God as our Delight

If we perceive God as raw, selfish power, we will bow before Him in fear, but not in delight.

If we perceive God as loving and kind, but not as just and wrathful, we will perhaps worship Him for meaning well.

But if we see Him as He is: omnipotent, angry at sinners, and ready to judge as well as fiercely loving, faithful, and jealous for our hearts, then we see Jesus Christ crucified for us.

There, on the plain looking Roman cross some 2,000 years ago, a plain looking man was executed in a short time by a road outside Jerusalem, but what the eyes of the people could not see was Jesus, having become your sin and mine in the Father’s eyes, being wrenched away from the love and fellowship of His Father; there the Son was given the penalty for all you deserve in an eternal hell of fire. There the Son willingly, lovingly laid down His life as a physical, spiritual sacrifice to earn your acceptance with God. And there… the Father loved us infinitely.

Wrath and love. Power and mercy. Anger and love. God is worthy of our praises.

From Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering:

“Jonathan Edwards once said: ‘God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.’ It is not enough to say, ‘I guess he is God, so I have got to knuckle under.’ You have to see his beauty. Glorifying God does not mean obeying him only because you have to. It means to obey him because you want to — because you are attracted to him, because you delight in him. This is what C. S. Lewis grasped and explained so well in his chapter on praising. We need beauty.”(170)

Thanks for reading,

Adam

Did Jesus Die for Every Person?

Yes He did. But how if all are not saved?

Payment for all...

Payment for all…

Commercial/Pecuniary Model

This high-Calvinist model of the atonement defines the doctrine in commercial, or pecuniary terms. The word “pecuniary” is derived from the trade of cattle, and in regard to the atonement, refers to Jesus’ blood being just so efficacious so as to purchase all of the elect, but not one more person than that. Yet the Bible does not unambiguously define the atonement in such language.

So then in what way did He die for those who will end up in hell for eternity? We see that He died to propitiate the wrath of God, “not for our sins only, but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2), and that in His death, He effectually purchased His entire elect people (Matt. 1:21; Eph. 5:25 et al).

We see that He “tasted death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9), but the atonement, we see, results directly in the salvation of the elect (Heb. 9:23-28).

So then does the effectual redemption of the elect preclude His having made a redemptive payment for all people? Scripture does not seem to draw the line of limitation here. The limiting of the atonement, rather, is in how it was designed to be applied – “to all who believe” (Rom. 1:16). If we pay careful attention to each passage that teaches us about what happened in the atonement, we nowhere see that the effectual redemption of the elect necessarily means a payment has not been made for the sins of all individuals at all times. The Calvinistic “L” in TULIP is a logical construct, but it fails to regard the full picture of redemption Christ accomplished.

Continue reading

You Can’t Keep a Good Savior Dead: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Resurrection Sunday is just past, and here we are, almost 2,000 years later still celebrating. What are we celebrating? We rejoice that an obscure carpenter from the middle of nowhere, who was brutally put to death by the Roman government, raised Himself from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion. We are celebrating that this obscure carpenter, this peasant man from backwater Galilee was Himself the eternal God in human flesh, and that He somehow managed to put away the enmity between God and rebellious humankind. How did He somehow manage that? He became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

A divine exchange.

The innocent, offended party reached out to the seething hatred of humanity, and allowed Himself to become the satisfaction for our sin. The innocent for the guilty.

His life was poured out to death, and death swallowed Him whole. In the belly of death, as it began trying to digest Him (like everyone else who ever died), He instead came back to life, bursting the body of death from the inside. Death could not handle Him, this Jesus of Nazareth. He was more than a carpenter. His resurrection is a glorious mystery only partially understood – yet we know that in some mystical way we share in His resurrection – those of us who have called on Him as Lord and been baptized in His name will in like manner defeat death on the final day of history.

Yes, please.

Our dear uncle from almost 1,700 years ago, Athanasius of Alexandria, has so much gold to share with us newer folk. I post quotes from his magnum opus (On the Incarnation) each Tuesday, and so I hope you are in some way helped in your Christian faith by reading these glorious nuggets of theological contemplation. Let’s see what he has to say about all this I’ve been saying.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

How has death been doing since it met Jesus Christ?

I like this question, kids…

If, then, it is by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ that death is trampled underfoot, it is clear that it is Christ Himself and none other Who is the Archvictor over death and has robbed it of its power.

Death used to be strong and terrible, but now, since the sojourn of the Savior and the death and resurrection of His body, it is despised; and obviously it is by the very Christ Who mounted on the cross that it has been destroyed and vanquished finally.

When the sun rises after the night and the whole world is lit up by it, nobody doubts that it is the sun which has thus shed its light everywhere and driven away the dark. Equally clear is it, since this utter scorning and trampling down of death has ensued upon the Savior’s manifestation in the body and His death on the cross, that it is He Himself Who brought death to nought and daily raises monuments to His victory in His own disciples.Uncle Athanasius

How can you think otherwise, when you see men naturally weak hastening to death, unafraid at the prospect of corruption, fearless of the descent into Hades, even indeed with eager soul provoking it, not shrinking from tortures, but preferring thus to rush on death for Christ’s sake, rather than to remain in this present life? If you see with your own eyes men and women and children, even, thus welcoming death for the sake of Christ’s religion, how can you be so utterly silly and incredulous and maimed in your mind as not to realize that Christ, to Whom these all bear witness, Himself gives the victory to each, making death completely powerless for those who hold His faith and bear the sign of the cross? No one in his senses doubts that a snake is dead when he sees it trampled underfoot, especially when he knows how savage it used to be; nor, if he sees boys making fun of a lion, does he doubt that the brute is either dead or completely bereft of strength.

These things can be seen with our own eyes, and it is the same with the conquest of death. Doubt no longer, then, when you see death mocked and scorned by those who believe in Christ, that by Christ death was destroyed, and the corruption that goes with it resolved and brought to end.

My favorite uncle.

This convicts me to not hold this life too tightly, and to not be too afraid to meet the toothless death who is powerless to keep me from my Savior and King.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to share in the resurrection of the just with you (are you trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins?).

-Justin

Beautiful Atonement: Prophesy Good Friday

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

For this Good Friday, it is only appropriate to call upon the greatest Old Testament prophecy about Jesus. Isaiah chapter 52:13-53:12 is the beautiful picture of the suffering Servant of Yahweh, the One who would be crushed for our iniquities.

Written 700 years before the first Good Friday, Isaiah had the honor of spelling out the means of God’s redemption of Israel. He would lay on Jesus the iniquity of us all.

Read with me the bare naked words of this prophecy, and read them aloud if possible. Read them slowly, with contemplation… and if you have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, read with gratitude. If you have not, here is proof that the Bible is supernatural, for how did a man write these words 700 years before they came true? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized for the remission of sins.

I’ve included just a few words in the text [in brackets] which clarify a few obscure terms.

Rejoice.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (NKJV)

13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently;
He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
14 Just as many were astonished at you,
So His visage[face] was marred more than any man,
And His form more than the sons of men;
15 So shall He sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths at Him;
For what had not been told them they shall see,
And what they had not heard they shall consider.

1 Who has believed our report?

And to whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness[beauty];
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement[punishment] for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And Yahweh has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

10 Yet it pleased Yahweh to crush Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of Yahweh shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.

Good Friday

Glory to the Name of Jesus! Suffering Lamb of God! Died He for me, that I may live, and died He to bring me close to Him!

The cross of Jesus is precious because by it we get Jesus forever.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

How to Kill Your Christian Joy and Assurance

Want to kill your Christian joy and assurance of salvation? Believe your Christian adverbs. (Adverbs modify verbs, e.g. “slowly running.”) Become a pietist.

When we use and believe our own adverbs to describe our response to the gospel, we are in for a terrible ride. Adverbs are the lazy man’s crutch in literature – like puffs of smoke blown in the eyes to obscure the embarrassing white bones of skeletal essays.

Think of it – instead of “Napolean won victories across Europe, stretching all the way around the Mediterranean into Africa,” now the student needs a bigger word count and writes “Napolean brutally won victories across Europe, vigorously stretching his armies all the way around…” you see the point. Adverbs embellish and spruce things up. They can also beguile us when we use them to strengthen the appearance of our actions before a holy God. 

In Christian piety, when we use (and believe in our use of) adverbs to describe things like repentance, worship, confession, obedience, and others, we set ourselves up for either a staggering heart of pride, or a desolate heart of doubt.

Danger! Keep Right of Yellow Line!

On Christian adverbs, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt of Concordia University in Irvine, California, in borrowing from fellow Lutheran Norman Nagel, described them as the great enemies of the Gospel of Christ. Indeed.

Look at the issue: when was the last time, Christian, that you repented of your sins? Hopefully today – even just now. But what if I asked you when the last time was you repented “sincerely” of your sins?

We’ve just split into two camps: some of you immediately began answering back that you repent “sincerely” as much as possible, that you are a heartfelt Christian, and that you are very serious about repentance from sin. At this the rest of us look on with jealousy and awe. We applaud your sincerity and piety. You’re steering into oncoming traffic.Head on collision

Danger! Keep Left of White Line!

The others of you, like me, would have to be honest in answering, “I’m not sure the last time I repented… “sincerely.” For us in this second group, we know something of our own hearts. We know the sneaky, slithering sinfulness nested deep within our hearts – that sinfulness which corrupts our repentance. It corrupts our prayers. It corrupts our good works. It corrupts everything. And we know this – we mourn over this (Matt. 5:4).

And we are called to know this. Knowing the laxity of our repentance is freedom from pride, and dependence on Christ the Savior for His mercy. We are called to know the half-heartedness of our worship. I mean, who in their right mind actually means it when they sing to God

I will give You all my worship, I will give You all my praise, You alone, I long to worship, You alone, are worthy of my praise!

Riiiiight. You’re the first one in history to reach those heights, compadre.

We must test ourselves before God,

and when we do, we must find that we have not kept up our end of the bargain with God. He created us, gave us this earth, all its blessings, and our lives. He gives us food, air, water, and for many of us, luxuries beyond the imagination of most of the rest of humankind.

And He gave us His Son Jesus. Not just as a distant, abstract concept, but in the flesh. Jesus became a Man for YOU. He became a Man to redeem us from our sin and enmity with God. He died in our place, under the wrath of God the Father… for YOU. In YOUR place. Out of love. And He rose from the dead on that Sunday, conquering death for YOU, dear Christian – delivering the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life for ALL who merely trust in Him with repentant hearts.

And what have you done for HIM lately? (God help you if that’s a line you hear your pastor thunder out from the pulpit). Friends, the true answer is… not much. Or maybe, nothing. How does Jesus tell us to think of ourselves when we have obeyed Him?

…when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty. (Luke 17:10 HCSB)

It is pure fantasy to believe that our works of piety; our obedience to His commands, our “sincere” repentance, or any other act of response to God is anything like what it should be. God, in His infinite majesty and glory, is not actually bettered by the service of human hands!

The Smart Guys Fall for It!

The Westminster Confession of faith is a magnificent achievement of Protestant theology – forged in the academic heights of the Puritan glory days of the mid-seventeenth century. Yet look here at their language in describing the effects of election upon the saved person:

So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel. [W.C.F. VII, 6.021]

Abundant consolation… to whom? “To all that sincerely obey the gospel.” So then, who gets consolation? Nobody. Nobody, that is, who knows their own heart.

And to be fair to the Reformed, the Lutherans are guilty too. I’ve visited a conservative Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) the last couple of weekends, and sure enough, the confession and absolution in the liturgy has us reciting

I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserve Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them… [L.S.B. 184]

Really now? Am I even able to know all my sins, let alone confess them heartily, and sincerely repent? The introspective Christian will soon fall into a fearful doubting of their salvation, for these adverbs describe someone whose piety is nothing short of miraculous.

But But, Doesn’t the Bible Say…

Now some of you know your Bibles, and are thinking of certain passages that speak of our “sincere love of the brethren” (1 Pet. 1:22), and even of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 18:35 that we will not be forgiven if we do not forgive our brother… “from the heart” – or as we say, “sincerely.”

I hear these passages too, and must wrestle them in my adverb-prone, wanna-be piety. Am I forgiving my brothers “from my heart?” Probably not, or at least not all the time, perfectly, without flaw. Yes, I forgive. Yes, I love the brethren – even sincerely – but the point of these and other passages is not to call our attention to our own degree of piety and perfection in our performance. These calls to inward sincerity and even perfection are there because God can command nothing less. His pure and perfect nature necessitates His commands to us be pure and perfect – even superfluously pure.

The Ultimate Standard

As Jesus was wrapping up section one of His Sermon on the Mount, He declares “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48 NKJV). How you doing on that? The reality for the Christian is that we live in tension, falling short of the Law of God and His holy perfection, and our full, complete acceptance by Him because of Christ. There is nothing of ourselves added into our plea before God. It is not “Jesus lived and died for me, and then I did everything I could to live for you” – can I say this? HELL NO. Pun intended.

Rather than that, it is “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

The Christian life is a massive struggle to rest. It’s a paradox, striving to rest… in the striving and works of Christ on our behalf. Striving to believe God’s Word about His Son and His gospel. The only way any of us will be counted as being perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect, is by having trusted in the gospel of Christ, and having therefore rested our adverb-prone piety at the foot of a bloody, splintered cross.

We are only able to begin to obey the Lord out of a place of sincere self-knowledge. I’m totally unable to forgive people sincerely – I need the grace of the Holy Spirit to enable this act, only made possible by having eyes on Jesus; His forgiveness of me, His pure love, His absolute graciousness to His people…

As go our adverbs, so go our trust and faith

The only adverbs we can believe in concerning this Christian life describe the fullness of our sinfulness and neediness, and on the other side, the perfection of God’s work on our behalf. I fully need the forgiveness of God. He sincerely forgives me for Christ’s sake.

If we begin to describe ourselves with adverbs of positive fullness (which should be reserved for describing God alone), our trust and faith is inadvertently placed in ourselves, and our assurance and joy will die with our realization of how insincere and half-hearted our repentance and faith truly are. WATCH OUT!

Repent of your adverbs describing yourself in positive fullness, friends. Trust in Christ alone for your needed standing before God. He justifies fully. He is enough.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Jesus’ Arms Outstretched: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far. Please check out the past posts – they really are awesome to get into.

Uncle Ath?

Yes kids?

Do you see any significance in the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross as He died?

Well…

…If any honest Christian wants to know why He suffered death on the cross and not in some other way, we answer thus: in no other way was it expedient for us, indeed the Lord offered for our sakes the one death that was supremely good. He had come to bear the curse that lay on us; and how could He “become a curse” otherwise than by accepting the accursed death? And that death is the cross, for it is written “Cursed is every one that hangs on tree.”

Again, the death of the Lord is the ransom of all, and by it “the middle wall of partition” is broken down and the call of the Gentiles comes about.

How could He have called us if He had not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched? Here, again, we see the fitness of His death and of those outstretched arms: it was that He might draw His ancient people with the one and the Gentiles with the other, and join both together in Himself.

My favorite uncle.

A little allegorical, yes, but wow – think of the image painted there. The Word of God made flesh, a perfect Man – perfect in love, grace, and purity – being murdered ruthlessly and with mockery. He was suffering not only the incredible pains of torture, but also the shame of nakedness and disfigurement before His nation… and in the midst of this, His arms pinned to the wood, He was calling His Jewish family to Him with one bleeding hand, and His Gentile flock with the other, carrying each of us down into His death with Him so that we might rise again with Him in His resurrection.

Meditate, my friends. Before you go off to the next thing, meditate.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 4, sec. 25, http://www.ccel.org.

RW Glenn – The Doctrine of Propitiation: Saturday Theovideo

A word that may be too obscure and technical for people to remember anymore. Propitiation. Whoa. Paul wrote the most central text in the entire Bible when he said

God set forth [Jesus] as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:25-26 NKJV).

RW GlennRW Glenn, pastor of Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka, Minnesota, gives us a brief blast of theology centered on propitiation, set to kinetic typing. Soak this in, believer, it is life and health for our souls.

Grace in Christ,

-Justin