The head is struck
The heart awakens
Let me not squander nor misuse
And when on Jordan’s banks I spy
NT Wright is a brilliant NT Scholar and a leading teacher on the New Perspective on Paul. A very simplistic summary of one of the tenets of NPP is that there was no issue in scripture around whether law keeping was the means of attaining salvation. Judaism according to Wright already had grace built in so it could not be a religion of works. Thus the issue in Galatians and Romans on justification is not over whether someone can be saved by doing good works but whether someone must be Jewish rather than Gentile.
NT Wright writes: “In Romans 10.3 Paul, writing about his fellow Jews, declares that they are ignorant of the righteousness of God, and are seeking to establish ‘their own righteousness’. The wider context, not least 9.30–33, deals with the respective positions of Jews and Gentiles within God’s purposes – and with a lot more besides, of course, but not least that. Supposing, I thought, Paul meant ‘seeking to establish their own righteousness’, not in the sense of amoral status based on the performance of Torah and the consequent accumulation of a treasury of merit, but an ethnic status based on the possession of Torah as the sign of automatic covenant membership? I saw at once that this would make excellent sense of Romans 9 and 10, and would enable the positive statements about the Law throughout Romans to be given full weight while making it clear that this kind of use of Torah, as an ethnic talisman, was an abuse. I sat up in bed that night reading through Galatians and saw that at point after point this way of looking at Paul would make much better sense of Galatians, too, than either the standard post-Luther readings or the attempted Reformed ones.” http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/new-perspectives-on-paul/
Wright: “virtually whenever Paul talks about justification he does so in the context of a critique of Judaism and of the coming together of Jew and Gentile in Christ.”
I do not disagree with Wright that the Gospel brings together Jew and Gentile. It does.
Eph 2:11-14 “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”
It is a significant change from the focus on the chosen people – Jews – to the chosen of all races, nations and people groups. But it should not replace the more significant focus that all Jews and Gentiles fall short of the glory of God and stand in need of salvation apart from works and through the imputed righteousness of God obtained by grace alone through faith alone. Wright seeks to move to the background this main point and foreground the ethnic issue to paraphrase J.I. Packer. I do not believe scripture does this.
I was reading Acts 15 this week and found a passage that relates to this discussion. A debate erupts in the early church as to whether a man must be circumcised to be saved.
Acts 15:1 “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them”
So it appears that Wright is correct – the question is not “must I adhere to the law to be saved but must I become ethnically a Jew to be saved.” And indeed that is what is first brought up. But the debate does not stay there. As the Pharisees continue to make their case they begin to insist that not only must they be circumcised to be saved (Ethnic) but that it is necessary that believers keep the law of Moses (Ethical, Moral, Performance) to be saved.
Acts 15:5: “But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
Peter then address the group and moves the debate beyond the ethnic issue (though that remains) to the larger issue of how anyone obtains salvation.
“And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
When Peter says they are putting the Gentiles under “a yoke…that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” he is not talking about an ethnic issue. Peter is not saying being Jewish is the problem for him – he is saying adhering to the moral requirements of the law of Moses is the problem for him and all Jews and now Gentiles. This is the larger issue the ethnic one reveals.
His solution to the failure of all people Jew and Gentile to be able to keep the law of Moses?
God “cleansed their hearts by faith.” And “We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
So the debate begins with the discussion of whether Gentiles must become ethnically Jews but ends on the more significant point how can both Jews and Gentiles who fail to keep the law of Moses be saved. Answer: Grace alone through Faith alone. This is the paramount issue.
“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
WHOOOAAAA God …hates???? That would be unjust!!
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!
This must be about something else not about God saving people…
15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
But I thought salvation was based upon my free will….
16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
But surely God has mercy on everyone right?
17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Well if God is hardening people and saving people without regard to the person and based only on his own will, then it would be immoral of God to hold people accountable for their actions
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”
SEE!! I told you!!
*Note Paul does not retract his statement or say “No, No you have misunderstood me.”
20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—
This passage is amazingly clear that God is the initiator of salvation and HIS will is the decisive will in the salvation of individuals.
The Glory of this truth is that no matter how far you wandered from the Lord, no matter how deeply you have indulged sin God is able to rescue and redeem. And the corollary is no matter how good you imagine yourself to be or how much work you have done to reach God – your strivings are insufficient to move God towards you at all. NO!! If we are to be saved it is by free grace alone. God is the complete Savior or none at all.
The bent of Paul’s heart to rage against God is the same bent of every heart apart from awakening grace.
The need of Paul to be knocked off his horse by the blinding light of the Lord is not a “Paul” need. God must reveal himself or we perish.
The response of faith in Paul once the Lord revealed himself personally to Paul, is the same response everyone has when the Lord reveals himself to you. Faith
Believers are all “chosen instruments.”
“And when he (Paul) had come to Jerusalem” Paul went to the church where it all started. The place he had approved of the murder of one of its deacons. Paul attended church in a place where he had murdered one of the beloved congregants. What amazing power the Gospel has to reconcile the vilest offender.
The church was multiplied as it Walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
When illness and death struck a church member, Peter an apostle was called by disciples of the Lord, and Peter raised her from the dead. By this means the gospel was spread throughout Joppa and many believed.
1) Thank you Father, for calling me – saving me, how I sense my desperate and wicked heart apart from Your saving grace. I am unworthy but grace to be a chosen instrument
2) Lord Let me embrace the vile, love sinners, trust the greatness of your call and your gospel as I encounter the broken.
3) Lead my heart to the fear and comfort of the Lord that your name may be magnified in my life.
4) Lord do the necessary miracles to spread your Good News in Moses Lake so that many will believe.
Mount Morality's slopes are too steep They've been the death of many To Mount Calvary will I fly And there be rescued by my Savior's strength.
The Law's demands I strive to keep But only find despair I reap I try again my case to plead Brought to my face in desperate need Then the Gospel clear and sweet Comes with power and blood-stained relief By Sovereign Grace and Power untold I'm brought with Joy into my Shepherd's fold He now is all, my song, my life Because of His great Sacrifice Though in this Life I often Fail His grace upholding will prevail.
The latter half of Albert Einstein’s celebrated life was spent on a grand quest – a quest to unify multiple disciplines into one simplified formula that would explain how everything works in the universe. Einstein called it Unified Field Theory. Modern physicists refer to the “theory of everything.” Einstein failed to achieve his goal. Though one of the brightest minds the world has ever seen devoted 20 years of work to this goal it was ultimately unsuccessful, and most modern physicists would say that Einstein was seeking something that has now been proven not to exist. Einstein wrote concerning Unified Field Theory, “Our situation is the following. We are standing in front of a closed box which we cannot open, and we try hard to discover about what is and is not in it.”
Though this book will touch on all of salvation from justification to glorification, it will primarily focus on progressive sanctification. And as I read through Einstein’s biography a number of years ago I felt there was something common between Einstein’s pursuit and the pursuit everyone has – one solution that answers every problem. I remember after reading through Einstein I began praying to understand what I dubbed the “Unified Theory of Sanctification.” Seriously! I prayed, “Lord help me understand the relationship of law and gospel, justification and sanctification, faith and works, effort and dependence. Help me understand and be able to speak to how all these concepts relate to each other.” And my second and more desperate prayer was, “Lord, I don’t want to just understand the concepts, but I want to experience your work of sanctification to the depths of my being.”
If you are reading this I suspect you too are on a quest – A quest to know Jesus better and serve Him well. You are seeking to “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets” us all. You are seeking “to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Perhaps you have grown weary or despairing in the journey, or perhaps the compelling beauty of Christ has grown dim in your eyes – Maybe you are weary of life and struggling to understand its meaning. The central aim of this book is that we (author and reader) would have our gaze refocused on Jesus Christ who is for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
This is not a self-improvement book, I’m not looking for you to get it all figured out, rather my goal is that you would be encouraged to find soul-satisfying hope in Christ who is our life. I have spent most of my Christian life trying to determine what is and is not in the “box” of sanctification. And I have spent much of my Christian life in pursuit of the “holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” And while I have neither Einstein’s genius nor his mastery of subject area, I do have one thing in common with him – failure. This is not in any way a cause for me to celebrate – quite the opposite. Not only is my knowledge of sanctification frustratingly incomplete, but even more discouraging is the fact that my life doesn’t measure up to what I do understand. So you need to know right up front – I don’t have pat answers – if you are looking for that this isn’t the book for you. This is far more of an impressionistic painting than a hyper realistic one. There are fuzzy edges. There are things I cannot fully explain or connect. More than that there are certainly things I misunderstand – that I have wrong. And while God’s Word is certainly without error my comprehension of it is not. If you are anything like me when I crack open a new book I tend to think, “Finally this guy is going to give me the answers I’ve been looking for,” only to discover he is battling the same problems I am. I am a fallen human being. I don’t know all the answers and I don’t have it all figured (as this book should thoroughly demonstrate). All I can do is point as a fallible creature to the creator. At the end of the day our hope rests not on any man but one – The Man – Christ Jesus.
That is not to say that I have not profited greatly from many different authors. If the requirement for any of us is that we must understand it all and have it all working perfectly in order to minister to people we are of all men most miserable. Thomas Edison famously replied when asked about whether he was discouraged at his failure to produce an electric light bulb after many attempts, “I now know definitively 9000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work.” I am perhaps not quite as ebullient as Edison – there have been many difficult and discouraging days – but certainly the Lord has been a patient teacher. And my hope is that what Christ has taught and is teaching me through His word will be helpful and encouraging to you in your own pursuit of the one great treasure – the One who truly is the answer to all that is wrong with us – our glorious savior – Jesus Christ the Righteous. If this book enables you to see a little more of Jesus as precious and frees you by that look a little more from the snare of sin then it will have accomplished what I have earnestly prayed for myself and for you.
KJV was requested by the host church – It had been a while 🙂
Powerful sequence in Amos 4
“I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities,
And lack of bread in all your places,
Yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.
I also withheld the rain from you
When there were yet three months to the harvest…
…So two or three cities would wander to another city
To drink water, and would not be satisfied;
Yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.
I struck you with blight and mildew…
Yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord
I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt;
I killed your young men with the sword…
Yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord
I overthrew some of you,
As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah…
Yet you did not return to me declares the Lord.
Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel!
For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,
And declares to man what is his thought,
Who makes the morning darkness,
And treads on the heights of the earth –
The Lord, The God of Hosts, is his Name!”
Questions and Implications.
1) What degree of sovereignty and involvement does God have over nature?
2) What degree of sovereignty and involvement does God have over the “bad” stuff that happens in our lives?
3) What is God’s ‘commitment level’ to maintaining our personal comforts?
4) What does God desire most for us to have according to this text?
5) How does a God who according to this passage causes hunger and thirst – destroys and kills fit with your definition of a loving God?
6) What is God’s purpose from the text for taking these actions?
7) What does the passage say about man’s stubborn pursuit of the creation over the creator?
8) Why do you think God would be so dramatically committed to this purpose?
All of us can see things we would like to be different in Moses Lake – reduced violence and drugs, better jobs and pay, more restaurants and shopping (Olive Garden and Winco anyone?). As a society, we have become so dependent on government to initiate and determine change that we have forgotten that we live in a country that (for now) recognizes our inalienable rights to be free. However, if we fail to avail ourselves of this freedom – if we fail to invest ourselves with our time and finances to create the community we would like to have, we will not only not have the community we want, but we will also lose the freedom that has long been cherished in this country. I’ll be the first to admit that I have felt powerless to change anything. I’ve had the attitude of “well – I guess that’s how it is.” I care – things seem off – but I don’t know what to do. Maybe you are in the same spot. Continue reading “5 Things We Could All Do to Support our Teachers, Students and Community”
John 11:14 “Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.
John 11:35 “Jesus Wept”
What is Jesus glad about in verse 14? That “he was not there” Glad that he was not there to prevent Lazarus’ death! Not there to heal him of his sickness! Jesus says he is glad he was not there. Let this verse alone sink into your theology. God has something greater in mind for us than only healing or even preventing us from dying – Something so much greater in his mind that he says something as seemingly calloused as “I am glad I was not there” to heal and prevent death.
So what is this thing Jesus so passionately wants for us? Continue reading “Why Did Jesus Weep?”
What is the Gospel?
“God is Holy” – God is perfect in all of his attributes – glorious in all that he does. He is set apart – unique – His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. He dwells in pure radiant unapproachable light. Nothing and no one can stand in His presence.
“We are not Holy” – We are messed up people. We lie. We cheat. We lust. We steal. We are angry. We hold grudges. We are selfish. We are arrogant. We gossip. We do not honor God. We do not love God.
“The Penalty for Sin is Death” – That’s bad news for everyone reading this, because we are all sinners – God doesn’t weigh our “good” and our “bad.” He declares that if we have ever violated his holy law in one place we stand guilty of violating all of His law and are subject to condemnation. We have violated in many places and our just penalty is eternal death in hell. Don’t let yourself deny this reality. Acknowledge your guilt before an infinitely holy God.
“Jesus Died the Death We Deserve” – Jesus is God in human form. He came to the earth, born of the virgin Mary and lived a sinless life. Even though he was God he laid aside the splendors of heaven and became a man and dwelt among us. He humbled himself and died a torturous death on the cross though he himself was innocent. In his death he paid the penalty required for sin – he became our substitute. Though we are the sinful ones, He took our sins on himself. Though we deserve the sentence of death, he died our death in our place.
“God Gives Us Jesus’ Life by Faith and Not by Works” – Not only did Christ’s death pay our penalty, but for all those who receive Him, God gives them the righteousness (perfection) of Jesus. So when we give up trying to prove ourselves good to God and instead acknowledge that we are broken sinners in need of a dramatic rescue – there is hope. God Himself has died for us paying our penalty and by his grace through faith imparts to us his perfection. For all who believe in Jesus stand not condemned not because we are good but because He is and He has given his righteousness by faith.
“Faith is Casting Yourself on the Lord” – As you consider these things – God’s holiness, your sinfulness, sin’s penalty and Jesus’ payment –
you will be tempted to think is that really true? Is it really enough that Christ died for me a sinner? I have to contribute something don’t I? I am still tempted by these thoughts even though I have been a Christian for many years. But the truth declared in Scripture stands that salvation comes not to the one who works or is good, but to sinners who cast themselves fully on the grace and mercy of our Savior Jesus Christ who died to take away the sin of the world!
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows
yet we esteemed him stricken
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.
and with his stripes we are healed
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned – every one – to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on him
The iniquity of us all
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now to the one that works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.
II Corinthians 5:21
For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.
Introduced to this church via Bob Smith –
Review Series – Beginning to End
Communion with God – is the great end for which we are made – Philippians 3:8-9
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
1) I was and remain strongly in favor of the school bond passing. It is essential, in my opinion, to the success of our public schools and health of our community.
2) I was relieved that the bond had appeared to pass by the narrowest of margins
3) I was irritated by the challenge to the bond count but figured it would just delay the certification of a passing vote.
4) The attached article indicates the challengers have the following questions. a) Were all ballots with signature issues treated according to the law – that is was an attempt made to notify each uncounted voter that their ballot was not being counted due to signature issues? b) Were voters who had signature issues and voted in favor of the bond contacted by school officials while those who voted against the measure were not contacted? These are valid questions.
5) As much as I am in favor of the bond passing it must be passed legally and without partiality. If any manipulation or favoritism entered the process that should rightfully be exposed.
6) In short, I am in favor of the entire process and vote being exposed to intense scrutiny so that the vote results are unquestioned by the people in Moses Lake. This has the potential to divide us particularly if the process is not brought to light. My hope remains that the investigation will show everything was done with excellence and integrity and the vote stands, but I support the right of voters to inspect and challenge the integrity of the voting process particularly in a vote this close.
7) Finally, if the vote is shown to have been mishandled and the outcome reversed, I would encourage both sides to neither gloat nor demonize the other. It takes all of us to make this community successful. If the outcome ends up not being what we desired let us leave behind vitriolic statements and disparaging words, and with humility continue to invest in our community. Moses Lake is where we all live – let’s not tear it up over this issue. Can we not persuade and even argue passionately for what we believe is best in a way that inspires rather than destroys? I think we can and if we do we will build our town up regardless of vote outcomes because we will be truly demonstrating care for each other as a strong community should. So Moses Lake friends and neighbors lets stand together, even in our differences, for the good of this place we call home.
Thanks again for listening and considering.
If I could just have the passion and wisdom of John Piper, the fortitude and exegetical prowess of John MacArthur, the practical insights of Paul Tripp, the spiritual depth of Larry Crabb, the mind and theological grasp of Michael Horton, the thunder of Paul Washer, the grace of Brennan Manning, the knowledge of Tim Keller and the ministry reach of Billy Graham…Then…Oh then I would truly be satisfied…. And God would Really love me…
God uses ordinary people
Maybe God loves sinners
Maybe my chronic measuring of myself is a detriment to any ministry and hinders my sense of the extraordinary love of God for me.
And maybe the stamp of approval on my life will not be earned either by my actions or results but has been bought for me by His Son on the cross – Jesus who loved me and gave Himself for me..