Life is like a frenetically played William Tell Overture. It gallops by at breakneck speed punctuated by shocking staccato notes that make us gasp in pain and pleasure and then concludes as a dramatic dissonant chord with unplayed notes hanging in the air.
But this is but a beginning. More – it is but the faintest breath of a beginning – the opening bars of an ongoing symphony.
And when the page is turned we will find the notes resolve and are played with a sweetness that we could not have imagined previously. The scale of time will extend like the vanishing point of a master painter’s watercolor sunset. And we will wonder how we ever lived any other way.
Along with many of you I am shocked and saddened by Kobe and his daughter’s death as well as those others who were in the helicopter with them. No matter when it comes, death is shocking. But when it comes like this to a young man and young girl – to a celebrity – suddenly – it is even more shocking.
But as shocking as it is to me, I wonder how many of us consider that our days are also numbered. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. While shocked when an event like this happens we struggle to bring the reality home to ourselves. We naively believe “this will never happen to me.”
But it will – at some point or another – all of us face sudden death. “It is appointed to men once to die and after this the judgement.” Were Kobe and Gianna prepared to stand before a holy God today? I pray they were. But perhaps the more appropriate question to ask ourselves is – Are we? Am I ready?
“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
If you mind immediately goes to evaluating whether or not you are a good enough person – could I just encourage you to consider a different answer? The Bible says that NONE of us are good. NONE of us stand a chance before a holy God – because God is perfect and nothing and no one imperfect can stand before Him.
Kobe wasn’t perfect. Gianna wasn’t perfect. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. And the Bible says the just penalty for our imperfection or sin is death.
There is One who is perfect and His name is Jesus. Every other religion says be good enough – work your way to God. Christianity says God comes down to us. Jesus – the perfect, spotless Lamb of God – came to dwell among us – to die our death and be resurrected to triumph over sin, death and the grave.
We are joined to the life of Jesus, not by working for it, but by believing that the gift of God to sinners is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” II Corinthians 5:21
“Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 4:4
This is my hope and I hope that it is yours as well. But if it isn’t – I pray that you do not let this tragic reminder of our mortality go to waste. Turn to the Lord and you will find him welcoming you with open arms.
I have long appreciated Star Trek and Captain Kirk. As a result, over the years, I have watched or read numerous interviews with William Shatner including this recent one. I have noticed that he frequently brings up the topics of death, the afterlife and God. And I have often thought I would love to talk to him and discuss how he can find the answers he seems to be seeking, in Jesus. In lieu of that I sent him 24 tweets in the hopes that God would see fit to show himself to Bill, through his Word, even in a medium as imperfect as twitter. Here are those tweets.
Bill, I write this with great affection and longing for you
– You have asked these questions in many places over the years I have followed
you “What have I done?” “Why am I here?” “What’s going
to happen?” “Is this the end?” – What does life mean? What is death?
And as David accused Kirk – “You’ve never faced death before” perhaps you feel somewhat like Kirk – You know death is inevitable – at 88 you feel it – yet in many ways have cheated death. You have tasted all this world has to offer but you also taste its inability to satisfy you.
CS Lewis wrote “If
we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the
most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” As
Spock aptly noted “There are always possibilities” Perhaps the answer
to your questions lie in a possibility….
I’m sure over the years
someone has presented Jesus and Christianity to you. For whatever reason –
Jesus has not captured your attention – maybe the messenger was flawed – maybe
you find His story implausible – Maybe you hate the judgement of religion – I
don’t know… but…
Here are some things I have found to be true and give me hope facing my own mortality – more than hope – joy – happiness even in my sorrows. Every good story must have a villain – Kirk must have his Klingons. And in the story of the human race – we are the villains.
Now I know this may sound like religious stone casting – but I’m including myself – I am broken – not good – not righteous – and the Bible indicts all of humanity as sinners Romans 3:10 – “There is NONE righteous…. no not one” Romans 3:23 “The wages of sin is death, BUT…
Let me leave that
“but” hanging for a minute, because until we realize our diagnosis is
bad and justifiably so the “but” is just sentimental meaningless
drivel of religious people. Jesus said “I did not come to those who have
no need of a physician but to the sick” not because
some are sick and some
are not – but because all of us are sick but not all of us recognize it. Most
of us believe that if there is a God he will accept us because we are “not
too bad.” We compare ourselves with others based on our intentions and
decide “I’m ok.”
And maybe compared to other sinners we are mildly better. But our maker is not a fellow sinner – he is a holy, perfect, radiant in splendor, dwelling-in unapproachable-light being – If we were to come into His presence in our self-evaluated, not-too-badness – we would be undone
If you were to compare
not to others or by your good intentions, but instead to a perfect being-pure
in every way- you would cry out like the Prophet Isaiah – “Woe is me! For
I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips …for my eyes have seen the King,
the LORD of hosts!”
Scripture has this
diagnosis “It is appointed unto men once to die and after this the
judgment.” If that judgment is by our creator and he is in fact perfect
and his requirement of us is perfection-because no one imperfect can stand
before him…What will his judgement be of you?
I don’t ask you this as
someone better than you – save for one thing I would stand condemned, with you
and all of humanity. I ask because as I stated before – unless we understand
our plight, our condition – we will not understand the meaning or need of the
The sacrifice of Spock
to save the Enterprise is silly, unnecessary-a waste, even embarrassing-if the
context of what is at stake not understood. If it truly is life and death-and
the stakes could not be higher then the sacrifice is understood for what it
Your soul is of great
value. Jesus asks “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world
and yet loses his own soul?” … You have been a man who has, more than
most, tasted what this world has to offer and, I suspect, found that it is not
enough to satisfy you…
Your soul need not be
lost. Let’s come back to the “BUT” “But the gift of God is
eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”There is salvation for your
soul and it is found in one person-Jesus. He says “I am the way the truth
and the life no one comes to the Father BUT by me
Jesus is not one path
of many – He is the Only path to the Father and to eternal life. That is his
claim. So here is what us Christians call the “Gospel” – Gospel just
means “Good News” It is a proclamation of what God in Christ has done
for sinners like you and me.
“BUT God demonstrated His own love for us – EVEN while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 – What this means is that God our creator saw our rebellion, our sin and our failure and instead of moving away from us condescended to send his Son to rescue us.
Jesus, who is God and one with the Father, came as a man, humbling himself as one of his creatures and lived the perfect life that we have not, died the death we deserved so that all those who trust in Him alone will be raised to life as he was raised.
II Corinthians 5:21
says “God made Him (Jesus), who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we
might become the righteousness of God.” So our just penalty for our sin
(death) was borne by Christ and his perfect righteousness is given to us
because God is rich in mercy.
Ephesians 2:4 says
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he
loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with
Christ—by grace you have been saved.”
The grace of God alone
is able to rescue you, my friend. Not your goodness or efforts to do right.
Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,
but according to his own mercy”
So the meaning of life
and death is not found in ourselves or in our accomplishments or failures. Our
souls are not designed to find the answer to our longings in our work or
possessions or accolades. The longing that CS Lewis references can only be
satisfied in knowing Jesus
He is your maker – and
despite all your failures, and sin, and pride he has come that you may have
life – eternal life – with your maker and designer – with the one who formed
you and loves you. The question is What will you do with Jesus? Will you trust
him alone to save you?
I don’t know, Bill, if you will even see this and if you do if it will make any sense at all to you. But I know this is my only hope in life and in death. Jesus is the answer to the Kobayashi Maru scenario. And I am praying that you will find peace for your soul in Him.
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Experiencing the fullness of God does not require that one speak in tongues or heal or prophesy. Sometimes we can overemphasis a radical experience or gifting as the essence of knowing God, but scripture doesn’t talk that way.
I Cor 12 “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.”
So what does Scripture say about knowing and experiencing God?
The heights of intimacy and the pinnacle of experience with God is found when through the ministry of the Word applied by the Spirit of God, I encounter and embrace the outlandish love of God.
Ephesians 3 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
I am joined to the fullness of the love of God and the joy of knowing him by faith – the faith which comes by Spirit wrought hearing through the Word of God.
Philippians 3 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 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 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, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection…”
Spirit-born faith that revels and delights in the undeserved love of God as revealed in God’s Word, yields a knowing of him that does not rest on my works or my giftings but instead rests on his mercy alone. In these things I am filled with all the fullness of God and experience the power of his resurrection.
1) There seems to be a lot of consternation over a decrease in tax refunds. I get how it seems great to get a huge refund in February – however all that really means is that you gave too much money to the government throughout the year. So if your refund is smaller it is likely due to the increase in your regular check and/or due to your increase in pay. I do a lot of people’s taxes and everyone paid less in total taxes than they would have paid for the same income in 2017. The withholding tables changed a year ago to more closely align to what you would actually need to pay which in my book is a good thing, but would cause your refund to be smaller. If you love having a huge refund just have your employer withhold extra from your check by changing your W4. You could call it the government sponsored interest-free savings program. (And who doesn’t like free things?)
2) If you have a decrease in your refund it is for 90% of you not because your taxes have increased. Unless you live in a state that has high state income taxes that are no longer deductible, you received a tax break in 2018. For the middle class here are the main benefits of the tax reform.
a) Your tax rate on your taxable income was decreased by roughly 3%.
b) Your standard deduction nearly doubled (for all filing statuses) from $12,400 to $24,000 (Married). This change has the added benefit of making it unnecessary for most Americans to need to itemize thus simplifying your 1040. A standard deduction reduces your taxable income.
c) You lost your exemptions for each member of your family. Prior to tax reform you received an additional $4050 deduction per person in your family. So for a married couple with no children who did not itemize this means your effective standard deduction was $20,500 in 2017 and is now $24,000. So $3,500 less taxable and the 3% reduction in tax rate is the net gain to you. If you previously itemized and your itemizations were between $15,900 – $24,000 you will have more taxable income in 2018. This will largely be offset by the 3% reduction in your rate – though the closer you are to $24,000 in itemizations the less benefit the tax reform will give you. If your itemizations are above $24,000 you will benefit on the amount above just as before with the major exception of state income tax deduction is limited to $10,000.
d) Another significant change was made to the child tax credit. For those with children this credit doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 per child under the age of 17 in 2018. A credit is much better than a deduction because it comes off what you owe. So this credit is better than the previous tax code where you received an exemption of $4,050 and a credit of $1000 per child. The income limit at which you can take the child tax credit was raised significantly from $75,000 to $200,000 and from $110,000 to $400,000 for single and married respectively. Additionally up to $1,400 is refundable even if you don’t owe taxes.
e) Finally a dependent credit of $500 was added for people living in your household above the age of 17 who are dependent on your income – this can be a child or other family member for which you are caring. This is a new credit that did not previously exist.
Bottom line for most people especially in the middle class, tax reform will result in a moderate reduction in your taxes paid in 2018 vs 2017.
Lastly – if you do not have complex income taxes (like a business or self-employed) please do not go pay a ton of money at HR block to get your taxes done. You really can do it yourself – the tax code is as simple as it has ever been. If you choose to ignore this advice please do not pay extra to get your refund early on a debit card – it is just a complete waste of money.
I would be happy to help you do your taxes if you are stuck. I actually enjoy doing taxes.
Also I have a very effective tax calculator that I can send you if have excel that can help you calculate 2018 taxes and help you look at what you need to withhold for 2019. If you are interested message me and I can email it to you.
My wife, Christie, listened to the recent discussion between Andy Stanley and Dr. Flowers and felt compelled to write a letter to Pastor Stanley.
“Dear Pastor Stanley,
This morning my husband was listening to an interview you
did with Dr. Flowers a couple of days ago.
He came across it through a Twitter post. I later went back to listen to the entire
thing for myself. I have never listened
to either of you before, but felt drawn to offer you my point of view on an
area that you stated ignorance of, which is how someone (particularly a mother)
who believes Calvinist teachings could, with honesty, teach their own children
or be part of children’s or student ministry.
By way of introduction, I grew up in a GARBC church (you may
or may not be familiar with this relatively small group of Baptists). I remember my mother teaching me that God
“didn’t want us to be robots” and emphasizing our free will in coming to
Christ. I have never been part of a
truly Calvinistic church, although my understanding of Scripture through plain
reading has led me to believe Calvinistic doctrine (I would affirm all 5 points
of Calvinism). I am not a “Reformed”
person and don’t claim to know all that they teach. In fact, I am presently a member of a
charismatic church where my theology doesn’t fit with most other people, but
where I know God is working and the Word of God is preached. I understand
people can be seeking God sincerely and come to differing understanding, but it
doesn’t mean I have to hold my firmly held convictions loosely, and there are
doctrines which are so crucial to me that if they were taught in opposition to
my understanding of Scripture would cause me to leave to minister elsewhere.
That said, I do believe in God’s sovereignty in election
because it’s what I see clearly in passages such as Ephesians 1 or Romans 9 (I
see his divine sovereignty in many other places as well, but I realize I don’t
need to load you up with “proofs” on the matter). Listening to the discussion this morning, I
disagree with the idea that believing in God’s sovereign election and
enablement of belief would cause a person to have a lower view of evangelism or
ministry preparedness. I have taught children
for years and earnestly desire them to see the beauty and glory of God in all
his magnificence and grace. I can’t even
imagine a person who believes in God’s election putting that forward as the
main thing for someone to understand in order to come to Christ. That doesn’t even come up in my Gospel
presentation, but God’s divine work enables me to go out at all. Honestly, if I felt it was my persuasiveness
on which their salvation hinged I would be petrified to speak for fear of doing
it wrong. Believing that God enables us
to come to him and has chosen to use flawed instruments for this purpose gives
me the ability to present to them the Gospel, knowing that no matter how well I
prepare (and I spend a LOT of time in preparation every time I teach—I want to
give God and others my very best and represent my Savior well) I will miss
something but He will take my sincere efforts and multiply it for his
I am a mother of six sons, and I can affirm that it is not
only men who believe that God sovereignly determines those who are his. I do believe that if any of my sons rejected
the faith, God would have a purpose in it and would be glorified in some
way. That does not blur the lines
between evil and good, making evil good and good evil as you stated—but
recognizes that everything serves to glorify him, including punishing the sin
we bring onto ourselves through our own decisions/actions. Belief in God’s
sovereignty in salvation doesn’t dismiss our own will/choice in the
matter. This is a false representation
of my beliefs (and, I would expect, the beliefs of most Calvinists). The Bible clearly teaches both the
sovereignty of God and the will of man (for example, Proverbs 16:9, Genesis
50:20, Exodus 4:21/Exodus 8:15). It is
not one or the other separately, but in the end we understand that no matter
how I freely choose (freely being limited by my own sinful nature apart from
God’s intervention), God will work his purposes. His will supersedes mine, to
his glory. In regard to a child wandering
from the faith, even if my own heart was breaking and I begged God to bring
them back to Himself, I would trust him.
How could I possibly even pray for Him to bring them to salvation if I
didn’t believe he could sovereignly overcome their unbelief? I was struck by your example of your church
member, Amber, praying for God to show truth to her parents. That alone shows that we are utterly
dependent on God to do the work of revelation and salvation in our lives—he
uses us, yes, but we are helpless apart from his ultimate work in opening our
minds/hearts to be able to see and love Him.
I believe that Christ
died for the ones the Father has given him (John 6: 35-40: John 17:6, 9-12,
24-25). Yes, a Calvinist can preach with intellectual honestly through the book
of John. I believe in sovereign
election, and that God ordains the use of the folly of preaching to reach the
lost. As a mother, I struggle with the
same things every parent does—things like second guessing myself, being
discouraged when I don’t handle things well, hoping the best for my children in
spite of my shortcomings—but because I know God uses all things for his
purposes and that he works all things together for good for those who are
called according to his purpose, I trust that even my failures can be used to
as an example to my children of the loving grace of God to rescue even a
screw-up like me (or them). I can trust
them to him. I do my best, but am freed
from the burden (should they choose to reject Christ, although I do my best to show
him to them experientially) that if I had only done/said something differently
they would have made a different decision.
It is my belief in the sovereign election of God which
enabled me to have the courage to step out in faith and lead Good News Clubs in
local schools (granted, I generally downplayed some of the material that I
viewed as rather legalistic and emphasized more strongly the beauty of our
sovereign God stepping into the mess of humanity). I don’t trust myself to be eloquent enough to
convince anyone of anything, and if I believed that it was up to me to do it
right, I would likely have stayed home for fear of “doing it wrong.” Trusting that God can use my feeble efforts
and overcome my shortcomings to reach children for adoption into his family
gave me the courage necessary to step out in faith and preach the good news of
God’s Son coming to take our place, paying for our sin and reconciling us with
the Father. I teach the children in my
own church as well, with the confidence that God will be the one to soften
anyone’s hearts and enable them to love him while knowing that his chosen
method of doing so is the sincere preaching of the Word to them.
You asked how I could present a sincere invitation to
them. Simple. I present the truth, as you stated, that
whosoever will may come. I understand
(without needing to explain it all to others in my presentation) that apart
from God stepping in to cause us to see him rightly, we are limited by our
sinful nature to always choose to reject him but that, in his mercy and for his
own purposes, he opens the hearts and minds of those whom he chooses (John
9:35-41; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; Ephesians 1:17-21; 1 Peter 2:4-10). I present the Gospel that Jesus has come to
rescue sinners, not based on our worthiness but on his goodness. I present to them the penalty of sin and the
provision of our Savior. It is up to God
to use that in the hearts and minds of the hearers. I always assume that unbelievers are in the
room. The fact is, the message is the same
whether we are already a believer or not—Sin must be punished, Christ satisfied
that requirement by taking our place on the cross, and because of his
resurrection and the grace of God we can come to God for forgiveness,
reconciliation, and the hope that he will transform us into his likeness (in
part now, and fully when we see him face to face). Both believers and unbelievers need to hear
the truth of law and grace distinctly so that our hope is in God and not
ourselves. Unbelievers can be drawn to him
and believers freed to cling to him even after we still sin.
I was actually stunned that Dr. Flowers indicated that an
example of the pre-eminence of man’s free will was that Paul was striving to
convince the hearers in Acts 28. Of
course, when we preach we want people to understand and turn to God, so we
prepare and do our best, trusting God with the outcome. Evangelism is so important—God has ordained
the foolishness of preaching as the means for those who are called to come (1
Corinthians 1:18-25)! And preparation is important—we should be ready to give
an answer to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter
3:14-17). Paul obviously did his best,
but did not trust persuasive words to be the draw to salvation, but the work of
the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:1-5), and that is how I, as a Calvinist, approach
evangelism and ministry as well. It is
not dishonest to recognize both that both God’s sovereignty and man’s choice
work together in a way we cannot fully explain, but believe because God’s word
presents it so. The primary difference
between us, I think, is which we believe to be the final determining factor in
salvation: God’s will or our own. I
believe that the sinful nature in any person will cause them to always freely
choose to reject God’s salvation, but that when he graciously chooses to open
the eyes of that person (change their nature) to see him clearly, they will
freely choose to love him. I am
comforted by the Bible’s teaching that while I am living out my salvation, it
is God who works in me, both to will and to work for his good pleasure
I recognize that this may be a somewhat lengthy answer to your question of how a Calvinist (particularly a woman/mother) can honestly present the invitation of the Gospel to children, students, or anyone anywhere else in the world for that matter. I know others could more eloquently have answered you, and that I have not exhausted the matter, but I thank you for your time in hearing my perspective.”
I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about the race issues among believers that have been seemingly widened this week or probably just uncovered some more via the MLK50 conference. I’ve discovered I don’t have the ability I would like to express what I want to, nor do I have the wisdom or knowledge to solve all the complexities of this sensitive and intensely personal discussion. That goes without saying of course. So why bother trying to say anything? And I guess the best answer I can give is that I love the church – for all of its messiness – I love the body of Christ. So in the spirit of Ephesians 4:2-3 “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” I take up my pen to say what I hope will, by the Spirit, push toward the Spirit’s peace and the Spirit’s unity. I am basically going to express how my thoughts unfolded this week and do my best to draw some concluding thoughts at the end.
Thabiti’s blog post in relation to the Gospel Coalition’s MLK 50 conference
In case you have not seen it, Thabiti Anyabwile posted a blog entitled “We Await Repentance for Assassinating Dr. King” in which he called for white evangelicals, as a starting point of making amends to the black community, acknowledge that their parents and grandparents were complicit in the murder of Dr. King. Here is the most controversial quote with a link to the whole article.
Until this country and the Church learns to confess its particular sins particularly, we will not overcome the Adamic hostility that infects the human soul and distorts human potential.
“Don’t get me wrong. I know Dr. King’s life was much greater than his death. I understand that his death gives us opportunity to reflect on his legacy. But it also gives opportunity to reflect on that twist in our soul that rose up and killed him. It gives opportunity to repent of the things some have with too much pride too often refused to admit is there.
My white neighbors and Christian brethren can start by at least saying their parents and grandparents and this country are complicit in murdering a man who only preached love and justice.” LINK
It is an irritating and frustrating thing to say that feels borderline absurd. Even if I wanted to comply how would I do it? Would I wear a shirt with mug shots of my parents and a caption reading “complicit in the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr?” My dad pastored a Baptist church in which he started a Hispanic ministry, and my mom would tear up anytime she spoke of the treatment of blacks she witnessed as a kid in Louisiana. These parents are complicit in the murder of Dr. King and should be judged guilty purely on the basis of their skin color and the time frame in which they lived? There are some implications in this quote that I believe are at best unhelpful and at worst contrary to the gospel. Here are some questions.
Many leading evangelicals, denominations, churches and individuals have already expressed sorrow and remorse publically either for overt racism or for not engaging on the issue as they should have during the civil rights movement – how would Thabiti’s requirement be deemed fulfilled?
If every white American Christian were to acknowledge their parents and grandparents were complicit in the murder of Dr. King, then what? What else will be needed before reconciliation can be considered?
Should gospel forgiveness be offered once the perpetrator has made full amends and satisfied our list of demands?
Do whites have a corner on the sin of judging someone based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character or is this one of those sins “common to man?”
(If you would like to read more, this has been discussed ably by Joshua Sommer at The Baptist Reformation which you can read here
I would also recommend James White’s recent Dividing Line Episodes which you can find here)
Four posts later Thabiti attempts to clarify.
“To put a fine point on it as a closing: When it comes to racism, especially during the original period I was addressing in my first post (1950-60s), white America is Cretan in its understanding and actions. That does not mean every single white American was a racist–“as some people slanderously charge us with saying.” Reasonable people know better and they’ve shown so by other tweets not mentioned here. I praise God for those white Americans who had their consciences awakened, marched for equality, stood against injustice, and even gave their lives in the cause. So far from being guilty, such persons are among the righteous who will be rewarded at the resurrection of the just. “ LINK
This leads to even more questions for me – The first post may not call everyone a racist but it clearly calls every white American to confess their parents were complicit in the murder of Dr. King. Second, while I’m glad Thabiti recognizes that some whites did stand for what is right, I know of no Bible verse that teaches that means they will be “rewarded at the resurrection of the just.” Marching for equality, while admirable, cannot be equated with believing the gospel. I know this seems obvious, and I presume it is a misstatement by Thabiti, but it may also be a misstatement that reveals an imbalance in Thabiti’s theology. Al Mohler says: “In our own context, one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.” When “in or out” is based on whether or not I improve my activity level in social justice activities we have missed the radical nature of the Gospel.
As I considered Thabiti’s initial post over the course of the week I found myself trying to understand why Thabiti would make such a statement. Regardless of my reservations about his comments, there are a number of realities that should be acknowledged.
Over the course of the history of our country, blacks have been grossly mistreated.
The post-Civil War treatment of blacks via segregation, discrimination and Jim Crow laws continued the abuses of the previous era. Jim Crow laws stayed in force until 1965.
Redlining and financial discrimination from some financial institutions continued into the 1980’s ensuring the road to financial stability continued to be unfair.
Some of the church defended these practices to their shame. Many churches did not speak out or ignored the issue. This was wrong. This was damaging to the name of Christ and undermined the truth of the gospel.
If there are churches or institutions or individuals that have not acknowledged these truths, they are irrefutable and should be acknowledged. The ramifications of these actions despite significant reforms in America since the 1960’s have ongoing implications today on family units, relationship with whites, and the finances of the black community. It is neither accurate nor appropriate for white evangelicals to dismiss the hurt of blacks under the guise of “it is all better now.” There are ongoing ramifications from the past and ongoing incidents of racism and discrimination that rip the scab off again. We must do a better job of applying I Cor 12:24 “If one member suffers, all suffer together.” The ongoing indifference to both the past injustice and continuing incidents of racism I think cause Thabiti to cry out, “Can you just at least acknowledge the guilt of white America – of white evangelicalism – can you not dismiss our suffering because you don’t want to look at it?” If this is part of the underlying heart of Thabiti’s original post I can better understand while not agreeing with how it was expressed.
Adamic Sin and Victimization
As Thabiti rightly states in a couple of spots in his sequence of posts – sin infests the heart of every child of Adam. Sin knows no color boundaries, and because of that no race has a corner on any specific sin. “No sin has overtaken you except that which is common to man.” There are people of all races who judge others on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.
One of the great challenges to believing the gospel is the requirement that I come horrifyingly guilty before God. Paul said in Romans 7 “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of sin?” and he says to Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief. “ And one of the great challenges for true victims of any crime is recognizing their desperate need to turn in repentance and faith to a mighty Savior because it is easier to see the sins of those who have trespassed against them. Phillip Yancey references in What’s So Amazing About Grace the reality that there is no one so self-righteous as a victim. Having one’s core identity be “victim” creates a reality where that individual or group can participate in almost any manner of sin without compunction because no matter what I do it is always less than what has been done to me.
It is understandable why this would be the case with many in the black community, but it is a roadblock to the gospel for individuals and gospel-based race relations. The reality is that everyone on the planet is a victim of others’ sins. For some the wounding is cuttingly deep and for others it is lighter, but the omnipresent reality is that the heart of every man is sinful and sin is devastating in its effects on others.
However, when God speaks to us it is rarely on the sin of others because though we are all victims of sin we are also all perpetrators. And of the two, God desires that we recognize at a level deeper than anyone else’s sin that I am a sinner in need of the grace of God. “Not my brother. Not my sister. But it is ME oh Lord…” As long as we say “yeah, yeah I know I’m a sinner, but not like those black people or those white people” we are the lost ones. And we are holding ourselves up like the Pharisee looking down on the publican. Oh let us beat on our chest, not daring to look to heaven and say together “God be merciful to ME a sinner” and see if God will not meet us there.
The task of reconciling the races seems an impossibility. The complexities are too great – the emotions too high. I am too messed up. I cannot fix myself much less the human race. Yet in the acknowledging of our weakness as believers, we are able to fix our eyes on the one who declared, “It is Finished.” Even though I am speaking to believers I fear this answer may be skipped past as too simplistic. But if we continue to argue amongst ourselves where the blame lies and who did what to who and castigate those with whom we disagree and continue to say “I’ll do X if you do Y” I fear we will continue to live separated. But in Christ the impossible becomes possible.
Ephesians 2:13- 22
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 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Truth begins with, we are fallen. Not just Satan is fallen, or the world is fallen, or the United States is fallen or even the church is fallen, but you and me – we are fallen. We are sinful. We are broken. Not just that we are fallen, but that we can’t fix ourselves. Sometimes I think we get in our minds that if we could just read one more book, find that magic principle, finally turn over that new leaf, we could fix what is wrong. But we can’t. Scripture tells us there is none righteous, no not one – we are in desperate need of something we cannot provide for ourselves, and to keep trying is futile. The “wrongness” is too much. We need something greater than ourselves. We need a Savior.
And the alienation that was between a holy God and ourselves far exceeds any alienation between the races. But GOD!! Christ Himself is our Peace! Through HIM black and white have access to the same grace, the same forgiveness, the same Lord, and through Him we are joined into one body. And God Himself is building us – Black and White and everyone in between, from every tribe, nation, and tongue into a dwelling place for Himself. There is something more core to our identities than our race for those that are in Him. For those that are in Christ he has become our peace. My identity in Him is no longer what I deserve – to be alienated – to be condemned – to have the bondage of sin define me – NO! With my Father there is peace because of the blood of the Lamb who has satisfied the justice of God for me and for you. No longer must I demand my rights be served – No longer must I demand that justice be given to me – instead I am free to lay down my life for my friends, for my enemies, for my neighbors and coworkers without regard to race, culture or creed. In Him I have been given far more than I could give.
Ok, you say, sounds great but it sounds a bit pie in the sky. Maybe that can happen in the future but seems unlikely right now. And yes, there is a now and not yet aspect. Nevertheless, I believe God is able to do miraculous things in our relations with each other right now. Even as you are reading this.
My wife and I watched “I Can Only Imagine” over the weekend. And the whole movie brought me to tears. The film tells the story of Bart Millard, lead singer for Mercy Me. His father was, in Bart’s words, a monster. He beat him up physically and emotionally from a young age. So as soon as he is able, Bart leaves his father’s house. But sometime later Bart randomly returns and finds his father is different. As they sit down to breakfast his evil father’s scowl is gone. He bows his head and prays – something Bart had never seen. His tone is not angry. He mentions that God answered his prayer that his son has returned. Bart is unwilling to accept his father’s change. The past injury is too much. Where is the justice? His father has not grovelled. He has not begged for mercy. So Bart in anger leaves only to discover a note that says his father is dying of terminal cancer. And God begins to make peace. God begins to soften. God begins to dissolve the indissoluble. And something beautiful and spectacular happens. Bart turns with love to his father – the mean, angry, vindictive, abusive dad, now precious in his sight. This is the power of the gospel. And my brothers and sisters I am begging and praying that in our hearts – the hearts of His children – we would find a way to love each other that reflects how we have been loved. Let us submit to the work of God to build US into a dwelling place for him.
I have one last point I want to share. God created the physical differences in the human race. God delights in the people he has made in their differences. I can see no evidence that ethnicity is going away in the new heaven and new earth. I had a picture as I was dwelling on this of God delighting in the colors and cultures of each race and tribe. Look! I made a black people group! Look at my Asian people groups! Look at my Hispanic people groups! When God makes us one he does not eliminate our ethnicity! When God says in Colossians 3 “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, Slave, Free – he is not saying all physical and cultural identities are removed – They are not…. Ever! He is saying that at our core we are no longer Greek or Jew, or Black or White, or outcast – No! Christ is now all in all!
As often happens my soul was refreshed at church today – the well-selected songs, the body of Christ together and a message that reminded me again of the goodness and patience of God towards sinners. I could tell the many around me experienced that same thing.
My week has been a discouraging one and today reminded me again that God is not finished with me yet.
But Monday looms.
I get it somehow in my head, how it stays there God only knows, that a new start, a silver bullet, is all I need to stay on track. When reality is, I am in moment by moment desperate need of His grace.
Sunday’s shot of glory and grace is not enough to ride on for the week. Yes, it is meant to re-energize us – to remind US of God’s work on our behalf. Yes, we come together as a body and something powerful is released. But my soul needs daily mercies. I want to live every day with my eyes captivated with the glory of Jesus.
So I want to share four ways I believe that happens.
Feast on His Word. I don’t think it is possible to live as we long to without regularly seeking the face of God in the Bible. Bible time is not religious duty time – it is a time of listening to the voice of Father teach, encourage, correct and renew us. Our Christian life cannot but be anemic without regular time in the Word
Refresh my Soul In Prayer – Prayer is worship which lifts us from self. Prayer is casting our cares on Him, bringing us to dependence and relief that He is the one who sustains us. Prayer is hard – at least for me. My mind wanders – yet if I persist in it I am given strength for the day.
Connect with His Saints. We need the body of Christ more than just on Sundays. Someone needs you to encourage them. And we need someone to speak into our lives. Who can you spend some time with this week to edify each other, to confess to each other and to believe together in the Gospel of his Grace?
Serve Those Around You. Serving others nurtures my soul. Even when I don’t want to – and I often don’t – as soon as I say “Yes,” I find that somehow I am the one restored. God has designed us to serve those around him and has granted us gifts in the Spirit to do so. The exercise of these gifts gives us opportunity to witness first-hand the work of the Lord through weak instruments.
Bottom line is I want to live more of my life in light of who Jesus is. I want my life to be consumed with Him every day not just Sundays. And I want to witness the work of God in the lives of those I come in contact with. So I’m preaching this to myself… but to you as well, my brothers and sisters – We have a great Lover of our Souls and His name is Jesus. Let’s live together with hearts abandoned for Him.
Manasseh – He rebuilt worship centers to false gods His father had destroyed. He burned his son as a human sacrifice to a false god. His reign was full of brutality and bloodshed – and he led the people to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.
I know what you are thinking – it is hard to relate to
Story from Jeremiah 42FF
Jeremiah 42:1-16 Vote
Sin says – I know what’s best for me – I will provide for my own needs – I cannot trust God’s provision – I will not trust God’s promises – I will trust what I know and can see and control –
This is represented in our sins – In our addictions we trust our own provision for our needs rather than God’s. In our fear we doubt God. In our lusts for entertainment and sex and money and power and esteem we doubt that God is enough to satisfy
At its root, Sin is not the surface actions of idol worship and pornography addiction – at its core the heart of sin is the same for every sinful action. Namely It is the rejection of the person and provision of God. Sin is the exaltation of self – and reliance on self (Pride) and the rejection of God himself because it does not believe that God is enough to satisfy our longings (Unbelief)
Pride and Unbelief – two sides of the same coin
Daniel is reflecting on the long history of his people and their unbelief that has led to this place. And as he prays from his heart he expresses at least 3 truths – three realities – about himself and God.
Now the people in the bible were not perfect people by any stretch but scripture says these things were written for our learning. And I think we have some valuable awakening insights from Daniel’s prayer.
He admits guilt
Admit – Dan 9:5 – 7a (Though Open Shame)
Pain of Hiding sin – Psalm 32:1-5 – My Story
Quote: “Confession is like a boil finally bursting – painful and relieving.
Receiving forgiveness is like a first breath of fresh sea air for one who has always lived at a garbage dump.”
Life of confession
I John 1:8-9 – If we say we have no sin…
James 5:16 – Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
We, Our, Us – 34+ Times – VS 20 “My Sin”
Ezekiel 14:14 – Noah, Job and Daniel Righteous guys
No recorded sin
BUT he includes himself
He recognizes himself in light of the righteousness of God
He identifies with God’s people
I Cor 12:26 – If one member suffers, all suffer together
APP: In the battle against sin we need to
Admit our own sin
Fight for our brothers and sisters
Life at GHC – Excited – Culture of Confession – Turn faces to God – Mentor – Friend Protege
He agrees that God’s actions against the nation are righteous – Dan 9:12, 14
We live in a time when the culture and even the church at times does not appreciate nor believe in the idea of a God who causes calamity – CS Lewis Megaphone
Not every calamity is judgement for sin (Job) but every calamity is superintended by God to accomplish what he desires – and for those who are his children every circumstance that you experience will be made to serve God’s good purposes for you and we are called to rejoice in our trials trusting that God is at work in them. Romans 8:28 and James 1
Sometimes, as in this case, the calamity is due to sin.
I believe if we lose the Holy, Awesome and fearsome righteousness of God – and take away the justice of his judgements we not only do damage to his holiness we destroy the meaning of Grace
Daniel here agrees that the calamity is from the Lord and that the Lord is righteous to have brought it.
The purpose of the Lord when he brings correction for sin – Amos 4:6-13
We do well in the midst of calamity to turn our faces to Lord and say “Lord – what are you saying to me in this? – Lord – what are you teaching me? Lord – try me and see if there is any grievous way in my and lead me in the way everlasting.
Daniel appeals to the mercy of God in light of his unrighteousness– Dan 9:17-18
ILL: Proverbial hand in the cookie jar – Lord Paddles – Exiles – Try to put cookie back together
We are NOT at any time from cradle to grave, from unbelieving to justified to glorified – at no time are we saved by works.
We in the church get it at conversion —– BUT once believers we often revert back to works.
ILL: The enemy lands a haymaker and some sin you thought you were over levels you – How do you react? I’ll fix it – Rocky YOU CAN’T DO IT
Paul Addresses this in Galatians 3:1-5
QUOTE: Jerry Bridges Transforming Grace: So what kind of bankruptcy did we declare? To use the business analogy, did we file under chapter 7 or chapter 11? Was it permanent or temporary? I suspect most of us would say we declared permanent bankruptcy. Having trusted in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, we realized we could not add any measure of good works to what He has already done. We believe He completely paid our debt of sin and secured for us the gift of eternal life. There is nothing more we can do to earn our salvation, so using the business analogy, we would say we filed permanent bankruptcy.
However, I think most of us actually declared temporary bankruptcy. Having trusted in Christ alone for our salvation, we have subtly and unconsciously reverted to a works relationship with God in our Christian lives. We recognize that even our best efforts cannot get us to heaven, but we do think they earn God’s blessings in our daily lives.
After we become Christians we begin to put away our more obvious sins. We also start attending church, put money in the offering plate, and maybe join a small group Bible study. We see some positive change in our lifestyle, and we begin to feel pretty good about ourselves. We are now ready to emerge from bankruptcy and pay our own way in the Christian life.
Then the day comes when we fall on our face spiritually. We lapse back into an old sin, or we fail to do what we should have done. Because we think we are now on our own, paying our own way, we assume we have forfeited all blessings from God for some undetermined period of time. Our expectation of God’s blessing depends on how well we feel we are living the Christian life. We declared temporary bankruptcy to get into His kingdom, so now we think we can and must pay our own way with God. We were saved by grace, but we are living by performance.
Daniel, of all people, could have said I come to you because I’ve got it together, but he doesn’t and he gets it right when he says “We don’t present our pleas to you because of our righteousness.” And then he adds “But because of your great mercy” Dan 9:18b
Conclusion – 3 potential responses
MERCY!! Daniel is in exile his homeland destroyed – Some of you are tempted to say with those who fled to Egypt – What Mercy? God has allowed…. How can you say God is merciful?
Hasn’t the Lord be longsuffering towards you? Has not the Lord treated you better than you deserve? Has not the Lord patiently pursued you and warned you and wooed you? Why not surrender to His mercy right now? Why not lay down your arms – acknowledge your guilt and run to his grace?
Mercy… I’ve gone too far – I’ve failed too many times – I don’t deserve his mercy. I acknowledge my guilt but until I get it together I can’t look him in the face.
Billy Graham and Tullian Picture
True Repentance springs out of trusting His promises
God loves to restore – Jeremiah 29:10-14 –
Psalm 30:5 “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping my tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning. In His chastening he is treating us like beloved sons
Psalm 103:10-12 “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
HOW does he do this? By placing your sin – its curse – its condemnation – its judgement – its darkness – its defeat and despair through the hands and feet of the Lamb on the Cross – Jesus Christ. “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.
Are you looking for hope? Are you looking to be restored? Do you long for more transformation into the image of Jesus? There is but one way and it is by faith in the grace, mercy and kindness of our Savior that he demonstrated so magnificently at the cross and that he shows you in his day by day mercy towards you. Lift up your face to Him and in humility freely acknowledge your sin and in faith embrace HIM as life. Humility and Faith two sides of the same coin. Faith in His Grace is the only solution to sin.
Last response – Billy Graham ended almost every sermon he preached with these words “Just as I am – without one Plea!! But that thy blood was shed for me and that you bid me come to thee – Oh Lamb of God I come.
James says every good gift, every perfect gift comes down from above from the Father. Moses charges us to serve the Lord with Joyfulness and gladness of heart because of the abundance of all things. James says to set our hopes on God – who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
How often do we just stop and consider, with a heart of thanksgiving, the amazing gifts of God. He has packed our world full of joy.
CS Lewis says: “Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are patches of “God-light” in the woods of our experience”
This week I experienced “God-light”
as I drove over the pass – in awe again at the beauty and wonder of his creation.
As I walked in the early morning in Seattle into Specialties and order fresh coffee and an amazing blueberry cream-cheese croissant.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the amazing Thai dinner I was served packed with flavors and spice
As I arrived home my 7 year old Andrew called me on the phone – “Dad – where are you? Can I see your car yet? I’m going to my friend’s house but I want to see you so I’m not going yet.” Delight in my children – delight in my wife’s kiss – the delight of home and its comfort.
It truly is His Breath in our lungs and every breath gives us a chance again to see the gracious, generous, and beautiful hand of God towards us if we have eyes to see.
But there is more….
Jonathan Edwards says: “Fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.”
If we gaze up the beams of light of earthly joys – we will see radiating in dazzling brilliance – the one in whom all our longings are satisfied – the one for whom our souls crave – Our glorious Savior, our friend, our God – Jesus Christ. In Him we stand Holy and Blameless before the Father. In Him we have been adopted as Sons. In Him we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of our sins. He has lavished grace upon us. He has chosen us in His love. He has granted us an inheritance – Imperishable, Undefiled and Unfading. He is our inheritance – He is the light from which all other joys come.
The Psalmist says: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” And “You are the fountain of life. In your light we see light”
When we see Him – we give not out of repayment or duty but because he has become our joy and light.
We graph 0.9 degrees of temperature change like the recent stock market performance held upside down.
We also graph the world as going from ice cold blue to inferno from hell using the same less than a degree change measurement.
Money, power, politics and social standing are all aligned to suppress any doubts or questions with a vehemence usually reserved for “round-earthers” in the dark ages.
We use “global temperature” records from 1881 to 2018 as if the data is equivalent and has been collected for 137 years with the same precision, profligate measuring stations, and zealot-like passion of a comic-con attendee who wins best costume.
We treat 137 years as if it is a good sample size of world temperature history
Climate-change modelers have all the credibility of Sean Spicer defending “Covfefe” as a secret message and a track record of accuracy that rivals John Hagee’s 4 Blood Moons predictions.
The incessant drumming mantra of “97% scientific consensus” that the earth is warming as if that is the same as saying 1) The earth is warming because of traffic congestion in Seattle and that if all of Seattle would just buy electric cars and plug into that pollution-free electricity that is automatically built into everyone’s house it would solve the problem 2) That the warming is unnatural 3) The rate of warming is alarming and we must increases taxes immediately and dramatically so we can improve school funding thus creating more duped subjects who will mindlessly surrender freedom for the greater good 4) That we are hurtling over a precipice where both coasts are erased in a cataclysmic double tsunami dubbed “The Revenge of the Polar Bears” by post-apocalyptic survivors (though the loss of both coasts might be a win in the long run)
We state that there is between a .77 and 1.1 degree increase in global temperature over the arbitrary baseline of the average temperature of 1951-1980 and then acknowledge in the fine print that any given year is probably accurate within .50 degrees.
This makes Bernie Madoff look like Will Ferrell in a figure-skating competition when compared to the scale of charade governments are trying to pull off– and politicians everywhere are smiling all the way to the bank.
NOTE: I realize that neither the alarmist graphs and potentials nor the suppression of opposing arguments mean that the anthropogenic climate change proponents are wrong, but it is suspect when there appears to be an agenda to only see one possibility from the data, particularly when the subject is this complex and the complete failure of our models given current assumptions to predict future results with anything resembling accuracy. I do believe normalizing the 60’s and 70’s is solid evidence that we are on the wrong track. 🙂
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
“He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all”
I had one of those awful dreams one has from time to time where someone you love dies. This time it was my son, Benjamin – I woke up literally in the throes of grief. It was visceral, raw, heart-rending. I’m sure many of you know what I’m talking about – every once in a while a dream is so real it engulfs you.
I woke up in tears and God says –
This is how you are loved. I gave up my son so that you might be with me. What more must I do to prove my love for you?
How casually we look at the cross! How easily we turn it into a sentimental “precious moment” suitable for the living room or our necks.
But God’s son was “pierced for our transgressions” he was “crushed for our iniquities” it was through his death that we can have peace with God and be healed. God sent his Son knowing the agony – knowing the pain.
God intentionally endured the “searing loss” of his only son so that through Him, I and all who would just turn and look to him for life – can have the joy of basking in the Father’s presence without fear and without shame.
“I need no other argument – It is enough that Jesus died and that he died for me.”
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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 a moral 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.
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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 to 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.
“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.
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—
Joshua 7:24: “And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.”
Hosea 2:15 – “I will make the valley of Achor (which means trouble) a doorway to Hope.”
Some of you need hope. For some of you everything looks dark – you have tried for so long to deliver yourself and you despair that there is any hope for you. You long for a hero– for a rescuer – for a Substitute but doubt that anyone really cares. And yet no matter how dark your past – no matter how bleak your future seems – God desires in this moment to enter your valley of Achor and deliver you from your debt of sin. For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. So I want to lift up before you today – Jesus Christ – the perfection of God – He was broken for you! He was slain for you! He will not reject you because of what you have done and he will not receive you because of the good you do – NO! With grace there is no merit except His – You can rest in his perfection for you – You can trust that in His dying your debt was paid – He is a willing Savior.
Surrender and come delight yourself in Jesus and his work for you on the cross. Today is the day of Salvation.
You don’t have to have your eyes open very wide to realize there is something horribly wrong in the world. I recently picked up a book given to my oldest son Steven by his teacher – Mrs. Copley. It is titled simply “Night” and the book describes the horrors of a young Jewish boy by the name of Elie Wiesel trapped in Nazi concentration camps. The book describesJewish captives being forced to dig their own graves while Nazi soldiers shot their children and then the parents themselves. Elie had a mentor by the name of Francois Mauriac whom he asked to write the forward of his book describing his experience. Mauriac in attempting to understand what young Elie had to endure wrote,
“Let us try to imagine what goes on in his mind as his eyes watch rings of black smoke unfurl in the sky, smoke that emanates from the furnaces into which his little sister and his mother had been thrown after thousands of other victims.”
The thought is unfathomably awful. That was less than 70 years ago. Elie was with us until just a few months ago.