May 2011

Monthly Archive

Eating and Drinking With God

Posted by on 31 May 2011 | Tagged as: Holy Eucharist, Robert E. Webber

The Covenant Meal

And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!

Ex. 24:11 NLT

Holy Eucharist is the act of giving thanks through the partaking of the Lord’s Supper: each believer commemorates the death of Christ by receiving the elements of bread and wine. At the table, the resurrected Christ meets the people of God as the heart of God makes known the love of God in bread and wine.

Christ is present in the bread and wine of Holy Eucharist, he is present in the congregation, and he is present in the faith of each believer. This meal of the Lord renews within us the power of the Cross, the security of the new covenant, and love for Christ and one another. Through prayer; we are nourished by His presence. Through faith; we are strengthened by His grace. Through receiving; our intimate relationship with God is renewed.

The Lord’s Supper is precious: an encounter with the living Christ. Grace is poured forth, faith renewed, spirit-encouraged, healing released, and hope restored at the table of the Lord. We eat and drink with the living resurrected Christ.

Eating and drinking at the Lord’s Table is an experience of God’s work of salvation in Jesus Christ. It proclaims the Gospel through dramatization. It enacts the death and resurrection of Christ in such a way that the senses are engaged [as] the worshiper . . . sees, tastes, smells, and experiences the symbol of Christ’s death in the bread and wine. In this way, Christ is communicated to the whole person, bringing healing to body, soul, and spirit.

Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing, 1992), 79.

HT: Webber Quote of the Week

 

God’s Glory and Crown

Posted by on 29 May 2011 | Tagged as: God's Holiness, Puritans

Holiness

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders.

Exodus 15:11

Holiness is God’s infinite glory manifested to the world through his sinlessness of character, purity of intention, and righteousness of person. God is right, acts right, and does right.

The holiness of God is his glory and crown. It is the blessedness of his nature. It renders him glorious in himself, and glorious to his creatures. “Holy” is more fixed as an epithet to his name than any other. This is his greatest title of honor. He is pure and unmixed light, free from all blemish in his essence, nature, and operations. He cannot be deformed by any evil. The notion of God cannot be entertained without separating from him whatever is impure and staining. Though he is majestic, eternal, almighty, wise, immutable, merciful, and whatsoever other prefections may dignify so sovereign a being, yet if we conceive him destitute of this excellent perfection, and imagine him possessed with the least contagion of evil, we make him but an infinite monster, and sully all those perfections we ascribed to him before.

It is a contradiction for him to be God and to have any darkness mixed with his light. To deny his purity, makes him no God. He that says God is not holy, speaks much worse than if he said there is no God at all. Where do we read of the angels crying out Eternal or Faithful Lord God of hosts? But we do hear them singing Holy, Holy, Holy. God swears by his holiness (Psa. 89:35). His holiness is a pledge for the assurance of his promises. Power is his hand, omniscience his eye, mercy his heart, eternity his duration, but holiness his beauty. It renders him lovely and gives beauty to all his attributes. Every action of his is free from all hints of evil. Holiness is the crown of all his attributes, the life of all his decrees, and the brightness of all his actions. Nothing is decreed by him and nothing is acted by him that is not consistent with the beauty of his holiness.

Stephen Charnock, The Attributes of God, quoted from Voices from the Past, ed., Richard Rushing (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2009), 265.

HT: Tim Challies

 

Servants and their Lord

Posted by on 28 May 2011 | Tagged as: Jesus Christ, Roy Hession, Servant

Christ-Centered Servants

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.

Phil. 2:5-7

A servant is a man or woman who freely and willingly lays down their rights, needs, and desires for the purpose of helping other men and women achieve their hopes and dreams. Christ-centered servants put others first for they trust that Christ can and will meet all their needs and fulfill their heart’s desires (Matt. 6:33).

Why would anyone want to yield his or her goals for another friend, relative, or even enemy? Our supreme example, Jesus, set aside his status in heaven in order that through his incarnation, death, and resurrection, we could have a relationship with our heavenly Father (Phil. 2:5-7).

What motivates servants? Servants are compelled to please their Lord (2 Cor. 5:9). Jesus is the Suffering Servant who took our place and received our just condemnation (Isa. 53:5). Servants love Jesus for his great sacrificial love loved them when they were so very unlovely (Rom. 5:8). Therefore, Christ-centered servants want to serve like Jesus: unconditionally giving love and blessing to others (Mark 10:45).

We shall see more clearly our calling when we understand that we are servants of One who was Himself willing to be a servant.

How do Christ-centered servants serve? We serve out heart gladness knowing that his grace enables us to lay down our lives for others. Christ-centered servants serve unselfishly: their hearts have been transformed by the Cross. Christ-centered servants desire to work for things that will last for eternity. For that reason, they choose a life of service without hesitation or equivocation. They live not for money, sex, and power, but for God, his people, and his kingdom (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

When do servants serve? Servants do not wait to be seen. They give of themselves without concern for praise or attention.

Where do God’s servants serve? They serve anywhere. Christ-centered servants are not concerned about formal ministry positions: they overflow with the life of Jesus wherever the Lord places them.

This, then, is the Way of the Cross. It is the way that God’s lowly Bondservant first trod for us, and should not we, the bondservants of that Bondservant, tread it still? Does it seem hard and forbidding, this way down? Be assured, it is the only way up. It was the way by which the Lord Jesus reached the Throne, and it is the way by which we, too, reach the place of spiritual power, authority and fruitfulness. Those who tread this path are radiant, happy souls, overflowing with the life of their Lord.

Roy Hession, The Calvary Road (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1950), 94.

Servants serve because that is what servants do. Servants do not worry about being used because they know that the Lord is their protector. Servants know that God is always watching. Servants believe that God sees their efforts and will honor their work. Christ-centered servants live to hear these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21, 23). Servants do not condemn others for not serving: they know that except for God’s great grace, they would be self-absorbed, too. Servants want to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.

Servants live lives of joy and fulfillment. The Lord refreshes their spirits and they live for the joy of basking in his pleasure.

Oh Lord, help us to serve as you served: willingly, unselfishly, and graciously.

From his incarnation to his reign at the Father’s right hand, Jesus is not only the Lord who became the servant, but the servant who is Lord and continues even in this exalted state to serve his Father’s will and his people’s good. From eternity to eternity, he offers his ‘Here I am’ to the Father on behalf of those who have gone their own way. For now, Christ reigns in grace; when he returns in judgment and vindication, his kingdom will be consummated in everlasting glory.

Michael Horton, The Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 533.

HT: Of First Importance

 

Reformed Catholicity

Posted by on 27 May 2011 | Tagged as: Catholicity, Church, John Calvin

Catholic Not Roman Catholic

If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

1 Tim. 3:16

Catholicity was and is a mark of both the true church and the embodiment of truthful doctrine, both catholicity and the church catholic are considered one and the same. The church catholic is not confined to a particular location, but every local church is a full expression of the entire church. The church catholic is not limited by time: it indestructibly moving through the centuries by the power of the Spirit defeating all its foes. The church catholics’ membership is comprised of those who have trusted in Christ: both those who have died in Christ and those who are currently serving Christ in this life.

Distinctive doctrines of the church catholic include apostolic succession, episcopacy, Eucharistic life, liturgical worship, Trinitarian faith, sacramental worldview, and creedal commitment. Catholicity is Spirit empowered, Christ exalting, and liturgically centered: thereby, charismatic, evangelical and sacramental.

Patristics scholar, D.H. Williams defines further, “Genuine catholicity is that which pertains to everything necessary for the justification and sanctification of the believer. It is a wholeness of faith that offers the complete counsel of God to all people in all times and places.” [D. H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 225.]

What would it look like to restore the Trinitarian core to Reformed Christianity? Such a Christianity would understand that the gospel itself has a Trinitarian logic: as sinners, it is not until we encounter Jesus Christ that we know that God is a gracious Father who pardons our sin; by faith, we are united to Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, who forms us deeper and deeper into the image of Christ. When we come together for worship, we are not simply giving God his “due,” or acting in obedience to the divine command (though we are also doing that), we are encountering life as it really is: we are sinners who find ourselves gratuitously adopted, freely taken by God, filled with the Spirit, participating in Christ. We confess our sins, receive the nourishment of the Word and Sacrament, and go out to love God and neighbor in gratitude. In all of these, we are empowered by the Spirit to partake of Christ, to encounter a gracious, pardoning Father and simultaneously go and serve the neighbor and the stranger.

J. Todd Billings, “The Promise of Catholic Calvinism”

 

 

 

The Way Things Are Supposed to Be

Posted by on 25 May 2011 | Tagged as: Sin

Shalom

But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

2 Peter 3:13 NLT

Shalom is peace: a rest and repose of the heart that knocks out all disturbing and disruptive forces which would steal our fulfillment in Christ. Peace is an deep, inner sense of contentment supplied by God. This peace pervades our beings when we hold steady trusting the faithfulness of our heavenly Father.

We receive Christ’s peace for he is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) into the deepest recesses of my spirit. We have peace with God through faith in his shed blood (Rom. 5:1), which establishes peace with others (Eph. 2:14), while freeing us to trust his peace (Isa. 26:3), and as a result, we can now walk in peace in the midst of our greatest needs (Phil. 4:7). At the Second Coming of Christ the whole world will experience God’s peace for all the fallout from the Fall will have been fully redeemed by the Cross of Christ.

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. In English we call it peace, but it means far more than just peace of mind or ceasefire between enemies. In the Bible shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as the creator and savior opens doors and speaks welcome to the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things are supposed to be.

Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Sin: Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be

 

 

Faith Is God’s Work in Us

Posted by on 24 May 2011 | Tagged as: Faith, Good Works, Justification, Martin Luther

Faith

And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.

Acts 15:8-9

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for us in Christ. Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing God’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning. Faith ignores bad circumstances, negative feelings, or discouraging thoughts to stand on God’s word and walk in his ways (Isa. 55:8-9). In short, faith simply believes what God says is true.

True faith passively receives the benefits of Christ’s victory on the cross resulting in active obedience to Christ’s commands and acquiescence to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Saving faith does not involve meriting salvation by human work. However, genuine faith will bear good fruit: an expression of the life of Christ in us. Good deeds are not the foundation of our acceptance with God, but the correct response and fruit of a living relationship with him.

Faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith.

Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.

Martin Luther, Martin Luther’s Definition of Faith: An Excerpt, “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522.

 

 

An Affront to God

Posted by on 21 May 2011 | Tagged as: Jerry Bridges, Sin

 

Sin: It Was Not Meant To Be

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

James 4:17 NLT

Every sin of yours and mine is an affront to God.

Our sin is an assault on God’s authority: We don’t want to do what God says.

Our sin is an assault on God’s character: We don’t want to be like God.

Our sin is an assault on God’s Word: We don’t believe that what God says is true.

Our sin is an assault on God’s love: We don’t trust that God has our best interest at heart.

What is our essential problem? Is it our parents, our economic backgrounds, our upbringing, our circumstances, our jobs? No, our greatest problem is us. That great trinity of me, myself and I. Our own selfishness, our own desire to be first and foremost, our own self-absorption, our self-concern, and our self-conceit. Our rebellion towards God and distaste for his Lordship over our lives.

Sin is selfishness evidenced through our willful thoughts, words, or actions. Sin involves a choice in which we consider ourselves more important than God and others. The foundation of all sin is the selfishness.

Sins of commission: We act purposefully for selfish reasons. Sins of omission: We avoid doing what is right for selfish reasons. Sins of ignorance: We choose to be ignorant of what we should or should not do for selfish reasons. Sin is turning the world upside down by living as if the world should revolve around us.

Above all, when we think the curse for violating God’s Law is too severe, it’s because we don’t understand God or the nature of sin. God is transcendent in his majesty and sovereign in his authority.

In effect we’re saying, “I don’t care what You say; I’ll do as I please.” Furthermore, God has commanded us to be holy as He is holy. Therefore, each sin is an insult to His character. It’s as if we’re telling God, “I don’t want to be like You.” Think what a rebellious affront it would be for a child to say that to his parent.

Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day-by-Day (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 123.

Walking in the Spirit

Posted by on 19 May 2011 | Tagged as: Christ in You, Watchman Nee

Keep in Step with the Spirit

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

Gal. 5:16 NASB

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

Gal. 5:16 NLT

Walking in the Spirit is finding Christ more beautiful and desirable than any worldly attraction, fleshly indulgence, or sinful desire.  Walking in the Spirit is enjoying the constant, conscious presence of Christ day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute. Walking in the Spirit imbibes the grace of God as the power of God to overcome the world, flesh, and devil.

“To keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25 NIV) means being so satisfied in God’s great grace and unfathomable love that we are freed from the idols of self. Walking in the Spirit is preferring God’s will over and against the fleeting, false promises of this life. Eternity is valued higher than the passing pleasures of this life as we are led by the Spirit.

When we walk in the Spirit . . .

The Holy Spirit changes our motivation: we yearn for holiness instead of demanding our wants and desires to be met now.

The Holy Spirit frees our hearts from the fear of retribution for our sins.  In its place, the Spirit gives us hearts that yearn to please our heavenly Father.

The Holy Spirit renews our hearts to prefer and refer everything in our lives to the power of God and his holiness.

Living in the Spirit means that I trust the Holy Spirit to do in me what I cannot do myself. This life is completely different from the life I would naturally live of myself. Each time I am faced with a new demand from the Lord, I look to Him to do in me what He requires of me. It is not a case of trying but of trusting; not of struggling but of resting in Him.

If I have a hasty temper, impure thoughts, a quick tongue or a critical spirit, I shall not set out with a determined effort to change myself, but, reckoning myself dead in Christ to these things, I shall look to the Spirit of God to produce in me the needed purity or humility or meekness. This is what it means to “stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you” (Exod. 14:13).

Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1957), 176.

 

The Sabbath Rest of God

Posted by on 16 May 2011 | Tagged as: J. C. Ryle, Sabbath Rest

 

Resting From Your Works

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Heb. 4:9-10

The Sabbath Rest of God operates on two levels. First, the New Testament reserves Sunday as the designated time for corporate worship, but Sunday is not a new Sabbath with regulations and prohibitions. We know from Rev. 1:10 and 1 Cor. 16:2 that the earliest church moved their corporate worship time from the Sabbath (Friday night) to Sunday, the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is the day of resurrection. Therefore, the church is called to celebrate Jesus victory over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil as her central focus in praise and worship.

Second, the New Testament teaches that the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8) is ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Now for believers, our Sabbath is internal rest that we can experience every day, all day.

The Sabbath Rest of God is experiencing by faith God’s adequacy and faithfulness in every life situation resulting in freedom from worry, anxiety, and care. This rest is not passivity, inactivity, or idleness. Rest is experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit lifting us up to Jesus in the midst of all our earthly fears and worldly burdens. New Testament rest is the peace of Christ, confidence in God’s covenant promise, and assurance in the Holy Spirit’s keeping power.

The two key verses for this New Covenant understanding of rest is Col. 2:16 and Heb. 4:8-10. The ESV Study Bible states, “the Sabbath rest remains possible for God’s people to enter even now, in this life (v. 9). The promise of entering now into this rest means ceasing from the spiritual strivings that reflect uncertainty about one’s final destiny; it means enjoyment of being established in the presence of God, to share in the everlasting joy that God entered when he rested on the seventh day (v. 10).”

Last, as believers we are no longer bound by law to keep Friday night as a day of obligation in worship, but we are bound to trust Christ by faith to be the adequacy of God in us.

The rest that Christ gives is an inward and spiritual thing. It is rest of heart, rest of conscience, rest of mind, rest of affection, rest of will. It is rest, from a comfortable sense of sins being all forgiven and guilt all put away. It is rest, from a solid hope of good things to come, laid up beyond the reach of disease, death and the grave. It is rest, from the well-grounded feeling, that the great business of life is settled, its great end provided for, that in time all is well done, and in eternity heaven will be our home.

J.C. Ryle, Old Paths (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1999), 368.

HT: J. C. Ryle Quotes

Where God Is Found

Posted by on 14 May 2011 | Tagged as: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cross

At the Cross of Christ

When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

Luke 23:33 NLT

The Cross of Christ is the great act of Jesus in dying for our sins, being buried in the tomb, rising from the dead, baptizing with the Holy Spirit, and ascending to the Father. The Cross of Christ is our victory, our repentance, our hope, and our call. God is found at the Cross for there  his justice and mercy meet. His blood brings reconciliation. His innocent life spent is the sacrifice for our grave and malicious sins. His stripes bring healing to our souls, forgiveness to our spirits, and life to our bodies. God is found at the Cross: this place of humiliation is where the poor in spirit see God.

If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ.

And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 137.

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