Month: October 2014

[It is as if God were saying]: “There is the furnace into which you are to be cast, if they are to be saved; either they must perish, or you must endure this for them… What will you do? Is your love such that you will go on? Will you cast yourself into this dreadful furnace of wrath?” And he did not say within himself, “Why should I, who am so great and glorious a person, infinitely more honorable than all the angels of heaven, why should I go to plunge myself into such dreadful, amazing torments… for them who can never requite me for it… for them who have no love to me?”…But on the contrary, his love held out, and he resolved… to take the cup and drink it.” – Jonathan Edwards
[Two] things show the infinity of his sufferings:
1. Who it was who forsook him. Not his people Israel — not Judas the betrayer — not Peter his denier… Ah! It was his Father and his God. Other things little affected him compared with that. The passers-by wagged their heads — he spoke not. The chief priests mocked him — he murmured not… [But] God brought darkness… over his soul. Ah — this was infinite agony: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
2. What God did to him… Dear friends, let us look into this ocean through which Christ waded. (1) He was without any comforts of God — no feeling that God loved him — no feeling that God pitied him — no feeling that God supported him. God was his sun before — now that sun became all darkness. Not a smile from his Father — not a kind look — not a kind word. (2) He was without a God — he was as if he had no God. All that God had been to him before, was taken from him now. He was Godless — deprived of his God. (3) He had the feeling of the condemned, when the Judge says: “Depart from me, ye cursed,” “who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.” He felt that God said the same to him. Ah! this is the hell which Christ suffered. Dear friends, I feel like a little child casting a stone into some deep ravine in the mountain side, and listening to hear its fall — but listening all in vain… it is too deep — the longest line cannot fathom it. The ocean of Christ’s sufferings is unfathomable… He was forsaken in the [place] of sinners. If you close with him as your surety, you will never be forsaken. From the broken bread and the poured out wine seems to rise the cry: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” For me — for me. – Robert Murray M’Cheyne
All the prophets did foresee in spirit, that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, blasphemer, etc. that ever was… for he being made a sacrifice, for the sins of the whole world, is not now an innocent person and without sins… Our most merciful Father… sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him the sins of all men, saying, “Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blasphemer, and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer…” Here now cometh the Law and saith: “I find him to be a sinner… therefore let him die upon the cross…” – Martin Luther

Adam before he fell was righteous in the sight of God, but he was still under the possibility of becoming unrighteous. Those who have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ not only are righteous in the sight of God but they are beyond the possibility of becoming unrighteous. In their case, the probation is over… because Christ has stood it for them.
When we believe in him, we are in a special relationship to him — he is our “legal proxy,” our “federal head,” our “covenant representative” our “forensic substitute.” This means that whatever he achieves and loses we by definition also achieve or lose, as if we had done all he had done. In two major ways, there is a legal linkage between Christians and Christ.
1) Then, on the cross, our sins were imputed to him. He died and was punished for them, and now we are as free from them as if we had paid them, in fact — we are as free from them as if we had already spent eternity in hell, for he did!
2) And now, when we believe, he stands in heaven “on our behalf,,” and his righteous life is what the Father sees when he sees us. So not only are our sins imputed to him, his righteousness is imputed to us. Thus we are as honored and loved by the Father as if we had done all the wonderful deeds of love and courage and had accomplished the perfect record of faithfulness that Jesus did. This “double imputation” doctrine is taught in Romans 5:12-19. – J.Gresham Machen

Nothing so hurts the natural man’s pride as the cross of Christ. How does it do this?… [The cross] says that we are all equally failures. …Have you ever felt the offense of the cross, my friend? Have you resented being told that your condition is such that nothing you can do can ever put it right? Have you been able to hear that without feeling the offense? If you have, I would say that you have never heard it properly… The modern man, the natural man, hates this. It is the opposite of his cult of self-expression and belief in himself, of working himself up psychologically, of trusting himself, and of trusting his own innate powers. Modern man considers himself come of age, able to stand on his own feet, with all his tremendous knowledge. But here is something that demolishes it all. The cross says that it is useless and of no value at all. That is the offense of the cross.
The Christian, by contrast, is one who glories in the cross… He does not merely say that he admires it… he does not merely accept its message intellectually… he rejoices in it. The word that the apostle actually uses [in Galatians 6:14] is a very strong one. He says, ‘God forbid that I should boast, save in the cross of Christ…’ It is a matter of boasting… It means that to him there is nothing which comes anywhere near it in significance. It means that he rests everything upon this, that this means all to him, that he is what he is because of this. – D.M. Lloyd-Jones

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
		he has put him to grief;
	when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
		he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
	the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
	Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
	by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
		make many to be accounted righteous,
		and he shall bear their iniquities.
	Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
		and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
	because he poured out his soul to death
		and was numbered with the transgressors;
	yet he bore the sin of many,
		and makes intercession for the transgressors.

(Isaiah 53:10-12)

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

(Galatians 6:14)

The Will of God.
Crush Christ.
Put Him to Grief.
An Offering for Guilt.
Offspring.  Prolong.  Prosper.
"Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied" (!?!)
Make Many Righteous.
Bear Their Iniquities.
Poured Out His Soul To Death.
Numbered With The Transgressors.
He Bore the Sin of Many.
Makes Intercession for the Transgressors.

“The Problem of Evil” & Hating Sin

I was recently privileged to participate in a discussion on the topic:  Suffering & the Sovereignty of God (i.e. “The Problem of Evil“).  The basic question is – – – > How can God be BOTH all-good AND all-powerful while clearly suffering and sin exist – and take their toll – in the world?  Many humans believe that since things like tsunamis, murder, and genocide happen – God must be EITHER all-good OR all-powerful, but it would be contradictory to believe that He is both.  However, shocking as it might sound to finite and fallen creatures like us, the Bible tells us that God is in fact all-good AND all-powerful.  Moreover, in His unimpeachable sovereignty He does not simply allow sin and evil, He decrees it (see Deut. 2:30; Exod. 9:12; Judges 9:23; Job 1-2).  The Bible tells us that God ultimately decrees sin and suffering in the world for the good of the elect, and for His own glory (Rom. 8:28); sometimes God reveals to us (at least in part) the reason(s) why He decrees evil (Gen. 50:20), and other times He doesn’t (Job 38-42).  For whatever reason God decrees evil, and what is indisputably certain is that God uses sin sinlessly and is in no way the author of evil.

3 Primary Takeaways:

(1)  We must always keep in mind the question of intentions.  In Genesis 50:20 Joseph accounts for the evil that he experienced (beginning with being sold into slavery by his brothers) saying, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

(2)  We must NEVER forget that no matter how much we might suffer, and no matter how much evil we might experience – God is NEVER aloof or indifferent to it, but rather He humbles Himself and joins us in the midst of it!  And the most shocking reality is that the only true and living God does not merely join His rebellious and despondent creation, but He insists on stepping away from His throne in order to serve those who have rebelled against Him, and sacrifice Himself for sinners!  He chooses to endure evil, pain, heartache, and suffering exceedingly and infinitely beyond anything we can imagine – and this is the hinge of all redemptive history!

(3) If God hates sin then how can He decree it, and use it (albeit sinlessly)?  This is the question that really got me thinking.  The Bible is clear about the fact that God is adamantly opposed to sin and that He hates evil (Proverbs 6:16-19), and the people of God (likewise) are called to hate sin and evil as well (Romans 12:9).  This seems extremely basic.  But the reason this got me thinking so much is because it dawned on me that – we assume we know HOW God hates sin, when in fact we are really rather confused and flummoxed by the matter.  Simply put, at the end of the day, there are two primary questions:  First of all, there is the question – does God really hate sin or not?  Secondly, there is the question – HOW exactly does God hate sin?  The answer to the first question is an unequivocal yes.  The answer to the second question however is more difficult for us to understand (and this, I think, is one of the reasons the whole subject of Suffering & the Sovereignty of God can be so bewildering).  When it comes to the question of HOW God hates sin? – our inclination is to project the way “we hate sin” onto God, using ourselves, and our understanding, as the basis for mortification instead of God.  It is important (and helpful, I think) to realize that God hates sin in a very different way than we do.  For instance, we are selective when it comes to “hating sin” …we typically concentrate our hatred on the sin that most effects and offends us personally.  This is not the case with God, He is offended by ALL sin!  And it’s not just a matter of breadth, God’s comprehensive hatred also applies to the depth of depravity.  We – being sinful creatures – are often far too lenient and tolerant of sin (this is especially the case when it is our own sin, as opposed to someone else’s); God’s hatred of sin, on the other hand, runs infinitely deep.  Moreover, we are rather oblivious to the cosmic impact of sin, and thus there are many aspects of sin which we never even think to hate.

…But perhaps, the biggest difference between us and God when it comes to hating sin is the fact that God is never frustrated with sin.  This is a VERY important point, because most of the time our hatred for sin is inseparably linked to being frustrated with the fact that we can’t doing anything about it.  We must keep in mind that God is never in this position.  Sin never frustrates God.  There is never a time when God is wringing His hands over what to do about evil and sin.  Now, you might be asking, how is this supposed to be helpful?  What benefit comes from contrasting the difference between how “we hate sin” verses how God hates it?  Here’s how it’s helpful:  when you truly begin to contemplate HOW God hates sin you come to realize that His righteous hatred of sin is infinitely beyond any kind of abhorrence you may have felt, and thus the reality is that God is infinitely more committed to seeing sin and evil eradicated from existence than you or I could ever be.  And if you don’t think this is true, then simply consider the measures He was willing to take to deliver His people from sin – namely the crucifixion of His only Son!  And consider the measures He has promised to take (in His own perfect timing) when His Son returns (see Revelation 14:14-20).  Moreover, realize that while God is certainly passionate about eradicating sin and evil, He is NEVER frustrated by it.  Thus, God does not experience the finite emotional turmoil that we do, which can so quickly debilitate us and render us ineffective in terms of actually confronting sin and dealing with it.  God actually deals with sin, and He deals with it in ways that are consistent with His infinite, eternal, and unchangeable – being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

The Price Of Forgiveness

WHEN SOMEONE REALLY WRONGS YOU – THERE IS A DEBT BETWEEN YOU AND THAT PERSON. SOMEONE WILL PAY. YOU WILL EITHER HOLD A GRUDGE …OR YOU WILL GRAPPLE WITH YOUR OWN DESIRE FOR VENGANCE.   YOU WILL DEMAND PAYMENT IN SOME WAY – SUBTLEY OR NOT SO SUBTLEY – …OR YOU WILL FORGIVE THE PERSON WHO WRONGED YOU, AND YOU WILL PAY DOWN THE DEBT BY FIGHTING THE URGE TO SEEK REVENGE/WISH THEM ILL/WANT THEM TO SUFFER.

Jeff was the owner of a pathetic sheep.  The sheep was weak, it was stubborn, and it was stupid. In other words, it had all the standard qualities of a conventional sheep. Jeff diligently loved the sheep, but it certainly wasn’t because the sheep was lovely, in fact it was just the opposite – the sheep acted exceedingly unlovely. The sheep was always bah-begging for something, the sheep was interminably startled, the sheep was often repugnant, it was all-in-all exasperating, nettlesome, pesky, irksome, maddening, and vexatious. So why didn’t Jeff get rid of the sheep? That’s a great question…

What happens when you defy the design?

G on demand?  …this is NOT living in reality.  Why can’t H accept his limitations?

Does the Gospel make sense to you???

Faith doesn’t come from you (you can’t “create” or “manufacture” faith).

Performance V. Repentance (What’s the I.D. based on? …and be careful not to turn R into P).

You seem disappointed that I am not more responsive to your interest in “spiritual direction”. Actually, I am more than a little ambivalent about the term, particularly in the ways it is being used so loosely without any sense of knowledge of the church’s traditions in these matters.
If by spiritual direction you mean entering into a friendship with another person in which an awareness and responsiveness to God’s Spirit in the everydayness of your life is cultivated, fine. Then why call in an awkward term like “spiritual direction”? Why not just “friend”?
Spiritual direction strikes me as pretentious in these circumstances, as if there were some expertise that can be acquired more or less on its own and then dispensed on demand.
The other reason for my lack of enthusiasm is my well-founded fear of professionalism in any and all matters of the Christian life. Or maybe the right label for my fear is “functionalism”. The moment an aspect of Christian living (human life, for that matter) is defined as a role, it is distorted, debased – and eventually destroyed. We are brothers and sisters with one another, friends and lovers, saints and sinners.
The irony here is that the rise of interest in spiritual direction almost certainly comes from the proliferation of role-defined activism in our culture. We are sick and tired of being slotted into a function and then manipulated with Scripture and prayer to do what someone has decided (often with the help of some psychological testing) that we should be doing to bring glory to some religious enterprise or other. And so when people begin to show up who are interested in us just as we are – our souls – we are ready to be paid attention to in this prayerful, listening, non-manipulative, nonfunctional way. Spiritual direction.
But then it begins to develop a culture and language and hierarchy all its own. It becomes first a special interest, and then a specialization. That is what seems to be happening in the circles you are frequenting. I seriously doubt that it is a healthy (holy) line to be pursuing.
Instead, why don’t you look over the congregation on Sundays and pick someone who appears to be mature and congenial. Ask her or him if you can meet together every month or so – you feel the need to talk about your life in the company of someone who believes that Jesus is present and active in everything you are doing. Reassure the person that he or she doesn’t have to say anything “wise”. You only want them to be there for you to listen and be prayerful in the listening. After three or four such meetings, write to me what has transpired, and we’ll discuss it further.
I’ve had a number of men and women who have served me in this way over the years – none carried the title “spiritual director”, although that is what they have been. Some had never heard of such a term. When I moved to Canada a few years ago and had to leave a long-term relationship of this sort, I looked around for someone whom I could be with in this way. I picked a man whom I knew to be a person of integrity and prayer, with seasoned Christian wisdom in his bones. I anticipated that he would disqualify himself. So I pre-composed my rebuttal: “All I want you to do is two things: show up and shut up. Can you do that? Meet with me every six weeks or so, and just be there – an honest, prayerful presence with no responsibility to be anything other than what you have become in your obedient lifetime.” And it worked. If that is what you mean by “spiritual director,” okay. But I still prefer “friend”.
You can see now from my comments that my gut feeling is that the most mature and reliable Christian guidance and understanding comes out of the most immediate and local of settings. The ordinary way. We have to break this cultural habit of sending out for an expert every time we feel we need some assistance. Wisdom is not a matter of expertise.
The peace of the Lord,
Eugene

“Marriage, in what is evidently its most popular version, is now on the one hand an intimate ‘relationship’ involving (ideally) two successful careerists in the same bed, and on the other hand a sort of private political system in which rights and interests must be constantly asserted and defended. Marriage, in other words, has now taken the form of divorce: a prolonged and impassioned negotiation as to how things shall be divided. During their understandably temporary association, the ‘married’ couple will typically consume a large quantity of merchandise and a large portion of each other.

The modern household is the place where the consumptive couple do their consuming. Nothing productive is done there. Such work as is done there is done at the expense of the resident couple or family, and to the profit of suppliers of energy and household technology. For entertainment, the inmates consume television or purchase other consumable diversion elsewhere.

There are, however, still some married couples who understand themselves as belonging to their marriage, to each other, and to their children. What they have they have in common, and so, to them, helping each other does not seem merely to damage their ability to compete against each other. To them, ‘mine’ is not so powerful or necessary a pronoun as ‘ours.’

This sort of marriage usually has at its heart a household that is to some extent productive. The couple, that is, makes around itself a household economy that involves the work of both wife and husband, that gives them a measure of economic independence and self-employment, a measure of freedom, as well as a common ground and a common satisfaction.

(From “Feminism, the Body, and the Machine”)”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays