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|The Nashville Statement
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
My complete profile...
Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich
His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole
[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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
| What we learned from Aaron
So Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the midst of the assembly. And behold, the plague had already begun among the people. And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped. And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped. - Numbers 16:47-48 [ESV]
You remember what happened next right? A plague went out and people began to die. This is where the above passage comes into play.
It is easy to miss the gravity of what was happening when we read all about it in the space of so few verses, so I want you to consider the scene - starting on one side of the camp, people began to die. There would have been screaming from those next to them, whom themselves died, only to cause more hysteria in those who were adjacent to them, etc. A wall of death, as it were, was sweeping across from one end of the congregation, and heading to the other - and Moses hearing and seeing that the wrath of God had already gone out - charged Aaron to put himself before the plague, and make an offering to appease God's wrath.
You might imagine Aaron jogging out there, like a man who had a job to do - with no more thought to what he was doing that an obedient lap-dog fetching his master's stick. But Aaron was running into a scene of unprecedented horror - while everyone was fleeing to the left, he was pressing his way to the right - while they ran away from death, he pressed on towards it.
There is no indication in scripture that Aaron considered himself as immune to God's wrath. While some may suppose Aaron stoically jogged out there, utterly impervious to God's wrath -simply performing a necessary rite whereby an expected outcome would be received for the wages paid (a morbid business transaction, but certainly nothing that put him in any danger); we ought instead to allow that Aaron had no assurance that God's wrath would stop with him. We ought to see something self-sacrificing in Aaron's effort, for we have no reason to imagine anything less. When he charged forward into certain death to make an offering to set aside God's wrath - I see in this yet another picture of Christ's love, for He too set Himself in the path of God's wrath to save God's people.
Christ's love is real, and it shows itself throughout the scriptures. We love Him, because He first loved us.
posted by Daniel @
| Hebrews 10:26-31
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, Vengeance is mine; I will repay.And again, The Lord will judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. [ESV]
I am writing today to encourage and comfort those who read a passage like this, and being mindful that their own sins are often deliberate, tremble at the thought that they have trampled underfoot the Son of God, profaned the blood of His covenant, and outraged the Spirit of grace.
The author of Hebrews compares the notion of continuing to sin deliberately with the setting aside of the laws of Moses; a comparison that sheds some light on what he means when he writes about the one who goes on sinning deliberately.
Consider how the same author uses the same phrase ("set aside") in Hebrews 7:18-19:
Here we see that this setting aside is a single, "game changing" action. The one covenant is eternally set aside in favor of the new covenant which supercedes it.
For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. [ESV]
The only person who can "go on sinning deliberately" is the unsaved person who has understood the gospel, but who nevertheless rejects Christ in order to pursue the fleeting pleasures of this life.
The subsequent difficulty in this passage has to do with the phrase, "by which he was sanctified". There is some debate about whom the antecedent of the pronoun "he" is referring back to, Christ, or the would-be apostate. Some consider what Christ said in John 17:19 ("for their sake I sanctify Myself") as lending support to notion that the author of Hebrews was saying, that the apostate profanes the blood of the covenant by which Christ set Himself apart (was sanctified). Others believe that the term sanctified here is speaking of a superficial consecration.
Sidestepping the merits of either position, my concern is only with what is plain from the context: to go on sinning deliberately is to decide that Christianity is not for you. It describes men like Judas - people who knew that Jesus was the Christ, and in the face of this knowledge, refused to accept Him as their Lord and Savior.
If you are struggling to obey God, the author's use of, "go on sinning deliberately" does not describe you. It describes a person who knows Christianity is true, but rejects it all the same, preferring to continue in sin rather than be reconciled to God.
Does this mean that a Christians are free to sin all they want?
No. God calls us to be holy as He is holy.
The problem is we still want to sin, even after we are saved. How do we overcome the sin that continues to haunt us? Let me tell you, but not in this post. I am writing a series on Romans aimed at this question - that is, aimed at your sanctification. We all struggle with sin, the bible tells us how to wage this war with an eye to victory - a lesson that I think every believer can benefit from exploring.
posted by Daniel @
| Love, Affection, and Introspective Honesty
|Paul wrote his epistle to the church at Ephesus during his first imprisoned at Rome. The sufferings Paul had no choice but to endure as a prisoner (shame, deprivation, importunity, etc.) he did so without complaint, drawing strength and power from the certainty that the same God who, through His own manifold wisdom brought to fruition all that His own eternal purpose had intended for Christ, would by no means be absent in Paul's own suffering. Paul supplies this certainty in God's provision as the primary encouragement; as the very strength and power that he desires to see in their inner being, described by Paul as being rooted and grounded in the love with which Christ Himself loves them, even as Paul himself is grounded in the same. We see that in the third chapter of Paul's epistle to the church at Ephesus.
Paul tells us in Romans 5:5 that, "...God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." In 2 Corinthians 5:14, He describes this same love (Christ's love) as that which provoked him to share the gospel. The apostle John speaks of this love in 1 John 4:16a when he says that, "we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us... " - it is this love that John ascribes as the source of our own love, "we love because He first loved us." (c.f. 1 John 4:19). John goes on to announce that if we do not love our brother it is because God's love is not in us. Jude likewise exhorts us to "keep ourselves in the love of God" - meaning, I believe, that we are to continue in the certainty that God loves us.
It seems clear, even from the few verses I have used to introduce the topic at hand, that our certainty that God loves us is of critical import to our Christian walk. If we are to walk in love, whose love are we to walk in? If we are to love God and our neighbor, what is that love supposed to look like.
Love seems to be a very important part of the Christian faith, but how many of us stop to ask ourselves if our understanding of love is the same as that love which scripture describes?
In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul does not describe love as an emotion or an affection; he describes love instead, and I am paraphrasing here: as the polar opposite of selfishness.
I would like to use that thought as the introduction proper to this post. In recent years I have become concerned that some in the church are understanding the love that we are to have for one another, and for God, primarily in terms of affection, rather than in terms of a selfless regard for both God.
Paul encourages us in the twelfth chapter of Romans to, "let love be genuine" while Christ instructs us in Luke 6 to "love our enemies." If the notion of affection is guiding our understanding of what the bible calls us to do, we are left to conclude that unless we have a genuine affection for our enemies, we are being disobedient Christians.
I don't mind feeling guilty about sins I am actually committing, but I don't want to feel guilty if I don't have an affection for my enemies, or again, if I don't have an affection for every person I meet, Christian or otherwise.
In the parable of the good Samaritan, a parable Christ told to illustrate what loving your neighbor looks like, the Samaritan is described as moved by compassion, not affection, it isn't that the Samaritan likes the wounded man, or that he builds up some affection for him in order to be moved by that affection into an attitude of compassion - it is that he is moved by a godly compassion to provide for this man for whom he has no affection.
To miss that point, is to miss something very important. So bear with me as I pursue another angle, that perhaps by doing so the thought I am addressing might have more of a foundation in your understanding.
The last statistic I read suggested that on average about 108 people die every minute. In the time you have been reading this, it may be that hundreds of people have died. Why aren't you weeping over them? We both know why, it is because you did not know them. Yet if you have lived long enough, it is certain that some person you did know died, but because you were not close to that person, you likewise did not feel any emotional attachment to them. Why? Because you had no investment in that person.
In my own life people I have known for years, but who have lived only in the periphery of my day to day life, have perished and I have been shocked and concerned when their death produced no great reaction in my soul - and yet to hear of some stranger on the other side of the earth, some little child somewhere who died a horrible death - my soul writhes in empathic loss, for I have little ones of my own, and my investment in them is so profound it spills over into every other helpless child on earth. How is it that I can feel no remorse at the death of an acquaintance I have talked to several times over the years, but be moved to tears at some tragic news concerning someone else's child whom I have never met?
The reason is that I feel remorse in proportion to the investment I have poured into these people. No investment, no remorse. So profound is this investment that it spills over into others whom I am not invested in, if something about them can remind me of someone I am invested in.
Do you see what is going on? I will explain it, but frankly, it is an ugly truth that some may be inclined to deny because they are unwilling or unable to shine the naked light of introspection with an honest arm into the dark recesses of their own motives and innermost being. I say, some people don't know what it means to be a sinner - they think they are just good people who do bad things, and with that mindset, what we are about to explore will be incomprehensible and even reprehensible to them.
The affection that I have for anyone, is at its very core, self serving. I truly h-a-t-e that about myself. I wish I didn't know this was true, I wish on the one hand that I were still deluded about who I truly am without Christ, but there it is - even the noblest thing about me - my genuine affection for my wife, and for my children, for all those grand things I love - even my love for Christ (!) - is self serving at its core.
How I loathed myself the day that this door in my understanding was opened - I remember I was in prayer, and crying out to the Lord to open my understanding, to let me see my sin unveiled by my ignorance, open and honest, to see it as my Lord sees it, and immediately an understanding of who I truly was began to pour into my being - and where a second ago I had been crying out for this understanding, now I was begging the Lord to close this same door - I could not bear to see myself. Two seconds earlier I was a man on his knees in earnest prayer, in this second, I couldn't swallow for the tremors that had overtaken me - and the tears came like a flood - not tears of sorrow - but a flood of despair. It came and went in no more than a heart beat but trembling there in silence, I leaped back to my feet, afraid to pray another word.
I don't play that up to make myself sound special - I mention it because that's what happened, and ever since then I have had no illusions about how "good" I am. I can say without hesitation that in me, no good thing dwells. But more than this, I can say that I know for myself, that every affection regardless of who that affection is pointing at - is ultimately a self serving thing. I have an affection because somewhere within me, I am unconsciously cherishing the things that I think are of the greatest benefit to me. I am invested in people insofar as I see a benefit to being thus invested -and I remain aloof where I fail to find any personal benefit.
I am describing , of course, my "old man" (as Paul would say it). I am describing that which is in bondage to sin through death - that which is absent of the life of Christ. Do not marvel that my "old man's" affection for Jesus is self serving. My old man desires to avoid God's wrath, and so driven by self preservation, it sees great benefit in pursuing Christ. Thank God that this is not the love upon which my faith rests.
My faith rests upon Christ's love for me. It rests upon the certainty that my sovereign God is presently at work in me. I know that Christ loves the father, and that I, as a partaker of Christ's Spirit, share in that love - that unlike my love, which is self serving, His love serves others. Unlike my love which is lacking for all but those whom I think will benefit me most, Christ's love is uniform, unchanging, and independant of person.
Here is where this post comes together. The love with which I love others, is supposed to be Christ's love, and not my own affection. If I do not understand the difference, I will feel like a hypocrite and a fake every time I do something that isn't born of a deep affection for others.
Do you see the danger then? If I think that God is calling me to foster affection for others, I will wait for these affections to show up before I love others - and when I do love others, it won't be Christ living in me, it will be me trying to make Christ live in me by doing for Him what, in reality, He has already done for me.
I shake my head at those Christians who linger long at the milk when they ought already to be eating steak. Do you want to live for Christ? You cannot do so until you have no confidence in the flesh whatsoever, and are utterly convinced of God's work in yourself. Only then are you able to step in faith into whatever the Lord sets in your path, but more than this - as you embark on a walk that is by faith, and not by personal merit in any aspect of your walk - you will begin to see that Christ truly is all and in all. You will draw closer to Him, not in a touchy feely way, but in a faith that is learning to rest on truth (and reaping the peace that comes with that) sort of way.
Finally, do not judge yourself or others according to appearances. Love doesn't always look the way you think it is supposed to look. It isn't necessarily social, nor is it necessarily distant - it is expressed best as that sort of selfless service that is rendered impartially to all, wherever (in all sobriety) circumstances make it appropriate to do so. Read again 1 Corinthians 13, and see if this isn't so.
posted by Daniel @
| Getting back to Paul's letter.
|We left off with Paul explaining that the Jews and Gentiles had sin in common, in spite of the law given to the Jews. Paul explains that he isn't suggesting that there is no difference (at all) between the Jew and the Gentile, for he qualifies what he means by noting that the Jews had an advantage over the Gentiles in that they were the keepers of the "oracles of God" - that is, God had made Himself known to the Jews.
But that wasn't the only advantage. Paul goes on to say that the Jews had this benefit also - that God was faithful to them, even when they were not faithful to God.
How many times did both Israel and Judah go astray? Their waywardness did not cause God to do likewise: God remained faithful to Israel, in the face of Israel's unfaithfulness. It is important to understand that this faithfulness on God's part was not something that Israel had earned - it wasn't like God owed it to them - in fact, by breaking God's covenant with them, they showed themselves as being utterly undeserving of His faithfulness. God's faithfulness was, then, an act of grace.
Did God's grace make it "okay" for Israel to sin? No. Of course not. Yes, God was exalted by their unfaithfulness, in the sense that it put God's glory on display - in that it is a glorious thing for God to remain faithful to someone who does not deserve such stalwart faithfulness - but this also does not make it okay for men to sin.
Why does Paul concern himself with showing this? wasn't it enough that Paul had shown that God's faithfulness does not depend upon our own obedience? It is true that God's faithfulness to the Jews was one of the advantages of being a Jew, but it was also a truth that every intellectually honest Jew could had to admit - God's faithfulness - which was graciously supplied, still didn't make it okay to sin.
Paul is putting this out there because he intends to silence some misconstrued objections concerning his teachings on how we are justified grace and not by works of the law; and this by showing that just as it was not okay for Israel to abuse God's grace under the old covenant, so also it is not okay for Christians to abuse God's grace - grace is not a license to sin.
So, though we get a foreshadow of where he intends to go, he doesn't go there yet. Instead he embarks on that teaching for which he anticipates such charges: the doctrine of justification by grace (through faith apart from works) - which I hope to cover in the next installment.
posted by Daniel @