H  O  M  E          
Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
  • - Endorsed
  • - Indifferent
  • - Contested
I Affirm This
The Nashville Statement
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.
My complete profile...
The Buzz

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

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
Email Me
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
991: Thy Kingdom.
Christ, when teaching His disciples how to pray, taught them to ask God to usher His kingdom in on the earth ("Thy kingdom come").

This kingdom, of course, is to be ruled by Christ until all things (including, and perhaps especially, death) are put under Christ's feet by God. At that point Christ steps down, and God the Father rules. Christ is the King of kings, and the Lord of Lords, but He will surrender His Father's throne when all things have been put beneath His feet.

We have therefore a King (Christ), and a kingdom that Christ inaugurated, but I recall sitting down with a group of youth perhaps eight to ten years ago and asking a question about the kingdom. What was it, where was it, who was in it, when does it start, when does it end. You know, the basics. Sure there was that awkward teenage silence thing where no one wants to make a peep lest they be wrong and look foolish, and perhaps ruin forever their hopes of one day getting married, but truly their silence was steeped not only in awkwardness but in genuine ignorance. They simply didn't know what the kingdom really was, when it started or ended, though they were all pretty sure that God or Jesus was associated with ruling over it.

So I thought I would post a very quick (for me) article on God's kingdom.

Picture the scene where the disciples approached Jesus asking him how they ought to pray. They had heard Jesus pray many times, so I believe that Jesus didn't just burst into prayer and they quickly jotted down the words, rather I think Jesus was speaking to them, and not to God when He told them to pray in this way, "Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, etc." That is, Jesus wasn't praying these words to God, but putting forth a sort of example of prayer to the disciples.

Of course, at that moment, the kingdom was imminent, knocking at the door, as it were, but it had yet to be established. Christ was crowned, as it were, when He rose from the grave, yet the earthly kingdom was not established until the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost.

In Hebrews we read that when God spoke to the Israelites on Mount Sinai, he shook the earth, but that a day is coming when God is going to speak and shake not only the earth but the heavens also, we read also that this shaking serves a purpose - it looses and removes all that is not firm. Paul writes of the same sort of thing as passing through fire - some things being burned up, and others surviving the fire. These are eschatological (end times) pictures. On the last day the the angels will come through and remove all that offends. This is the same as the fire that burns away all that is worthless, and again, what the author of Hebrews writes - the shaking of the heavens and the earth so that only the kingdom remains.

Think this through for a moment. The kingdom will only have one King, Jesus, and His rule will continue until all things are put beneath His feet. That means that when Christ rose from the grave He took up His crown, and sent forth the Holy Spirit, thereby inaugurating His reign, and establishing "visibly" (if you will) the onset of His kingdom. This kingdom will continue until the judgment is completed and death is cast into hell - one might say, this reign will continue then, until the last day: judgment day.

That's the length of it.

One might argue, though not very convincingly since you would have to miss the point to make the argument, that the "kingdom" began with the first act of faith - say with Adam, or with Abraham, or even with "King" Saul. But whatever foreshadowing we see in the OT, we ought not to confuse that with the substance of the Kingdom that Christ ushered in. It was Christ's kingdom that all of history anticipated, and that the OT pointed to. Recorded history reads a thousand road signs pointing to the coming kingdom - but we mustn't mistake the sign for the substance. Christ did not teach His disciples to pray, "Thank you that your kingdom has already come", but to implore God to bring into existence that which sat pregnantly waiting.

It is proper, I think, to paint the kingdom as God the Father's kingdom, ruled by Christ in God's stead, though I don't suppose I would object very much if someone called it "Christ's kingdom". We understand that Christ is the King who will rule God's kingdom until that reign is surrendered to the Father on the last day, so I wouldn't spend a lot of time splitting hairs on that point.

The Kingdom then, will survive the destruction of this age and world, it is that which will not be shaken - and that is why the author of Hebrews encourages us to be grateful for our inclusion in the kingdom - because the kingdom will survive. That is why the author of Hebrews encourages us to continue in that which we have received, etc. etc.

Consider therefore, today, that we ought to show reverence and awe at our inclusion in this unshakable kingdom as an act of acceptable worship. For this reason, the author of Hebrews writes, our love for the brethren should continue, for this reason we should not neglect being hospitable to strangers, remembering prisoners in prison, holding marriage as honorable, keeping our character and conduct above reproach, our doctrine true, and our determination to follow Christ outside the camp, as it were, in tact. We have received already the kingdom which will not be shaken - let us walk worthy of that.


posted by Daniel @ 7:18 AM   0 comment(s)
Thursday, June 24, 2010
989: Oranje!

If you don't get the title, you probably don't get the first line from this post either.

Lang leve NL!

update: 1:1@65' - Doh!

update#2: 2:1@84' - YAY!
posted by Daniel @ 2:47 PM   8 comment(s)
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
In Denial
Their idols are silver and gold,
   the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
   eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
  noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
   feet, but do not walk;
    and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
   so do all who trust in them.

               - Psalm 115:4-8 [ESV]

Today, briefly, I would like to address the problem of spiritual inertia. You know, where you find yourself unwilling to pray, or read the bible, or unwilling to surrender yourself to God in some area of your life or in many areas as the case may be. In short, the problem of carnality in the Christian life.

Carnality, in the sense that I am using the word, describes living according to the dictates of your earthly body's desires; id est: conforming your conduct in both your heart and all that flows from it, to the dictates of the flesh. I am pretty sure that most of you reading will already understand that your flesh is not subject to God's rule, nor can it be made subject to God's rule - not by you, who are entirely incapable of changing your own spots, nor by God, who though able, has in His wisdom deigned not to redeem our flesh during this lifetime. We must therefore accept the reality that we are presently housed in broken cisterns that cannot hold water - fallen flesh that cannot be redeemed in this life.

That is not to be confused, of course, with the redemption of our soul, which can (and must) be redeemed in this life.

What it means, however, is that our flesh cannot be made to desire God's rule. It does not, and never will, desire to live in subjugation to the Spirit. The believer who sins, therefore, is in the same moment obeying the desires of the flesh, and disobeying the desires of God's Spirit whom he received the moment He was placed into Christ through faith.

When I speak of spiritual inertia then, I am speaking of falling into a prolonged habit of obeying the desires of the flesh over the desires of the Spirit. When I use the term "falling" here, I mean embracing a sort of spiritual slackness that allows you to indulge the desires of the flesh. You know it is wrong, and sinful, but you are more willing to give into the sinful desires of the flesh than you are to deal with them spiritually.

It is as common as it is wrong-headed to imagine that we are the victim of sin in such a situation. I have heard genuine believers lament their own bondage to sin as though they truly had no control whatsoever over their response to temptation. They learn to excuse their sin on the basis that they "have no choice" - the temptation comes and they have no power but to give into it.

The truth is that they have the same power available to them that raised Christ from the dead - but that their flesh is unwilling to be ruled by God in the matter, and they refuse to surrender to God, having made peace with the desires of the flesh. The agony they feel, is not the agony of somone struggling against a sin, it is the agony of someone who is choosing to be at peace with a sin that the Holy Spirit is still at war with.

The problem here then, is not the sin, it is the surrender. The Christian is not merely refusing to give up the sin, he is refusing God's rule, or more potently stated - he is rejecting God Himself.

I think few of us put that together in any lucid sense, when we indulge some sin, but the truth of it rings in our soul - we know that to embrace sin is to reject God, and what a mess that makes within us who claim to be Christian. We see this inner turmoil as a mark of hypocrisy, and imagine ourselves to be broken and in need of repair, but in such a way that we cannot find our way to the repairshop.

That's pretty common stuff amongst immature believers, and I make a distinction between mature and immature not based on how long one has been a Christian or what sort of ministry they are in, or are not in - rather I base that simply on whether or not they are at peace in their surrender. The mature believer is a veteran soldier who has learned to surrender the field of his life to Christ, the novice is still out there, flip-flopping, failing, and falling on his face more often than not.

Hence the quote from the psalms.

You see the flow of that text? The ending says that those who make or worship idols become like them - that is, they have hands that do not move, eyes that do not see, ears that will not hear, etc. etc. They become spiritually inert, and that because they have idols in their life.

I think most of us understand that idols are not necessarily little gold plated figurines that we worship, but rather the things that we make the focus of our lives in the place of making God the focus of our lives.

Why is it that you do not rise early to read the scriptures and pray? Because you prefer to sleep. Why do you need that sleep? Because you were up late. Why were you up late? Because you were entertaining yourself in some way. To be sure, you set aside time each day to be entertained. It is your "right" you say. It is "okay" you say. Just as food is necessary but gluttony a sin, so also entertainment is a gift, but glutting yourself on it an idol.

Why are you spiritually inert? In other words, why is it that your love for God seems waning? Why is it that you would rather spend your time entertaining yourself in some way? Let me tell you, it is because you are devoting yourself to your idols - and really, in doing so, you are indulging the flesh because it is the flesh that makes these things into idols.

How do you crawl out of this rut? Well, you can't do it in your flesh - that is, it isn't just a matter of personal resolve - it is a matter of reckoning on the truth, and the truth is that you have been set free from this rebellion that characterizes your conduct. The truth is that every genuine child of God has been set free from this very bondage, so that the believer who suddenly recognizes himself as hopelessly mired in sin, has at hand ready and available resources by which he can appropriate the freedom he already possesses in Christ. This deliverence is appropriate by faith - what Paul describes as "reckoning" on the fact that we are not in fact in bondage, even as the enemy deceives us into believing. We must act in accord with what is true, rather than in accord with what is false, and recognize especially that the only person telling us that this won't work is the flesh - because it does not want to live according to God's rule.

One in this situation must stop trying to solve the problem by seeking some way by which the flesh suddenly starts to desire obedience. No, the solution is to see the flesh for what it is, a living manifestation of death itself.

I want to be clear here. I am not suggesting that death manifests itself in life, as that would be both irrational and a contradiction. I am saying that death manifests itself as an absence of life in the same way that a shadow manifests itself in the absense of light.

When Paul speaks of the flesh as "this body of death" (Romans 7:24) he is speaking of the flesh as an inescapable source of that which displaces spiritual life. There is no difference between the flesh of the believer and the flesh of the unbeliever - the flesh in either case is a well whose corrupt water, when drawn forth, corrupts and destroys. The distinction therefore between the believer and the unbeliever is that the unbeliever has an alternate well to draw from - the indwelling Spirit of God.

Thus the scriptures teach us that we are to reckon ourselves dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is clearly a matter of trusting something to be true - that is the victory comes to us by and through an act of faith, rather than as a consequence of some pragmatic sin-busting scheme.

Yet, having said that, I don't doubt that there will be some reading who ask: How does that work? What must I do? How do I reckon myself to be dead to sin and alive to God?

Here is how:

First: Come to terms with the root problem: you don't want to obey God.

Where is that coming from? It is coming from your flesh. Your flesh will never desire to be ruled by God - that is the nature of its corruption.

What does obeying the flesh produce in you? It produces death; that is, insofar as we obey the flesh, we (in doing so) displace whatever spiritual life might have been manifested in our living. Every time we obey the flesh we displace in our experience, the reality of our spiritual life. It isn't that our spiritual life is diminished, rather it is that we have surrendered the space where life is supposed to be, and given it up to death - we willfully limit the scope and power of that life within us.

We need to see what we are doing if we are to truly understand what we are trying to do when we "reckon" ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God.

Thus we must settle it in our thinking that our disobedience is not merely a single act of sin, but the giving over of control in our life to the flesh - a surrendering to corruption, a determined choice to limit the Spirit's work in our life so as to allow the continued reign of the flesh. We must see this for what it is, and reject it from the core of our being.

Typically this isn't a five second talk we have with our self, but a soul searching plummet into the depths of our depravity - a deep wrestling with truths we seldom dare to acknowledge - and as such it isn't something fleeting and light, but life changing and deep.

Second: Having settled ourselves to make war with sin, we must acknowledge that we are not in a private war over our own soul, for our soul was won by Christ on Calvary. No, we are in God's war, and our life is merely the battlefield upon which His war is being waged - a war wherein we are guaranteed the victory.

I can't stress that enough. Fighting sin in order to gain heaven is not only pointless, it demonstrates the conniving nature of deceit. Unless we enter into the fray assured that we do not fight for our own souls, but for God's kingdom, we are already doomed to fail.

The reason we battle sin is not for our own peace, though that is a real consequence, it is not again so that we can be assured of our salvation, though that is sure to flow from it; the reason we battle is not for our own benefit, though we stand to benefit the most - the reason we battle is because we are in God's army, and moved by the certainty that God's glory demands our surrender. Only He knows how best to magnify His name - we trust His plan over our own, and are satisfied in His will.

If we are not satisfied that God's way is not only best, but the only path that is fit for us, we need to spend more time in step one. The only voice that will rise up against God's will is the voice of corruption. If that voice is still ringing with some influence in our ears, we are not ready for the battle.

Third, we reckon on the truth that the flesh is a conquered foe in Christ. That is, we deny it's rule over us on the grounds that we have been set free by Christ from that which was producing death in us. We have, in Christ, the power to deny the flesh, and we take up that power by faith.

If we fail to take up that power, it is because we were attempting to do so in the flesh, and while the flesh will gladly lend itself to every effort that doesn't end in its demise, it will never be your ally in actually mortifying itself. God and God alone does this work, and to be sure, the work is already done in that those who are genuinely saved already possess the Holy Spirit by and through Whom we have the power to obey God.

All that is left therefore, is to deny the flesh, and obey the Spirit.

Of course there are going to be some hang ups at the start. I mean, what does it mean to obey the Spirit, do we hear a voice telling us what to do? No, unless if by voice you mean only to personify the commands of scripture, or the conviction of sin and righteousness. Likewise, what if we find ourselves convinced of all these things, but still unable in the moment of decision, to deny the flesh?

Well, if we are unwilling to deny the flesh, it is probably because we are still holding onto something we ought to let go of - that is, the main stumbling block to our obedience is a deadness within that rises out of some idol in our life. We are spiritually numbed by its grip on us. We need to let it go. That all happens in step one - and coming to the place where we see and let go of all that would own us besides Christ our Lord, is the meat and potatoes of Christian growth.

The man who begins with a fallow field, plows it and makes it ready, but even then he must maintain it, lest it grow fallow again. So also this is not a one time work, but we must always weed our garden, as it were.

What I want you to take away from this post is the certainty that your war against sin will not be fruitless, if indeed you make war against sin. If however you neglect to make war, the fallow faith that follows will dry you up spiritually. The imagery of idols, or fallow fields, or what have you - all picture your life being filled with things other than God - things that by their presence, displace what God could (and ought to) be in your life. If you do not make war against these things, you will suffer loss for it, both in the quality of this life, and again, in the missed rewards in the next.
posted by Daniel @ 10:53 AM   5 comment(s)
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
987: Awesomeness.
I set aside, each morning, time to read the bible.

I have done so each morning (but not without fail) ever since I turned away from living for myself, and determined, in as much as in me is, to follow in obedience, the teachings of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I don't think that makes me better than people who don't read the bible, but it does make me more joyful, more certain, and more assured. I suppose it also delivers me from all sorts of folly and confusion that I would otherwise be far more susceptible to falling into.

This morning was no different, except that when I had finished reading the scriptures (I am in the psalms right now), I listened to the entire book of Romans on my iPhone. I downloaded it yesterday in the ESV version. I purchased the whole bible in audio format for less than eight bucks, and not that annoying version with the (supposed to be) dramatic, but ultimately and cumulatively distracting ochestral music droning on in the background. No this version is read by David Cochran Heath and published by Crossway. I am not an audio bible affionado, so I don't know if this is the best of the best of the best - what I like about it is that it is a no nonsense read, in a tone and at a pace that I find does not distract from the word. You can go here if you want to get yourself a copy before the sale ends.

I found out about it over at the thirsty theologian, David Kjos' blog and aggregate website. You should bookmark his site and visit it daily.

I mention that I read the bible this morning because I did not want to give the impression that listening to the book of Romans was an act of disciplined study; that is I wanted to be careful not to suggest that iPod bible listening is on par with studying the written word. You (typically) cannot stop to ponder, or take notes, or flip to supporting texts, or fortify what you have just read/heard with other passages in scripture when you are listening to a recording of scripture. All you can (normally) do is "listen". So I put that, not under "study" but under "Joy in the Lord" - not as part of a disciplined regiment, but rather as something more productive than listening to, say, Christian pop radio, or worse. Dare I say this, lest someone misunderstand - but I listen to the bible as a means of entertaining my soul with that which pleases it.

I know that not everyone feels that way about recordings, many I imagine, think that listening to scripture and reading it are pretty much all the same.

Don't get me wrong, I think it is good to read the word, and good to have it read to you - both are edifying. I, likewise, would not hesitate to acknowledge that there were periods in church history where people couldn't read the bible for themselves, either because they themselves did not know the languages of scripture, or because there were no ready and available bibles for them to read. These, by necessity had to hear a person read (and translate) the scripture, and then at some appointed time in an appointed place. This was the best they could manage at the time, so it is fitting therefore that we refer to those days as the "dark" ages. For the comman person lived in spiritual darkness by virtue of the starvation diet he was compelled to live under.

I encourage you, therefore, to take advantage of this offer before time runs out. If you are not a bible reader, well, become a bible listener. If you read your bible, then buy this and start listening - only don't supplant the one for the other to "save yourself time" - rather add it to your day on top of whatever else you do. I find the morning ride to work is good for about ten chapters, and the ride home, another ten.

Labels: ,

posted by Daniel @ 7:13 AM   1 comment(s)
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Sanctification - Done Right.
I followed a link from David Kjos's blog the other day (www.ThirstyTheologian.com), over to the Gospel Coalition's blog (www.thegospelcoalition.org). The link was to Justin Taylor's corner of the blog, and the article in particular was provocatively titled, in the Puritan tradition, How Do I Know If I'm Mortifying Sin by the Law or by the Gospel?. Here Mr. Taylor listed the eight subject headings from a sermon given by the Puritan Ralph Erskine, outlining the difference between [1] attempting to put sin to death by the strength of your own might (and therefore as an act of theologically confused piety), and [2] actually mortifying the body of sin (i.e. living in a way that denies the desires of the body of sin) according to the gospel (c.f. Matthew 1:21). He provided a link to the sermon, (which if you want to read it can be found at the linked article above), that pointed to a web site I had been to many times in the past. It is there that we find, in full, a book written by the Puritan Walter Marshall entitled, "The Gospel Mystery Of Sanctification" - a book I consider a -must- read for anyone serious about their own sanctification.

I meet far too many believers who are adrift theologically, and subsequently (inevitably?) spiritually as well - at least in regards to their sanctification. These are not pursuing sanctification in any systematic way, but are sort of attempting to be sanctified in reactionary fits of guilt and effort.

Now, as it happened, after I had studied the sermon, with much nodding and humming, I received an email from a fellow I had had the privilege of counseling in the past, and in the course of this email, I was able to see an immediate need for the passing along of this information. But rather than just link to the original sermon, I rewrote and expanded it a little, and sent it off, with some other encouragements, and that would have been the end of it, except I decided that I ought to post something today. So, because I spent a bit of time on this already, I decided I would simply post that rehash. So here it is, taken from a much longer email, and tweaked it bit for Internet consumption:

It is a good and proper thing to try and live without sin, but there are two ways by which a man may attempt such a thing, and these two ways differ themselves on eight important points. What we are talking about, when we talk about "trying not to sin" is "putting sin to death" in our lives - what the Puritans called, "mortifying sin". The two ways can be described as the [1] right way, versus the wrong way, or if you prefer, the [2] spiritual versus the carnal, or again, the [3] gospel way versus the law way.

I mentioned eight ways in which these two approaches differ (and I am borrowing heavily from the writings of the Puritan Ralph Erskine, as I do so), they are, briefly: [1] the principles from which they proceed, [2] the weapons with which they fight against sin, [3] what they are trying to mortify (put to death), [4] the reason they imagine they must fight sin in their life, [5] The motive behind their fighting with sin, [6] the nature of their mortification, [7] the extent they are willing to go in battling sin, and finally [8] the success of their efforts.

Hereafter I will follow Erskine's map, as it were, and compare the two paths on these eight points, to give some direction to your struggle against sin, so that, being informed, you might understand that pursuing a deliverance from sin according to the flesh, not only will be difficult and painful, it will always and ultimately be useless and never work anyway.

[1]. Two Different Sets of Principles behind efforts to stop sinning

The Right/Spiritual/Effective/Gospel Principles:

Romans 8:13 says, "for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

The first principle therefore regarding your efforts to put sin to death in your life, is that you must do so by the Spirit of God.

Acts 15:9 says, "and He [i.e. The Holy Spirit] made no distinction between us [Jews] and them [Gentiles], cleansing their hearts by faith." (I added the parenthetical parts to help you keep the verse in context in your thinking).

The second principle therefore, regarding your efforts to put sin to death in your life is that the death of sin flows out of faith.

In 2 Corinthians 5:14 we read, "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;"

Thus the third principle behind your efforts to be put sin to death in your life is that you are constrained to do so by the love that Jesus has for you.

According to the gospel of Jesus, according to the teaching we find in the new testament, your efforts must be founded upon these principles, that you overcome sin by the Spirit of God, by Faith, and because of the love that Jesus has for you. This is the stream from which your sanctification is supposed to flow. Do you notice that each of these principles finds its origin in God? By the Spirit, in faith (faith is a gift), according to Christ's love for us?

Who is doing the work here, according to scripture? God is. It is plainly stated, of course, in Philippians 2:13, where we read, "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." - but these principles are foundational - God is at work - we must have, as a foundational understanding the certainty that God is at work in us, that we overcome sin through the Holy Spirit, by faith, and because of Christ's love for us. The work is being driven by God, and that, because of His love for us.

Any effort to battle sin that is ignorant of this truth, or sets it aside in favor of some other way, is poisoned at the outset.

The Wrong/Carnal/ineffective/Legal Principles:

Consider the efforts of the Pharisees in Christ's day. Even though they were ungodly poseurs, they sincerely struggled to overcome sin in their life, but they were doing so in order to satisfy some false presumptions.

First they regarded holiness as something you attained by what you did, rather than where you heart was. You could hate God with all your heart, but if you were keeping yourself from sinning externally, you were a holy man, and God Himself had to honor that holiness. Thus they regarded one's adherence to obeying the letter of the law as a source of comparison amongst themselves. So and so kept the law better than such and such, therefore so and so was more worthy of respect and praise. As this was the case, the praise and applause of men became a primary foundation for any effort to be sinless - as though God had set up the rules, as it were, in order for men to rise above other men, comparing themselves amongst themselves to see who was most worthy. They strove to free themselves from sin in order that they might have the best reputation amongst their peers.

Consider Paul before his conversion - he was zealous for the law of God, suppressing sin in his life, not for the sake of God's glory, not out of thankfulness, or desire to see God exalted - but out of a desire to excel at being a Jew. After his conversion, Paul counted all his efforts to be a godly man as rubbish.

Again, consider those who, from a natural conscience, find sin distasteful, even as they commit it, and so offend their conscience, desire to have their conscience clean, and so, regardless of whether there is a God in heaven, are willing to battle sin just to be free from the guilt of it.

Again, consider those who see others battling sin, and because they associate themselves with these others, are inclined, for the sake of retaining a favorable opinion of themselves, or of fitting into the group, strive against the sin in their life so that they may present themselves acceptable to one another.

Again, consider how some have a common motion of the Spirit, and believe that if they do so and so, God will reward them with such and such. They want to, say, do miracles, or see some tangible, spiritual phenomenon, and believe that in order to have this gift or this experience, they need to be free from sin, so they pursue the putting to death of sin in their life in order that they might achieve or attain to some place whereby they can personally produce or manipulate a spiritual phenomenon.

Again, many times the very principle that they try to be free from one sin is to protect another. Consider the man who, in the company of other believers, sees a lusty image of a scantily clad woman, and though his heart longs to drink in her image with her eyes, and would otherwise linger thus, yet because he doesn't want to appear a sinner in the eyes of his companions, he forsakes the sin of lust in order to satisfy the sin of pride over one's reputation.

The first difference therefore between the right and wrong way to put sin to death in your life, is in the principles upon which your efforts rest or are derived from.

The second difference, is in the weapons that are employed to put sin to death in your life.

The Right/Spiritual/Effective/Gospel Weapons:

The gospel believer fights to put sin to death in his life using the grace's weapons, namely: [a] the blood of Christ, [b] the word of God, [c] the promises of the covenant, and [d] the virtue of Christ's death and cross.

The Blood of Christ: Not the red fluid, but as the scriptures teach, the blood represents the life that was spent in its shedding, such that the first weapon the Christian has in fighting sin is the life that Christ spent on his behalf. It isn't that the Christian recites some sort of mantra or spell that invokes the "blood of Christ" as is common, I suppose, in some neo-cultic churches (plead the blood!), that is, we do not overcome some temptation to sin by verbally (or even silently and prayerfully) invoking the "blood of Christ" as some sort of ward against sinning. It is rather that we do not attempt to overcome sin from the perspective of one who is alienated from God, such that failure to overcomes sin means we have offended God, and are cast out by God, and have to do something extra to be reconciled again to God - for if that were our weapon, then it would work against us rather than for us, sin there is no one who does not sin. We regard it therefore, the work of Christ on our behalf, reconciling us to God, as a strong tower that we run into, as it were, when the guilt of our sin would turn us away from God. Being certain that God is for us, and not against us, will be our strength when sin gets the best of us.

The Word of God: In putting sin to death in our life, we must not rely upon our experiences or even our expectations of what a successful battle against sin looks like, rather we must depend upon what God has said in His word to guide us in our efforts, and in the certainty of His work in them.

The Promises of The new covenant: That is, the promise of the gospel, that Jesus came to save His people from their sin (Matthew 1:21); the promise of reconciliation in Christ, the promise of acceptance in Christ, and the promise that God is at work in us, etc.

The virtue of Christ's death on the cross: In Galatians 6:14 we read, "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Here Paul speaks of the death of Christ as being that which crucifies him (Paul) to the world (i.e. following the sinful practice of 'those who are in the world'). Scripture here tells us that Paul was able to put the sins of his earthly life to death by virtue of Christ having been crucified in Paul's stead.

You see that the weapons of our warfare, are not carnal (things that we do to try and stop sinning), but spiritual. We do not, and cannot produce or purchase success in our efforts by human effort, it must come through relying on what God has done for us. We -will not- draw near to God in truth, so long as we depend upon our own righteousness to make a way for us to do so. We must set that carnal mind set aside, and trust in what God has already done - which is exactly what the scripture teach us.

The Wrong/Carnal/ineffective/Legal Weapons:

The man who is trying to fight sin in order to satisfy some requirement of righteousness does so by appealing to both the promises and the threatenings of the law; Again, he may well look to his own willpower and resolution as a weapon to be used in putting sin to death.

The promises: They battle against sin because they believe, deep down, that doing so (keeping the law as it were) will guarantee them (or at least give them a better chance at obtaining) eternal life. They put sin to death in their life in the hope that by doing so they will win a place in heaven.

The threatenings: They rail against the sin in their life because they have concluded that unless they do, they will certainly go to hell and be damned when and should, they die.

Human Resolve: They have kept themselves from some particular sin now for a whole month! Thus they resolve within themselves that they will not destroy this winning streak by giving into the same sin today. The temptation comes, small or great, and this one looks to his own resolve to deliver him out of it.

Thirdly, they are trying to put to death two entirely different things.

The Right/Spiritual/Effective/Gospel thing they are putting to death:

Both the Spiritual approach, and the carnal approach attempt to put sin to death, but what they mean by "sin" is different. Carnal man is concerned with those individual sins that plague his rest. He sees himself committing sins and regards these sins as marks against his worthiness, such that if he could eliminate all marks, he could set himself before God as worthy. The Spiritual man however knows that even if he could keep himself from all sin, yet the problem is not in what he does, but who he is - he wants to sin, he desires sin, and this because he is corrupt. The spiritual man understands that the sins we commit flow from the well of our own corruption, such that even should we suppress all sin, we will have done nothing to overcome the true problem - our corruption.

Thus the spiritual man does not set about to mortify the sins that he commits, rather he is concerned with mortifying that which is corrupt within him - he is concerned with putting to death what scripture describes (c.f. Romans 6:6) as the "body of sin" - that is, he is not trying to kill the sins, but kill the corruption, and this by denying the desires of the flesh.

The spiritual man understands that he personally has no power to deliver himself from this body of death (c.f. Romans 7:24), that only Christ can so deliver him - and so he is not focused on cleaning the oil that spills from the well of his soul, as though he would be clean if he actually got rid of it all, but rather he is concerned with the burst pipe of sin - the fount from which all the oil of his sin is flowing (to use a present day example). He battles against, that is, he is working to mortify, himself - that is who the spiritual man chooses to deny. That is cleaning the inside of the cup, as opposed to merely cleaning the outside.

The Wrong/Carnal/ineffective/Legal thing they are putting to death:

The legalist's quarrel is more especially with the sins committed in his day to day life. Instead of battling the king who continues to send the troops against him, this one simply makes war with those troops he meets on the field. They continue to come, and he continues to war against them, never dealing with the root problem.

Fourthly, they differ in the reasons for their participation in the struggle:

The Right/Spiritual/Effective/Gospel reason for their participation in the struggle:

The reason the spiritual man seeks to make war against the corruption in his flesh is because he sees that it [1] dishonors the God who is saving him, [2] opposes the work of Jesus Christ on earth, and [3] grieves the Holy Spirit within Him whom he received as the guarantee of his reconciliation.

Because sin dishonors God: The man who is reconciled to God through Christ, does not produce or retain this reconciliation through or by putting sin to death in his life. This one therefore sees sin in his life as dishonoring the great work that God has wrought in him. He sees that he has been given a great gift, and desires to honor that gift in honoring the giver of that gift.

Because sin opposes Christ: The man who is reconciled to God through Christ, likewise sees that sin opposes that great work that Christ is doing in himself, so that he sees the need to put sin to death, in order to stop opposing that good work that is being done in himself by Christ. He sees sin as that which wrought havoc in his life, by virtue of it marring and barring the work that Christ is presently and continually doing in our life. He sees that allowing sin to continue to oppose this work, is really working against his own peace and joy, and so he takes up his arm against sin in order that Christ's work might not be hindered in him, and have its greatest effect.

Because sin grieves the Holy Spirit: The man who, being reconciled to God through Christ, knows that he has received the Holy Spirit as a guarantee (as if the reception of the Holy Spirit was the first payment of many to prove that the rest was coming) of those things God has promised the believer. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to assist us here and now, in our sanctification (hence the "Holy" Spirit). The believer therefore recognizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit as doing the work of separating the believer from the thing that is destroying the believer: personal corruption (the body of sin). Since the believer understands that this corruption of self, left to its own, will continue unchecked in influencing the believer to sin, and thereby impede the work of God in His life - a work that his very soul desire be accomplished, the believer inclines himself to resist that which the Holy Spirit convicts him is sinful, and embrace and pursue that which the Holy Spirit convicts him is righteous. He knows that sin not only impedes this work but grieves the one who is working it - the Holy Spirit.

The Wrong/Carnal/ineffective/Legal reason for their participation in the struggle:

The carnal believer is willing to battle sin in his life because sin breaks his peace, troubles his conscience, and has, according to his understanding, the power to hurt him personally.

Because sin breaks his peace: The carnal believer is upset by the guilt of sin, and desiring to be out from under this guilt, is willing to strive against it in the hope of living without the constant fear and feeling of condemnation.

Because sin troubles his conscience: The legal believer's conscience tells him that he is a sinner, and the condemnation that flows both from this fear, and the incorrect theology that drives it, is sufficient to weigh upon the believer's conscience. In order to alleviate this constant nagging, the legal believer is willing to satisfy the requirements of the law, and thereby (theoretically at least) slay the guilt of his sin.

Because sin hurts him by bringing wrath and judgment on him: These are all just the same flavor, hashed out differently really - but the wrong reason to be in the struggle against sin is because you are afraid of God's wrath and judgment. God's wrath and judgment was poured out on Christ, there isn't any left for those who are in Christ. The only people who are right to fear God's wrath and judgment are those who are not in Christ. Thus the believer who finds himself willing to battle sin on the grounds that if he doesn't he will face God's wrath, neither understands the gospel rightly, nor sanctification rightly. He is willing to battle sin, because he believes it is in his best (eternal) interest to do so.

The fifth difference between those who put sin to death in the right way, and those who attempt to do so wrongly is in the motives behind their fight, and in the expected end of their effort.

The Right/Spiritual/Effective/Gospel motives:

The spiritually dependant believer will not serve sin because he is alive to God and dead to sin. He loves God, and is motivated by that love, and this because he is certain already (because scripture teaches this to be true) that God loves him, and even loved him while he was yet unconverted.

Motive: Alive to God: The spiritual believer understands that it is the desire of the Holy Spirit within himself, passed along to the believer through our union with Christ, to be at peace with God. This does not flow from our own flesh, but is ours through our union with Christ. We are "alive" to the things of God, through the Holy Spirit. It isn't that our flesh desires to be righteous, for it has no such, nor can it produce such, a desire. We are motivated spiritually, therefore, to overcome the sin in our live. Said another way - God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, motivates us to put sin to death in our lives, and this by sharing His own desire for that very thing with our own heart - so that we feel his desire as though it were our own (knowing that no such desire can rise up out of our corrupt flesh).

Motive: Dead to sin: The spiritual believer recognizes that if we are united together with Christ in His death and resurrection, and if Christ himself was dead to sin - then the life of Christ which is within every believer is itself dead to sin, so that we are motivated to allow the life of Christ to live within us, rather than our own corrupt desires to dictate our actions, patiently depending on the thought that as we allow this life to manifest itself in us, the victory over sin that is inherent in this life, will begin to manifest itself in our daily living.

The believer who approaches putting sin to death by trusting in the work God has done, that is, by apply the good news that God has already made it possible for them, this same believer will be motivated by the life of Christ within them to pursue the magnification of Christ's life within them - a pursuit that necessarily includes denying the flesh (putting to death the deeds of the flesh).

The Wrong/Carnal/ineffective/Legal motives:

The carnal believer tries to deny sin in order that he might make it possible for God to love him.

Motive:His hope is that by doing such and such, or not doing so and so, he will incline God's affection for himself, by which he imagines himself to become a partaker of what scripture says God has already given him.

This one is driven, primarily by personal experience. He wants a sign or wonder to prove what God has said, and is motivated by the hope that enough effort will eventually produce a sign.

Naturally this is an extremely dangerous and flawed notion, because since it cannot succeed, the one who pursues it will typically invent something that looks like success, and thereafter pursue this false success, to their own detriment, since it never brings them closer to God, but is really and empty form of religion.

Sixthly, their understanding of the nature of their mortification of sin is different.

The Wrong/Carnal/ineffective/Legal nature:

The legalist may oppose sin, but deep down, he will not pursue the utter destruction of self will. He will not surrender utter control of his life to God, because he reserves the "right" to do whatever he wants.

Thus the legalist wants to pacify God by not sinning, and in this way, he deceives himself, for he believes that he has found a way to avoid the Lordship of Christ - and this by satisfying whatever expectations (short of surrender) are placed upon him. He is willing to mortify sin -instead of- surrender his whole being to God. He is willing to put individual sins to death -instead of- eternally and finally and thoroughly humbling himself before God, so that he will do the will of God without hesitation or question. He is willing to battle individual sins instead, even though it is pointless to do so from a rebellious heart.

The Right/Spiritual/Effective/Gospel nature:

The spiritual believer, having a nature and principle contrary to sin, seeks not only to have sin weakened, but eradicated. His quarrel is irreconcilable; no terms of accommodation or agreement; no league with sin is allowed, for he will not suffer himself to be a hypocrite in this matter. He is determined to make war with that which assaults him, that which would cause him to deny Christ's reign in favor of its own reign.

The seventh is similar to the sixth in that these two paths differ in regard to how far they are willing to go when it comes to putting sin to death in their lives.

How far will the Right/Spiritual/Effective/Gospel believer go?

The spiritual believer is willing to go all the way, both objectively and subjectively

Objectively: The spiritual believer truly hates every false way, and will not suffer himself to pursue a way he knows to be false.

Subjectively: Everything that makes up that which is regenerate in the believer, screams in unison against sin. It isn't fakery or hopeful thinking, it is the nature of that life which was placed within the believer in the moment of their justification - the moment they were saved from sin.

The spiritual believer will not make peace with sin, though he may, through error or misinformation pursue for a season some false way, and flounder thereby, yet even in this the spiritual believer will not be satisfied in sin, but continue to pursue its demise in his life. Corruption will never be long be tolerated, for the struggle is driven by the new life within, a life that is Christ's, a life that will not expire, and will not surrender, and will not fail. Thus the spiritual believer is willing to make war against sin forever - it is perhaps easier to describe it in the negative - the spiritual believer will never be satisfied until sin is eradicated, and this because God within Him will never be satisfied thus.

How far will the Wrong/Carnal/ineffective/Legal go?

The hypocrite or legalist; is willing to spare some sin or other, and willing to allow some rebellion to remain nested at the core of his being, for his opposition to sin is carnal, not spiritual. He does not truly wish for sin to be eradicated, rather he desires that the condemnation of sin be removed from himself, and so he labors against sin in order to be free from condemnation, he has no desire for God, but desires to pacify him by his efforts. His heart continues to approve sin, even as he rails against it in order to save his own hide. His opposition to sin is at best, short lived and shallow. He gladly dispenses of that which is of greatest hindrance to his peace, like a man who is satisfied having cleared a small, relatively clean place for himself to sit in a barn full of manure. He has no desire to clean the barn out, for he likes the manure, but for the sake of some girl whom he would woo, he is willing to wash his clothes, and keep the common areas of his barn clean in the hope that she might be charmed by his effort, and meet him there.

The hypocrite will not persevere, for he is not truly at war with the corruption within him, rather he is at war with the condemnation against him, and his efforts are not to put to death that which deserves to die, but rather to preserve it through pacifying the judgment against it.

Finally, these different paths differ in their success.

The Wrong/Carnal/ineffective/Legal path ends in perpetual failure.

The carnalist, the legalist, the ineffective man, with his wrong approach to putting the sins of his body to death, will always fail to do what he has set out to do. He is not fighting the disease, but hoping to suppress it's symptoms, so that even if it were possible to suppress them fully, the body would still be as sick as when it began, only more comfortably so. But it is not possible. For what looks like a victory on the left, only opens another breach on the right. For all the effort, the hypocritical, carnal, legal, wrong-headed efforts spent here, the one who thus spends them is, at the end of the day, no closer to God than at the outset.

His corruption has never been denied, it has only been toyed with, pampered on the one hand, while half heartedly poked on the other.

The Right/Spiritual/effective/Gospel path however, ends in success.

That is not to say that this path leads to a sinless existence, for that is not the end of sanctification. The one who by the Spirit is putting to death the deeds of the body, is not purifying his own corruption, rather he is training himself to deny the flesh and obey the Spirit, and this for the sake of God's glory, and his own joy. He understands that the victory is our own spiritual maturity - and that being a fostered and cultivated dependance on God in all things.

The one who learns to stop opposing the work of God, and to trust in what God has done so that he is not trying to purchase God's love, or favor - this one is able to draw near to God in deeper and fuller fellowship - something that God desires, not for His benefit, but as an expression of the greatest gift God can give us - Himself.

Labels: , ,

posted by Daniel @ 8:05 AM   5 comment(s)
Friday, June 11, 2010
The Disobedient Christian
Yeah. You.

Though the apostle John was merely rephrasing a truth that rang throughout the whole of scripture when he said it, his words paint the truth so clearly for all to see, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us." [NASB].

I like the way John states it too. He doesn't say, "if we say that have never sinned..." - which might lead someone to conclude that John was talking about being deceived about some prior state. But John is saying that any believer who imagines himself to be presently in a state of sinlessness is deceived, either about what sin is, or about his own estate, and likely both, since the truth does not reside in anyone who believes themselves to have attained what we can never attain to on earth - perfection.

So when we talk about the "Disobedient" Christian, we are talking about every genuine believer.

The problem with spelling it out like that it that there are some (many?) amongst us who will carnally appropriate a truth like that as a sort of insulation. They will reason that since every other believer is, in many ways, being disobedient to God each and ever day, that their own disobedience is not something they should overly concern themselves with. In this way they are lulled by our enemy into allowing the field of their faith to fall into fallowness.

I think the enemy wrings more havoc out of this particular ploy amongst those who have so misunderstood the gospel as to imagine that they must do good works in order to maintain their salvation than he does amongst those who, having a more correct theology, understand themselves to be saved by grace and that, irrevocably and eternally so.

Externally speaking at least, those who believe that they flip in and out of salvation depending upon whether or not they have confessed their last sin or not, are more inclined, for fear of hell, to good works and ministry, than those who are assured of their salvation through the promises of God. Yet this same flawed doctrine that produces a flurry of "doing it primarily and most often to save my own butt" activity, does not produce any positive spiritual effect, since all they do is insulate themselves, by all their activity, from genuine obedience. God calls us to worship Him in Spirit and in truth, which means that we can't just make up junk and call it worship just because our particular confusion on the issue rises out of a sincere ignorance. Paul did not count his former, sincere effort, as confused godliness, he referred to it as refuse (and that's the polite form of the word).

So those who, for fear of losing their salvation, make protracted, ultimately flawed, and consistently short lived, attempts at obedience, for all their effort (and failure) are in reality seldom closer to obedience than the one who simply gives up trying to obey under this sort of pretense.

On the other side of the horse however, the one who knows that we are saved by grace through faith, not of works lest any one should boast - that is, the one who looks to Christ's having fulfilled God's promises, so that they are yea and amen, and applicable to us, and who rests his hope solely in having appropriated this divine provision through the sure promises of God - this one may well become inclined (in his flesh) by virtue of the certainty of his salvation, to allow this folly to fallow his fine field.

Sorry, I love the alliteration.

If the genuine Christian does not and cannot maintain his salvation by obeying God, and if all Christians are disobedient, as John teaches, one might be inclined to think that there is no *real* purpose to obedience - at least one who thinks that the point of their faith is all centered around them "getting to heaven" when they die. That is, those people who view Christianity as nothing more than what you need to do in order to avoid hell, or said more bluntly, those who, by virtue of their immaturity, and in part, by virtue of the way the gospel was originally presented to them, imagine that the point of this life is to make sure your hide both gets and stays "saved" - these same will, upon having convinced themselves that they have gained that which they came to Christ to receive (a better afterlife), will see no real value in obeying God thereafter. I mean, if they are going to go to heaven anyway, who cares how big their reward is?

Christianity is supposed to be about being reconciled to our Creator through Jesus, and -not- (as contemporary Christianity sometimes make it) about making sure we have our "Best Life Later™".

How does anyone worship God when they are only doing so in order to get a better afterlife? Think about it. Have you fallen in love with God, or do you just fear Him? It is my opinion that you should have this question (properly) answered before you reach the grave. Are you reconciled to God for God's sake, or for you own?

We are all disobedient - but we are not all deceived.

Hear then, what the scriptures say about our disobedience. It is not acceptable. It is, in fact, worthy of God's wrath. God does not ignore it, or think nothing of it - He hates it. But because God has dealt already with this wrath, at least as it pertains to those who are in Christ, because He has poured out that wrath in full already, so that He can justly regard us as righteous in Christ.

The debt of our sin is not the barrier that keeps us from pursuing God in this life - it is our love of it that keeps us from obeying God.

This is why our Lord taught, and Paul echoed this teaching, that we are to deny our selves. We are not to give into desires that rise out of the waiting death that is within us, not because to do so would ruin our chances at the best afterlife - but rather because the best thing we can do for ourselves is to obey God.

The flesh doesn't buy that, so praise God that in His infinite wisdom He put His Holy Spirit within each of His children (in this covenant) to bear witness to the fact that obedience is superior. Even when we fail to obey, that is, even when we give into the desires of the flesh, we know we do so to our own hurt. The Holy Spirit works in us like that - putting a spiritual desire (as opposed to a visceral one) in each of God's children - a desire that both draws the believer near to God (by calling them to obey) and again by laying the truth concerning what is righteous and what is evil before the believer so that unless we are momentarily blinded by the flesh, we will have a clear (moral) path upon which to walk in this life.

Here's the thing: our victory in Jesus is not, nor has it ever been, sinless perfection. Our victory is that through Jesus we are able to rely utterly on God for all our needs - that is, through Christ we are able to enter into that right relationship with God again. Through Christ we are reconciled. Our walk on earth is all about living out that reality. Drawing near to God because we are God's children, and not because that is what we have to do in order to be certain that we get the Best Life Later™.

Spiritual maturity can only be hampered, and is probably impossible, when one is still trying to furnish the best afterlife for himself. Obedience therefore, should flow, not from the well of padding our own pockets with a better afterlife, but from the well of certainty that we are reconciled to God in Christ, and from drawing near to God in answer to the Holy Spirit's work in us. It doesn't happen over night, but eventually God's children can learn that God is worth our worship, worth our obedience, and worth a worthy walk. Eventually, as we learn to disdain the glass beads and shiny bits that make up all the treasure the world has to offer - when we begin to see these things for what they are, and God for who He is - our greatest treasure - then we begin to pursue God for the sheer joy of it.

We are all disobedient, even those who are genuine believers - but we are not all pursuing the things of the flesh. If the Holy Spirit is using anything I say today to open your spiritual eyes about what you're doing with your life, or how you're trying to "do" Christianity - ask yourself why it is that you are going to put that aside for later. What are you clinging to?


posted by Daniel @ 7:34 AM   5 comment(s)
Thursday, June 10, 2010
What if church is boring?
First of all, church isn't what happens on Sunday morning. If you are bored with your Sunday Service, you aren't finding church boring, you are finding your Sunday morning service boring. There is grand difference between the two.

The church isn't the service, and it isn't the building, it is the term we use to describe the body of Christ, that is, the body of believers. To say that you find church boring is to say that you find other Christians boring, and that is probably not true.

In fact, the first notable sign of spiritual life is that strong and pressing desire to get with other Christians and speak (and listen talk) about the things of God. Fellowship is almost always interactive and conversational - a sharing in that union by which we who are in Christ were joined to Him.

I don't doubt that one of the reasons we have things like the "house church" movement or the emergent church - is to try and turn Sunday mornings into formalized fellowship. To try and capture what ought to be the flavor of our fellowship when gathered together for mutual comfort and conversation, and turn -that- into our coffee sipping Sunday service (disservice?)

Christians should have fellowship with other Christians. They should get together for prayer, bible study, and the fellowship that comes unrehearsed when gathered for these reasons. While this is vital to the health both of the individual and the church, and while we might even call this the bread and butter of church life - it is not what is supposed to be happening Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning, the early church gathered together - all of them. They were given instruction from God's word on how to live according to the new covenant. They were made aware of needs and given opportunity to meet those needs in prayer and again in providing from their own means - you know, the one who had two gave one to the one who had none. This was the work of the Spirit. In some ways it was probably more formal than most of our Sunday services, and again, in other ways, less formal.

I doubt many of those meetings were very entertaining, yet people who were focused on Christ probably enjoyed these times immensely, not for their entertainment value, but rather because they loved Christ, and loved the fruit of the ministry that was going on every Sunday morning.

Here then is the wrong heart for Sunday morning: The heart that wants to be served. The formal weekly gathering of the early church on Sunday mornings was never a production - never a consumer event. You didn't come to consume entertainment, or even personal enrichment. You came to serve. If I can be bold here, this was true, not only of Sunday morning, but of everything they did. They didn't call themselves "slaves of Christ" as a sort of rustic sounding but ultimately vain label, the way many do today. A slave of Christ gathers with the body of Christ to serve it. Where Christ is, there His servant is also. If Christ came to serve, guess what?

I know a great many think of serving as something we do elsewhere. Often we think of Christian service as something you do "outside of church". You know, hand out gospel tracts on a street corner, or evangelize door to door, or start up some kind of "helps" ministry. More often than not, we tend to let our money work instead of our hands however - giving money to others who feed and clothe the poor in our name - or share the gospel. We call that "giving to missions" etc. I would hazard to guess that most Christians "give" so that they don't have to "do". They are far more willing to part with some portion of their disposable income, than they are to minister to the needy in this world. That is just an observation. If the Holy Spirit uses that to convict, let it be.

All I am saying is that when we think of service as something external, we tend to think either in terms of missions or some sort of helps ministry, either personal or put on by the "church". We think of those who have a microphone on Sunday morning as the ones who "minister" to the body, and everyone else as being "ministered" to. Such that everyone who shows up on Sunday morning and isn't involved in the "ministry" is there to consume it - and I don't think that is what Sunday morning was like in the early church.

I am not saying that it wasn't present to some degree - people and sin being what they are, it probably didn't take long to fall into the kind of consumer-driven meetings that make up the majority of Sunday services in our day. What I am saying is that if you find Sunday morning boring, it is because you are not there in the Spirit, but there in the flesh, as it were. You have not come to serve, but to be served, and having come thus, you now find the fare not up to your standards because you have an expectation that isn't being met.

Maybe you want to be entertained. Maybe you want to be informed. Maybe you find the formal service gratingly routine. Maybe you don't like the preaching, or the preacher, or the singing, or the song leader, or the songs, or the music, or the pews, or the view out the window, or the sounds of traffic, or the type of music, or the decor, or the carpet.

Maybe it is something less tangible, like a vague but overwhelming sense of spiritual inertia, the sense that God -isn't- working in "this" church, and that because we are "doing" church wrong - a creeping bitterness that things are happening at the spiritual pace you think they ought to be. Maybe you think the leadership is weak, or the teaching doesn't reflect your personal theological bent, and this gnaws at you on Sunday morning, so that your Sunday mornings do little more for you than foster and feed the growing and bitter criticism that is slowly devouring and defining you.

Whatever the case, if you find Sunday services boring, it almost certainly has far more to do with you and your heart than it does with the service itself. If you came to serve, and you came in the Spirit (and frankly, you can't have one without the other), then you will come with patience, and with your ear to the ground, anticipating God's work, glorying in it, and doing whatever is in your power to see God glorified in it. If that means digging deep within to sing from your heart that tired old cliche of a pop chorus yet again, or again, if that means buckling down on your wondering mind so that you are listening intently to the latest in a protracted series of (what you consider to be) wiener-water sermons - then do that; but remember you have come to serve, and in these things, find a way in Christ to serve the body as you do them. Are the sermons weak? How much time did you pray this week for the message? Are the "worship" songs superficial? Again, have you labored at the throne this week, for the songs, the singing, and especially for your own heart, that you might receive these, such as they are, with maturity, grace, and joy? Do you receive these things with a tender heart that marvels at God's patience in these matters, and comes along our Christ in prayer, interceding for these things, that God may be more evident in our song, in our prayer, and in our instruction? Or do you ignore them until Sunday, then complain in your heart that they are not what they could and "should" be?

Maybe you truly are in the deadest church in town. Maybe you really are in the midst of a carnal throng that wouldn't know fellowship if it hit them upside the head. But that is no excuse for your attitude on Sunday morning. If you come to congregate with God's people and you recoil from it because you find it boring - let me tell you, you're heart isn't in it, and if your heart isn't in it, it is because you heart is somewhere else. It has nothing to do with how good the preaching, singing, or service happen to be, and has everything to do with where we personally are in our walk with God.

Sunday morning is not boring, it is serving.


posted by Daniel @ 7:19 AM   9 comment(s)
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
The beauty of His holiness.
Immature believers are easily convinced that any continuing presence of sin in their life proves or at the most strongly suggests something illegitimate about their faith. Who among us, no matter where we are in our walk, can say that we have never experienced concern about the legitimacy of our confession, having found ourselves at some weak moment, in the grip of sin?

As we mature, we begin to rely, not on our own effort, but on God's steadfast faithfulness. We do not look to our obedience to prove ourselves legitimate, but we look to God's promise again, with renewed certainty that we were made acceptable to Him in Christ, and that this is a finished work ("...it is finished!") rather than setting our hope in our own imperfect ability to remain ultra holy.

I think a great many preachers attempt to do the work of the Holy Spirit in trying to persuade their congregation, however this persuasion comes, to be more ... well, Christ like. I know the longing desire to see Christ formed, not only in myself, but in others. I know that the world has no balm like the life of Christ which provides not only comfort in the knowledge of a sure reconciliation, but more, provides the Holy Spirit who works in us, conforming us to the image of Christ - in spite of all our failure. Who but God is fit to build His church?

My encouragement for you today is one about where the focus of your faith must remain if you are to grow in it. Do not look to your own sinful self, but look to the God whose steadfastness can keep a promise made, even to a wretch like yourself. God's promise doesn't waver because you are unworthy of it. Learn and live that, and you will find yourself able to draw nearer to God. Those who keep their gaze on their own efforts imagine that God loves them when they are obedient, and hates them when they are not. Of course, since they never feel "good" for long, they end up putting a holy hill between themselves and God, and hamstring their own sanctification.

Funny how that works. They want to be holy in order for God to accept them (bad theology), and it is this very thing that cripples the whole process of sanctification.

Don't get me wrong, we should/must concern ourselves with holiness, and the pursuit thereof - but not as those who do so in order to make themselves acceptable to God. The moment we obey in order to make God like us, we are operating in the flesh. Obedience is supposed to be an act of unfeigned worship. Our flesh will never desire to obey, so that when we do obey, we must be on guard against trying to purchase God's favor through our begrudging effort. It is a sign of maturity to reason, "My flesh hates to obey you in this, but my soul delights to worship you in obeying!"

We cannot draw near to God through obedience that flows from a desire to pacify or placate - rather we draw near first by resting in God's steadfast promises by which we are irrevocably named His children, and given the right to come before Him (in Christ). We first rest, I say, in what God has accomplished in reconciling us to himself - and then, in the certainty that we are His children, and acceptable to Him, not because of our sinlessness, or perfect obedience, but because of Jesus Christ, and what has already been accomplished on our behalf at Calvary - in that strength, I say, we yield our members to obey, not as a means to do again what Christ has already done (reconcile ourselves to God), but rather as a conscious act of worship - to live in accord with the desires of He who made us, and to do so for no other reason than He said we ought to, and we trust Him over our own desires.

Worship God, the scriptures say, in the beauty of His holiness.


posted by Daniel @ 10:43 AM   0 comment(s)
Monday, June 07, 2010
Wirelessly connecting your Macbook to an external HDD that is connected to your iMac or Mac Mini.
How's that for a title?

I picked up a new 13" Macbook Pro on Friday. As a Homeschooler, I qualified for educational pricing, and again, for the free 8GB iPod Touch back to school promotion. Instead of costing the standard $1249 [CDN], the price was reduced to $1149 [CDN], and with a $219 [CDN] iPod Touch thrown in to sweeten the deal I ended up paying $1286.88 [CDN] after taxes instead of $1398.88 [CDN], and I can still sell the brand new iPod for $150 - $200 [CDN] which would bring down my expenditure to as much as $1086.88 (after taxes, which works out to $970.43 [CDN] before taxes, a net savings of almost $300). That brought the price down low enough to compete with comparable some mid level PC systems. I had been saving up for a little more than a year for this particular purchase, so it was quite satisfying when it finally went down.

The point of the post however is not to congratulate myself on my patience, and the wonderful way in which it finally paid off. Rather, I wanted to discuss something that ended up being something of a configuration problem.

Prior to the purchase of the MBP, my system at home consisted of two wirelessly networked computers, the main one being a mac mini, and the other a PC desktop (Sony Vaio). I had had trouble in the past connecting my iPhone wirelessly to the Mac Mini using the Mac Mini's built in airport, so I had purchased an airport express, and created a network through it, in order for my PC to print, and again access an external HDD that was connected to my mac mini.

I am an IT professional, but I began my career in hardware first as a computer repairman, then as a government network administrator, and eventually as a computer systems analyst/programmer. Which is to say I have some facility as a technician, and am not afraid to try things that others might cringe away from, and again, which is to say that I am not inclined to call apple for help, but prefer to figure out configuration problems on my own.

So when I connected my new MBP to my wireless network, I could see my mac mini fine, but for some reason the external HDD that was connected to the mac mini was invisible. This was rather annoying, given that my PC was wirelessly connected on the same network, and it could see the external HDD just fine (which is to say that there was clearly nothing wrong with the wireless network, or the external HDD).

So, I began to scour various technical forums looking for a solution. After much searching, I found one particular, oft repeated pronouncement - the problem was that the external HDD was formatted to FAT32. Apparently because my MBP was connecting to the Mac Mini, it was expecting to find a Mac specific file allocation system, in fact, by default, my MBP would not recognize any drive connected to my Mac Mini that wasn't formatted using a Mac specific file allocation system.

Well, there was no way I was going to reformat the external drive since that would be a big, big hassle, and again, because I had no intention of making it so that the PC could not read the external HDD. So I was in a bit of a pickle.

You see, the Apple file Protocol (AFP) is the default file apple protocol, and it doesn't acknowledge/see FAT32 file systems. When you set up a PC to see an external HDD connected to a Mac, you must use the Server Message Block (SMB)protocol to do so, that is, when you connect to the network, you specify SMB as the protocol (i.e. SMB://yourserver.local). Just as we use hyper text transport protocol (HTTP) for accessing text files on Internet, so also Apple uses the "SMB" protocol for accessing files on a FAT32 drive.

The problem then is that my MBP was attempting to connect to the external drive using Apple's default "AFP" protocol (i.e. AFP://myserver.local).

Here, therefore, I found a loud chorus of self-appointed, Apple experts singing the reformat your drive song, but rather than join this chorus I explicitly told the MBP to connect to the external HDD using the SMB protocol - and viola! It suddenly saw the drive and could connect without incident.

So if you have a wireless network set up at home on your Apple computer, and you connect an external HDD to it, that remains formatted using the FAT32 allocation system, and you thereafter connect another apple to the network (wireless or otherwise), if you want the second Apple computer to see the external HDD, you will have to make sure that you connect using the SMB protocol, and you will have to explicitly say so.

If you aren't sure where to do that, from the finder menu, select the "Go" menu item, and from the "Go", select the "Connect To Server" item. There you will be able to set up the network connection using the SMB protocol as the pre-fix when you name the server (smb://TheServerYouWant.local), and butta-bing! All should work.

Note: AFP is arguably a much better protocol, and certain faster, but if you are running a mixed network and want your PCs to see connected external drives, then keeping them FAT32 makes sense - it is only in that narrow scenario that you would want to use SMB as your protocol.

Thought I would share that, in case it eventually helps someone.


posted by Daniel @ 8:38 AM   3 comment(s)
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
The Mercy Seat.
The mercy seat was fashioned to sit on top of the ark of the covenant. While it is a common enough error to imagine that the mercy seat was just the "lid" of the ark of the covenant, it actually was a separate piece. It was placed atop the open ark, but it was not a part of the ark, not simply a fancy lid with a name.

The primary purpose of the ark was to hold the tablets of the covenant. Eventually the staff of Aaron was also placed in the ark, to testify to the fact that God chose Aaron and his descendants to be the priests to Him. Likewise a pot of manna was placed in the ark to testify to God's provision for Israel while they were in the wilderness. The ark therefore held both the promise and the testimony of God's provision for Israel and was set apart (made holy) for this purpose.

The primary purpose of the mercy seat was to act as the seat of God's presence on earth - the "place" where God would meet with Moses "in person" as it were - and this meeting place was intentionally supposed to reside above the artifacts of God's testimony - artifacts that were to reside in the ark of the testimony (i.e. ark of the covenant).

In Hebrew, the mercy seat is called the kapporeth. The word itself favors a translation of "to cover" over a translation of "to expiate" though both translations are possible. The Greek term, hilasterion, in the Septuagint, arguably favors the notion of propitiation/expiation.

Both expiation and propitiation deal with settling the debt of an offence. Consider an innocent person who is randomly attacked by some angry offender. The person is doused in some flammable liquid and set afire so that they experience third degree burns to, let's say, 90% of their body. The perpetrator is caught, and the victim of this act of senseless violence is now in a state of having been "offended" by an "offender" such that until the offence is expiated/propitiated, the victim will continue to be offended.

If it were possible for the victim to be restored to full and perfect health, and even to have all memory of the offence removed; that is, if it were possible to entirely remove all those consequences of the original offence from the victim so that experientially speaking, the offence was entirely removed from the victim - this "cleansing" if you will, would be described as "expiation".

Expiation then overcomes an offence, not by satisfying justice, but rather by cleansing or removing that which was originally offensive.

On the other hand, if victim's memory was not erased, and the damage was not repaired, the offence against the victim (as opposed to the consequences of that offence) could also be satisfied by appropriately punishing the offender. This will satisfy the just outrage of the crime, though not necessarily removing the effects of the crime. This overcoming animosity by appeasing a breach of justice is more rightly called propitiation.

Propitiation then overcomes an offence by satisfying the demands that justice makes when an offence occurs.

To be sure, the notion of expiation as it pertains to scripture, is favored by those who reject the notion that Jesus was bearing any kind of punishment on Calvary. These argue that the idea of "appeasing" a "just" God concerning the offence of sin is pagan in origin and only portrays God as a divine Tyrant.

Likewise, the notion of propitiation, as it pertains to scripture, is favored by those who do not reject the notion that Christ bore some sort of punishment on Calvary. Propitiation here, however, includes the original notion of expiation, that is, they would say that God is propitiated by the death of Christ which is the means by which we are expiated (cleansed) and made acceptable to God.

When the Septuagint calls the mercy seat that sits atop the ark of the covenant the "hilasterion epithema" ( the mercy seat handpiece), it implies that the seat itself is an agent in the process by which expiation/propitiation is being made.

Once each year, on the day of atonement, the high priest came into the Holy of Holies bearing the blood of the sacrificed atonement offering. It was his sacred duty to sprinkle that blood on and before the mercy seat of God. That makes for quite a picture. God's holy presence was so pungent in that place that the slightest infraction in ceremony would result in the immediate death of the high priest. He came into God's presence, as it were, with only God's promises, testimony, and the blood of a sacrifice between himself and God's wrath. If one stops to think about all that had to meet in the holy of holies on the day of atonement we have God on the one side, the sins of Israel coming in through the door, and between the two we have God's promises and testimony concerning those promises, and the blood of the atoning sacrifice. It seems to me, at least, that this is not a picture of expiation, but of propitiation - not a picture of God setting aside justice and offering cleansing, for the justice is answered by the blood of the sacrifice - and it is through this sacrifice that God is appeased, and sin is expiated.

But is this the picture we see in the New Testament?

When Paul uses the term hilasterion in Romans 3:25, most translations do not use the word "mercy seat", though some do (see below):

"sacrifice of atonement" (NIV),
"sacrifice for sin" (NLT),
"propitiation" (ESV, NASB, KJV, AKJV, ASV, ERV, WNT, Geneva)
"atonement" (ISV)
"throne of mercy" (God's Word translation)
"sign of His mercy" (BBE)
"mercy seat" (Darby, YLT, NET)
"atoning sacrifice" (WEB)

The text itself reads (NASB), as follows: "[Jesus Christ] ...whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;"

The only intellectually honest conclusion I can come to is that Paul is portraying Jesus Christ as being whatever it was that the mercy seat in the O.T. pictured. The mercy seat in the Holy of Holies was the only "place" in all the O.T. that God could be satisfied (concerning the sins of Israel). "At" this mercy seat, and only at this seat of God's mercy, sinful Israel was reconciled to God. What Paul is explaining in Romans 3:25 is that Jesus Christ is the only "place" where sinful man can be reconciled to God - the only place where God can be propitiated.

The blood of Christ is not brought before God through the a physical doorway as it was in the OT, but now, Paul writes, this blood is set before God by faith. I will not hesitate at this point, to note that when we speak of blood, we are talking about the life that was spent in its shedding, and not about the fluid itself. That is what scripture means when it says that the life is in the blood. The blood itself has no magical properties, but testifies to the life that was spent.

In this way, therefore, Paul teaches that sinful men are reconciled to God by trusting in God's promises concerning the pouring out of the life of Christ as the only means by which God's righteous wrath against that man's sin can be appeased.

When we speak of the atonement, if we are speaking biblically at least, we are speaking about what it is that accomplished the feat of reconciliation. We are talking about how a sinful man is reconciled to God.

Now there are a few things we need to mention to guard against going all airy-fairy in our theology...

First we need to understand that under the OT system, the high priest was not atoning for the sins of every person in the world. He was -only- atoning for the sins of Israel.

Even that has to be qualified, since Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, makes it plain that not everyone who was born and circumcised as a Jew was considered (by God) to be a *real* Israelite. As far as God was concerned, an Israelite was someone who shared a faith like Abraham's, whether they were born an Israelite, or had joined themselves to the nation of Israel.

So when the high priest went into the holy of holies on the day of atonement, it was to make atonement for the sins of those Israelites whose faith was of the same substance as the faith of Abraham.

To deny that is to invent or revise the very history of redemption. Salvation, we are told, is of the Jews. The O. T. imagery did not save anyone, but pictured a reality that wouldn't be fully articulated until the Messiah came.

Many however have come to interpret the O. T. imagery concerning the atonement as though it were a very hazy, and ill fitting picture. They do not like the idea that the atonement, under the O. T. system, was not made for all of mankind, but only for Israel, and only for the true Israelites. They prefer to think of the atonement in terms of potentiality or provision. They want to see the high priest offer up the blood of the atonement sacrifice in order to generate a sort of indiscriminating potential reconciliation, an avenue made available to all men everywhere, by and through which any person could be atoned for, if that person exercised faith.

The problem I have with that notion is that the only way I have ever seen these ideas in the text or the context is when I first presume them to be there. I believe the emperor has new clothes, and so I see them when I look for them. Once I project the idea onto the text, I can not only interpret this text or that text to mean something other than what it plainly says, I can use that to bolster similar interpretations into subsequent texts.

There is a lot of debate today about the scope of the atonement. People have strong opinions about whether Jesus died for everyone that was ever born, or whether Jesus died only for those who would eventually be saved.

I regard this debate as largely a red herring, since most of the people I have heard argue one way or the other in this debate couldn't give a biblically solid definition of what the atonement actually is. They have a sort of general or indistinct understanding, they know that Jesus died for sin, and they know that God saves sinners, and that God loves the world, and they toss it all into their own theological stew, give it a stir, and then argue zealously from a position which for themselves is actually resting on an inarticulate hodgepodge of settled, but vague ideas.

When I first began to study biblical Greek, I remember shaking my head over a sudden, clarifying reality. I had heard, or read, just as you all have, how godly and apparently learned men argued on both sides of a debate about which translation was better/best. When I began to study Greek, I found that while the arguments were more erudite and high falutin, they were otherwise no better than those same arguments amongst less godly/learned men.

In fact, one of the things I hear often enough to gall me, is the old stand by that godly men on both sides of an issue have debated such and such a point, and are still debating that point today. I suppose that I am supposed to infer from this that it is pointless to discuss anything that men disagree on, because, apparently, there will never be any resolution.

I say it galls me because it is clearly a demonic wisdom. It may be that both sides in any debate or argument are wrong in whole or in part, but it cannot be that both parties are right in things that they disagree about. If one party is defending a truth, and the other a lie or a deception, it is never okay to set aside discussion in the matter on the grounds that you probably won't resolve it because men godlier and more learned than yourself have failed to resolve it.

First of all, iron only sharpens the iron it is being used against. The purpose of discussing things you disagree about is not to bring the entire world into an universally harmonious opinion that flows from one side or the other. It is to sharpen one another, and to correct wooden-headed thinking. Godly and learned men have this in common with less godly and less learned men - they are sinners, and owe anything they rightly understand, not to their godliness or learning, but to God who has shown them mercy. Thus I couldn't give a donkey's ear if someone more godly or more learned than myself has debated an issue, since it is neither godliness nor learning that opens our eyes, but the grace of God in the person of the Holy Spirit. How many fools, and I use the word with all terrible intent, have stumbled at this idea that they must not discuss theologically difficult ideas because other men have failed to find resolution in the matter? Good gravy!

So just as I found the same kind of arguments that riddled the debate over English translations reborn in more erudite dress amongst those who studied the Greek, I likewise find that those who have the presence of mind to step above the arguments concerning the scope of the atonement, to examine the atonement itself, bring the same arguments along with them.

For though I labor to explain what the atonement is, I do not doubt that there are some who do not see it as I have laid it out, and would argue passionately to say that I am mistaken and in error, and teaching the fruit that rises thereof.

I am speaking now, not of the scope of the atonement, but of its nature. Did the blood of the atonement offering in the Old Testament make people right with God, or was the blood only a necessary piece of a greater, atonement puzzle?

You see, some might argue that the blood of the atonement offering was only "effective" for those whose faith was like the faith of Abraham. They would write that atonement happens according to the formula: Faith + Blood = Atonement. Thus this shed blood was applied to (and available for) all of mankind, but only became effective in producing actual atonement when it was applied by and through faith.

I remember, in my childhood, mashing together pieces from a puzzle that didn't quite fit. It wasn't that I was malevolently trying to ruin the puzzle, rather I just thought this was the right piece and that the only reason it was not fitting easily and cleanly was because of some imperfection in the original cutting of the pieces. In the same way, when I hear that kind of understanding of the atonement - that it is some universal thing offered up to all, and pregnant with potential, though impotent unless applied through some other means - I am reminded of those puzzle pieces that almost fit, but don't really belong there.

First of all, what the high priest did on the day of atonement is never, ever described in scripture as providing a means of, or opportunity for, atonement. It is always described as "making atonement" - or said in less ambiguous language "accomplishing" atonement. When Jesus cried out, "It is finished!" was He referring to His own suffering ("My suffering is over!")? Was He referring to providing the world with a potential benefit ("I have finished bringing a potential reconciliation into the world!")? Again, the idea isn't that something had merely ended, but that something was accomplished.

The idea that what was accomplished on Calvary was the instantiation of a potential/conditional solution to sin - the opening of an indiscriminating and impersonal avenue, if you will, by which any person could be reconciled to God, if they so desired, is actually more than just popular, it is the majority opinion.

Most Christians think of the atonement in this way - Jesus' death atoned for all the sins of the world, but that atoning work is only applied to those who by faith and repentance, are reconciled to God.

According to this view, the benefits of Jesus's death are available to every man woman and child who was ever, and will ever be, born, because Jesus "died for" every man woman and child. Many, though not all, in this camp would argue that Jesus' death likewise makes it possible for any sinner to seek God without God first enabling them personally to do so, in this way, salvation is made "possible" for as many people as hear the gospel. They would argue that the death of Christ "pays for sins" but even though the death is applied to all men, women, and children, it is only effective (legally speaking) for those who believe on Jesus.

I have a few problems with the notion that "Jesus died for everyone".

Under this scheme justice is being satisfied through adequate compensation. That kind of thinking works fine in a situation where the debt is impersonal and justice itself is not an issue. If a car is stolen, and the owner is financially reimbursed, as long as the owner feels that the compensation was sufficient, the owner will be "satisfied". That kind of system falls apart when the crime is say, the brutal murder and rape of a daughter. What parent will be pacified by having their murdered daughter "replaced" by a new daughter of equal value? Here we see the truth of sin's debt - for it cannot be made impersonal. Nothing but the restored life of the daughter will satisfy as compensation - and even if that compensation were possible, the outrage over the act of violence will not be overcome by mere compensational equity.

The idea that Jesus death provides a kind of universal currency comes about when people have to deal with a passage like 1 John 2:2. There we read this of Jesus, "...He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

Doesn't it seem to say, reading it plainly and literally, that Jesus is the propitiation for everyone's sins? Anyone who understands what propitiation means, understands that propitiation and atonement are one and the same, here then the text seems to plainly say that Jesus is the "propitiation" of the sins of everyone in the world.

Some would argue that the "whole world" here is an hyperbole. They would say that this is just a colourful exaggeration intended to signify many people, but not all people. They would point to examples like when the high priest Caiaphas said that all the world had gone after Christ. Since not every man, woman, and child had gone after Christ, we understand it as an hyperbolic expression. Some would argue that way I suppose, and not without merit. This sort of language is almost always hyperbolic, and any argument in that direction has quite a head start when given an honest hearing. What John wrote here can easily fits the hyperbole mold. John, they would argue, simply means to say that Jesus is not only the propitiation for the sins of those whom John denotes by the word "our" but is also the propitiation for everyone else who ever happens to be saved etc.

I think that is certainly possible, and may even be the intended meaning. But it isn't really necessary to make an argument about the intended scope of the phrase "also for those [sins] of the whole world" - since we have the word propitiation to guide us.

The word used here is not the same as is found in Romans 3:25, though they do share a common ancestry. Here the word is hilasmos, and it refers specifically to the removal of guilt, and in the context, the removal of guilt that is directly associated with those who are confessing their sin, as we read in 1 John 1:8. John is not abandoning what he just said in favor of introducing something new. When John talks about Jesus being the propitiation for sin, he is explaining why God is just in forgiving the sins of those who confess their sins - God is just because Jesus =is= the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only, but also for the sins of everyone in the whole world who likewise confesses their sins. That is the only consistent way to understand this passage.

I don't marvel that some people miss it at first, but I do marvel when those people who do miss it, replace it with something that totally misses the boat; and worse, go on to interpret other passages according to this same, confused (and wrong) understanding.

In summary, the mercy seat in the old testament was something God provided, and was intended as the "place" where men could be reconciled to God through means of a propitiating sacrifice. That sacrifice, ultimately was the life of Jesus Christ, and the propitiation itself was not universal in scope, but peculiar to those who were of a like faith to Abraham's, that is, peculiar to those who confessed themselves sinners and placed their faith in the promises of God as demonstrated through and by the provision of God, most notably, in Christ.

The atonement is an accomplished work of propitiation, such that every person who was ever atoned for, has had God's wrath against their sin satisfied on account of their having become partakers in the death and resurrection of Christ. God's righteous wrath has already been spent, once and for all time, on the sins of those who are in Christ, and that pouring out of wrath happened 2000 years ago on Calvary.

Those who are not in Christ when they die (or are alive when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead) will themselves propitiate God's wrath by personally receiving the wages of their sin - a pouring out of God's wrath upon themselves - condemnation that is described in scripture as the second death. This will not gain these same an entrance into heaven because, while their eternal suffering will satisfy God's wrath, they will not have the sinless life of Christ applied to themselves by which a man is reconciled to God. That is, they will make their own propitiation to satisfy God's wrath concerning their sin - but this will by no means reconcile them to God, it will only appease God's wrath.

The atonement was not and is not a universally supplied, "infinite" bucket out of which some grab their atonement, and others let theirs go to waste. It is rather an accomplished propitiation that forever reconciles a sinner to God. Only those who are in Christ are atoned for. Those who are not in Christ were not atoned for.

This doesn't mean that we have to change our gospel (unless, of course, you are telling unregenerate sinners that Jesus died for them). If you preach that Jesus died to reconcile penitent sinners to God through faith, keep on keeping on. If you preach that Jesus will save whosoever will come - keep on preaching it. But if you preach that Jesus has already paid for your sins, you are preaching something that isn't found in scripture. The gospel is not, "Jesus died for you" it is, "Repent and believe, and you will be saved!"

Having said all that, people who don't rightly understand the atonement can still be ardent, godly, kingdom minded believers. That is, however, no excuse for allowing confusion and wrong-headed theology to continue. If a person is a godly soul and clinging to wrong-headed theology - imagine how they might shine if they had their thinking straight!

Labels: , , , ,

posted by Daniel @ 2:57 PM   9 comment(s)
Previous Posts
Atom Feed
Atom Feed
Creative Commons License
Text posted on this site
is licensed under a
Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5