Monday, October 16, 2006

The Ends to Which We Will Go...

...to deny God and His supreme authority to define what is good and what is evil. This latest article on Yahoo news found here gives us a glimpse of the religion of Naturalism at its finest.

Apparently the Oslo Natural History Museum has an exhibit on the allegedly homosexual behavior found among animals. According to Reuters, they conclude that "human homosexuality cannot be viewed as 'unnatural'." Wait, were you shocked? Nah, me neither.

On the one hand, it blew me away because it is utterly ridiculous, but on the other hand, it did not surprise me one bit. It is almost funny, except that... oh yeah... this is real life. According to the article, an exhibit boldly (and quite confidently) proclaims,

"We may have opinions on a lot of things, but one thing is clear -- homosexuality is found throughout the animal kingdom, it is not against nature"

Let's see... what happens when you suppress God's truth and set up your own religion which explains Him away? Well, with no Lawgiver there is no Law. With no moral foundation, you make up all kinds of nonsense - morality is relative, it is a matter of convention, it is a matter of practical benefit to the society... or better... reading our own godless presuppositions about reality into our observations of animals means that if the animals do it, then its natural.

It does make you wonder... how would this logic fly when it comes to animals which eat their young or kill their mates? Hopefully we will never find out. I dunno about you, but I'm building my next house from a combination of hair, straw, and my own feces. You wanna come over for dinner? We're serving runt babies. After all, it is very natural.

This is the song of the depraved heart... if you want to believe it bad enough, you will find a way to justify and "prove" it. We are a pretty confused bunch, huh?

Take note of the careful and objective job the author did in representing the opposition. Find one of those "burn in hell" types and all will be well to fortify the mantra that Naturalism is rational and Christians are nasty bigots who live in unicorn-land. Good job!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Shut Up

There are always some of us who struggle in our conscience. We desperately want peace, yet we are constantly assaulted. It seems that no matter what we do, no matter how to try to sort it all out, it never works (or at least never remains). We may be described as those with a "tender conscience" or the "scrupulous." No matter what the reason behind it all may be, the Word of God has something to say to us as humans that bears upon our situation.

Turn with me to Galatians 3, if you would.

Gal 3:21-24
(21) Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.
(22) But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
(23) Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.
(24) So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

In the NASB, twice in this passage we see the English phrase "shut up," which has become the namesake of this blog entry. What I want to look at is really what the Law of God is meant to show us. Is there a purpose to it? Yes, Paul says it is to "shut up." It is, as the ESV above says, to "imprison." It is to seal us off with no way out.

If a law had ben given that could give us life (righteousness, a firm and total acceptance before God), then the avenue of Law-keeping would certainly be the correct path to take. "But," he adds, the Law imprisoned us all under sin, holding us captive. How so? By teaching us something very important. The Law was our "guardian" or "tutor" for the purpose that what? That we be justified by faith.

This is where we must focus. Follow what Paul is saying here, and elsewhere. The Law means to teach us an important lesson. It means to teach us that the way of our own efforts, our own good doing, our own obedience, our own works, our own strivings, labors, digging, scraping is completely dead, "shut up," sealed off. It is an impassible wall set before us. We can beat upon it with our fists all we want, we can lay a ladder against it and try to climb, but it only becomes higher, wider, deeper, blacker the more we do. This way is closed. Dead end. Take every claim you try to have upon God -every single one- and trash it because it avails not here. The way you pray, the goodness of your thoughts, the strength of your faith, how fervently you repent, how sincere you are in your religiosity, how much you perceive you love God, how often you go to church, etc. It is all nothing.

If you are of the stripe of those who often have a wounded conscience, this is the beginning of good news. It tells us that all of those things we are anxiously trying to hold on to and get right have absolutely no value in this realm. The way is sealed off. Anxiety, terror in conscience, stems from the perception of something lacking in us -something that we need to get straightened out somehow. The lesson presented here is contrary to our nature. We want to know what is that one thing we need to do to make all the anxiety go away, to make everything right. Instead, the lesson is that we truly do lack, just as we feared, that it is worse than we imagine, and that it is absolutely impossible for us to affect any improvement in our situation, even with a little assistance. The way of accruing an account of our own righteousness is shut up, closed, sealed off. Thus, rather than providing a clearer path down this route, an instruction, a thing we can fix, the Law instead shrowds the way in thick blackness and fog, sending thunderbolts before us -not to enlighten, but to crush, to terrify, and to make the way impassible and hopeless. The panic we feel will only rightly increase if we tread this path longer, for it is meant to do so!

This means two things. First, it means "give up." Let the hopelessness of that situation sink in. Only when it does will the second have great meaning. Give up on all of those things you are clinging to and laboring for. The way is "shut up." It would be better for you to try and reverse the spin of the earth, for you would have more hope in doing so. We must fall down and admit defeat. It is the best defeat there is. Why?

Second, it means that, when we finally learn the lesson of the Law, when we give up and have absolutely no claim on God's mercy and favor, when we have learned that there is absolutely no hope at all, save that God should decide to be completely merciful to one so blackened, one so unworthy, one who is so intenting on buying what cannot be bought, then Christ is present to us. All other ways are sealed up, yet then Christ, a door of light in the darkness, is opened. We have no way to atone for our sins, yet He is the One atonement. We have no merits of our own to stand firm in God's favor, yet He is our righteousness and redemption. Everything we lack is found in Him. The answer is presented, gratis.

So then, I may lay all of those foibles aside, all of those void and vain things, those claims, and rejoice in the fact that they do absolutely nothing -yet God has sent His Christ who has absolutely everything I need. That is the purpose, that is the lesson...

"...in order that we might be justified by faith." (v.24)

One might see the word "might" and think that this indicates uncertainty. However, this is only an English attempt to convey the meaning of the Greek, which is one of purpose. Some translations render it "would be," some "should be." The meaning is the same. In other words, the reason the Law sealed us up like this is so that we would give up on every other avenue and rest, by faith, in Christ. There is sweetness in our hopelessness, for only then is our true hope known!

Amen.


For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith." (Gal 3:10-11)

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal 2:21)

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Gal 2:16)


Rom 4:4-8
(4) Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
(5) And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
(6) just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
(7) "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
(8) blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."


Who is the blessed man? He is the man who gives up on every claim upon God and just listens and believes Him. He has an unshakable foundation, the merits of Christ alone. Oh, the beauty of that simple trust in the One who gives life, who justifies the ungodly, who spares the sinner and dons him with robes of righteousness! Let us learn this beautiful lesson of the Law, and let us learn it daily and learn it well.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Three Smackers

A few quotes that really struck me. You can enjoy these quotes and more like them here.

John Flavel:

“What shall I say of Christ? The excelling glory of that object dazzles all apprehension, swallows up all expression. When we have borrowed metaphors from every creature that has any excellency or lovely property in it, till we have stript the whole creation bare of all its ornaments, and clothed Christ with all that glory; when we have even worn out our tongues, in ascribing praises to Him, alas! We have done nothing, when all is done.

Look often upon Christ in this glass; He is fairer than the children of men. View Him believingly, and you cannot but like and love Him. ‘For love, when it sees, cannot but cast out its spirit and strength upon amiable objects and things loveworthy.’ And what fairer things than Christ! O fair sun, and fair moon, and fair stars, and fair flowers, and fair roses, and fair lilies, and fair creatures! But, O ten thousand, thousand times fairer Lord Jesus! Alas, I wronged Him in making the comparison this way. O black sun and moon; but O fair Lord Jesus! O black flowers, and black lilies and roses; but O fair fair, ever fair Lord Jesus! O all fair things, black, deformed, and without beauty, when ye are set beside the fairest Lord Jesus! O black heaven, but O fair Christ! O black angels, but O surpassingly fair Lord Jesus.”

–John Flavel, Fountain of Life Opened Up. (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2002), pp. 4-5.

How often do we sit and ponder how beautiful and excellent Christ is? How often are we taken by that heavenly vision in our mind's eye?


Martin Luther

“This evil is planted in all human hearts by nature: If God were willing to sell His grace, we would accept it more quickly and gladly than when He offers it for nothing.”

–Martin Luther, from a lecture on on Genesis 25:31-34. What Luther Says: An Anthology. Ed. by Ewald M. Plass (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing, 1959), Volume Two, p. 604.

Can we say this of ourselves? I dare to say that I see this evil in myself! I know it too well!


David Brainerd

“Lord’s Day, July 26. This day, I saw clearly that I should never be happy, yea, that God Himself could not make me happy, unless I could be in a capacity to ‘please and glorify Him forever.’ Take away this and admit me into all the fine havens that can be conceived of by men or angels, and I should still be miserable forever.”

–David Brainerd, The Life and Diary of David Brainerd. Ed. Jonathan Edwards. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1949), p. 357.

The song of the redeemed heart! I shall be satisfied in nothing less than having Him and praising Him and glorifying Him in so having Him. Nothing else will do!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

O Sweet Exchange!

I love this. From the anonymous writer "Mathetes" (which means "disciple") to Diognetus, dated to the late 2nd century, I believe. I highlighted my favorite part in blue :)


CHAPTER 9
9:1 Having thus planned everything already in Hismind with His Son, He permitted us during the former time to be borne along by disorderly impulses as we desired, led astray by pleasures and lusts, not at all because He took delight in our sins, but because He bore with us, not because He approved of the past season of iniquity, but because He was creating the present season of righteousness, that, being convicted in the past time by our own deeds as unworthy of life, we might now be made deserving by the goodness of God, and having made clear our inability to enter into the kingdom of God of ourselves, might be enabled by the ability of God.

9:2 And when our iniquity had been fully accomplished, and it had been made perfectly manifest that punishment and death were expected as its recompense, and the season came which God had ordained, when henceforth He should manifest His goodness and power (O the exceeding great kindness and love of God), He hated us not, neither rejected us, nor bore us malice, but was long-suffering and patient, and in pity for us took upon Himself our sins, and Himself parted with His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy for the lawless, the guileless for the evil, _the just for the unjust,_ the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal.

9:3 For what else but His righteousness would have covered our sins?

9:4 In whom was it possible for us lawless and ungodly men to have been justified, save only in the Son of God?

9:5 O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable creation, O the unexpected benefits; that the iniquity of many should be concealed in One Righteous Man, and the righteousness of One should justify many that are iniquitous!

9:6 Having then in the former time demonstrated the inability of our nature to obtain life, and having now revealed a Saviour able to save even creatures which have no ability, He willed that for both reasons we should believe in His goodness and should regard Him as nurse, father, teacher, counsellor, physician,mind, light, honour, glory, strength and life.

here is the entire epistle:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/diognetus-lightfoot.html

for a different translation, look here:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/diognetus-roberts.html