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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
 
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Thursday, April 05, 2018
T4G - Together for the Gospel
I will be attending T4G this year with my lovely wife, the other pastors from my church along with several good friends from the congregation. 

I'll be arriving in Louisville late Monday night, and will be staying at the Galt House.

Since my wife is coming with me, we will probably be doing the tourist thing on Tuesday.  Wouldn't mind seeing that big old arc, and checking out the zoo. 

If anyone reading this is going - give me a shout in the comments.  I know I don't get much traffic anymore, but you never know.
posted by Daniel @ 8:44 AM   0 comment(s)
Wednesday, April 04, 2018
Resurrection Sunday - April 1, 2018
I had the privilege to preach a message this past Sunday on the significance of our Lord's resurrection.

I'd post more, but I'm pressed for time.  Let me know if you gave it a listen.
posted by Daniel @ 9:49 AM   1 comment(s)
Thursday, February 01, 2018
Hebrews 8 - Part I
This seems like a good place to start:
 For when the priesthood is changed of necessity there takes place a change of law also
- Hebrews 7:12 [NASB].   
Essentially the author of Hebrews is saying "B necessarily follows A".  I'll plug in the values shortly...

Recall that the Levitical Priesthood was established on Mt. Sinai after God delivered the descendants of Israel from captivity in Egypt.  It was there that Moses received, on behalf of all Israel, the rules and regulations which defined God's Covenant with Israel - including the laws associated with who could become a Levitical priest, and who could become a High Priest.

In the sermon on the mount, our Lord makes it clear that the Law (given to Israel on Sinai) cannot and will not be changed: "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished" - Matthew 5:18 [NASB].

As the Melchizedekian priesthood is neither defined nor regulated by the Old (i.e. Mosaic) Covenant, it follows that if Christ is a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek, that his High Priesthood would in a similar way be outside the jurisdiction of the Old Covenant Laws.

Hence, if A (Christ is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek), then B (the Old Covenant laws do not, and cannot apply to Christ's priesthood ).

The author at this point is gearing up to explain Christ's ministry in the only context it which it can be explained: in the context of the previously promised New Covenant.

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Jeremiah 31:31-34 [NASB]

posted by Daniel @ 2:12 PM   0 comment(s)
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
T4G 2018
Last night a group of us who are going to T4G - i.e. the Together for the Gospel conference this coming April, met to register, book our flights, and decide upon accommodations together.

Myself and my friend Dan decided during the 2016 conference that we ought to do whatever we could to bring our wives the next time we went to the conference.  I began upon our return to set aside a little money every month in order to have the funds I would need to bring my wife along with me the next time we went.  Though I am an associate pastor, I am not on salary, and our humble budget runs too far in the humble department to provide for anyone but our Senior pastor to go on the trip.  Thankfully with planning and and frugal living, we'll be able to go.

Last time we went, there were four of us, myself, Dan, his son Joel - who is the other associate pastor, and a friend of our also named Dan (Yes, three Dan's and a Joel).  The third Dan wasn't available to meet with the rest of us last night, but I believe he intends to join us along with one or more of his son's, and possibly his wife.  Likewise our friend Lora from church - a worship leader who is cooler than all of us put together, and can really, really sing nice, as well as play the guitar - is coming also, along with a couple we've known from our previous church, Adam and Mel, who will be driving, and friend of Joel's I haven't met named Mark, who couldn't make the meeting either, but who will be travelling with us.   Adam and Mel will be driving down to Kentucky, with Lora, but the rest of us booked flights.

Being Canadian, we were all able to take advantage of the International attendant pricing for the conference, which was further reduced because we registered as "early birds".  All that was left was to settle on our accommodations.

The last time we were there we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on South 4th Street, near the local Hard Rock Cafe.  Our stay there had been pleasant enough, but the hotel was just far enough away from the conference to make lunch hours very tight.  So we wanted to try for the Galt House hotel this time.  My wife and I booked an executive suite at the Galt House, as did my friend Dan and his wife Kathy.  Joel also booked a room for himself and his friend Mark (or was it Mike? Bah, I'll find out sooner or later).  Adam and Mel, because they will be driving, booked at the Best Western a few miles away, but Lora will alternate one night with my wife and I, and the next with Dan and Kathy.

We arrive Monday evening, and are planning on taking a day trip on Tuesday to see the Ark.  It's about an hour and a half drive each way, so we'll probably leave early in the morning.  It'd be nice if there was a shuttle that went out, but I haven't found anything like that.  We'll probably rent a van for the day.

If any of my online friends plan to attend, let me know - it'd be great to get together  (for the gospel!)

I know I am already stoked about the conference!



posted by Daniel @ 8:11 AM   3 comment(s)
Friday, July 28, 2017
John 3:16
ουτως γαρ ηγαπησεν ο θεος τον κοσμον ωστε τον υιον τον μονογενη εδωκεν ινα πας ο πιστευων εις αυτον μη απολλυηται αλλα εχη ζωην αιωνιον - John 3:16
My old mentor was leery of any pastor who would "go to the Greek" whenever something in the English didn't satisfy the particular nuance he felt was, or ought to be in a verse.  Most people don't study biblical Greek, so the moment you "go to the Greek" to clarify a text, you are doing one of two things - you are expounding upon the full flavor of the word (in it's particular usage) to flesh out (for the English ear) what the Greek ear would have heard, but which may not be being represented fully by a single English word or phrase.  Alternately, you're going to the Greek because a passage may be translated in more than one way - with more than one meaning - in English - and the decision of which translation to go with is informed by the context, and often by one's own theological (as opposed to hermeneutical) framework.

If you're my age, and spent any time in Sunday School as a youth - you've probably been asked to memorize either the New International or New King James translation of this passage.  Today you might also be asked to memorize the verse, but a lot of churches are using the English Standard Version or the New American Standard Bible for memorizing verses.  So I'll present those here to compare them with one another:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [NIV]

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. [NKJV]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [ESV]

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. [NASB]
The biggest difference we see in these translations is how they translate the Greek adjective that modifies the word "Son".  Jesus is alternately God's one and only Son as the NIV translates the word.  He is God's only begotten Son in both the NKJV and the NASB, and he is simply God's only Son in the ESV.

The word is used elsewhere in the New Testament to describe an only child. The son of the widow at Nain (Luke 7:12) was the widow's only son.  The daughter of Jarius (Luke 8:42) and the demon possessed boy in Luke 9:38 is likewise the man's only son.

But it is the use in Hebrews 11:17 that gives us, I think, the most insight into the way this adjective could be used.  In this verse, Isaac is called the monogenes son of Abraham.  But you will recall that Abraham had already fathered a son (Ishmael) through Hagar.  Obviously Isaac is neither only son of Abraham, nor the "one and only" son of Abraham.

Monogenes was used in three ways to describe one's child, either from the unique perspective of the father, the unique perspective of the mother, or the unique combination of the mother and father:

  • Abraham's perspective: He had two sons, Ishmael (from Hagar) and Isaac from Sarah.
  • Hagar's perspective: She had one son, (Ishmael)
  • Sarah's perspective: She had one son (Isaac)
  • Abraham + Hagar: They had one son together (Ishmael)
  • Abraham + Sarah: They had one son together (Isaac)

The text of Hebrews 11:17, describes Isaac as Abraham's monogenes son - but Isaac was by no means Abraham's only (physical) son.  Even though it would be a lot easier to interpret the meaning of this verse by ignoring the fact that the writer is describing this relationship entirely from Abraham's perspective by assuming the author mentions Abraham but intends in doing so to suggest a more compatible relationships (i.e. from the perspective of, say Abraham and Sarah together); I'd rather not rest on an interpretation that requires me to "correct" an assumed imprecision in the original text.

The Greek word monogenes is a compound word that combines mono (only) and genos (birth/kind). We don't really have a lot of trouble with the concept of something being the only representative of its kind, but we might not understand the idea of how "birth" could fit into the semantic range of a word like genos.  In the book of Genesis (Genesis itself means origin, creation, or generation - i.e. that which is generated or born), the word genos is used (c.f. Genesis 1:24-25 for example) to describe the things God had created as having the capacity in themselves to procreate after their own kind (genos) - giving birth to something that is uniquely like themselves.  Cows beget baby cows, and sheep beget lambs.  Each "begetting" new life according to its kind (genos).

Hence older lexicons define monogenes as "only begotten" rather than as "only kind", - this because compounds adverbs that use with genes as one of the words are used to describe the nature rather than the source of their derivation.

Following this understanding, monegenes ought to translated in a way that captures the nature (begetting) rather than the source (kind) of the relationship.  We might translate it fully, though awkardly in English as the "only begotten kind" of something.

Going back to Hebrews 11:17 - Isaac isn't the only son of Abraham, but he -is- the only son of Abraham's who would be inherit God's promise to Abraham.  That this very promise is mentioned in that verse suggests to me that the author intended to convey the message that Isaac was the only son born of Abraham's faith in the promise of God.

We know from Hebrews 11:19 that Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac because he was utterly convinced that in order for God to keep His to him (i.e. through Isaac Abraham's descendants would be named) God would have to raise up Isaac in order to keep His promise to Abraham.  Abraham trusted God that much.

Well, we know the rest of the story - as Isaac was about to plunge the knife into his son, and angel stopped his hand, and lo - God provided a sacrifice in his son's stead.  Abraham called that place Jehovah Jireh - God will provide - and that all happened on a particular mountain in the mountain range named Moriah (c.f. Genesis 22:2), which is probably the same Moriah mentioned in 2 Chronicles 3:1 - where Solomon built the first Temple at Jerusalem.

As an aside, no Christian should ignore the import of the imagery we are discussing here.  Abraham was willing (on the strength of his trust in God's promise) - to offer up to God's the very son through whom God had promised to bless him.  This is exactly what God would do with Christ - offer up His own Son (Jesus Christ) through whom God's promise to Abraham would ultimately be fulfilled.  There on likely the very spot where the temple itself was built - was the Holy of Holies - were God's presence was understood by way of God's covenant with Israel - to remain - above the mercy seat which rested atop the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies.  Do not forget how that great curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was torn in two in the moment of our Lord's greatest accomplishment (His death) - where before the actual throne of God in heaven the pouring out of Christ's life expiated God's wrath towards all those who are in Christ through faith.  As the way was opened in heaven, so the symbols upon the earth reflected it - in the tearing asunder of that great curtain that separated men from God.

Not withstanding, when we look again at John 3:16, we must ask ourselves, what does John intend to convey in using the word monogenes to describe the son-ship of Christ?

Where normally I prefer the ESV translation, in this case I find it wanting - for if John had intended to say convey the meaning that God had had only one Son - Jesus - he needed bother using such a specialized compound word as monogenes to say such.  Recall that John was a fisherman - his writing style and grammar are simple compared to other writers in the New Testament.  New students of biblical Greek are often made to begin reading John's writings for this very fact - they are less complicated grammatically than more the more learned writings of men like Luke and Paul.  I am compelled on this point to believe that John would not only have been aware of a more simple way to say that Jesus was God's only Son, if that is all he intended to convey here.

That being my understanding - it follows that he chose this word to convey something more than that - which is why I feel the ESV's translation here is the least nuanced of the ones quoted above - and as such it is also the least precise.  Don't get me wrong - in recent years there seems to be something of a silent revision going on when it comes to the notion of Christ being the only begotten son of God.  I can only postulate that new scholars have been ingesting the philosophies of relativism since the cradle.  What scholar, having unconsciously imbibed such a bias for the whole of his or her life will not want to step back from the former generation who collectively spoke to these matters in a way so narrow and precise it leaves no room for anyone with a contrary "truth" to be considered right.

It is not stretch for me to say that when scholarship becomes more scholarly, it doesn't necessarily become more true.  There is an army of biblical scholars coming out of a large network of liberal seminaries all convinced from their education - such as it is - that homosexuality is no longer a sin, and never really was, convinced that women can and should be pastors, convinced that God has evolved into a better God than the previous Old Testament God.  These are not B-team scholars - these are the best of their best - the movers and shakers, the people selling books increasing their influence in the world.

Maybe the reason that those lexicons which today are backing away from their former handling of monogenes is because we've been getting it wrong for a couple of thousand years.  But I am inclined to give the benefit of the doubt, not to those who are rewriting what the church has believed for millennia, but rather with those who instead are alarmed by this trend.

That brings us back to the text of John 3:16.

Dismissing the ESV's translation of monogenes, I move onto the NIV translation  "one and only".

This meaning falls apart harder in Hebrews 11:17, than the ESV translation.  From Abraham's perspective - which is the perspective in that context - there is no way that Isaac is his one and only son.  He is the one and only son born as the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham - but that is not only not hinted at in this rendering - it is rather denied as the natural reader will associate the uniqueness implied by "one and only" with the son-ship itself rather than the nature of that son-ship.

That Jesus (in our text) is the one and only son of God is certainly true - but the question isn't whether the words that appear in this text are true in and of themselves.  If our translation injected the adjective "male" the noun "Son" - it would certainly be true - but that doesn't mean it is what the text is saying.

That leaves us with the NASB and NKJV translations which tell us that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God.  This translation - which I think is the best of the ones supplied here - means that Jesus is the only son of God's kind.

I want that to sink in.  God did not create or make Jesus.

So what do I mean when I say begotten?

Let's start with this: God is (and has always been) a spirit.  When we think of Fathering someone, it involves a chronological order - because we are created beings who exist in God's creation.  Part of that creation is "time" - and we move through in such a way that every child is preceded in time by their parent.  So it is quite natural for us to think (from a chronological perspective) that if God is the Father of Jesus, that means That God came first, and Jesus came some time after that.  That is how our concept of being a parent works.

But God is not bound by time in that way, because He exists apart from it.  Time is part of creation, and neither God nor His Son are bound by those laws that they knit into creation.  It other words, when Jesus tells us that God is heavenly Father, we shouldn't anthropomorphize that into something that requires God the father to exist in isolation at some point, and then produce Jesus at another point, after which they both exist eternally.  That doesn't make sense because chronological concepts like before and after have no meaning in a reality wherein time itself does not exist.

So when we say that God is the Father and Jesus the Son, we are not suggesting that God brought Jesus into being, or that Jesus did not exist at some point with God.  What we are doing is taking what the scriptures say, and trying to understand them properly, given that the bible tells us that we are created, and God is not.

When we say that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, we mean that God and Jesus are both of the same kind - both are not just equally divine, both rather the are each full partakers of the same divinity.  God the Father is not "more" God than Jesus, nor is God the Father a different God than Jesus.  God did not bring Jesus into being - but the relationship between these two persons (in the Triune Godhead) is that God the Father (eternally) begets Christ the Son.

In other words God has always been the Father, Christ has always been the Son.  The relationship is an anthropomorphism, as God the Father is a Spirit, and Jesus the Son is both a Spirit in eternity, a man who lived and died within the envelope of this creation - and is now the resurrected God-Man who is presently sitting at God's right hand - making intercession for His saints until God the Father places all of Christ the Son's enemies beneath Christ's feet.

For our purposes in John 3:16  - the apostle sums up in this one adjective what he laid out at the very start of His gospel - that Jesus was with God the Father in the beginning, and that Jesus was and is the same God, though not the same person.

If you get nothing else from this post - remember cats beget cats, and cows beget cows - and God begets God.  God did not beget Adam - he created Adam.  The word son, to the writers of scriptures, did not almost mean of the same flesh - but often meant of the same substance or kind.  We are sons of Abraham, not because we are physically descended, but because we have the same kind of faith.  The Pharisees and scribes who rejected Christ were sons of the devil - not physical sons but like the devil they rejected God's plan to go with their own.  Jesus explains in Matthew 12:50For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

Such usage at the time ought to inform our understanding of what John meant by referring to Christ as the only begotten Son of God - whatever was meant in this term that describes kinship - the kinship certainly included a similitude in purpose and thought; a likeness that further respects the full partaking of  the exact same divine nature - and that without division or diminishment.

There are two other words I wanted to address in the passage - the words, "so" and "world".

So

Oὕτως, (outos) the Greek adverb that is translated above in John 3:16 as "so" in "for God so loved the world" either expresses degree (soooo much) or manner ("just so", or "in this way") or both.  Without going into how the word translated as love is in the indicative, and how that affects our understanding, it is enough to say that the third option - where both the manner and the degree are intended - is probably the best approach for translating this word.

Unfortunately, the English word, "so" doesn't show us that John is really telling us that this is how God loved the world - it rather just suggest that God really, really loved the world - which confuses the meaning the author likely intended.

The best renditions I've seen follow the most common usage, with the understanding that the other usage is implied.
"For God loved the world in this way: He gave... etc"
If a translation is going to state one of these two aspects more clearly than the other - all things being equal - the most common rendering (describing manner rather than degree) ought to be the one we use.

I am persuaded however by the context, given that Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about the manner in which we are saved - that this is the clear and obvious purpose of this discussion - it follows that when our Lord has an opportunity to explain that God saves "in this way" in a conversation that is about "how God saves" - we should probably assume that Jesus intends to say, "in this way" - rather than that painting this verse as though Jesus was spontaneously talking about how much God loves us ("thiiiiiis much!").

God does love us, and that love is most clearly put on display in laying down your life for your friends, as our Lord himself explained to his closest disciples in John 15:13 (c.f. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends).   Paul likewise tells us the same in Romans 5:8, (c.f. but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.) - both verses leave the magnitude of God's as testified fully in the naked reality of just how far God has gone to demonstrate that love.  Neither of these other passages require an adverb to inflate the "bigness" of that love - and I wonder that if Christ was ever of the persuasion to inflate that love - why he would fail to do so when speaking to his disciples in John 15 about... basically how much God loves them and will care for them - but would put that meaning into his discussion with Nicodemus - who came for the very instruction ("how") that Christ was giving to him.

For me, even though the adverb in John 3:16 can mean manner, degree, or both.  I think our Lord intended in that verse to portray only the manner in which God saves us.  That fits the context, and it fits the fact that our Lord doesn't inflate his language on this point anywhere else - especially where one would expect him to do so if this was something that His message needed.

Yes, that means that I don't believe the our Lord was saying that God loved the world soooo much that he gave his only begotten son.

World

That the word κοσμον (Kosmos) translates as "world".  I don't read to much into that.  God loves his enemies, so that whether you're an enemy of God or not - God loves you.    Since I don't believe the text is saying "God loved the world so much that he have his only begotten son" but rather that our Lord was telling Nicodemus that his understanding of the way God loved the world (by blessing the those who keep the law with long life and wealth, for instance) was entirely wrong - that that was not the way God shows love.  This is how God loves the world - he sent his only begotten son Jesus so that whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish, but have everlasting life.


posted by Daniel @ 2:31 PM   2 comment(s)
Thursday, July 27, 2017
He has given us His Spirit
1 John 4:13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit [ESV]
Yesterday I explored 1 John 2:3-6, which speaks of one of the ways that we can know that we have come to know Christ: We are a witness to the obedience that Christ produces in us.  If we do not have this witness, we do not know Christ.

Here John gives us another way of ascertaining whether or not we truly know Christ: the presence (or absence) of the Spirit of Christ within us.

John does not teach that we have come to know Christ because we can somehow "sense" the Spirit of Christ within us.  His presence is not sensual (i.e. not something perceived by/through the senses). Our senses are natural and can only sense the natural, but His presence is spiritual.  Our senses do not  and cannot register the presence of the Spirit of Christ in a believer.

How then are we to know that we have the Spirit of Christ in us?

The answer is right in this chapter - and ends up being a very easy, and quite practical test of whether or not the Spirit of Christ is in you.  Consider the truth of this statement, which precedes the quote above by a few verses:
1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. [ESV]
In this text, we are told that the love that we are to have for one another is not something we generate, it is something that comes from God - such that John can say (and does say) that those who love one another know God, and those that do not, do not know God.

The word love is not describing the kind of affection our culture uses the (English) word love to describe.  The text is not saying having an affection for other people comes from God.  Love may be accompanied by affection, but it neither requires it nor depends upon it.  The word for love does not describe an emotion - it describes a state of being.  God is not "affection" but He is selflessly charitable - which is the better meaning behind the word.

The test here is not whether or not you feel affection one another - but whether or not you are selflessly charitable to one another - regardless of how you "feel".  This kind of love comes only from God.

Consider the secular mindset when it comes to love.  Love is the deepest, most sacred affection.  You are willing to die for someone else because of it.  The question is why?  Well, because you really, really, want to.  Why do you want to?  Because you really, really like that person.  You like them so much that it would hurt you to see them hurt - you'd rather hurt yourself than have them hurt.

Guess what? That is all (beginning to end) selfishness.  Oh what great things we can coax ourselves to do because we selfishly are driven to avoid our own emotional pain.  We want others to feel good because that makes us feel good - and we want to feel good, which is why we pursue it.  If my motive (in whole or in part) is to avoid something personally unpleasant - or to experience some emotional satisfaction in seeing the results of my efforts - I am not acting selflessly - I am working to produce the effect I desire, by doing what it takes to produce that effect - and whatever benefit anyone else gets from the effort - I ultimately benefit too - and I am motivated to do it, at the root level, by the benefit I see in doing it.

The man who, planning a sweet surprise for his wife, arrives at home a few minutes before his wife is due, and rushes to place on the table, in view of the door, her favorite ice cream treat - that she is about to see when she comes home.  That man may think he is serving his wife, but let her come home an hour late without a phone call - and we see what is really going on.  As the minutes tick the husband begins to wonder where she is.  Why isn't she home?  He begins to get frustrated - even angry as the ice cream melts, and the minutes tick by.  When she walks through the door an hour late, she doesn't find the man who was waiting to surprise her for the joy of her surprise - we find an angry man whose surprise was "ruined" by her tardiness, who wants to blame her for ruining "his" surprise.

Selfishness is often dressed up as selflessness if in serving ourselves we serve others.  But love in the sense the Apostle is writing about is like that which Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a,
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." [ESV]
According to Paul (in the same passage) people could give away all their wealth and possessions - which would seem to be a selfless act of genuine love - but even such a thing as this could be done without love - that is, it could be done to serve yourself in some way.  Even choosing to sacrifice your own life could be done without the love that Paul was writing about - and that John (in our text) is likewise describing.

Acts of selflessness spring from the Spirit of Christ within us, like "living" water from an artesian well.  You don't draw water out of an artesian well - it is a spring that pours water out apart from any effort of your own.  Since it does not originate in you, but in the Spirit of Christ, it is not something you muster up - it is something that you respond to.  You're provoked by the Spirit of Christ within you to act - and the provocation is entirely alien to the "you" that you are at your core.

You're walking down the street and you see what looks to be a drunk sleeping face down in a pool of his own vomit.  He is injured, and bloody, but you think - serves him right, he's a drunkard, and nothing I do for him now is going to change anything.  He'll probably be violent if I wake him.  I may  get some of his blood or vomit on me if I wake him.  There are other people around, one of them will check in on him - and you walk by - but somewhere inside you are provoked.  Nothing about helping this person is inviting to your character, yet you feel a compulsion - which your character does its best to souse - to stop and see that all is well.

Helping when you are not going to get anything out of it - is what it means when Paul writes that love does not seek its own.

Our Lord used such an example in describing what it means to "love" your neighbor.  There was no great affection for the man laying on the side of the road in either of those men who found themselves a witness to the man's needs that day.  Not one of the three men in our Lord's parable was provoked by an affection for the man in need.  But one man acted in love when he regarded the man as he would have regarded himself - and did for him what he would have done for himself had he found himself lying on the side of the road.  That kind of love does not come from us - it comes from God.

That is what John tells us.  If you find that kind of love in you, motivating you (however successful) to act, it is the love of God (i.e. God's love) in you through the Spirit of Christ - and it bears witness to the presence of Christ's Spirit in you.

If this isn't in you, then you don't know Christ, regardless of whatever you call yourself or whatever your faith means to you.

One word of caution: No one is perfectly consistent in loving others.  We are still sinners, even though Christ is in us.  That means that on one day the love of God in the Spirit of Christ within us may find some perfect expression in our willing obedience - but on other days, in our immaturity we may suppress our Lord's love within us as we capitulate to those sinful desires that remain within us.

Someone in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells ( i.e. a genuine Christian) is marked not by perfect success (but certainly by some success), in the same way that a good soldier is not marked by perfect success on the battlefield, but by holding their ground, and pressing onward no matter how poorly the battle is going.  Christians do not abandon the war against sin in their life, because Christ in them does not  - and cannot abandon that war.  The person who abandons the war against sin, is not a Christian, and never was.

That is what it mean to have the Spirit of Christ - it means we have the Spirit of Him who over came both sin and death in this world.  Just as the man dressed in a life preserver may be swamped by the waves of the tempest he endures - yet no matter how many times he is thrust beneath the surface, yet on account of that which is preserving his life - he surfaces again and again - not because of his own strength, but because He is clothed in someone who has overcome death, death no longer has dominion over him.  Though he falls a dozen times, he rises again.

posted by Daniel @ 9:27 AM   0 comment(s)
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Obedience to the Lord
In 1 John 2:3-6 we read:
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. [ESV]
Not sure you're a Christian?  Here is the acid test: Are you keeping what Christ has commanded?

It (morbidly) fascinates me how many readers consider themselves to be sufficiently keeping the commandments (plural) of Christ - who couldn't name even a half dozen of our Lord's commandments off the top of their head.

Make no mistake, John wants to assure his readers that they are Christian - but John doesn't lay as a foundation of their assurance such fluffy nothings as having earnestly prayed a prayer, or having assented to the truths of the gospel.  Believing that the gospel is true doesn't save anyone - that just means they've been enlightened.  Judas was certainly enlightened - but that enlightenment didn't mean he was saved.  You also may be enlightened - that is, you may believe wholeheartedly that Jesus is the Messiah, and that salvation can only be found in Him.  That is certainly the good news that leads to salvation - but salvation isn't had simply by acknowledging the news to be true.

The assurance John directs us to look for is practical - are we obeying Christ or not?  If not, we aren't Christians.

Can you (off hand) name even a dozen things Christ commands in the New Testament?  This isn't a school test - but good gravy - how can you know if you're obeying Christ's commands if you can't even name a few?

To help you out, let's go over a few.

Christ commands you to Repent:
Matthew 4:17: From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. [ESV]

Luke 13:3: No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. [ESV]
The word translated from the Greek into English as repent literally means to change your thinking and/or behavior.  The problem with that definition is that most people stop with that and think that all you need to do in order to repent is change your thinking and/or behavior.

But the repentance our Lord calls us to, is not a change in thinking or behavior "in general"- it is a very specific call to repentance - the call is for sinners to repent (c.f. Luke 5:32).

If we were not so collectively sluggish in our understanding, I could probably leave it at that - but a great many people out there think of sin as "doing something  bad" rather than, "rebelling against God's rule over them" - so that when they see that sinners are "called to repent" - they conclude that Jesus commands them to "change their thinking and behavior" about doing bad things, and thus start doing good things.

But because sin is rebellion against God - the repentance you and I are called to is one that involves changing our thinking and behavior as it pertains to God's rule over us.  Said simply, the repentance that we are called to is a radical departure from our former way of life - where we did whatever seemed right to us - now we are called to not only know the will of God (c.f. Ephesians 5:18) but to do seek it out and to do it.

Any Christian who neglects this call to an ongoing life of repenting - that is a life of learning from the scriptures what God requires of us, and committing ourselves with our whole heart to doing his will over and against (i.e. instead of) our own will - is by no means keeping this (foundational!) command of Christ.

This next command is just another way of framing the command above:  Seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Matthew 6:33: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.[ESV]
It helps to understand at least this much concerning the Kingdom of God:
Luke 17:20-21: "Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” [ESV]
Which ever kingdom you were born into  - that was your kingdom, and it's king was your king.  The Kingdom of God is not an earthly Kingdom - it has no borders, and it's citizens are citizens because they have chosen to accept the Lordship of Christ - that is, they have chosen to obey Christ rather than to obey themselves in whatever they choose to do.

Thus to seek Christ's kingdom is to seek to Christ's rule in your life.  Our Lord puts this plainly in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me Lord and not do what I tell you?" [ESV] - you are not in the kingdom, nor are you seeking to be in the Kingdom, if you are not doing actively seeking to obey what Christ calls you to do.

Christianity isn't about making God happy with the things we do (like going to church, calling our selves Christians, and maybe even reading our bible and praying) - it is about willingly making ourselves subject to all that Christ commands of us.  Those who are in the Kingdom of Christ willingly subject themselves to the rule of Christ - going so far as to seek out what Christ would have us do.

Next up is to: Deny Ourselves / Take Up Our Crosses/ and to Follow Christ.
Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. [ESV]

Matthew 10:38, And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.[ESV]

Mark 8:34, And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. [ESV]
Once again - this is practically the same as the command to repent or the command to seek first the kingdom of God.

Denying yourself means you are no longer the ruler of yourself.  You stop pursuing what you want as a requisite step in pursuing what Christ wants for you.  You stop seeking for yourself the things you want to get from this world, and start seeking what Christ desires you to do.  This is what Paul means by putting to death the deeds of the body (c.f. Romans 6) - it means you stop living for yourself and the things that you want - To deny yourself is to live selflessly (serving others) rather than selfishly (serving yourself).

If you're not seeking this - trying to do this in your life - you aren't obeying the commands of Christ.

Taking up your cross.
Jesus (like every other condemned prisoner) was forced to carry his own cross to the site of his execution (Our Lord was too weak to carry the cross at one point, and Simon of Cyrene carried it for him).  The imagery of carrying your cross perfectly portrays doing something you certainly don't want to do - doing that work which assists your own demise.  Not that Christ demands you to kill your own body (suicide is murder, and you are not commanded to murder yourself) - but rather in the qualifying sense supplied - to deny yourself the liberty to do as you please even as a condemned criminal is not doing his own will in carrying the very cross upon which his life is about to be spent to the place of execution.

Following Jesus
Just as Jesus did not come to live his life according to his own desires, but lived in utter obedience to the will of God his Father - so we are called to follow Christ's example and live our lives in obedience to Christ, denying our own wills in order to obey the will of Christ.

That's just 3 commands.  -- How're you doing so far?

Listen I am not inclined to coddle believers as some people are.

It is plain from the scriptures that some of us who think we are saved are not really saved.  How do we know we're saved?  By the evidence of our salvation - one such evidence John gives us in the passage quoted above in 1 John 2 - Simply answer the question put to us - are we keeping the commandments of Christ?

If we've truly repented, truly sought the rule of Christ in our life - truly war against our own desires, that we might not be slaves to our own will, but submitting ourselves to the will of Christ by denying our own will, taking up our cross, and following our Lord in the path of obedience He has walked before us -- I'd say we have good reason to be assured of our faith.

If on the other hand we don't see this pattern in our life - but tell ourselves in its absence that it is okay, because our sins are under the blood of Christ - because we said a prayer once, and having been enlightened by the truth we have begun attending a church and our lives are a little more moral now than they were before - we have no real ground for any confidence in our own salvation - and any coddling I might add for those saints who are merely struggling in this area - would be used by those tares who would grasp at my words only to fortify themselves all the more in their neglect of our great salvation.

I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded - not by the intensity of my surety, or the integrity of my most earnest opinion about how sincere I am in wanting to be a Christian - but rather by the such evidence as John tells me to look for - I say, I am persuaded that my Lord is able to keep to the end what I've committed unto Him.  My persuasion rests not on what I have done, but on the evidence of what is being done in me.

I want you to be able to say that, because you also are keeping the commandments of Christ - not in order to prove to yourself that you are saved, or in order to get saved - but because you are enlightened, and have come to know that the response to enlightenment is obedience - and have found yourself desiring to - even always returning to - an obedience that you cannot long depart from.
posted by Daniel @ 12:17 PM   0 comment(s)
 
 
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