utah voters in 2004. Many states across this nation seem to be dropping like flies through both judicial and legislative processes as of late regarding the issue of same sex marriage; although Utah may seem to be just one more of those states, both sides of the debate recognize that this decision in this state has massive repercussions. Usually, I do not like to wade into politics in my writing, but since I believe that the issue of marriage and sexuality is more spiritual than political in nature, I desired to write a short piece to help our church who ministers in this state to think correctly and Biblically through these issues.
Before we look at how Christians should respond, let us be certain we understand the issues well. For one committed to the Bible as their sole authority for faith and practice, same sex marriage is an impossibility. Neither society nor governments created the institution of marriage; therefore, no society nor government has any authority to define what marriage is. Let us be clear conservative societies have no right to define marriage as being between one man and one woman and so-called progressive societies have no right to define marriage as between two men or two women. Governments, societies, cultures, communities do not define marriage. God defines marriage and he has done so in his Holy Bible. In that sense, same sex marriage is a pretend agreement that the government is expecting everyone to pretend exists. So whether by legislation or by judicial overreach, the governments given to us are asking us (or commanding us) to pretend the imaginary is real. The way in which the liberal society does this is by redefining what marriage is. God has defined marriage as a lifetime covenant made between one man and one woman whereby they leave their current familial setting and vow to forsake all others thus creating a new family unit which God may or may not bless with children and in so doing provide one another with suitable companionship until one or both individuals dies. This is God’s ideal, but the war against Biblical marriage began long before the latest rulings for same sex marriage. The attack against Biblical marriage in this particular society began when marriages stopped being about lifetime covenants made between a man and woman and validated by God as their witness and began to be about “expressions of love and affection.” When marriage ceases to be about two naturally distinct genders covenanting together to create a new family unit in cohesive, loving, and mutually beneficial companionship and becomes more about an expression of deep affection; it is not long before it begins to make sense that two members of the same sex are thought to have the right to express deep affection. By deemphasizing the covenant aspect of marriage and emphasizing the emotive affection in a marriage, many have been convinced that it is only natural if a man and woman can show their love by getting married why two men cannot or two women show their love by getting marriage. You are not opposed to love and commitment are you? It my civil right to love whoever I desire! By changing the argument from being about the covenant of marriage, to being about so called “love” and appealing to emotion, liberals have won popular opinion in the up and coming generation.
We also need to understand that the issue is not about civil rights. The lawyer for the same-sex couples who brought suit against Utah leading to the judge’s decision used this argument, she said that “gay marriage [is the] civil rights movement of this generation.” Think carefully, how is marriage, gay or straight, a civil right? How is it being denied to anyone if it is? What is being denied is government recognition for certain beneficial purposes (like tax purposes or legal purposes). But most of those benefits from being married are already legally obtainable in most if not all states. Most states allow “civil unions” for legal reasons between same-sex couples. And if that fails, same-sex couples are able to get “power of attorney” for most everything else. I am not for these things, but it shows that legal recourse for supposed “same-sex couples” has been possible before the challenges to Biblical marriage. There are some things that are different, such as tax benefits, but that is different, single people do not get tax benefits married couples do; neither widows or widowers. Is it not a civil right that single people get the same benefits as married people? The reason why any group gets tax advantage because of their relationship situation is because somewhere along the lines, our government deemed it beneficial to societal structure for certain relationships to be encouraged. The Government cannot force anyone to get married, but they can provide benefits to those who do, knowing that heterosexual marriage relationships creates cultural and moral stability for the society as a whole. The government does not have to give advantage to married couples, but they certainly are free to if it is shown that such an advantage benefits the society. My point in this, is that it should be clear that all the oppositions to bans on gay marriage is not a civil rights issue, but rather a desire to call evil good and good evil. It is as Romans 1 says, not wanting to retain God in knowledge or express gratitude to God, but to suppress God’s truth on the matter.
Finally, we need to understand that the speed and pervasiveness of the attack on Biblical value in our society is at a breakneck pace and unless God intervenes our society will continue in this trajectory. The resolve of the judicial branch in our nation to defy the will of a vast majority of people in favor of this judges personal feelings regarding what marriage is and who should be married is shocking. This is what has most people, Christian or not reeling. This ruling seems so bold. A valid legal process was enacted in 2004 where the will of the people was heard and the constitution properly amended to reflect the will of the citizens; but that civil way of conducting law was rudely attacked by one judge expressing his personal opinions. The media would have us believe that those who oppose same-sex marriage are the minority of backwards religious zealots. If that is so, how do they explain that 32 states have bans on gay marriage by either Constitutional amendment or state law; but only 18 states have legal same-sex marriage, and seven of those were only by court decision (Utah being the latest), eight by legislation and only three by popular vote. The media would have you believe that if you are opposed to same-sex marriage you are the woeful minority who needs to move into the 21st century, but the actual math does not measure up. My argument is not for a political solution, but I share these numbers to point out that the worldly agenda that is opposed to Biblical truths one of which is Biblical marriage will skew the facts, twist the numbers, use propaganda and coercion in an effort to get their desired results. This will happen so quickly in the months and years ahead, that many professing Christians may find themselves checking their Bibles at the door and embracing godless ideologies.
(to be continued)
“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:5-6)
As noted previously, the direct application is to our gospel witness with our lives that we engage in on a daily basis, yet I contend that what is good for evangelistic witness is good for normal living within our families, friends, church, and everyone we encounter. So if it is good for us to have gracious salty speech toward those who are outside the faith, it logically follows that it is necessary to have the same toward those within the faith, and even those closest to us. In this article, I want to point out an area where we might be not as careful regarding having gracious or salty speech as well as suggestions concerning how to put into practice this Biblical command. I am writing about our electronic communication.
In the 1950’s the internet was used for communication by the Department of Defense. In 1980, the internet was made public domain. Although internet communication was practiced since the 1950’s, it wasn’t until personal computers became affordable in the early 1990’s that email became a popular mode of communication. In the 1990’s discussion forums became a popular way of communicating with others via the internet, but these forums were direct descendants of electronic bulletin boards of the 1980’s. Dating sights and forums were the first form of electronic social media, but in 1997, Six Degrees was the first social media site where people could share information with “friends.” Many other social media sites began popping up, but none of them has enjoyed the international success of “Facebook.” Facebook began in 2004, but grew to be the largest social media internet site by 2008. In 2012, there were over 835 million Facebook users in the world.
Text messaging, e-mail, social networks, instant messaging, twitter, and many other electronic forms of communication have almost made what was once standard communication (telephone, mail correspondence, face to face visits) unnecessary in many if not most contexts. The purpose of this article is not to judge the merits of such communication, many do falling on both sides of the aisle either as a techno-phobe or techno-geek. So wherever one lands on this issue, it would be unwise to forget that electronic communication does indeed have a huge impact in how we communicate today and especially how the largest generation in American history communicates. If we don’t recognize the mega impact electronic communication has, we are bound to be ineffective in doing the work of the ministry.
What I am more concerned about than whether or now one uses this electronic communication, is how one uses it. This verses in Colossians does indeed apply to the use of email, social media sites, instant messaging, twitter, text messaging and any other form of technological communication. So before you post that status on Facebook, is it filled with grace? Before you tweet that response, is it beneficial (salty)? Before you hit send tearing your friend, church-member, boss, or pastor that email, have you done so with grace and salt? Or have you forgotten in your technology that the person reading that message, that post, that opinion is a living, breathing being created in the image of God at least and a blood bought child of God at best?
We often feel more bold in electronic communication that we would in face to face conversations, because as we are typing up those angry words filled with “no-grace” and “no-salt” we imagine our audience is a lifeless computer screen. But it is not, real people are reading those words, and more importantly, the honor and glory of God is either on display or being disgraced. Words have consequences, even words that are typed or texted. It is possible that the effects of the written word is even more profound than the spoken word, since it can be studied, reviewed and not easily forgotten, let us not forget grace, especially in our electronic communication.
The next several articles will focus on these two verses written by the Apostle Paul to the Colossians applied to the various venues of communication that take place in our current culture. This first installment will provide the overview of the contextual meaning of the verses.
“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:5-6)
The immediate context of this Scripture is a plea from the apostle to the saints in Colossi that they would live and speak in such a way that the Gospel would enjoy further faith in their circle of influence. Of course this is the heart of what we desire to do as ambassadors of the King of kings, Jesus Christ, even today. The big idea here is that what we do and say, and how we do it and say it has a profound impact on the work of the ministry, namely evangelism/discipleship, which we are all called to do. Once again, Paul emphasizes both the walk and the talk of the Christian in gospel work which is reminiscent of 1 Timothy 4:12-13 recently preached at Grace Baptist Church.
He begins this idea by pointing out that our walk (Biblical synonym for normal living) is to be with wisdom specifically directed with wise behavior concerning those who are yet on the outside of Biblical Christianity. The Bible author assumes with his language that we are interacting in our normal lives with those outside of Christianity. This of course then is speaking of normal living with our families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. He describes the urgency we must have to be wise in our lives by writing, “redeeming the time.” This phrase means to use the time we have in this life in an urgent manner. We only have so much time in this life, are we walking foolishly toward those without Christianity or can they see wisdom in our choices, decisions, pursuits, and desires? Then he moves on to the second aspect of life. In our wise walk toward outsiders, no doubt some will seek to understand why our lifestyle is different than what they are used to seeing and experiencing. Some will certainly mock our living. Some may even persecute us with words or weapons, but as we walk with wisdom and urgency toward those without the family of God, we must respond with boldness in our speech. We must be unashamed to clearly and articulately proclaim the gospel of God in fullness with truth. Yet he continues to qualify this response we must realize is coming. The Spirit says that our responses to any man regardless of whether they are for us or against us must be consistent with how Christ answered those both for him and against him. “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.”
What does it mean to have always gracious speech and salty speech? The word “grace” could be defined as undeserved favor and love. Grace is what the Scripture says is the gift from God every man needs abundantly because every man’s sin is abundantly destructive. In other words, if God dealt with sinners as they deserved, that is granting no grace, sinners would have no hope of anything but a fiery eternity without God. But God in his grace gives us repentance and faith and a divine willingness to know and love God and others. Thank God for his grace which we need or else we would be done. Now in applying this then to our responses toward any man (those within and without Christianity) regardless of how they have offended us, we are to be people of grace. We are to not give them what they deserve, but to give them love when they least deserve it. We must look upon those who hate us and respond with giving them not what they deserve, but what they need. This is seen in the second part of the inspired sentence. Let the gracious speech you utter be seasoned with salt. Salt, in the early centuries was needed primarily for preservation. It was used to flavor, but mostly used to cure, or to make that which has the chance of spoiling last. It made something good better and last longer. When we speak, even when we are speaking the gospel, we are to speak it in such a way that shows our love for our neighbor (with grace), but also clearly and accurately, something that will actually benefit them for eternity (seasoned with salt). This twofold approach (grace and salt) applies to the content of what we speak and also to the manner in which we speak it. We have the love of God contained in the Scripture, let us speak it boldly with grace and salt.
In the classic work by John Owen, The Mortification of Sin we learn the importance of a believer killing sin as they walk in the grace and faith of Jesus Christ. Richard Rushing abridged and edited the puritan’s classic work (the men are reading this particular edition during our fellowship time on the first Thursday each month). In chapter 4, Owen argues that one of the reasons why we ought to zealously concern our souls with the business of killing sin is because sin when left alone to grow in our lives will “darken the soul, and deprive it of its comfort and peace.” Owen goes on to illustrate this using the picture of a garden. The way he puts this truth was so impactful, I thought it would be beneficial to simply read what he has written.
“Mortification [killing sin] prunes all the graces of God, and makes room for them in our hearts to grow. The life and vigour of our spiritual life consists in the vigour and flourishing of the plants of grace in our hearts. Now, as you may see in a garden, let there be a precious herb planted, and let the ground be untilled, and weeds grow about it, perhaps it will live still, but it will be a poor, withering and unuseful thing. You must look and search for it, and sometimes can scarce find it; and when you do, you can scarce know it, whether it is the plant you look for or not; and suppose it is, you can make no use of it all. But let another of the same kind be sent in the ground, naturally as barren and bad as the other, but let it be well weeded, and every thing that is noxious and hurtful removed from it, it flourishes and thrives; you may see it at first glance into the garden, and have it for your use when you please.
So it is with the graces of the Spirit that are planted in our hearts. If they abide in a heart where there is some neglect of mortification, and they are about to die, they are withering and decaying. He heart is like the sluggard’s field, so overgrown with weeds that you can scarce see the good corn. Such a man may search for faith, love, and zeal, and scarce be able to find any. If he does discover that these graces are there and alive, yet they are so weak and so clogged with lusts, they are of very little use; they remain, indeed, but are ready to die.
But now let the heart be cleansed by mortification, and the weeds of lust constantly and daily rooted up (as they spring daily, nature being their proper soil), there will be room for grace to thrive and flourish, the graces that God gives will act their part, and be ready for every use and purpose!” (Owen, 24-25).
This illustration resonates with me as one who has been trying to grow a garden for the past several years. Probably the most difficult part of vegetable gardening to me is controlling the weeds. I have tried to cut the weeds down, spray them with weed killer and till them under with machines. But I know that the only way to truly get rid of the weeds in my garden and thus enabling the vegetables to flourish is by painstakingly one by one pulling the weeds up from their roots. Sometimes a large weed looks dauntingly at me, but I find a very small root and a sense of satisfaction comes over me as it appears I am making great progress. Other times, the tiniest of weeds is pulled and the roots seem to go forever and I am discouraged as it comes up in quarter inch segments. In my garden, I have little weeds that wind their tendrils around the bean and tomato plants. Pulling them is a careful job as I might pull up the healthy plants. But I understand, that I cannot just plant the vegetables in the soil and through no effort, sweat and even blood expect to enjoy the fruit of the garden while the weeds remain.
Brothers and sisters, why do we think that will enjoy the graces of God’s bountiful spiritual life, while we neglect the daily task of killing sin and the temptations that surround us? Killing sin is not the end goal of sanctification, but it is an essential element to availing ourselves of God’s good growth in grace.
“For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” (Romans 9:17)
A few days ago, I was enjoying the cool of the evening (for the first time in a while it seems) in our backyard reading some Scripture. I turned to this text in Romans that I am very familiar with having spent several months preaching through this text. Yet as I read this verse, the beautiful impact of God’s inspired Word struck my soul as I saw this text once more with fresh eyes. What struck me was the absolute simplicity of life from this Holy Word.
In the context, Paul is writing about the just and true nature of a selective God. One cannot read especially the Old Testament with sincerity without noticing that God is a discriminating God who selects according to his purpose and will. He chose Abraham of all the other pagans of the day. He chose Isaac, not Ishmael, the children of Abraham simply because his promise was to both the father and mother of Isaac. Then when Isaac and his wife had children, he chose Jacob, the younger twin rather than Esau. God is a good who chooses according to his good purposes and perfect will. He is obligated to no man, yet he has self-obligated his choices to be consistent both with his own holy character and fulfillment of promises. God is only obligated to fulfill his promises because he is consistent with his attributed of truthfulness. Paul moves ahead 400 + before he even gets to the first possible objection to God’s selective nature, and addresses the issue of Moses standing before Pharaoh. Here we see a fascinating reality. God has not only chosen Moses to lead God’s people out of bondage, but he also chose Pharaoh who would resist that deliverance for two simple purposes. 1. So that God would show (display) his power (dunamis-ability) in Pharaoh. 2. So that God would declare (announce) his Name in all the earth.
God would accomplish this two-fold purpose first through the 10 plagues and decimation of Egypt while he preserved his chosen people; and secondly by liberating his people to carry this message throughout all of the land. Later in the Exodus and Joshua records we find that whenever the Hebrews encountered the pagan peoples and cities of their promised land, the people were afraid because of what God had done in Egypt.
Yet it is not only God’s purpose that he should raise up ungodly nations and leaders like Pharaoh to accomplish his purposes. But every man woman or child who is given life is created for these two purposes. First, to show God’s dynamic ability and second to be heralds (either by their own mouths or the mouths of another) of God’s Name (character, nature, and wholeness of his being). This is why life is so simple; we were created for these two purposes, which converge in the confession, “Man exits to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
Thinking through this a little further, however caused me to consider not just life, but authority. Pharaoh was a man of authority, and it seems that the phrase, “I have raised you up” is specifically talking about Pharaoh’s prominence and authoritative position. God gave Pharaoh not only life but also an authoritative position in this life to fulfill the same two purposes. As I thought through my personal application, it occurred to me that whether one’s position of authority is that of mother, father, teacher, lay-leader, pastoral elder, councilman, mayor, governor, manager, CEO, congressman, judge, or president or king, the purpose remains the same-whether saint or sinner. God gives authority with the purposes that his power would be manifest, and that his Name would be declared. So then a few verses down, “Who are you to reply against God?” is powerfully convicting. I must not strive and yearn for authority of any kind, but when God gives it according to his perfect will, will I find myself a good and faithful servant, one who is showing God’s power and declaring God’s name?
Some Christian believers might suggest that human reason is always foolish. Unconverted philosophers teach that Divine revelation is useless even non-existent. But truly as created humans, we are given the responsibility by our Creator to exercise human reason undergirded with Divine Revelation. That is to say, we must use our God-given logical processes supported and defined by Sola Scriptura. True wisdom is logic (thinking) informed by Biblical Theology. Reason (human thought) is necessary to live in a reasonable, human environment, but since the human mind (reason) is not infinite, but finitely enclosed in human intellects and varying in ability among many different minds, reason cannot be trusted alone for the formation and development of a free and healthy society. Human reason is not to be despised by Theists, nor is to be deified by humanists. The necessity of reason and the reality that reason is gifted by an infinite Creator means it is not evil, but good in its original state, and therefore should not be vilified by Bible believers. Yet the fact that reason is indeed granted by an Almighty Divine being shows that reason is not independent or infinite, but rather must be informed by something that is both infinite and truly independent; and therefore must not be worshiped. Even the unbelieving founders of the USA understood this. They commonly consented that America would only sustain her freedom if she was regulated and restrained by a moral conscience informed by the Bible (revelation). Humanists like Jefferson and Franklin attest to the reality that something greater than reason must support and undergird true freedom. Divine Revelation, since it is both independent of human reason and infinite in wisdom, coming from an infinite Being, is necessary to inform and define human reason. And so in reality, a society is only sustainable as a free society so long as she adheres to the Revelation which is undergirding her reason. Christians, and notably, the church is the pillar and foundation of such Divine revelation, so they are in essence the restraining force that holds a free society together (via the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who illuminates Divine revelation within them). Therefore an uninformed Christian who refuses to engage in ardent and systematic Theological study by means of the Bible is more dangerous to the wellness and sustainability of a society than a thousand humanists who pay no lip service to Revelation.
We are studying 1 Timothy 3 in our morning worship. This is a very convicting portion of Scripture. In thinking through these virtues necessary for the minster of God’s church, I was encouraged to adapt them into a more prose style as a personal letter being written to a pastor or aspiring pastor. Go to our website www.graceutah.com to listen the sermon on this passage in full.
A True Man of God
(Adapted from I Timothy 3:1-7)
A true man of God has a general quality of striving to be above reproach, he recognizes that this world, his own flesh and the Devil would love to undue him, so he strives to be blameless and holy. Yet in this pursuit of holiness by grace he realizes that his first relationship second only to God, is his relationship with his wife. He strives to be holy toward his wife. Not only does he refrain from dalliances with sexual lust and perversity, but he makes his marriage bed holy, giving his wife due benevolence in their intimate delights. He loves her first, he lifts her up before their children and in the eyes of the neighbor. He prays for her, he is devoted to her and honors his vows with delight and love. He sacrifices his own desires for her and he gives himself to her, thus he models for the flock of God, the love and devotion God has for them. He is devoted in his marriage, but he is also restrained in his passions. He listens before speaking, he studies the matter before giving an answer, he is mature enough to realize that he is full of weaknesses and that allowing his passions, his desires, his delights to drive his choices will only end miserably, so he is vigilant and restrained, knowing his weaknesses and setting a watch over those areas. Thus he demonstrates in an unrestrained culture the wisdom and restraint of the Chief Shepherd. He is clear-headed and modest. Humility clothes him, not a false humility, but a deep understanding of who is he is and the grace of God that equips and enables him. He is not quick to assume fault nor paranoid, neither jaded by life circumstances. His life is not a party, but with joy and happiness he clearly thinks through the issues of life and makes less of himself and more of God. Jesus is his example as the meekest and most modest of all who was serious about the business of His Father. Thus the people of God learn of a Savior who humbly cares for them and thinks deeply on their behalf. The temptation would come to separate himself from people. Deep thinkers often do their best thinking alone, but he realizes that his sober and modest wisdom from above is made to be given freely to others so he loves strangers and treats guest and those around with grace and kindness, he also develops and uses his gifts to teach others. He teaches other men who themselves will be able to instruct. He teaches the opposition with sobriety and skill. He is well-known for his ability to take a complicated matter and to parse it out to its basic understanding. His teaching is not words filling the air, but exposition of God’s perfect Will in Revelation that urges God’s people to respond rightly and quickly to God’s Word. Because his life is an example of holy submission to God. Because what others see in him they will regard as true of Christ, he is very careful not to become a slave to any earthly thing. Food, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex, goods; these are all high on his radar and he is careful to let nothing begin to control him. He must teach God’s Word to God’s people; he must instruct them in holiness and mostly; he must teach them the love the Lord their God with all their heart and soul and mind and will. So if his will, and heart and mind and soul is bent toward some earthly substance, he will only confuse the people of God. So he watches his life and when he finds himself becoming addicted to anything, he cuts that off and sets guards up in his choices. Thus he shows a Lord who serves the church with his own life. In all of this, he must urge God’s people on to God’s holiness, but the temptation will come when they are not moving as quickly as they ought. When his own passions and drive can easily turn his temperament from being patient and gentle into being pushy and violent. He must not push the sheep of God, but lead the flock. He must not be behind them with a whip, but in front with the Rod and Staff. This is how Christ led his people, he went before with gentleness and example, not with anger and violence. The man of God knows that he must guard his own passions, for too quickly he may turn into a bully, but our God is not a bully. Along the way of a life lived in sacrificial service, be certain that Satan will tempt him to get a little more for himself. The words will ring in his ears, “You deserve a little more” “You have worked hard for this” “If they really loved you they would provide for you.” And these little phrases will destroy his soul if they are meditated upon. For when he is faced with the choice of feeding his family or taking that bribe, that gift-with-strings-attached, cheating on his fiscal dealings, gaining from shameful, unethical things-if he hears the voice of truth all will be well, but if he listens to these lies of the tempter he will fall. Beware, man of God that you reflect the ethics of your Master, who committed himself to him who judges righteously. But dear friend, leading sheep of God is not easy. You are not greater than your Lord and he led 12 ordinary yet obstinate men. Do not be quarrelsome, do not be quick to brawl, to fight, to be pugnacious. Jude, the brother of Jesus understood this tendency and so even while saying that the man of God must earnestly contend for the faith, he expressed this as a necessary burden, not a delightful desire to be quick to fight. Be slow to fight, quick to show mercy and grace. For no greater example of this do we see than our Lord in the Garden who healed Malchus’ ear when Peter was quick to fight. Finally, do not be greedy, be free from the love of money. Oh, the people of God can help greatly in this regard. By providing well for those who labor in the word and doctrine, they can help keep his mind from the love of money. But it lies upon you, man of God, to labor not for that which perishes, but to labor as Apelles, “Approved in Christ.” Labor for that great Day of Judgment, not for the silver that takes the wings of a dove and flies away. Laboring for temporal gain will cloud your judgment, will make you lazy, and will cause you lose your reward in heaven. Be careful man of God.
But where do these virtues display themselves? O Man of God, they display themselves in your home. Let these virtues and your progress be first seen in what you model, teach and instruct in your children. For if your children cannot see these virtues in you, then you must not seek to display them before the children of God. Where are these qualities clearly seen? Let them be clearly seen in your conduct of personal and private life, so that your progress will be seen of all. You began newly planted and at that time, were not ready for this task, grow up in these virtues that you would no longer be immature, a novice, but seasoned by reason of use, trained up into godliness. So that your arrogance will be dissipating and your holiness will be increasing. Where are these attributes modeled? They are modeled in how you treat your neighbors, your children’s teachers, your interactions in business, your vehicular habits, your response to governments and authorities, your demeanor with service professionals. Those on the outside of the walls of faith will be used by the wicked one to trip you in these areas. Be strong in the grace of God and in his Word so that you do not fall into those snares. Be diligent in these three areas, your family, your personal life, and your community life. Take heed to yourself first and then to the doctrine and God will grow in his grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Dear man of God, do not neglect these things, for God has called you to a high and holy task, a noble work is yours. May it reflect the greatest nobility of the King who did that great work for you, shepherd God’s flock which is among, taking oversight as a mature elder in the faith.
The fountain of praise springing from my lips is dry
And my heart is filled with longing and grief
O that someone would help me find my wings to fly
When will I see your face and finally feel relief?
My soul aches to know you and experience sweet release
From all that this vile world provides in poisonous doses of pain
If I could but see your providential hand then I could be at peace
But I see neither hand nor power, and feel I shall never be the same.
My pulse quickens, my heart beats with uneasy rhythm,
While the doubts rise and the fears threaten to overtake
But I must cast my wild heart upon the only Sovereign who is risen
And trust The Lord who fears no one—for his name sake.
Where is my bread, where is my wine? They are hardly found
My tears flow unbidden down my cheeks staining the Script
These doubts, fears and heartaches upon my heals like a hound
Bellow and howl longing for my soul, and my steps had well nigh slipped.
Now in the pain, my heart sees a light shining though dim
while the darkness deepens and fear throbs through my pate.
How do I hear a melody though within my ears, I find no hymn?
How can this be though the burdens of soul are so great.
This Word I hear, it comes not from within my jaded heart
It speaks to me through pages stained with tears and blood
But I can hardly glimpse its truth and it threatens to depart
I must hear it, I must know it, it is the path that angel’s trod.
Wait, wait, it is stronger still, it comes from the Master’s tongue
I hear it clearly, its sound higher and nobler fills the space
It is louder now and I hear– though with my ear untrained to its song
A note so lofty, so merciful and perfect, O, Beloved! tis the tune of Grace.
Essential Truth about God—Justice
We humans desire justice. Even those with obvious marks of depravity understand the need for justice. Our entire legal system is predicated upon the notion that justice is not only desired it is attainable. Civilizations that place a high priority on justice will often be wealthier and happier. Two words related to justice used often today are fairness and equality. Although, there is a lot of socio-political baggage that accompanies those two words, in their purest form, we have an ingrained sense for pursuing fairness and equality. But why does this pursuit and sense of justice occupy such a central role in civilized society? God himself typifies pure justice and he chose to communicate that attribute upon us through creation in his image. We not only inherit depravity from our father Adam, but every human also inherits the communicable attributes of God. It is part of what makes us human and distinct from animals.
In Revelation 15:3, the song of the redeemed includes this line concerning God, “Just and true are your ways O King of the saints.” In 1 John 1:9, the author appeals to the faithfulness and justice of God as the basis for forgiveness and cleansing. In Psalm 89:14, we read that justice and judgment are the habitation of God’s throne, meaning that the foundation of God’s authoritative rule rests upon his justice, his righteousness. The Hebrew has two words that are sometimes translated justice, one also translates as righteous or right (which is the most common word), the other is judgment which refers more to the official concept of passing judgment on righteousness or wickedness. In the New Testament Greek language, the word justice is the same word as righteousness or rightness. To say that the Scripture teaches that God is just is an obvious understatement.
No true professing Christian would loudly proclaim that God is unfair, unrighteous or unjust; yet every Christian at some point has struggled and most likely continues to struggle with living out in faith the truth that God is truly just or righteous. This struggle with God’s justice is an internal one borne out of a seeming contradiction from what we have hid in our heart concerning God’s perfect justice and what we experience and observe in our normative circumstances. Clearly when we observe our lives and the circumstances of everyday life, we do not always see justice at work. This often causes us to think some variation of the following thought, “If God is just then why did that bad or terrible thing happen to [insert name of person]?” We struggle to reconcile the justice of God with the seeming injustice of our world in its fallen condition. But the emotional experiences and temporary observations do not infringe upon the characteristic of God. God is not just (or righteous) because he does what is right, but he does what is right because he is just. This is a slight contrast in that compound sentence and we must consider the ramifications of this. If we determine God is just because we observe just things, we will find ourselves depicting the perfections of God based upon our fallible senses. But if we simply take God at his Word and interpret our fallen world in light of God’s justice we will be safer from anti-Biblical judgments. We must be disciplined to look at everything around us and seek to make sense of our circumstances in light of God’s justice rather than to seek to makes sense of God based upon our circumstances.
If God is just, and the Scripture resolutely describes him as such, then this has lasting ramifications both in this life and the life come. First, it means that no unjust or unrighteous act can go unnoticed and even unpunished by God. For God to equivocate once in allowing an unrighteous deed to go without judgment (in this life or the life to come) would consequently mean he has no justice. Second, it means that what we often view as unjust (or unfair) may not be so. Since justice comes from God, he determines what is just or not. Third, it means that we not only need forgiveness for our unrighteousness (the just dying for the unjust) but we need to be people who love justice and seek it in our temporal human relationships. Fourth, the justice of God demands either severe punishment or severe mercy. To Be continued. . .
Essential Truth about God—Freedom-Cont.
In our last installment of the grace newsletter, we noted the freedom that God possesses as creator, sustainer and sovereign of the universe is revealed through the tiny first person being verb, “I am.” In choosing a name to reveal himself to the chosen covenant people, God chose to use a word that would simply explain his self-sufficient existence. The profound nature of God using the present tense being verb to adequately describe himself is boggling to our meager intellects. In this installment, we are going to think about one dynamic application of the freedom of God, the doctrine of election.
Basically, the doctrine of election means that God chooses those that he makes promises to. In the Old Testament, he chose individuals, families, nations, and even rulers to work in and through to demonstrate his glory, mercy, grace, and justice. Most apply the doctrine of election further than just God’s choice, speaking specifically of a theological concept that God chooses those who believe on him for eternal life. This idea of predestination, contrary to what some might think, did not begin with John Calvin and the reformers of the sixteenth century. The doctrine of election and predestination are clearly taught all through the Old Testament and in the New Testament by a variety of authors. Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John are the most obvious New Testament authors that the Holy Spirit used to teach this truth.
The concept of election, that God chooses people, should be considered an undisputed fact of orthodox Christianity. How, when where, why, and who are questions that Bible students have been debating for years. We will never fully understand the doctrine of election or predestination, but to deny that the New Testament teaches such a doctrine is to ignore most of the Old Testament and much of the New Testament as well. Further still, to deny the doctrine of election, most notably by holding God’s will and choices captive to the dictates or desires of mankind is attacking the very concept that God is absolutely free. If God must act in some fashion because man has acted in some fashion is to obligate the Creator to the creation and thus declare that God is not truly free.
Jesus taught in John 6 that all who would come to him were given to him by the Father. He also said in the same context that no one comes to him in faith unless the Father draws him. Jesus then concludes his discourse by saying that the purpose of the Father drawing and then giving people to Jesus to believe on him is so that the eternal, perfect love between the Father and Son would be manifestly poured out upon those who believe. Theologians have debated the point at which the Father draws a person, when people receive faith, and if there are conditions of grace. But most orthodox theologians have affirmed that the freedom of God demands that God’s election is ultimately dependent upon the will of God, not the will of man.
It is my understanding from the Scripture, (notably from my most recent series through the book of Romans), that God mysteriously and providentially has chosen those that are his from eternity past. Not that they existed from eternity past in some pre-existent spiritual state, but that they were known by the God who resides outside of time. And in the fullness of time, God draws those that he has chosen and predestined to believe in him to that point of regeneration where he grants them the faith to believe in Jesus Christ as their only hope of mercy and salvation. Because God has done this merciful work, we respond in repentance and faith, resting fully in the work of Christ on our behalf. And since we are now called his church and since he began this good work in us (justification), he will perform it (sanctification) until he returns to glorify us (glorification). That the work of eternal life is a gift freely bestowed on those who believe is not contradictory to the doctrine of election. That we are responsible to repent and believe in the Christ of the Gospel is not counter to predestination. And that God would choose his church from the immoral mass of sinful, lawless rebels is not “unfair.” For as the free God, should he choose to save all or some of his fallen creation is nothing short of miraculous mercy.