Sunday Devotions- Struck by “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”

July 26, 2009

I’ll admit it, there are many times that I simply sing along during worship without focusing very much on the words of substance of what I’m belting out.  This is wrong.  I know.  And I’d even be the first to speak against it, but I confess, I struggle with it to.

That said, this past Sunday I was paying attention to the words of a very familiar hymn that we were singing on Sunday morning and for the first time the words really struck me deep.  The song was “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” by Stuart Townsend and the lyrics are as follows:

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

The entire song is solid, drawing from numerous passages of Scripture and painting deep, harrowing pictures of Christ that carry much more emotion than the flamboyent, fuzzy Savior of The Jesus Film.  I especially am drawn by that final stanza however.

Why should I gain from his reward?  I cannot give an answer

How true is this?  Knowing what I do of my own depravity, both from the revelation of Scripture and the Spirit within me, the possibility that I would receive anything more from God than hell is unthinkable.  God had already given me life and look how I had screwed that up.  Yet by his grace– what a pathetically weak word that is– he gave me what I do not and could not deserve.

But this I know with all my heart, his wounds have paid my ransom

With all my heart.  God did not simply forgive me.  A sacrifice was required.  My sins could not just be overlooked.  They have not been merely forgotten.  My sins killed Jesus.  How many of us really dwell on this?  Is the glory of the modern gospel nothing but that God loves me and so turns a blind eye to my transgressions?  In America we often say, “Freedom isn’t free,” but nowhere is this more apparent than in the death of Christ.  Our sins carry a cost, but for those of us who have been freed by the grace of God, that freedom was made possible because the cost of our sins was paid by one who came before us, living the life we couldn’t live, dying the death we should have died, so that we could gain the reward we could never have gained.

Resource Saturday- Two Great Books on Biblical Theology

July 25, 2009

Right interpretation of God’s Word is probably the most crucial aspect of our faith.  Without a proper understanding of the Scriptures we can never know the truth that they reveal.  Because of this many Christians pour over commentary upon commentary and systematic upon systematic gaining deeper and better knowledge of the things which God has said.

Yet so much time is spent in trying to unwrap the individual books and topics of the Bible that its easy to lose track of another important level of interpretation, namely biblical theology.  This is the point at which we interpret the Bible as a whole, the Bible as a story, from front to back, in light of its focus and intent.  As I said, this is another level of interpretation and so has obvious overlaps with the others already mentioned, but still has its own distinct purpose.  One such purpose is gaining a fuller grasp of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, the Old and New Covenants, Israel and the Church.

When considering biblical theology there are two books that I have found most helpful.  The first one is According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy.  Dr. Goldsworthy is a retired Australian professor and in this book he sets out a template for placing the various themes of the Scriptures together as they arise in order to make the separate books of the Bible fit together into one coherent image.  I first picked up this book on recommendation of a friend during John Piper’s Desiring God Conference last year and had it most of the way read before I even arrived back home.  This is a well organized, easy to follow text that carries you step-by-step through deciphering and connecting biblically relevant information and, judging by its prevelance in the classes at Southern Seminary, it really is as good as I found it to be myself.

The second book, or actually set of books, is Mark Dever’s sermon collections The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made and The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept.  This set contains a sermon on each book of the Bible which describe both the book itself and its place in the greater canon of Scripture.  I have found this set to be very nice to use when I move into new books in my personal study time.  They are nice introductions to the book and wonderful reminders of how all of God’s Word reveals the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you are looking for great resources to build up your interpretative library, please consider these as foundational texts every serious student must have.

. . . and Light – A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 4.3-6, part 2

July 24, 2009

For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4.6)

To start understanding this verse we must first see the analogy Paul is making here with Genesis 1.1-3:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.

He we see that darkness is covering the earth and God, through the word that is Christ (cf. John 1.1-3), speaks light forth out of the darkness.  In the same way we are presented the blinded darkness which is unbelief and God who speaks light into hearts which is salvation.

This is seen in various ways elsewhere in the New Testament.  Ephesians 2.4-5 tells us that God takes those who are dead in their trespasses and sins and “[makes them] alive together with Christ.”  1 Peter 1.3 says that “[a]ccording to his great mercy, [God] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  Titus 3.4-7 lets us know that because of God’s “goodness and loving kindness . . . he saved us . . . by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

All of this points to two things.  One, it is God who both initiates and completes our salvation.  He takes us from darkness and into light, from death and gives us life.  Nowhere is any conditional offer mentioned.  Nowhere is God asking if we want this and then letting us decide.  God sovereignly works, and when he works he does it all the way.

Second, we see in this truth the statement of Acts 4.12 exemplified:

And there is salvation in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Not only does God provide salvation, but the only means by which salvation is made known is “in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Darkness . . . – A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 4.3-6, part 1

July 23, 2009

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4.3-4)

I believe that this verse speaks well together with Hebrews 11.6,

And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

God can only be pleased by the faith of those who believe in and seek him, and no one can do this who is “blind” to the gospel.  No one may reject the light of the gospel and serve God simultaneously, for those to whom the “gospel is veiled” are one who are perishing.

Similarly, this agrees with Ephesians 2.1-3,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Here we see that “the god of this world [who] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” is the same as “the prince of the power of the air” that those “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” follow.  This is a hard word, but its reality makes the truth to be found in verse 6 of 2 Corinthians 4 all the more glorious!

Salesmen for Jesus? – Questions Arising from 2 Corinthians 2.17

July 21, 2009

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2.17)

Let it never be said that I am a “peddler of God’s word.”  What an awful thought, that God’s word could be to me as some means of gain or as some gimmick to promote a human agenda!

Are there yet ways that I could be a peddler while still desiring to see men saved?  What of my theology of salvation?  Am I a peddler if I use persuasive means to “get decisions”?

Where is it that I stop and God starts?  Is that not right from the beginning?  If I am “speak[ing] in Christ,” then at no time is my dependence upon my own skills or means.  yet clearly methodology matters.  Peter spoke differently between Acts 2 and Acts 11.  So did Paul from Acts 13 to Acts 17.  How do I discern what is and is not appropriate?

How do I not become a peddler?

Pre-, Post-, A-? – Two Great Pastors Weigh in on the Millennium

July 20, 2009

For any of you who may have noticed, it has been a little over a week since I last posted on my blog.  Some of you may have thought that the rapture had come.  As far as I know that is not true and instead what’s been going on is a family vacation and a relocation of all our earthly possessions from Gainesville, FL to Louisville, KY.

However, while on the subject of eschatology– which I have mentioned is not exactly my favorite of theological topics– I thought it might be nice to pass along to sermons I have listened to recently.  Both of them are concerning the millennium as spoken of primarily in Revelation 20.

The first is by Pastor Thom Schreiner of Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, KY and can be found here.  The second is from Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. and is available for download at this location.  If you are curious about the millennium and want to see what some great minds have to say on it, I can imagine no better place to start than with these two men.  Enjoy!

Sunday Devotions- Characteristics of Reliance on Grace in 2 Corinthians 1.12

July 12, 2009

For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.” (2 Corinthians 1.12)

Can I boast that I have done as Paul?  Am I as cautious as he to avoid living “by earthly wisdom”?  At times I know this not to be the case, falling victim to the prophets of this age.  This is not self-reliance he is describing; it is sovereign-reliance!  I must rest upon the sovereign that he will line up everything by grace and that nothing will befall me that is not ultimately for my good in being sanctified into the image of Christ (cf. Romans 8.28-29).

What then are these characteristics that Paul embraces?  Simplicity and godly sincerity.  Simplicity, or holiness.  This is a sort of transparency and uprightness which avoids lurking in the shadows of sin to protect oneself or to elevate one’s own fame.  And godly sincerity is the earnestness with which he acts, knowing that he possesses the only message which gives life and thus is compelled to make it known.  There is no conjured emotion or cold obedience here.  Paul discharges his call out of love for the Father and love for the Elect (cf. 2 Timothy 2.10).  Would that these were also the traits of my life.  That my actions and heart could be described in such ways.  That through such a frame God’s glory might be praised all the more because, and not in spite of, me.

Resource Saturday- Unwrapping the Temple of God

July 11, 2009

In my experience, most American Christians tend to have a rather limited view of the temple of God.  They would probably be able to tell you that the Temple was in Jerusalem, that it was destroyed at some point, and that your body is a temple (cf. 1 Corinthians 6.19, which, in my opinion, is the second most misused verse in the Bible behind Revelation 3.20).  However, over the year and a half the Spirit has lead me into studies which show a much deeper importance to the Temple, an importance which drives me to believe the Temple should be the focus of all our eschatalogical dreams as Christians.

Of course, to make sense of this requires first a proper understanding of what the Temple is and second enough time to go from cover to cover in the Bible seeing what God has revealed about the Temple to us.  For my part I will tell you that the Temple, properly understood, is the place where the presence of God dwells with man.  Thus we see that in the physical temple, the presence of God dwelt in the Holy of Holies, and today the presence of God dwells in the church and the individual believers which make up the church.  But what about at all other points?  What about before the Temple was built in Jerusalem?  What about after it was destroyed?  What about in the end time?

This truly is a rich subject, so rich in fact that I just recently finished reading a 400-page book on it.  Now, I know that not everyone has the time (or patience) to read a book this long, but if you ever want to give it a try, G.K. Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission is well worth it.  When I first found this book sitting on the shelf in Southern’s LifeWay I immediately bought it and nearly skipped class just to start reading.  In fact, I was a little disappointed when I found this book because I had decided myself that I would right a treatise on the Temple for my Ph.D (should I ever go for one) and now I know that someone has beaten me to it.

If the sound of that book is a little too intimidating for you (and honestly, 400-pages scares me as well) then at least take a listen to this sermon from Sojourn Community Church a few weeks back.  It is on 1 Kings 8 where Solomon prays over the Temple in Jerusalem and in it Daniel Montgomery offers an introductory glance at this very deep, very rewarding theme in Scripture.

Does “Love” Excuse Us from Right Doctrine?- Quick Thoughts on Derek Webb’s Song “What Matters More”

July 9, 2009

[Warning: for those of you who are offended by swearing, the linked music contains some vulgar language.]

For those of you who think it is not important to keep up with the emergent church movement (ECM) then let this be a warning: this is what’s going on in the broader world of American Christianity while we sit and fight stupid denominational battles about things like if we can accept Calvinists or not.

I hate this.

If you think that we have a problem with people moving towards the doctrines of grace . . . OPEN YOUR EYES!  We have a problem with the church moving away from the Bible.

Brian McLaren calls this song “important and courageous.”  He compares it with a post where he said that “many if not most Christians in the US remain focused on the ‘religious arguments’ list [versus a list of global crises]” (read more here).  And you know what?  He’s right.  Many if not most of us are so focused on our ridiculous arguments against Calvinists ruining families or trying to get Mark Driscoll banned from LifeWay bookstores or keeping Southern Baptists from working in places that sell booze that we totally neglect the whole world in need of a God who is mighty to save.

However, just because we are neglecting this does not mean that everyone is.  No.  In fact, there are plenty of “Christians” like McLaren who are very focused upon these problems.  And guess what?  They don’t care at all about theology.  I don’t mean they don’t care about if you are Calvinist/non-Calvinist/Arminian or Abstentionist/Moderationist, I mean they don’t care if you believe in hell or justification by faith or that Jesus was fully God and fully man.  They don’t care if God exists as three persons in one or if the Bible is truly God’s infallible, inerrant revealed word for us today.  They don’t care one bit.  All they care about is “love.”  And because of this, they are getting an audience with the world.  Never mind if it is grace without truth since there is no one there to bring grace AND truth at the same time anyways.

Is there a need for a Great Commission Resurgence?  I believe there is.  And for those of you who say, “Well golly gee, our church is already focused on the Great Commission,” I present this song, and the rising popularity of man-centered, antinomian, pelagian Emergent “Christianity” as Exhibit A in my defense.

What We Believe- Summary of Posts on BF&M2K

July 8, 2009

Finally after taking the better half of a year we have managed to work our way through the full of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.  I think that this is a very important document for anyone who takes pride in being a Southern Baptist to go through, at least on the surface level.  I’ll admit, there are parts that even I read for the first time in preparing this series.

Nonetheless, I have really enjoyed doing this analysis and in particular looking at how the BF&M has evolved over its three incarnations (see a side-by-side comparison here).  To close everything out I have created a tab in the header that lists all of the What We Believe posts along with the texts of the BF&M and various other Baptist confessions for your viewing and/or educational pleasure.  Enjoy and please feel free to raise any further questions as they may come.

BF&M Resources tab