5.27.2015

Puritans on Atonement

Part IV: Christology
Chapter 23 - The Blood of Christ in Piety

Puritans focused more on sanctification, since earlier Reformers had already written much on the atonement.  This chapter looks especially at Charnock, Goodwin and Ambrose.

Cleansing
The remedy was ready before the injury occurred, Goodwin said.
Cleansing happens in three senses:
Objective - removal of guilt secured at the cross and resurrection.
Subjective - forgiveness sought at conversion
Sensible - justification felt as the conscience is eased and assured of salvation.

Method and Results of Cleansing
Substitution - Jesus takes our place, bleeding and dying for us, who should have.
Imputation - much like substitution from a legal angle.  God reckons our sinful stain to the account of Jesus, and reckons His righteousness to us sinners.  This "is possible throuh our legal and covenantal union with Christ" (362), just as our guilt was imputed to us from Adam's original sin.
Justification - God had a charge or debt against us, but Jesus paid and cancelled it - Col 2:13-14.  His payment involved not only His suffering and death, but His obedience to the Law for us.  "Not everyone agreed with this view, especially not the Socinians" (363).  [I believe there were several orthdox Puritans at Westminster who also disagreed, but Beeke/Jones give them no airtime at all, interestingly.]

Faith in the Blood of Christ
Faith receives the blood as an atonement for sin.  Faith is not itself the righteousness we need, but "reach[es] out to His blood" (Charnock, pg. 364).  Faith is more than an emotional response, and less than the thing that justifies us.  "The efficacy is in Christ's blood, the reception of it in our faith" (365).

Sanctification
Remembering the blood of Christ increases our repentance, faith, prayer, holiness and comfort.

Victory
Though we are not free of all sin on earth, we "may know victory through Christ's blood already in this life in terms of sin's 'condemnation and punishment' " (367).

Heaven
Heaven is achieved by Christ's blood.

Mercy for us comes only by the blood of Christ, cleansing us from all sin.  So we should mourn our sins and treasure His blood.

Psalms 20-22

20
May God answer your cry for help.
He saves His people.
Trust in Him, not in armies or military might.

21
The king rejoices in God's strength.
God sets the king on His throne.
God takes down His enemies.

22
Why have You forsaken me?
Our fathers trusted You and You gave me life and faith.
But I'm despised and surrounded.
Save me, and I will praise You publicly.
All families will praise You.


How this is about Jesus

  • He is the offering God remembers (20:3).
  • He is the King God establishes - the King rejoices and trusts in His Father (21:1, 7).
  • He quotes 22:1 from the cross, describing His current humiliation, but also looking ahead to the glory coming (22:22, 27-31).

Application
Trust God.
Rejoice in His goodness.
Tell Him your troubles.  Feel free to tell Him in detail!
And seek deliverance from Him.

5.26.2015

Stay and Serve at Church / Fathering / Our Exile / Islam

Church is not there to serve you. You are there at church to serve others.


Good stuff on fatherhood here.


On thinking twice before bolting from a bad church.  As a church leader, I really liked the accurate description of how churches can mess up.  The argument for staying isn't to diminish the problems.


On Christians in exile in their own land, when secularism takes over.
"People who uphold a traditional moral architecture for sexuality, marriage, and family have gone, in the space of just twenty years, from mainstream conviction to the equivalent of racists and bigots.... So what do we do now?  Believers don't hav ethe luxury of pessimism, and the idea that we can retire to the safety of some modern equivalent of a monastery in the hills isn't practical or warranted."


Challenging Radical Islam
It's "simplistic if not misleading to argue that groups like IS and Boko Haram have nothing to do with Islam.  Nevertheless, it is equally misleading to argue that the jihadi groups represent the true face of Islam."  This one challenges many Western conservatives who castigate all of Islam as death loving, but challenges non-radical Islam more....

John 9

Jesus heals a man born blind.  The disciples want to know who sinned to cause the blindness, but the answer is neither.  The man and his parents get caught in the argument about Jesus.  Some say He can't be from God since He doesn't keep the Sabbath, healing on it.  Others say a sinner not from God couldn't do such things at all.  They ask the man healed, but don't believe him until they talk to his parents.  Then they try to get him to declare Jesus a sinner, but he reasons before them that He must be from God, so they excommunicate him.  Jesus finds him and invites him to Himself as the Son of Man.  The man worships Him, and Jesus says this is the judgment I came for - some will see and come to Me, while others who claim to see will reject Me and be blind.


Application
When God does a great thing for us, it is left for us to accept it, believe, praise Him and tell others. 
Trying to explain it or figure it out on your terms is often a sign of unbelief.

When you sin or have stubborn unbelief, you really can't leave it alone.  You have to get others to approve of your sin or declare your unbelief along with you.

Psalm 17 & 19

17
My cause is just, my feet have not slipped.
My enemies show no pity and are eager to tear me apart.
Show me Your love and Your likeness, and I'll be satisfied.

19
God's world declares His glory and shows His glory and majesty.
God's Word is perfect and pure and precious.
Keep ME pure, according to it.


How this is about Jesus
Whenever you run across declarations of innocence (Ps. 17:3-5), we hear the voice of Jesus.
By the Word of God (Jesus) the heavens were made.  They show the glory of Christ.
Everything said about the Word of God in 19:7-11 also describes Jesus well.


Application
When obstacles arise, our frustration should abate as we consider God and are satisfied with Him.



Psalm 17:15
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

Psalm 19:14
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

5.25.2015

John 8:12-59

Jesus starts an argument by asserting amazing things about Himself.
He is the light of the world.  You must follow Him.  His Father (God) sent Him.  You don't know God if you don't follow Him.  You'll die in your sins unforgiven, unless you believe in Him.  Following Him means knowing the truth, which will set you free.

They naturally ask who He is and where His Father is, not realizing He means God.  Their national pride gets in the way, thinking they aren't slaves, as sons of Abraham.

Now Jesus ups the ante.  You're trying to kill Me, because you are of your father the devil, not of Abraham.  If you knew God, you would love Me.  I'm speaking God's Words, but you don't listen and you reject Me because you don't know Him.  Name any sin you've seen in Me.  If you keep My Word, you won't die.  Before Abraham was, I AM.  (Exodus 3:14 - "And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”)

Their response:  you have a demon!  You think You're greater than Abraham?  You aren't even 50!  They try to stone Him, but He hides somehow, and leaves.


Application
Texts like this prove C.S. Lewis' point that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord.  We can't take Him as a good moral teacher without accepting Him as God.  He didn't just tell us how to live and live well Himself.  We have to follow and obey Him, or we're doomed.

John 8:1-12

Pharisees present a woman caught in adultery and demand an answer from Jesus, what should be done with her.  They don't care about her, they are out to trap and take down Jesus.  He writes in the dirt (see Jeremiah 17:13 below, note the living waters connects with 7:37-39) and says anyone without sin can throw the first stone, to call out their hypocrisy.  When they leave, He comforts and convicts her: you have no more accusers, but do not sin anymore.

Jeremiah 17:13 - "O LORD, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You shall be ashamed.  “Those who depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.” "


Application
This passage is often used to assert that we should never accuse, charge or correct anyone with sin, since we aren't perfect ourselves.  But Scripture contradicts this in 1 Corinthians 5.

Accusations are often made for selfish reasons, when the intent of correction needs to be for the good of the person in sin.  "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted." - Galatians 6:1

Psalms

9
I will recount Your great deeds, Lord.
You upheld my cause and turned back the nations, my enemies.

11
How can I think my enemies will get me, and there's nothing I can do about it?
I'll take refuge in God, who is in His temple, testing the righteous, righteous Himself, opposing the wicked.

12
The faithful are disappearing and the wicked are multiplying.
But God will arise and save the poor.

13
How long will You hide from me, and not help me out of my funk, Lord?
But I trust You and will sing to You, because You have been good to me before.

14
Fools say there is no God.  No one understands or does good.
But when God saves, Israel will be glad.

15
Who can be with God?  The blameless, at peace with his neighbor, who despises vileness and honors God-fearers, the honest and fair.  God will establish them.

16
Preserve me, Lord!  The wicked have sorrow, but You've given me pleasant portion.  You instruct me in the night, give my heart joy, you won't let me rot in the grave, but set me on the path of life and pleasure next to You.


How this is about Jesus
Peter quotes Psalm 16 in his Pentecost sermon, pointing out that it can't have been about David, since his bones are there in Jerusalem.  This is Jesus talking!  Re-read the Psalms as if Jesus were singing them to the Father.


Application
These become more relevant the more marginalized Christianity becomes in our culture.


Psalm 9:19-20
Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!
Put them in fear, O Lord!
Let the nations know that they are but men!

Psalm 12:8
"vileness is exalted among the children of man."

5.23.2015

Imperfect Christians in the spotlight

The Duggar scandal hits pretty close to home.  I have some strong views on this, given the sensitivity of the issue and pastoral experiences I’ve had with similar cases.  Here are some things I’ve learned, related to the Duggar case.  (I'm getting my info from here and here.)

There is a very strong temptation to cover these incidents up in unhealthy ways.
Josh’s dad Jim Bob did the right thing to involve the elders of his church, and he was sent off for mentoring.  But no one took it any further, even though some of the incidents were felonies.  I have no information on what follow-up contact for resolution was attempted with the victims.  Many in Jim Bob’s situation with a teen to parent would do the same thing he did.  I really commend him for telling his church leaders – that’s not an easy discussion to initiate.  But no counselors, no police, just a friend somewhere else.  It’s like getting a bad cut that needs disinfecting, but you know it’s going to hurt more so you don’t go to the doctor.  But that’s just when you need pastors and usually the state involved.  But due to the nature of the sin, a great deal of shame is involved, which leads to fear and maybe anger.

Many are out to make hay and take down Christians or anyone who speaks out on moral issues.
As I understand it, the incidents happened 12 years ago.  The tabloid broke the story this Thursday anyway.  It reminds me of biblical Daniel’s co-workers looking for any dirt they can find on him, to get rid of or discredit him.  This should not have been made public.  It breaks all rules of decorum and decency.  Though I think the Duggars should have gone to the police immediately, they had no obligation to disclose this once the statute of limitations expired.  Perhaps Josh did not need to resign from Family Research Council, either, assuming he resolved things with the victims.  (In theory.  I realize the PR makes it nearly impossible for him to stay.)

A little fly ruins the ointment
David’s sin with Bathsheba caused the nations to blaspheme God’s name.  So it is here.  The Duggars have been role models to emulate for many Christians, especially those who value large families.  But in the wider world, they are one more in a long parade of public Christian hypocrites.  This is sad, and unfair, but true, nonetheless.  It is quite convicting for every believer, to realize our choices can drag the name of Jesus through the mud.  This kind of sin is not unforgivable – we should affirm God’s grace in situations like these.  But public consequences can last a long time.

There is an honorable path through this if you’ve sinned

It will be embarrassing and awkward, but life is not over.  Josh did the right thing once this was behind him in a couple key ways.  When he got serious with his future wife, he told her and her parents (they are an important external accountability check for a young man seeking a wife.  See here for some good questions they should ask, especially #16).  Telling those with a right to know is very important, even though it was old news.  There’s a huge difference between a tabloid picking up old dirt to fling at you in print, and confessing yourself to those few with a right to know.  He offered to resign from his public position dealing with moral issues.

Christians keep shooting their wounded
Josh had done all he could to make it right, and moved on.  Because of this, taking the job at FRC was not inherently hypocritical.  Public figures dealing with moral issues are not perfect – that doesn’t make them hypocrites.  Otherwise we need to blame God for letting David stay on the throne after the Bathsheba-Uriah travesty.  The hypocrisy would be if he was unrepentant or covering up something he shouldn’t.

Prophet, Priest and King

Part IV: Christology
Chapter 22 - Christ's Offices and States

The Reformed and Puritan folks lean toward Nestorius in the debate between him and Eutychus.  Nestorius emphasized the two distinct natures of Christ (maybe overly separating them), while Eutychus emphasized the unity of His person (maybe not allowing enough distinction between the human and divine natures).  Puritans emphasized that Christ had two wills, not one.  One person doesn't require one "psychological center" (348).  This makes for a REAL change in Christ, from His glory to His state of humiliation on earth, especially in His knowledge and power.

The Lutheran view that some of Christ's divine attributes are communicated to His human nature doesn't work.  As God is simple, if one divine attribute is communicated to Christ's human nature, then all of them are.  This makes His state of humiliation only apparent.  The Roman Catholic view is different, but winds up with the same problem: He was given all He needed in His humanity from the beginning of His incarnation.  On these views, there was no "real development in Christ's human nature" (350), as Luke 2:52 and Hebrews 5 say, it was only apparent.

Christ as Prophet
This office wasn't just on earth, but He continues revealing God's truth to the church in glory.
As a mediator, God revealed truth to Jesus in His human nature, and Jesus then passes that on to us.  "If God did not reveal to Christ certain truths, then Christ as a true man, was ignorant of those truths" (351).  Which makes sense of Jesus saying He didn't know the day of His return, only the Father did.

Christ as Priest
He offers sacrifice and intercedes.  His sacrifice shapes His interceding mediation.  He doesn't mediate as a persuasive entreaty, like labor-union negotiations that might break down.  His intercession is effective and meritorious because of who He is, and because of the sacrifice He made.  The justification Jesus bought for us at the cross, is applied to us when He asks the Father for it.  Will Christ be a priest forever, as He will be a prophet?  Hebrews 7:17 seems to say so, but this is a role connected to the new covenant forgiveness of sins, and the need for that covenant ends at the consummation.  [I'm not sure I buy this: won't there be a kind of non-redemptive intercession Christ makes for us to the Father in the new age?]

Christ as King
The New Testament quotes Psalm 110:1 more than any other verse.  God gave Jesus a kingdom to rule, but Christ also had a natural kingdom from all time as part of the Trinity.  His given kingdom is spiritual (John 18:36), and He had to conquer to receive it, as it had been usurped.  Sitting at God's right hand is an "expression of the strength, power, majesty, and glory that belong unto Him" (356).  He reclaimed what He had laid aside or veiled while on earth.  Goodwin spoke of Christ's three fold glory: 1. His essential glory of divinity, 2. Incarnate glory as the "image of His person" (Heb. 1:3), and 3. His glory as head and mediator of the covenant of grace.  This last passes away when He hands the kingdom over to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24).  Still He will remain King forever (Rev. 11:15), ruling the world with the Father and Spirit.

So in one sense, Christ's role as prophet, priest and king will end with the consummation.  He will no longer mediate grace.  But in another sense, He will continue to convey revelation, perhaps intercede in non-saving or sanctifying ways, and rule as King of creation.

5.22.2015

John 7

Jesus' brothers encourage Him to go to the feast, not really believing in Him yet.  They want more proof and public action.  Jesus demurs, but goes privately later.

When He teaches, the Jews are divided over Him.  He asserts He is from God and that doing good on the Sabbath is fine (you circumcise on the Sabbath, following Moses, after all).  There is no answer from the authorities, so the people wonder if He's the Messiah.  But they think they aren't supposed to know where Messiah comes from, and they know He's from Galilee.  Jesus responds that they don't know the one who sent Him.

They send to arrest Him, but the officers listen to Jesus and return without Him.  He claims to be the water we need. (On the last day of this feast there was a ceremony of pouring water by the altar.)  Some think He's the Messiah, others say Messiah is supposed to come from Bethlehem, and He's from Galilee!  The rulers get mad at the officers who return without Jesus.  They curse the crowd.  Nicodemus objects, and they shout him down with prejudice against Galilee - no prophet will come from there.  Nathanael was smarter than this (John 1:46-49).


Application
Be careful seeking public vindication of Jesus before He says it's time - vss 1-9.
People are divided about Jesus, and have wrong ideas about Him - vss 10-31.
He is the source of what we need, not the traditions that comfort us a little - vss 37-39.

Psalm 7-8

7
If I've done what the enemy thinks I have, let them conquer me, Lord.
You are the judge. You detest and punish wickedness.
I will thank God and sing praise to His name.

8
All the earth shows Your majesty, even babes.
The heavens make me wonder why You set man in such an exalted place to rule over all of it.
God's name is majestic, and that's seen in all the earth.


How this is about Jesus
He was pursued unjustly, having done no wrong.
He is the Son of Man given all dominion.


Application
When you are in disputes or dangers with enemies, examine yourself, and place your life in God's hands to judge.
Observing anything in the natural world should lead us to wonder and praise of God.

5.21.2015

Psalm 4-6

Psalm 4
Answer me, Lord, for honor is turned into shame!
You know Your people, Lord, so I will not sin in my frustration, but offer sacrifice instead.
Many are cynical, and have given up on You, but You grant joy and peace to our hearts.

5
Hear me as I pray to You in the morning, Lord.
You can't stand the wicked and their ways.
I will worship You in the temple, as You lead me.
Let the wicked bear their guilt for rebelling against You.
Cover and protect those who seek refuge in You.

6
How long will you be so hard on me as I languish in my bed?
Deliver me; what's the point in letting me die?
I am weary from weeping so much.
God hears me, and will turn back my enemies from overwhelming me.


How this is about Jesus
He prayed to God early in the morning (Mark 1:35).
He worshiped in the temple, zealous for God's house.
He was in agony from weariness and weeping in Gethsemane.
I think He experienced sicknesses common to man (Ps 6:2).


Application
Part of talking to God is asking for a response, asking Him to hear, pouring out your heart to him, letting your emotions go a bit.  We see David doing that, but not letting his emotions drive him.  Instead, always returning to the truth he knows about God.

5.20.2015

John Owen on the Spirit in Christ's Ministry

Part IV: Christology
Chapter 21 - Christology

The Puritans had a distinctive take on the person of Christ.

The Reformed generally were different from Lutherans in this area, by emphasizing the distinct human and divine natures of Christ.  Lutherans say the properties of the divine nature of Jesus are communicated mysteriously to His human nature.  The Reformed reject that, saying instead that the finite human nature cannot contain the infinite divine nature.

The problem with the Lutheran or Roman view is, there is no need for the Spirit in the ministry of Christ.  His divine nature took care of it.  John Owen took an opposite and unconventional view that the Spirit worked ALL Christ's supernatural acts.  Owen wasn't alone in this, and it makes Christ's humanity more meaningful to us.  The Spirit helped Him just as He helps us, with no "superman" advantage from the divine nature.

It is important to consider this, as the person of Christ gives His work its meaning.

2 Samuel 23-24

David's last words: a just ruler is like sun and rain on a field.  Handle the worthless with care and firmness.  The deeds and names of David's mighty men are recounted.

God, angry with Israel, moves David to take a census.  David realizes his sin and repents.  He must choose a punishment and wants to be in God's hands, not men.  David sees the angel killing people at a threshing floor, and he cries out for mercy in the midst of the plague.  God through Gad tells David to raise an altar at that place.  David buys it at full price, and offers sacrifices there.  It is the future site of the temple (1 Chronicles 21:28-22:1).


How this is about Jesus
David is an exalted yet imperfect ruler, and knows it; Jesus brings perfection.
Jesus has had some outstanding disciples to great deeds - the giants of chcurch history.
Jesus intercedes for His people, with the costly sacrifice of Himself.


Application
Just rule is to people what sun and rain are to crops.  Pursue it in the home, church and state.
David does not bring utopia to Israel.  God remains angry - an atonement is still needed: Christ.
Your sins can damage others greatly, yet there is a place of forgiveness.