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. My complete profile...
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. - C-Train
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
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
In the right hand sidebar is my cylcing widget. It keeps track of the kilometers I have cycled this year, and the weight I have lost since I began cycling two weeks ago. My official starting weight was 189 lbs, and I hope to get down to 165 by August 15th (my 15th Anniversary). That gives me 14 weeks or so to drop another 21.5 lbs. The first year I cycled I dropped 37 pounds in that time, but last year I only dropped about 20 lbs. You would think with that kind of loss I would weigh next to nothing by now, but over the winter I put on weight like a hibernating bear.
Anyway I shall be posting each Monday - not that anyone but myself is really interested - on how I am doing. The first few weeks are usually pretty productive, but it starts to taper off when my body gets used to cycling again.
The various, competing atonement models all attempt to answer the same question: "How can a just God forgive a guilty sinner without compromising Himself in doing so?"
I believe the answer is simple, and because it is simple, many people miss it. I present it here, for your consideration. Feel free to correct me or raise any objections.
Perhaps the best place to start would be in James 5:4, "Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts."
Here is a truth that is clearly taught - it is fraudulent to withhold wages. If I agree to pay so much for the labor, and you perform the labor, I must pay what I have promised or I am a liar, a fraud, and unjust.
Now let's look at the other side of the same principle: for that I take you to the end of Romans 6 where we read, "the wages of sin is death."
You see, death is something we earn by sinning, and if God doesn't pay us our wage, that makes Him just as much a Liar and a Fraud, as He would be were He withholding some desirable wage. God cannot simply overlook sin for this reason: sin has a wage associated with it, and God must pay that wage or He is not just.
Likewise, it would be just as unjust to pay a man a wage he didn't earn.
In this same way we understand that Christ cannot receive the wage of death if He hasn't earned death by personally sinning. When David prophesies of Christ in Psalm 16 he says it this way: God will not allow His Holy One to see corruption. That is, God cannot pay Christ a wage he did not earn. Christ mentions the same sort of thing in John 10:18, namely that when He lays down his life He will be able to take it up again.
I see these biblical truths as foundational in my understanding of the atonement: God must pay the sinner the wage He has earned, and likewise, Christ cannot keep a wage He hasn't earned!
The problem is how can God pay the sinner his just wage and redeem the same sinner at the same time?
I believe the answer is found in our union with Christ (see Romans 6).
We were joined to Christ for this reason: so that when God justly poured out his wrath on us (on the cross) He would provide a means to justly raise us from the dead afterwards.
We have said that God could not keep Christ in the grave, and this is the key. The way in which we are atoned for is simple: a guilty sinner is united to Christ by faith alone, such that Christ joins that believer to Himself so that they are united on the cross where God punishes the believer.
I pause here to highlight what I think is a common misconception about what happened on the cross. If your understanding of the atonement is that God poured out His wrath on Jesus instead of on you, I think you have it wrong.
Now hear me out here:
I think what happened on Calvary was that I was joined to Christ (spiritually not physically) and that God poured His wrath out upon my spirit which was joined to Christ's. God wasn't punishing Jesus instead of me, He was punishing me and because I was joined to Christ, Christ received my condemnation. That was always the plan.
If the law required all convicted criminals to receive a lethal injection, and simultaneously required that no innocent man be put to death, then it would be as if Christ knew I was condemned, and in order to save me He made Himself my Siamese twin so that when I received the lethal injection that was due me, it killed both of us, but because the law required that no innocent man be put to death, Christ would have to be "raised up" - but since we were co-joined as siamese twins - Christ could not be raised apart from raising me, and in this way, according to Christ's plan - I was redeemed. I suffered the death, due me so the law was satisfied, it was not some pretend death - I really died, but because I was joined to Christ, I was raised again. Not that Christ was my substitute, but that Christ was in me and I was in Him so that just as my punishment slew us both, so his resurrection raised us both.
This is what scripture means when it says that love is as strong as death (SoS 8:6) My union with Christ could not be broken -- even by death. No one ascends into heaven who did not descend from heaven - no one goes to heaven except that they are united with Christ - He is the only Way and the only truth and the only life - the door of the shepfold.
God could not justly allow Christ to remain in the grave. Christ was innocent, and God -had- to raise Christ if He was going to remain just. But since we were still united together with Christ, in order to raise Christ God had to raise us too.
We were united together with Christ for this very reason - so that when God could not keep him in the grave, we could be justly raised with Him. That was always the plan - Christ would received our "old self" into Himself, and take it to the cross where God would execute His judgment upon it - this union however destroyed not only us, but Christ. But because Christ was innocent God gave him to power to take up his life again - and because of our union, when Christ took up His life, we were raised with Him!
THAT is the atonement.
Those who are united together with Christ are united in His death and in His resurrection - it is more than some stodgy old theology about how many people Jesus died for - it is the foundation upon which the Christian rests all hope of deliverance from sin's power - we died with Christ - literally - and when we begin to see this truth, we begin to understand that when Paul says that we are no longer slaves of sin because we were crucified with Christ, it starts to mean something!
Are you starting to see it?
The cross is where I died in Christ. Not metaphorically: literally. I will
You may have noticed recently that my cycling widget is back in the top right side hand side bar. I stepped on the scale today to see how much damage the winter did to my midsection, and found myself to be 189 lbs. That would be an ideal weight if I were say, 6' 2" - but being 5' 8" I am about 25 or 30 lbs beyond where I need to be. In 2005 I dropped 37 pounds in the summer, and last summer I dropped around twenty - but these cold winters leave little room for exercise, and I put it all back on as soon as the snow starts to fly. I am hoping to hit that magic 165 this year, but really, it is going to be a fair bit of work. I am aiming for my fifteenth anniversary in August. We shall see if it happens or not. I will keep a running tab of the scale in the cycling widget, not unlike Marc's scale over at Purgatorio.
I shaved a path in my beard yesterday just because I thought, if I am going to do before and after pics, I should try at least use the before pic for my avatar - and being something of a comic book fan and a patriot, I wanted something decisively Canadian looking - and nothing says Canadian like a weird, "wolverine" beard. The beard itself was short lived however, since my wife is no fan of weird beards and would never suffer me in public with it - so I shaved it off immediately following the "photo-op".
The pics were taken with my palm pilot, so they are not exactly high quality, but they served the purpose. These are my before shots, at 189 pounds. We shall see what a summer of eating less and exercising regularly will do for me. I will take a couple of after shots in August.
I followed a link today over at the Pyromaniacs blog, in the sidebar under Phil's "this is where I am right now" widget.
It was a link to a Pulitzer Prize winning photo essay, and if you haven't seen it I suggest you check it out, starting at that first photo - read the excerpt, then move on to the next until you are done.
It was (emotionally speaking) progressively difficult to flip through the essay - I kept knowing how it was going to turn out, and dreading it - and so much more having children of my own, though I found myself empathetically swept into their grief, sharing in it, and full of mourning, yet I could not escape a more wretched thought.
How I desire that the Lord burn this essay into my being, and as many like it as he pleases until I am no longer the sort of wretch that glances at his watch during a prayer meeting. How I loathe myself for those times when I have given into that part of me that complains inwardly over the inconvenience of prayer time. Let those images be written forever in me so that I may cast myself an utter wreck before my God when that thing in me rises up to quench a spirit of supplication. Woe to us as Christians if the mercy of Christ in us doesn't come out. Do not let the sun go down on you today without making supplication to the God of mercy.
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." - James 1:27 [ESV]
"Please Grant Me Patience!" and other toothless prayers...
This morning I decided to lay in bed when I ought to have gotten up.
You see, my morning begins early - I try to read the bible for at least an hour, spend at least a half an hour in prayer, but prefer to spend an hour or so, try to get in 45 minutes on the treadmill, all before 6:30 a.m. when I wake up my two older children to teach them biblical Greek for an hour. If I forgotten to prepare the day's Greek lesson the night before (or if I was just too busy), I try and squeeze in a half hour to write the lesson and print it out somewhere before 6:30 a.m.. Then I give the kids some instructions about what to do when after I leave, and butta-bing butta boom, I hop in the shower, get dressed and ride my bike the ten miles to my work and start my work day around 8:45.
There is not a lot of room for sleeping in with my schedule, so that whenever I do it is indicative of the flesh.
So as I lay there in bed, willing myself to stay there, I was suddenly struck with the most absurd intrusion into my thoughts. Being wide awake, and attempting to give both my exhaustion and my wandering mind the time they needed to lull me back into the arms of my former slumber, I suddenly daydreamed for no apparent reason, an image of one of the office plants falling over. It is a big palm tree plant that is up on a window ledge. So utterly foreign was this daydream to my thoughts, that I said to myself - where did that come from?? I mean, I could care less about the flora in our office, and imagining them toppling over for no reason just didn't make any sense. My mind doesn't wander in that way. So, I began to ask myself what that could possibly represent, if it was in fact representative of anything. How did King Solomon say it? - and if a tree falls to the south or the north, In the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie. In the light of that kind of thinking, I began to see myself as that toppled office plant - laying there and staying there. There is no path to spiritual inertness, the moment you stop walking in the Spirit - that is, submitting yourself to God - in that very moment you are in the flesh and it begins to produce death in you just as surely as a fallen tree rots.
So I got out of bed, I didn't finish off the "extra hour of sleep" I had planned for myself, but I also didn't have all the time to do what I normally do in the morning. To make matters worse, I hadn't put together today's Greek lesson for the kids. So I dragged myself to the computer first thing, and opened our text to see what sort of lesson I should prepare - and today is the day they are scheduled to learn about putting all those fancy noun cases (nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative of the second declension) together in a sentence with all those fancy (present, active indicative) verbs they have been learning for the past 14 weeks.
But the text has an error in it: it reads: εὐαγγέλιον κύριου διδάσκει. and says that εὐαγγέλιον. is in the nominative case, but then goes on to translate it as "He teaches the gospel of the Lord" - now first of all, I don't see any definite articles in the original Greek, and if εὐαγγέλιον. is supposed to be the in nominative that makes "a gospel" the subject of the sentence (note the underlined indefinite article?). It seemed to me that the translation should have read: "A gospel of a lord teaches." But if εὐαγγέλιον was in the accusative case, as I would have expected it to be, we would presume a subject pronoun from the verb ("He teaches") and the gospel the be the thing that is being taught, as opposed to the thing that is teaching - rendering the clause: "He teaches a gospel of a Lord.". Either way - the text was off. The only problem was I was thinking that I must be wrong - perhaps there was some little known quirky Greek grammatical rule that I wasn't aware of? So as I began to prepare the lesson, I quickly did a web search to see if there were some rule I was unaware of, but I came up empty. Then I tried my various Greek textbooks - nothing. In fact, everything seemed to be to suggest that the text was simply wrong. So in a final act of desperation, I do an errata search on this textbook and shazam! That was the problem - text book error. By the time I got the lesson prepared, it was a 7:15 a.m., I hadn't had any time in the word, or in prayer, and I was already 45 minutes out on my teaching schedule.
I woke the kids, and explained how dreadfully behind the ball we were, we skipped the Greek verse memorization, and the conjugation exercises, and the declension exercises because I knew they could do that without me, and we dove headlong into translating clauses that involved a nominative, a genitive, a verb and an accusative.
Well, my six year old was having some difficulty, but my nine year old picked it up and understood what had to be done. I kept glancing at the clock, and when my little one continued to show confusion, I began to lose my patience with my six year old. Why do you think we spent so much time memorizing the genitive forms? Why do you think we bothered with the learning the nominatives, and the accusatives? That wasn't just trivial information kids - it was so that when we got here you would be able to put a sentence together! You have no one to blame for your confusion but yourself, and frankly, you need to think long and hard about whether you are willing to put in the effort to continue in Greek with us!
You see, my plan was never to teach my six year old Greek. My eldest son is nine, and I thought he was ready, but when we began my six year old daughter was so upset that she wasn't invited she began to try and study Greek by herself (our lessons were taped to the wall). My wife finally persuaded me to let her try, and so I did, and she absolutely loved it - though it meant an half hour or more extra work for me - yet I was willing to accommodate her because her interest was genuine. She is only just beginning to read in English, so she has struggled along through the whole process - but she has such a never-give-up attitude that I have come to be so very thankful for her joining us in this endeavor.
Nevertheless, this morning, as my frustration at being off my schedule began to show itself in my demeanor and language, I had to stop and remind myself that the only reason I am suffering frustration, the only reason I am lacking patience is because I am presently walking in the flesh. Somewhere along the way I stopped walking in the light, and the moment I did I was in the flesh, and the flesh was producing death in me just as it always does.
I had to sit put myself before the Lord, confess that I was not surrendered in my heart, ask for grace and forgiveness, put my faith in Christ that this thing in me that rose up was in fact on the cross with Christ, and thereby powerless to control me - and then I had to sit down with the kids - late as I was, and explain that they were both excellent students, and that the reason they (well my younger one at least) was having trouble understanding was because I was poorly prepared and had shortchanged their time by my own laziness, and then I tried to put the blame on them for not being good students. I explained that my actions were shameful, and that I was sorry for them - but I also explained that the sin in side of me would continue to make me like that and worse if I didn't trust Christ to deal with it. I asked them to forgive me and to learn from my mistake. I praised them for their patience with me, and then set them back to work.
What is relevant to this post is not so much what I did do, but what I did not do.
I didn't stop and pray, "Dear Lord, please give me patience!"
You see, patience is a fruit that flows naturally out of a surrendered walk in the Holy Spirit - we don't produce it, but it is impossible for a person surrendered to Christ to be impatient. Think about it - if I am honestly surrendered to God - genuinely willing to accept anything from His hand that He deems is appropriate - genuinely willing to receive as much and no more - you cannot at the same time be impatient, if you are, you are not surrendered, that is, you are not "in the Spirit." That is why scripture calls patience a fruit of the Spirit.
Asking God to give you patience in a moment where patience is needed is not simply missing the boat - it is asking amiss that you may spend a thing on your lusts. Asking for patience so that we can use it as a tool to quench the dictates of our flesh and in doing so satisfy our own nagging guilt is not godly, it is selfish. God isn't concerned about making your walk in the flesh comfy - He wants you to appropriate your death in Christ! So praying for patience is like begging God to let you keep going in the flesh - aloof from the very salvation from sin that Christ died to give you. It is my firm conviction that God is not going to enable your neglect in this matter.
So the next time you are tempted to pray for patience, or joy, or peace, or anything else that comes instantly, substantially and perfectly to those, and only those who surrender themselves to God, why not instead try something that has some biblical "teeth" - try humbling yourself under God's mighty hand and see if you don't receive grace - and life more abundantly for that matter.
I have on my blog, something I call The Σκυβαλον Clause™.
The Σκυβαλον Clause™, briefly stated is a policy I have whereby I chose not to link to certain blogs as a matter of principle. The "Unashamed of Grace" blog is one such blog, so please forgive me if instead of linking to the blog, I simply post the entire post that I am responding to in my own blog here:
by Antonio da Rosa
Luke 22:31-32 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." NKJV
Why would Jesus pray for Peter's faith not to fail if a true Christian cannot lose their faith?
What does this have to say about perseverance of the saints?
My reply follows:
Why would Jesus pray for Peter's faith not to fail if a true Christian cannot lose their faith?
First, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that this event pre-dates the inauguration of the new covenant (Pentecost); which is to say that the new covenant ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit had not yet come, and therefore we are sort of comparing apples with oranges when we compare a pre-pentecostal Messianic Jew with post-pentecostal, Holy Spirit indwelt, new covenant Christians.
Secondly, the presumption that any fluctuation in faith necessarily indicates a loss of salvation is not a universally accepted speculation. Your own certainty on the matter does not engender confidence in, nor add credibility to, this sort of speculation - and it would be difficult for any thoughtful or honest person to follow you in such an unsupported presumption just because you have painted something of your own conclusion into the question you ask.
Given therefore that your question presumes an unsupported assumption and were this not enough to muddy the water, the difficulty is compounded by being a comparison of states that are as alike as apples to orange I must admit - it is a time exhausting exercise to frame an answer given the warping involved in the question.
Nevertheless, I should like to answer your two questions one by one if I may...
To the the former: Jesus prayed for Peter's faith not to fail for this reason, It is God's will that all his saints persevere, and it was fitting for our Mediator to pray thus - that Peter's faith not fail. I am sure that Christ in heaven continues to pray thus - that the faith of every elect believer perseveres - and I believe that Christ has His petition now, just as He received it then - that is, Peter persevered because Christ was his Mediator to that effect. His perseverance is as secure as Christ's mediation. How much more shall we who are presently saints, persevere when our Mediator is in heaven at the right hand of God intervening on our behalf presently in ways that are no doubt superior to the scene recorded here?
If anything, this verse demonstrates that those ones will persevere for whom Christ mediates. Which is to say that this verse teaches the perseverance of the faith if one has eyes to see it.
As to the latter question, I think I answered that in the former.
Praise Christ for his glorious and daily ministry towards us - mediating on our behalf at the right hand of God - praying that our faith too will not fail - and receiving from God the same answer to His prayer as He received for Peter - Yes, I will cause this one to persevere!
What I don't want to do - that is the thing that I do.
Is Paul describing himself or making an illustration in the first person? If he is describing himself, is he describing his former conduct as a Jew, or his current struggle as a mature Christian?
Sincere, godly men disagree on this point, so I expect some of you who read this to sincerely disagree with my understanding of the text - I take that as a given. There is a lot at stake in this passage, and many of us hold our understanding of it quite passionately - and, if I may be so bold, I would say especially those of us who hold that Paul is describing his current state as a believer - since we who see ourselves in the struggle of Romans 7, and know ourselves to be genuine believers - are apt to make conclusions favorable to our own experiences.
Now, as a preamble, allow me to say that I hadn't intended to make a post on Romans 7 per se, but having mentioned Romans seven in the sermon and having discussed it afterwards with Bryan, (who has disagreed with me for a few years now on our various interpretations on this passage, and having read this post over at Bryan's blog, I thought, and having started to reply to his post over at his blog and finding my response too verbose for a casual comment - I thought it best to reply here on my own blog - and link to it from there. What you see therefore is my reply to Bryan, and subsequently, my understanding of the text in question.
Now, before we continue, I should add that I know all about the "present tense" of Paul's discourse, and while we use the present tense to describe things that are presently true, we also use the present tense linguistically when presenting hypotheticals - so I am not shaken by nor overlooking Paul's use of the present tense in this passage, I am merely regarding it as an hypothetical illustration rather than an autobiographical aside.
My understanding of this portion of Romans 7 is not that it does not describe a "Christian" - but rather that it describes a person who is not experiencing victory over sin by walking in the spirit - it depicts what walking in the flesh looks like.
Paul has just spent the previous chapter saying that we (those who are in Christ) shall not continue in sin - that is, that we shall no longer be in this kind of Romans 7 bondage, because we died with Christ and in doing so we died to our previous bondage.
Let's be honest - anyone can suppress sin in their own strength - in fact, that is what every other moral scheme and world religion is founded on. But the death described in Romans 6 provides the only power in creation to spiritually deal with sin - only this power operates through a very specific, and counter-intuitive means: faith. It manifests itself after one begins trusting that one is in fact dead to sin and alive to God (literally) in Christ Jesus - and after one begins putting all their trust in the fact that it is going to be =this= union with Christ in death that frees an individual from sin's dominion, and that carnal, external obedience (suppressionism) having no power to free you from sin's bondage, will simply save you from expressing the sin within in the moment, and do nothing to deal with the sin within that is producing this stuff.
That is not to say that you sit around and meditate and sin goes away - nor is it to say that you simply auto-suggest your sin's away by suppressing with a better, more spiritual cork. The plain truth is that there is -no- substitute for faith. You can go through the motions, but if you do not really believe that you are dead to sin because Jesus made you dead to sin, you will be in Romans 7 throughout all your effort. =THAT= is what Romans 7 is describing - a struggle to obey God without the power to do so - that is, a struggle in the flesh. Anything that is not of faith is by default of the flesh - no matter how righteous it might look on the outside.
Paul himself explains what Romans 7 is describing, he does so in Romans 7:21-23 "So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. "
Romans 7 describes the law of sin that was "bring[ing] death to [him]"
But Paul does not cave in there and say that we remain in bondage to this law of sin in our members that is producing death in us. He immediately comes to the solution for which he bothered with the parenthetical illustration in the first place. In 7:24 he asks,"...Who will deliver me from this body of death? " he labels the experience he has just described - not as "the normative Christian experience" but as "the body of death" - referring to the fact that this body is controlled by a law of sin that produces death. His question underscores the fact that he is in the middle of teaching a deliverance from the bondage to this law of sin and death that was started in Romans six - this was no autobiographical aside, this was a practical exposition of what Paul means when he says "the law of sin and death" - for when Romans 8:2 tells us that the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and death - we need to know up front what the law of sin and death -is-.
The law of sin and death is that law that is in our members that makes us obey sin - that is what Paul was describing - he begins it in Romans six in summary form: "Sin shall no longer have dominion over you because you are no longer under law but under grace" - as soon as he gives this summary he starts qualifying it because if he doesn't one might imagine that the moment you become a Christian you magically stop sinning. His reponse therefore to the idea that this grace from God allows you to continue in sin is to say, "By no means!" - but he then begins to show that even when you are not a legitimate slave, yet if you present yourselves to a master and obey him, you are (for all intents and purposes) that one's slave whom you obey. In other words even if you have been set free, if you continue to obey your old master, you are are still in bondage - even though you don't have to be. Paul sums up his thoughts there by thanking God that we have been set free from sin by becoming slaves of righteousness, and in doing so he gives us a crucial part of the deliverance plan - you are either obedient to Christ, or you are enslaved to sin - there is no middle ground.
When Paul begins Romans 7 with the question - "do you not know?" he is introducing an expository discourse - arguing from the lesser to the greater - he wants to show to the Jewish mindset that what he is teaching is not contrary to the way in which God's covenant works - by showing that just as the law of marriage binds the wife to her husband while he yet lives, and is no longer binding after the life that held her in bondage (her husband's) is dead, so too when we died in Christ we were set free from something in us that was "aroused by the law" and "at work in our members bearing fruit for death" - but up until this point "that something" that we have been set free from (just as the widow was set free) has yet to be given a label.
This is the context in which Paul begins the discourse in question - after he boldly says that we have been released from the law (that aroused sin in us) having died to that which held us - he then begins to illustrate the very thing we have been set free from - that is, he begins to illustrate how the law does not deliver a person out of bondage to sin - for the one who has the law and tries to obey the law finds that the law has no power against sin - it only demonstrates that he is a sinner because it shows him what is wrong, and he finds himself unable to resist doing what is wrong even though he has the law to tell him that it is wrong. The law in no way empowers him to do what he wants to do (obey the law) and does nothing to deliver him from doing what he does not what to do (disobey the law).
Paul is showing that there is something that the law can not do in that it is powerless to deal with the corruption we inherited from Adam - the "sin" that remains in our flesh.
He is bringing us through this illustration so that when he again states that we are saved from this in Christ, we know what we are saved from.
In Romans six Paul teaches:
 that God delivered us from sin in Christ, and  this deliverance is bound up in our union with Christ, that Christ's death on the cross, our union with Him, and God raising us up in Christ is the means by which (through faith) God does in us what the law wasn't able to do - deliver us from sin's power.
This deliverance is brought about by our death in Christ, for that death delivered us from our former bondage - In Romans 7 Paul shows that the way this death delivers us from bondage is not contrary to God's ways, but in fact complementary - for just as the bride is bound to the law so long as that which binds her lives, so too we are bound to law that governs our "flesh" for only as long as the "flesh" lives. He then contrasts this great deliverance with the very bondage one is being delivered from (which is, of course, what is being described in the passage in question) - he contrasts it with the law of sin and death so that when he concludes the description of the law of sin and death, his proclaimation that you are free from that "law of sin and death" has tangible context.
The struggle in Romans seven is not an autobiographical description of Paul's "current" struggle with sin - it is the logical and necessary continuation of a point he began to make in Romans 6 - an illustration of what "the law could not do" an illustration that gives substance to his conclusion: that the Spirit of life has set us free from something in Christ - it sets us free from the law of sin and death - that is, it sets us free from "Romans 7."
I agree therefore with the Piper quote this far: Paul is not teaching that we should make peace with sin - though I would say that Chapter six teaches that we have already won the war against sin (in Christ), as opposed to "will win the war" - but I would word it in such a way that there is no room to use Chapter seven to excuse "tactical defeat" in the battle against sin, and I would be careful to show that tactical defeat was not a necessary, or normative component of the process. I would say chapter 7 illustrates the law of sin and death that Christ delivered us from in Himself, and that the struggle described there is nothing more than the default, carnal approach to trying to obey God when we are doing so in a spiritual vacuum; even if this is our default approach the moment we come to Christ, and I would add, even the default fall back position that we immediately assume the very moment we neglect to walk in faith, or said another way, the moment we fail to walk in the Spirit. When we walk in the spirit we do =not= give into the flesh.
Piper's concluding remark was: It's the earnestness of the war and the response to defeat that show your Christianity, not perfection.
I don't pretend to correct Piper, but for the sake of this discussion, I would elaborate on that conclusion thus: The earnestness of our war is demonstrated by our unwillingness to continue to walk (by default) in the flesh. The Christian who is ignorant of the doctrine of deliverance nevertheless abhors in himself this carnal walk even if he cannot describe it in theological terms. This desire to be free from a carnal walk does not originate in his flesh, but is the divine character of the Holy Spirit within him. This abhorrence for sin shows that the Holy Spirit is within him and that he is a genuine child of God, but until he begins to deal with sin spiritually in Christ, that is, according to the only provision God has made - he remains carnal and impotent; though in truth he has been set free from sin's power, that freedom is only in Christ, that is, it is only appropriated his when he walks in Christ by a determined and willful act of faith. The consistency of his walk in Christ (and consequently, his deliverance from sin) reflects his spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is not a measure of how regenerate you are, it is a measure of how Christ-like you are. When you are in the Spirit you are perfectly Christ-like, and when you are not in the spirit, you are carnal and not Christ-like at all - even if in the strength of your flesh you manage to near-perfectly approximate the character of Christ (through habitual suppression of sin, forming sin breaking habits, and doing good deeds even though your heart is secretly not in it) - yet this asceticism has absolutely no power, and is a mark of immaturity as surely as wanton sin is. An unsaved person can be quite earnest in the war against sin (how many orthodox Jews do we need to know before we understand this?), but his earnestness doesn't suggest he is a Christian - it only shows he is earnest.
The Romans 7 struggle depicts a man trying to obey through means other than grace. That could be a Jew, or it could be a theologically confused believer - it doesn't matter who it is, what matters is that in your flesh the law of sin and death reigns until you stop obeying it - and you cannot stop obeying it except through faith - through reckoning yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ - it is a faith thing, not a grit your teeth and obey thing.
Trying to obey the law is good for you - especially if you are earnest and zealous - because it will wears you out faster - because nothing brings you to Christ faster than trying to keep law and failing miserably because you are unable to do so.
For those of you who don't read my blog all that much, I am a "teaching" deacon in my church - I am the chairperson of the Christian Education Committee, and I get to (informally) preach every Sunday to a small (but faithful) group of adults who attend our Adult Bible Study.
Our former pastor began the Adult bible study a few years ago, and set the format - it ended up being a 45 minute topical sermon, wherein you could put up your hand and ask a question, though such a thing rarely happened. Even after he retired from being our Senior pastor, he continued to teach our Adult Bible Study, but being in his late eighties, and living a considerable distance from our church building - and being on a fixed income, and having our winters six months long, cold, and treacherous for driving - he found himself unable to make it to the services consistently, and having found himself often having to cancel at the last minute, he retired from the Adult Bible Study as well. That was when I stepped in, and I have continued the format - a 45 minute informal sermon, though while I still bring the occasional topical message, I have opted to exposit whole NT books verse by verse.
In that capacity I have had the opportunity to preach a lot over the past two years or so, and notwithstanding, I have had the opportunity on occasion to preach elsewhere - in other churches, and in my own church.
Martyn Lloyd Jones once remarked that he wouldn't cross the street to listen to himself speak. Now, anyone who has heard a recording of MLJ would be amazed at such a statement. MLJ was a brilliant communicator, articulate, intelligent, humble, thoughtful - a craftsman who glorified the Lord from the pulpit weekly - and even beautifully; I mention this by way of introduction.
When my church began to put audio recordings of the weekly sermon and Adult Sunday School stuff online, I began to have convenient opportunity to (occasionally) download one of my messages and give it a listen; and frankly, whenever I do that I give serious thought as to whether I should be speaking in public at all!
As I listen to myself I think - Doh! I should have said this, or maybe I should have said this thing another way. Arn't I talking way too fast? Why is my voice so annoying? Speaking of annoying, why do I keep saying "okay?" and "right?" every five minutes? No matter how much effort I put into preparing a sermon, I never seem to glance down at my notes once I start speaking - I almost always start winging it as soon as I get in the pulpit.
Now that is not to say that I am just improvising, I am not - I know what I want to say and I try to stick to it, but as I preach I am often looking at, and taking my cues from the congregation. If they seem to understand what I am saying, I move on, but if they look perplexed I explain myself in another way, often requiring some tangential information be brought to bear - information that isn't in my notes - and once I get off my notes, getting back on them with any sense of congruency is sometimes difficult. ;-)
I am still pretty new at this, and I trust the Lord to grow me in this too, that is, if it really is His will that I continue teaching in this way - yet I find when I listen to myself preach I am so critical of myself I find it discouraging. I almost want to adopt a feigned histrionic - to craft my presentation like an actor - you now, to write out a script, stick to it, and carefully determine before hand the metre and volume, where to make that voice-cracking passionate plea, where to thunder, where to adopt that quiet, conversational tone - to prepare the sermon before hand, and thereafter polish my oratory skills so that the message has the "greatest effect."
I say, I almost want to do that, or perhaps more accurately, I know that deep down I really want to do that; but for all the wrong reasons. First there is personal glory - the desire to be admired not only for the rich content, but also for the excellence of the presentation - which is vanity and pride. Mixed in is the deceptive lie that really I just want to make the biggest impact for Christ - but that is a lie from hell - founded as it is upon the erroneous thought that God's word is made more effective by a skillful preacher. God's word is effective because it is God's word. The gospel will save people even if Satan preaches it. God's word goes out and does not return to him fruitless - it bears the fruit that God sent it out to bear.
So instead of improving my histrionics, I entrust myself to God, if He is glorified by making me a better speaker, then let him be glorified in that, and if He is glorified by allowing a donkey to speak - then I am pleased to speak as a donkey. Woe to me if, given the chance, I would allow my vanity to rob God of His glory just to admire myself!
On that note I submit to you my sermon from Sunday. My pastor was preaching at another church, so I got to give the sermon. I preached on walking in the Spirit, and in particular the greatest hindrance to walking in the Spirit - walking in the flesh.
If you are inclined to listen to me say "right?" and "okay?" more often than is tolerable, and to flip around in my bible looking for verses I can't seem to find, and to wander off my notes so that the point I am making seems disjointed and hard to follow - and if you like to listen to a sermon preached in a voice that has no pleasant timbre, accent, or even mannerism, at a pace that seems at times too fast and at times jarringly halting - then I invite you to listen to this past Sunday's sermon here, and if there is anything praiseworthy in it, I can at least be certain it is not because of my oratory skill, but because we serve a God who is glorious.
This excerpt, taken from "The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness By Living In Union With Christ" - written by Walter Marshall and first published in 1692. The whole thing appears as a single paragraph in chapter four, but I will post it in clips, and attempt to simplify each thought in a brief summary beneath them as they come...
The faith which philosophers commonly treat of is only a habit of the understanding, by which we assent to a testimony on the authority of the testifier. Accordingly, some would have faith in Christ to be no more than a believing the truth of things in religion, on the authority of Christ testifying them.
He is saying that some people regard faith as an intellectual assent to the truths of the gospel. These, he says, have a settled and right opinion about Christ's authority and confuse this certainty for faith - as though one could become justified by merely believing in the validity of the gospel.
But the apostle shows that the faith by which we are justified is faith in Christ's blood (Rom. 3:24, 25), not only in His authority as a testifier. And though a mere assent to a testimony were sufficient faith for knowledge of things, which the philosophers aimed at, yet we are to consider that the design of saving faith is not only to know the truth of Christ and His salvation, testified and promised in the gospel, but also to apprehend and receive Christ and His salvation, as given by and with the promise.
Here Walter expounds the same thought with a little more clarity. He shows that assenting to the truth of a thing is nothing more than having correct knowledge about a thing - and suggests that saving faith is more than simply having a correct understanding of the gospel, that salvation is the result of receiving Christ through the promise, and in this way receiving salvation.
Therefore, saving faith must necessarily contain two acts, believing the truth of the gospel, and believing on Christ, as promised freely to us in the gospel, for all salvation.
Plainly stated, it is self evident that in order to receive the promise one must have a correct understanding of, and a full assurance in the validity of the gospel before one is able to receive the promise - but that while the former is a necessary precursor to receiving the promise, it is not to be confused with receiving the promise - for one can assent to all the truth and imagine themselves to be in possession of saving faith, when in truth they are only in possession of the saving facts.
By the one, it receives the means in which Christ is conveyed to us; by the other, it receives Christ Himself, and His salvation in the means,
Here he eloquently states the very distinction, a right understanding of the gospel is the means by which Christ can be conveyed to us - but just as having a horse is a means of transportation, it is not the same as actually being transported somewhere by that means. So too unless Christ is received, one is not saved, even if one is in possession of the means by which one may be saved.
Personally, I think this is where some free-gracers mess up - being convinced that faith is an ability to  believe that Christ is real and that  the gospel is valid - and imagining that by believing these things to be true they are saved; that is, they think God is obligated to save them because they have managed to believe that the truth is true.
as it is one act to receive the breast or cup in which milk or wine are conveyed, and another act to suck the milk in the breast and to drink the wine in the cup.
Here Walter draws the distinction metaphorically - a nursing babe might receive the means to nurse, but that is not the same as nursing. A person might receive wine, but that is not the same as drinking it.
And both these acts must be performed heartily with an unfeigned love to the truth and a desire of Christ and His salvation above all things.
What Walter is getting at here is that genuine faith consists of both the right understanding of the gospel (which ends up being the means) and also the genuine turning to Christ that is supposed to follow that understanding.
This is our spiritual appetite, which is necessary for our eating and drinking Christ, the food of life, as a natural appetite is for bodily nourishment.
No one follows through to Christ unless they have a spiritual hunger - that is, there are plenty of people out there who believe the gospel is true, but have no personal hunger for Christ, and lacking such a hunger they either fall away when the going gets tough, or having never had genuine faith but having become intellectually convinced that they are genuine believers - (that is, having become woefully deceived into thinking their intellectual assent is actually saving faith) they attempt to approximate the Christian life even though it is obvious to themselves that they only hunger that they have is not driven by love of God but rather by the fear of God.
Our assenting to, or believing the gospel, must not be forced by mere conviction of the truth, such as wicked men and devils may be brought to, when they had rather it were false. Neither must our believing in Christ be only constrained for fear of damnation, without any hearty love and desire towards the enjoyment of Him;
That is to say: Let us not confuse the fear of hell with the love of God, for both can empower a man to act religiously.
but we must receive the love of the truth by relishing the goodness and excellency of it; and we must 'account all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, and count them but dung, that we may win Christ and be found in Him' (2 Thess. 1:10; Phil. 3:8, 9), esteeming Christ to be all our salvation and happiness (Col. 3: 11), 'in whom all fullness dwells' (Col. 1:19).
Ah - instruction here! How do we receive the love of the truth and all these other fine Christian traits? By approximating them in our practice? No, we receive the love of the truth (et. al) by meditating on the truth as found in God's word.
And this love must be to every part of Christ's salvation - to holiness as well as forgiveness of sins. We must desire earnestly that God would create in us a clean heart and right spirit, as well as hide His face from our sins (Ps. 51:9, 10);
Jesus saved us, not only from sin's penalty, but also from sin's power - we are not supposed to be enslaved to sin - and this salvation from sin's power is received in the same way all things are received spiritually - through the gospel; that is, through  being convinced that Christ will save us, and  receiving that salvation through faith.
not like many that care for nothing in Christ but only deliverance from hell.
An apt description of a false convert - he cares nothing about being delivered from sin, all he wants is to avoid sin's consequences.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled (Matt. 5:6). The former of these acts does immediately unite us to Christ, because it is terminated only on the means of conveyance, the gospel; yet it is a saving act, if it be rightly performed, because it inclines and disposes the soul to the latter act, whereby Christ Himself is immediately received into the heart.
The former act refers to hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and the latter act refers to being filled. Walter interprets this passage from a soteriological angle - those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are those who are pursuing - not an escape from hell, but deliverance from sin - and it is these who will be filled (that is, saved from sin). Amen? Amen.
He that believes the gospel with hearty love and liking, as the most excellent truth, will certainly with the like heartiness believe on Christ for salvation. They that know the name of the Lord will certainly put their trust in Him (Ps. 9:10).
Those who love the gospel are typically the same people who are eventually saved through it.
Therefore in Scripture saving faith is sometimes described by the former of these acts, as if it were a mere believing the gospel; sometimes by the latter, as a believing on Christ, or in Christ: 'If you believe in your heart, that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved' (Rom. 10:9). 'The scripture says, that whoever believes on Him, shall not be ashamed' (v. 11). 'Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God' (1 John 5:1). 'These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God' (v. 13).
He explains how the error (confusing assenting to the facts for saving faith) is typically made - because while the whole of scripture presents the whole of the gospel, yet a person can err by rejecting the whole of the gospel in favor of a few verses taken out of context and made to be the whole of the puzzle when in fact they are only pieces of the bigger picture.
Every now and again, a sense of jealousy rises up in my heart - not over my wife, but rather over the church. I burn with jealousy to see her wooed by (and flirting with) the world and its wisdom and ways.
There is a wonderfully poetic quote that I can't quite remember (and I haven't been able to Google with any success) that, roughly paraphrased, goes like this:
One man looks and sees a pile of stone, but another sees a church.
I am not really capturing the thrust of the original quote - because upon reading it the first time I was struck with that kind of awe you get when a thing is "well said" - what struck me when I read the real quote (I mention it now because my awkward paraphrase doesn't capture the sense) was that the first person couldn't comprehend the fine masonry and intricate stonework as anything more than a pile of stone. He was correct of course - this ornate structure was a pile of stone - but the other was able to "make sense of it" and see that this pile of stone was in fact a magnificent cathedral.
Remember the Market, er, I mean the Trend, er, I mean the Purpose Driven Church? Remember the prayer of Jabez? How about the New Perspective on Paul? What about the emerging church? Everyone wants to tell us how to "do church" better.
We could discuss the various merits and obvious flaws of the existing methodologies, approaches, philosophies and whatnot - and I sure others are doing that somewhere even as I type this - but frankly, it is a pointless pursuit. In ten years there will be another half dozen or more "better" strategies for building, fixing, motivating, improving or otherwise repairing the existing church - and as many (and likely more) in the decade after that and so on ad nauseum.
Everyone seems convinced that the church is not what it should be - but everyone seems to have a different spin on what "what it should be" is.
I think we could examine every new "solution" with scrutiny to see if this is the "one" final solution - or, if we are like many - perhaps we will simply take a little "good" from here, and a little "good" from there and sew them into our Christian practicum like so many patches on a patchwork quilt. Eventually we may arrive at something that is closer to "the true church" (cue the "holy reverence" background music) - and since that seems to be a good thing to do, and since it is clearly better than nothing - why knock it?
Well, I will knock it, because, as I said, I burn with jealousy on occasion, and since this is my blog, I can vent that jealousy and let the chips fall where they may.
The "problem" with the church is not that we aren't doing church right - it is that we aren't doing Christ right. No one can see the love of God flowing out of someone whose greatest love is themselves. Listen: a stubborn, unsurrendered heart looks to all the world to be just like any other worldly heart. How can someone who always resists the Holy Spirit expect the love of God to be seen in them? You waste your time when the best you do is approximate in practice what surrendering to Christ would look like if you were actually surrendered to Him. Let me tell you, an approximation looks fantastic on the outside - it can even look genuine and fool everyone around you - but it shows itself for what it is in this way - it has absolutely =no= spiritual power whatsoever.
I think it was an unsaved politician in India who once remarked that Christians make such extraordinary claims while living such ordinary lives.
That is just plain sad because, for the most part, it is stingingly accurate.
If you want to improve the church, start at the ground level - the fallow ground level. What the church needs is not a new plan, it needs surrendered saints. The problem isn't that we don't have the right method, it is that we don't have a right heart. There is no room and no provision for mediocrity in the church.
My plea this morning - and going into the weekend - is this: If you are in Christ and as you read this you are not absolutely surrendered to God - stop putting it off! Listen: God loves you and even if as you read this you are nursing your sin - trust in God's forgiveness and love and put away the sin - do that and God will give you grace, but don't just do it in your head - don't just say, "Dear God, I am a sinner, please forgive me - I will do better next time. Amen." - tell God the truth - "Dear God, I know I should love you and love pleasing you, but I have been telling myself that you don't love me because I am such a phony. I have been telling myself that you can't love me until I am a good person - I have been trying to make myself acceptable to you and in doing so I have demonstrated that I don't really believe Christ's death satisfied your wrath towards me - forgive me my unbelief, forgive me my lack of love - and grant me this - that I would trust in your love and in your Christ, and that in the strength of that trust I would walk not only in the coming moments but throughout the day, throughout my life. Cleanse me as you promised, I will turn from the unbelief that separates us, and ask only that you replace in me this unbelief with faith through your Holy Spirit's filling. Grant me the strength in grace to walk right before you. Amen" - or something like that.
I think that if we spent more time fixing Christians we would not be so preoccupied with trying to fix the church.
The last couple of times that our congregation's "Christian Education Committee" met, we did so over a meal. We each brought our spouses and our kids and made an evening of it, and after the meal we sat down while our spouses and kids were off visiting. Our meeting doesn't last too long, so while the families are visiting we conduct our meeting - it is a formula I highly recommend for we have all found the meal/visit format more friendly to family and more conducive to fellowship than the "let's get together in the vacant church basement on a Saturday over a card table and hash out things" approach.
The last couple of times we met thus, after the meeting, our host brought out a board game to play: "Settlers of Catan" (see the picture!)
I had never played it before, much less heard of it, but I found it to me a perfectly delightful game. The game can be played with two players, but it best played with three or four. If you want to play more than four you need to buy an expansion pack which will allow you to play up to six players.
The game is played on a board that changes every time you play it. The board itself is actually a set of 19 "Land" hexagons ("L") and 18 "Water" hexagons ("W") that surround the land (see the cheesy diagram below).
There are five different "types" of land hexes that each produce a different natural resource (grain, sheep, bricks, ore, and wood), which are used as a sort of currency in the game. Resources can be traded amongst the players and used to purchase such things as roads, cities, settlements, or community development cards (sort of a "community chest" card).
There are 18 "chits" as well numbered as follows: 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 8, 8, 9, 9, 10, 10, 11, 11, & 12 - the numbers correspond to the sum of a 2d6 roll (a pair of six sided dice added together). The circular little chits (similar to bingo chips) are randomly placed on the various land hexes at the start of the game, one chit per land hex (with the exception of a "desert" land mass which gives no resource and has no chit). The board is therefore set up so that the land layout changes every game, and the chit layout changes as well.
The game is won by being the first player to get 10 "victory points". A victory point is awarded for each settlement, two for each city, two for having the longest road, and another two for having the largest army - there are also incidental victory points that can be had by purchasing development cards along the way.
To purchase roads, settlements, cities, or development cards requires resources, and these resources are handed out each turn to all players when the dice are rolled - such that if you have a settlement or city that borders the land upon which the chit with the number just rolled resides - you get the resources of the land thus rolled, even when it isn't your turn.
The strength of the game is in the inevitable scarcity of resources - you will find yourself, say abundantly in possession of one type of resource, but woefully stripped of some other resource - and you will have to trade amongst the other players to get what you lack without throwing the game away - because everyone can trade, and because trade really the only way you can get all that you need in a timely fashion it makes for a very involved game - no matter whose turn it is, you are in the game - either to trade with your own resources directly, or to encourage (or discourage) others who would trade in a way that may increase or jeopardize your hope of victory.
Having played it a couple of times I decided to buy one last week, ordering it through a local retailer (rainydaygames.ca) because he seemed to have the best price I could find anywhere. I played it with my two older kids (6 and 9) the other day and it was instantly their favorite game of all time.
I mention this because while I love my children, I secretly loath playing games such as Monopoly Junior, Clue http://rainydaygames.ca/, <insert game name here> Junior, etc. I mean the games are either so simplified that your kids haven't got a hope of winning against you unless you make an effort to lose, or they are so pointless you don't really enjoy playing them. Now there are some of you I am sure who will blow the "but it is all for the kids" horn - that is, who will say you don't play games with your kids for your own enjoyment, you play games for their enjoyment - and I wouldn't disagree with that - but I wouldn't suggest that this be the goal for which we shoot.
This game has that one rare quality that I look for in a family game - can it be played and enjoyed equally by all players regardless of age - and in that category it wins hands down. This game has a second rare quality that I also look for in a family game - is is actually fun to play - and the answer here is yes. Now the amazing thing is that there are very few family games that score a "yes" on either of these questions and of those far fewer that score a yes on both. That sounds like high praise because it is. The game is good, clean, fun; new every time; and can be enjoyed by everyone (even our three year old played with us - though she was much helped through it and did lose interest after the first half hour).
I give it a five star rating. If you have a family and want a game for games night that you can all enjoy and not grow tired of - pick one up. If you are on a church committee that has to meet every so often - pack the game along, turn your meeting into a fellowship potluck, and after the meeting you can all play Settlers of Catan together - and laugh.
There are many meme style "awards" out there for bloggers that exalt the blogger on account of some gifted ability. Are they a good writer, a deep thinker, do they have a great sense of humor or style? That's wonderful, but such things can be used for good, left to rot, or even used for ill.
I thought therefore it would be a good idea to create a new meme tag award - one that gives recognition to those who use their gifts to build up others in Christ, rather than recognizing someone for simply has a gift.
In that capacity, I am creating my own award, I call it the oikodomeis award (oy-kaw-daw-mace), because oikodomeis is koine for "you build up" - as in "you are the source of edification for others." There is something about saying that in Koine Greek that makes it more solemn - and frankly it is more compact that calling it the "You build other people up in Christ" award.
This award is for blogs that consistently edify you - it is not to be handed out willy nilly to people just because you like them or the way they write - but seriously, it is to be given to blogs that have honestly stretched you in Christ, that have turned you Christ-ward again and again - blogs that have challenged your walk as opposed to merely your intellect.
The participation rules are simple:
1. If you get tagged by this meme, write a post that links to as many other blogs as you believe worthy of receiving this award - you need not be tagged personally to do this, but it is unlikely you will find out about it otherwise.
2. Link to =this= post so that people will [a] understand what the award is all about and [b] be able to see where the meme started.
3. Optional: You can display the 'Oikodomeis Award' in your blog banner with a linking to either the post wherein your blog was nominated, or back here to this post.
4. To use the award image, copy it to your own image server, as I cannot vouch for the longevity of that particular image on my own image server.
To begin the meme, I shall tag five people whose blogs have been a source of edifying grace to me:
I could have tagged a bunch more I suppose, and if you didn't get tagged it wasn't because I don't think your blog is edifying (though maybe I do...), the truth is that I tagged the first five or six people that came to mind, and having planned to stop at five or six people - I did just that.
I encourage you reader, if you know of some blogs that have edified you, give them an award for it - don't wait to get tagged yourself - Oikodomeis means "you build up" - and that is something to encourage in others.
Fifty nine days ago, on the 11th of February 2007, some guy named Ilker (the thinking blog) started the "five blogs that make me think" meme, and because recipients of the meme get to put a prestigious looking award on their site after being tagged, it seems to have really taken off.
I don't read Ilker's blog for two reasons, first, until I saw this "thinking blog award" I never knew there was a thinking blog, or some guy named Ilker behind it - and secondly, and perhaps most relevant now that I know there is a thinking blog and some guy named Ilker blogging there - I find that the material on his blog is a little too "racy."
I first noticed the "thinking blogger logo" award on Frank Turk's blog on April 4th. I couldn't quite make out what was pictured in the logo - a baby with a mark on its head or something - but Ilker describes the logo as a "thinking alien fetus" - and that probably says enough right there.
Now, it is not that I am not a fan of Internet viral marketing - I am, but I would hesitate to say that I am an indiscriminate supporter of it. Which is not to suggest that playing along with the meme is  supporting ilker's blog, or that playing along with the meme  anyone who plays along with this particular meme is being indiscriminate - good gravy no! I am not suggesting that.
All I am saying is that I am not going to continue that particular meme here. I am honored to have been considered for it by Gayla and JD (Even so), but I have something else in mind as my next post will show.
and all of you, being dead in your offenses and sins
When God told Adam the he would die on the day that he ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - it was no empty threat. It wasn't as if they ate the fruit and God changed his mind and "let them live" - rather, God had meant that they would die "spiritually" - which is exactly what happened.
Since the flesh cannot give birth to anything spiritual, when Adam and Eve began to procreate, their children were born physically alive, but spiritually "still born" - that is, spiritually dead.
When we read Ephesians 2:1 that all of these were born dead, we understand that this is a spiritual truth that reflects the fall - we are born spiritually dead on account of Adam's sin.
A Brief Expositional Tangent We want to be careful therefore not to impose meaning into the word "dead" by virtue of the way the word is typically used in English...
By that I mean, that we all recognize that nothing can be "truly dead" unless it once had life. A dead frog was once a live frog, and even a still born child was once a live fetus. Nothing that is dead today was always dead, but had at one time preceded out of a state of life and into a state of death. This is self evident.
The problem comes when we take something that is self evident on a physical plane (such as to be dead something must first have been alive), and impose this rule as though it governed both the physical realm and the spiritual realm indiscriminately. Frankly, we have no grounds to presume such an imposition.
I don't doubt that life must precede death - even spiritually speaking - but because the spiritual life that precedes our spiritual death was never actually possessed by us personally, but was only ever possessed by our original ancestors (Adam and Eve only) - we are born alive physically but dead spiritually.
I pause here to mention that it isn't as though we are born without a spirit, that we somehow are born with just a body and no spirit - that isn't spiritual death, that is a spiritual vacuum. Just as some babes are born lifeless, so too every child of Adam's is born spiritually lifeless - being present but corrupted in this way - the spirit does not possess life.
On judgment day I expect that the corrupted spirit of unbelievers will be "raised to life" and united with the raised but corrupt body of the unbeliever becoming one again and thereafter judged then condemned.
Those who are "born of the Spirit" however, begin their eternal life the moment they are saved - that is, their spirit will not die when their body dies, but will live on until judgment day where the formerly corrupt body of the believer will be raised incorruptible and be united with their spirit.
The Point The point is that in scripture, when we speak of the unbeliever as being spiritually dead we are not suggesting that the unbeliever previously was alive spiritually and suddenly died spiritually at a later time - as though they had once possessed life and had lost it - we are not suggesting that unbelievers "have died" spiritually, but rather that they are, and have always been void of anything spiritual. It isn't that they don't have a spirit, it is that the spirit that they do have is dead, and by definition unable to respond to "things of the Spirit."
Not that their spirit was once alive then later died, but rather that they never had a live spirit in the first place. Unbelievers are dead, and remain dead spiritually unless they turn to Christ at which point Christ gives them life.
A few days ago, as I was in prayer before the Lord and found myself battling with a sense of despondancy.
I am not talking about a momentary struggle against some common temptation - but rather a deeper temptation against a more primary pillar. My whole Christian endeavor seemed to me to a slender tower that was suddenly taking a beating on its foundation; whole volleys of doubt pounded the foundation like so many weighty stones hurled by unseen engines of war - and as each pounded against my faith, the weight of their fall shook the whole of me; which is to say, I was feeling quite troubled before my God, inadequate, and desiring that God would pity me for all my failure.
Yes, yes, it is pathetic. But let's move on.
So as I was crying out to Christ specifically to beg him to turn even this to His glory, as I am well aware that God uses all things for good to those who love Him, so I called out and begged my Lord to allow as much to come as would give Him the greatest glory. That may sound noble, but if were acted out, the actor wouldn't be standing up nobly and proclaiming it with a firm chin and an erect and confident mein - rather, it would be a beggarly, shaking little voice, squeaked out of some snivelling wreck - almost a whimper, and no louder than a whisper.
So there I was in prayer - a breath away from defeat really - when a thought came into my mind: "What is the best thing that has ever happened to you in your whole entire life?" Now it wasn't some mystical voice I heard, it was just my own thought, but it seemed so out of touch with what I was doing at the moment I had to stop and go, "Huh?" The thought was still there, like the ringing echo after you speak in an empty room. What was the best day of my life? What does that have to do with anything? But just as a planted seed begins to grow with light and water, so too, as I stopped to think why I was having this thought in the first place - I began to run the tape of my whole life in my mind.
What was the best thing I ever did? Was it getting married? Having children? Some grand accomplishment that won me respect? Hmmm. The question wasn't really about the happiest day of my life, it was direct - Daniel, you there, what is the best thing you personally have ever done? I looked over my brief history of charity - and there were some nice things there - but could I say that anyone one act was the penultimate act? Something that could be put on my tombstone - "Daniel did such and such" - and the reader would be left to think, "man, that is really a good thing Daniel has done."
As I pondered it, I began to see that there really wasn't a long list of "good" things I had done ever, and frankly, nothing stood out as being the best thing I ever did - until it hit me sideways. As I hesitated there, in the midst of feelings of spiritual impotence and uselessness - I understood with absolute certainty and clarity what ought to have been obvious. The best thing I have ever done in my life, the greatest moment of my whole life, was the moment I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. Nothing compares to it - absolutely nothing.
Then came the "two" of the "one-two" punch. I remembered that I would never have come to Christ on my own - that He called me, and I answered His call. That just as Paul was minding his own business on the Damascus Road when WHAM! Jesus was suddenly real, and suddenly God - so too, I could take no credit for what God had wrought in me.
The greatest thing that I have ever done was in fact something that God did in me. It knocked the wind out of the sails of my despondancy in an instant.
So that night, at the supper table I asked the question of my family. My fullest expectation was that they would consider it, put forth some ideas, and slowly come to the same realization I had. I was actually looking forward to seeing them struggle as I had through all the possibilities, and then watch their faces brighten up one by one as the truth came to them, or perhaps as I, with paternal grace, informed them of the greatest thing I had ever done, and then they would all marvel at the depth of that truth, and perhaps a little part of them would respect me even more...
Except that the question was barely out of my mouth when my eldest son, almost lazily replied, "Oh, that would be the day that Christ saved me, coming to Christ was the best thing I ever did!"
I was struck dumb. Honestly - I had agonized over that question that same morning, and when I came to the answer, it was like someone turned the lights on for me - I was actually looking forward to asking my family the question, hearing their answers, then letting them in on what I found out that morning.
So when my son shot off *the* answer without even a single moments hesitation - I was almost put off. I mean, sure, being nine he didn't have a lot of life to go sifting through, but I hardly expected him to even come to the right answer, let alone do so off the cuff like that.
Anyway, it taught me that  God loves me enough to remind me that I love Him because He first loved me,  I can get pretty full of myself sometimes, and because my God is a good God, He reminds me that I have nothing good that hasn't been given to me.