Tuesday, June 15, 2010


[Enjoy the over 1,200 posts and hundreds of audio files, which I will leave up - or visit the audio archive here for a list of all the recordings]

Monday, June 14, 2010

Heb 13 - 23-25 - Christ - Source of Sustaining Grace

Heb 13 - 23-25 - Christ - Source of Sustaining Grace

Heb 13:23-25 You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 25 Grace be with all of you.

This final parting is typical of letters written to the various churches. Although the style of the language is not considered by many to be Pauline, the greeting itself, and the mention of Timothy with such fond interest are just some of the reasons that some people have believed Paul to be the author of this work.

The so-called "releasing" of Timothy does not necessarily signify that he had been imprisoned. It might simply mean that he had now been dispatched upon the matter of business. But certainly in less recent times, commentators, believing Paul to be the author, and seeing that this is written from Italy believe it to come from the time of Paul’s first imprisonment, and that Timothy was there with him. These are all matters of speculation. Indeed it could also be that Timothy had been kept by church needs in some other location (Ephesus, for example), or even that he had been detained by authorities elsewhere and, being lately made free in either one sense or the other and is actually in process of making his way to Italy to join the author. In any event, it seems that both Timothy and the author, whether it be Paul or not, are likely to travel together to Jerusalem.

The parting greetings end with the blessings of that great necessity for all believers in all places and circumstances - the sustaining grace of God.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Blasts from the Past
Letter and Spirit

This week Martin Luther speaks to us from days gone by. In terms of the Reformation, Luther is often seen as the father of it all, though some might point to Hus or others. God always had a remnant and the scarlet thread was never utterly effaced.

For myself, I am not a Lutheran. If I had been raised in that tradition it might be different - who can tell? But I came up through a tradition of apathetic unbelief, rationalism and modernism. When I look back to Luther, I see a man of great moment and courage - and also a man, like all of us, with feet of clay. He was a product of his times, taken by the Holy Spirit and molded for use in the reclamation of the gospel from the apostasy, heresies and abuses of the medieval Roman Catholic quagmire.

Was it commendable that he never left the Roman Church (he was excommunicated in 1521) or was his wanting to reform from within an admirable quality? God knows, for He alone is the judge of us all. And just exactly what did Luther believe about the atonement? Did he believe Christ died in a penal substitutionary way for every human being and that He then gives faith only to the elect, as modern Lutheranism seems to say? I can't subscribe to that understanding, but I have the benefit of the later Reformers and a retrospective of 500 years of ecclesiastical and theological history.

I bring these things up (though I could mention many others) only to remind the listener that Luther, like us all, is not to be lifted any higher than any servant of the same Master Who is over us all, and Who alone walked, believed and taught perfection. So enjoy Luther, but keep your discernment shields up whenever you listen to or read his stuff (or mine - or anybody else's for that matter). Enjoy this one....

Letter and Spirit

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Agonizomai Audio Archive

Prior to Agomizomai's shut down here are a few notes:

One of the things I never did with this blog was to add a keyword index. Sorry about that. But you can access all the audio files going back to the the time when I converted this to an audio blog by clicking this link. It will take you to my public archived index which you can sort as you see fit.

In the unlikely event that anyone wants the written material in a consolidated form please drop me an email and I'll try to accommodate you.

All of my materials, whether written or oral are free to copy and reproduce provided the Creative Commons license listed here is followed. Freely you have received - therefore freely give.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Heb 13 - 20-22 - Christ - The Master Potter

Heb 13 - 20-22 - Christ - The Master Potter

Heb 13:20-22 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 22 I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.

Even in saying his farewell, the writer finds a way to once more repeat the essence of his message by preaching Christ as both having died and been raised - as being the True Shepherd, the Over Shepherd - by Whose atoning and sanctifying blood sacrifice all that the believer needs is provided. That is to say, all that the believer needs in order to do the will of God, because that is what it is to be a true believer - to have been changed so that the desire of the heart is to do His will.

Note the ever-present twofold way that things are worked out; we are equipped with all that is needed to do His will, and it is God Who works in us that which is pleasing in His sight. The only possible understanding of these words is that the very obedience by which we are saved and sanctified is itself the evidence of God at work in us. Which is why he says explicitly that because this is all done through the (finished) work of Jesus Christ (and all that the Name and title encompasses) then all glory is unto Him for eternity. God does it all and it is all done in and through Christ, applied by the Spirit and exhibited in our obedience.

This is why we speak not of conforming ourselves to his image, but of being conformed to it. We are neither co-creators, nor are we co-recreators. We are clay in the hands of the Master Potter as He forms what His will and design purposed from eternity.

Finally, the writer entreats them, as Christian brothers (giving them the benefit of believing that their profession is true) to come to grips with what he terms his "brief exhortation." This means that, in the end, he sees the whole sermon as encouragement and not as reproof. O, to be sure, there is admonishment and rebuke in it for those who are wavering in the faith - but it is that sort of warning that is trusted to have the effect of actually encouraging true believers to get it together and remember what they have believed and Whom they have received.

Like any preacher, he seems to regret that time and space deter him from expounding more fully on the matters of concern laid on his heart - as if the Hebrews, like so many of us, could not sit for more than 20 minutes at one time to hear the gospel expounded and opened to them. In fact, it looks like he has kept it "short" precisely so as not to over tax them.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bon Voyage Agonizomai
It's almost time to say "auf viedersehen", "au revoir", "hasta luego" or whatever departing greeting is appropriate. The good ship Agonizomai is sailing off for the summer and, very likely, for the duration. Apart from a bit of housekeeping the final post will be on Monday June 14th.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Heb 13 - 18-19 - Christ - The Evidence of Fruit

Heb 13 - 18-19 - Christ - The Evidence of Fruit

Heb 13:18-19 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Remembering the audience to whom the homily is addressed helps to understand the (to me) strange request for their prayers for him "because he is sure he has a clear conscience". For myself, I should more desire prayer when my conscience was troubling me. But here, the discourse making the case for the dismantling of Judaism and its replacement with the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ is now completed. The case has been made, but he has tried to make it respectfully and accurately. He has not held up the former way of life to ridicule even though he has shown its complete inadequacy as a means of justifying anyone before God.

He has also sternly warned more than once (three times, actually) about the temptations to either go back to the old religion, or to try to mix it with the new. But again, he has done this strictly for the sake of truth and in the service of Jesus Christ. He has made a defense of the gospel, but with gentleness and reverence. Therefore, his appeal to them is to join him in the blessings of a clear conscience in the loving arms of truth by praying for him. For their prayers themselves would be a sign of the grace of God at work in them, conforming them to the image of their Saviour. They would be means themselves of the fruit bearing of the word he brought to them by the Spirit of God.

And these prayers, being now in accord with the fullness of gospel truth and no longer wavering in doubt, would themselves bear their own fruit in the writer’s life, perhaps being part of God’s means in releasing him from whatever is hindering his face to face ministry to them.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Perspective and Encouragement
"As no temporal blessing is good enough to be a sign of eternal election; so no temporal affliction is bad enough to be an evidence of reprobation."


Monday, June 07, 2010

Heb 13 - 17 - Christ - Is All in All

Heb 13 - 17 - Christ - Is All in All

Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

The unwritten and subliminal implications here are to obey "providing they are preaching Christ rightly". When we follow leaders we follow them only insofar as they are manifesting Jesus Christ. That is because we are all following Him and only Him, even when we do so by submitting to other men.

Note that these leaders are charged with keeping watch over the souls of the saints. If they are not doing that because they are preaching another gospel, or a weak gospel, or are indifferent to the spiritual state of their charges - then they are not following Christ and Christ is not being manifested in them - so following Christ by harkening to them is very unlikely to happen. This doesn’t mean that we always walk away. It may mean that we endure the famine and prayerfully struggle to bring it to an end.

One thing is for sure, that those in leadership will be held to a higher standard and will be required to render an account of their stewardship. If they are truly saved men, their loss will be that of reward. But if they are not Christ’s and have wheedled their way in to mislead and deceive - if they are unsaved people - whatever their motivation or excuse, it would be better for them in that Day that they had never been born. Christ is jealous for the apple of His eye, His bride, in ways we cannot but begin to imagine. The fury of His wrath upon those who sully her will be terrible to behold.

That said, sheep are dull and stupid creatures who are constantly meandering off without thought as to the immediate dangers that surround them. And the patient, caring and sometimes monotonous and repetitive work of keeping them in the fold, or on the pasture and away from wolves and potholes can be both exhausting and frustrating. The pastor himself needs support and care from time to time, lest he lose his joy and excitement in the midst of the mire, and his vocation become drudgery instead of delight.

A pastor for whom all the joy has gone and who gives himself to complaint - especially complaint masking judgmentalism, impatience, resentment and frustration - has lost his focus. It has become about him and his hopes, desires, wants, needs, expectations - and not about serving God by caring for the sheep of His pasture, as the Lord did while on earth. Jesus suffered dullness, contradiction, slowness to learn, misunderstanding, misapplication, misappropriation of His teachings among his chosen disciples - and He did so with patience, grace and joy. All the while He never lost sight of Father and His will. All these things and much more beside, he gladly suffered for the joy that lay before Him. Talk about the eternal view! But it was an eternal view that had much earthly use.

What comes to mind for me in this situation is Blondini crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Roaring and destruction lie all around; the mists of doom waft up and make everything cold and slippery. But the tightrope walker, carrying on his back some trusting soul, keeps his eyes firmly on the goal that lies on the other side of the maelstrom. This is, in some ways what Christ did. And it is in some ways what the pastor must do. Only the pastor must look to Christ who had already crossed. Christ both stands beckoning and, in some mysterious way by the Spirit, is also right there, back on the wire, skilfully leading His under shepherd, and the sheep on his back, to safety.

So the pastor must have, and must be encouraged to keep, the eternal view. When it all ends with Christ and it is all wrought in Him then the pastor will indeed cease or refrain from groaning. Joy will lie before him and the difficulties of the pastoral life will fade in his view, even though they are ever so real and pressing. As with the sheep, it is not the absence of difficulty that benefits the pastor, but the endurance of it through faith that counts. That is where Christ is met and known. That is where His sufferings become somewhat intelligible to redeemed sinners, pastor and parishioner alike. That is where the power of what he has fully accomplished and completed becomes the carrying force, the moving power of our otherwise lifeless lives.

And for some, it will at first be by the outward evidences of faith-filled endurance - of the eternal shining into the here and now through the pastor/teacher - the radiance of the light of Christ Himself brimming over an earthen pot - that will be profitable. They may not at first recognize what they see, but they will be attracted to it. They will be attracted not to a man-made or worked up facade of carnal "happiness," but to the Christ Who knows and cares for and calls His own by name. And they will eventually see Him in what the pastor is showing forth, and they will recognize Him and give thanks and be uplifted. Then Christ will be seen to be all in all, and all will be blessed.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sermon of the Week
Did Jesus Preach Paul's Gospel?

John Piper delivered this at the 2010 T4G Conference. This is a tough one because Piper struggles to express and to ensure that his listeners fully understand the implications of the gospel. Specifically, he hammers home the idea of an alien righteousness found ONLY in Christ. I think this lecture is itself, in some ways, fruit of Pipers' study in rebuttal of the work of Wright, Sanders and Dunn et al on the reinterpretation of Paul against the backdrop of "Second Temple Judaism" as a back door to making works "necessary" after initial justification, and of undermining the penal substitionary nature of the once-for-all delivered gospel.

I particularly appreciated his comment that, unless we fully embrace the truth that our hope and our righteousness and our justification is found in Christ alone, and that this is to be clung to throughout the Christian life - unless we do this, we shall always be perplexed and tripped up by the conditional statements regarding salvation which we find everywhere in scripture. We shall mistakenly think that the Bible says, "Unless you do this; unless you obey in this respect or according to this admonition/commandment/precept then you will not be justified before God," when the proper implication of all these imperatives is that, "If you are trusting in Christ alone then you will (inevitably) bear the fruit of His righteousness as laid out in these imperatives."

With patience you will see that Piper makes an airtight case for the identical nature of the theology of justification taught by Christ and that found in Paul's writings. And this, for me, will once for all put to bed the ever lurking snake of the so-called "New" Perspective(s) on Paul. The word "new" should have been a tip-off anyway.

Did Jesus Preach Paul's Gospel

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Invictus and Pelagius

It's hard to know what made people from history actually tick, so affording a Pelagian mindset to W.E. Henley is, perhaps, a bit uncharitable of me.

Henley was a poet and teacher and literary editor of the late 19th century, whose own life was full of grief and difficulty. For example, he had tuberculosis of the bone which led to the amputation of one leg below the knee. And he was hospitalized for 3 years because of an infection in the one good foot he had left. It was only thanks to the nascent theories of Lister that he managed to avoid losing his only remaining leg.

Then there was the case of his little daughter, Margaret who died at age 5, and who was the inspiration for Barrie's book "Peter Pan" and the seminal author of the name "Wendy", coined for the book, when she used the term "fwendy-wendy" of the visiting Barrie.

Henley was a great bear of a man, a red-headed whirlwind and a force of nature who inspired the one-legged Long John Silver of his friend W.L. Stevenson's "Treasure Island". Throughout his vocation as and editor he was a contemporary and a friend of many, including T.E. Brown, R.L. Stevenson and R. Kipling. He died at 53 in 1903.

Recently, his poem "Invictus" was re-popularized in the movie of the same name, starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. It is also said the the poem was kept in his cell by Nelson Mandela during his long incarceration.

All this brings me to the question of whether it is the indomitable human spirit, or the broken and contrite man that God regards. Is it the "I can do it" mentality that is fruitful for eternity or the "God can do it through me" mindset that is truly beautiful? Was Pelagius right or does Augustine's view of grace hold true? Judge for yourselves...


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever Gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of may soul.

W. E. Henley

Friday, June 04, 2010

Heb 13 - 16 - Christ - Showing Grace Through Us

Heb 13 - 16 - Christ - Showing Grace Through Us

Heb 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Although Christians are to be generous to all men as circumstances dictate, yet the context here is within the family of God. Do good to all men, especially to the household of faith. {Ga 6:10} Christians in circumstances as they existed in the early church were often dislocated, persecuted and discriminated against. Many lived from hand to mouth, or in great financial instability. Remember, brothers that not many who are called are what? Learned, noble, wealthy etc. So to start with, Christians were more often the working poor, or slaves and they shared with each other out of their want. Those who had little gave to those who had nothing.

I tell you, in poorer countries the people’s hospitality often outshines those in richer countries. What little they have they provide with generosity and joy. I’m not even talking Christians here. There is something in the human psyche that tends to twist it so that the more we have, the more we hold onto it because we are afraid of losing it. But those who live hand to mouth know that today they have been provided for and the evils of tomorrow are for another day. Not all the poor are generous, just as not all the wealthy are parsimonious, but we must speak as we find.

In this salute and closing admonition, the writer reminds the readers that it pleases God when we give to those in need within the brotherhood. They are family in ways that our own flesh and blood often aren’t. We are tied and bonded to them in the Spirit eternally because of Christ. This is a tighter bond than mere blood. So while they and we are in the body, our responsibility is to care for each other in every way.

But, like all situations in a church that exists in a fallen world, it gets messy. How do you know who is truly in need and who is taking advantage? Who is put before us as an opportunity for the grace and goodness of God to overflow towards them through us - and who is there to feign need or with an avoidably self-created need for which the remedy is close to their own hand? These problems arise in all societies, regardless of relative wealth. Yet we Christians are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Sometimes we must allow ourselves to be used and at other times we must refuse to be used. And we will often get it wrong. But I would think it is better to err on the side of being taken advantage of, than on the side of being impervious to the perceived needs of others (ready to suffer wrong rather than to do wrong, where the situation is unclear). But the overarching consideration in all of this is "to please God".

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Even Luther Had Feet of Clay
It is well known that Luther was not too fond of the book of James. We all recall that he labeled it a "right strawy epistle". What fewer know is that he wasn't fond of Esther either, wishing that it had not come to us at all. The following quote from an out-of-print work of Luther's makes the case. Think what lesson you can learn from this...


"I am so great an enemy to the second book of Maccabees, and to Esther, that I wish they had not come to us at all, for they have too many heathen unnaturalities. The Jews much more esteemed the book of Esther than any of the prophets; though they were forbidden to read it before they had attained the age of thirty, by reason of the mystic matters it contains."

Martin Luther "God's Word and God's Work"

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Heb 13 - 13-15 - Christ - Source of Our Praise

Heb 13 - 13-15 - Christ - Source of Our Praise

Heb13:13-15 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

The final exhortation comes in view of what has gone before - the superiority and exclusivity of Christ to anything that existed previously. It is, indeed, only a true faith in the uniqueness and sufficiency of Christ that, in the end, enables anyone to go on. O yes! We persevere - but only because we are preserved by God through our perseverance. He is in us, keeping and guiding us through faith in Him, and in His finished work.

But we cannot be in Christ and not expect the selfsame rejection that He suffered. We cannot have the light shining in the dark, piercing our own darkness, and not expect the light-snuffers to react. Men hate the light and will not come into it because their deeds are evil. They will not come so that it can be seen whether what they have done was wrought in God. They know it was not.

So also these first century Jews needed to get it together, but not without counting the cost. They had to turn their back upon the old way and turn their faces like flint towards the inevitable persecution which would arise from their doing so. But of course, like Joel Osteen, Jesus just wanted them to be happy!

Well, not really! Jesus wants us, as believers to experience the glories of His grace and righteousness reigning in us as we walk in a fallen world. This brings something far more than mere happiness. It brings assurance and joy - even in the midst of sorrow and grief. We mourn and yet we are filled with joy. We grieve at the darkness within and without and yet we celebrate the light. We cry over our own hardness, wilfulness and lack of true love, while yielding our members as instruments of the loving grace of God in the world. Such things are not intuitive. That’s why shallow and worldly philosophies like Osteen’s miss the mark by so much. These things are kingdom realities, made known to the hearts of Christ’s own by His Spirit, through the Word - and worked out in the providence of the Father.

Ours is a sacrifice that is no sacrifice. What have we ever had that we could give to God that He should receive anything from us? Are not all things from Him and through Him and to Him? This is why our sacrifice is one of praise. It is appreciation not for what we do, but for what Christ has done for us and is doing in and through us. This is fruit. It is the fruit of lips under which the poison of asps once lay, but which have been made willing and able to utter the praises of the glorious grace of God.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Right Cosmological Foundation

Christians should be aware of the limitations of modern cosmology and, particularly, of the underlying extrascientific presuppositions. They must not permit modern cosmology to unduly modify their religious beliefs but, on the contrary, should hold on to the faith, construct a cosmology consistent with it, and look forward with confidence to the return of Christ.

John Byl, The Role of Belief in Modern Cosmology (1996)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Heb 13 - 09-12 - Christ - Pierced for Our Iniquities

Heb 13 - 09-12 - Christ - Pierced for Our Iniquities

Heb 13:9-12 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 we have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.

Strange and diverse teachings are those which differ from what was delivered in and by that Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday and today and forever. And there is absolutely no shortage of such perverse teachings. They sprang up in the Apostles’ time and they continue to spring up to this day. They are all variations upon a theme. New heads for the hydra - lop off a couple and they grow back, but they’re all still the same snakes. Judaisitic legalism and Gnosticism got the ball rolling in the 1st century, but Marcionism, Arianism and Pelagianism soon followed, with others not far behind.

In the present day elements of Montanism live on in the fringes of the charismatic movement, Arianism in the oneness religions like JW’s, and practical Pelagianism in some sectors of "evangelical" community that have progressed beyond mere Arminianism. These are the same heresies that were dealt with in times past by the great councils of the church and by early church fathers like Augustine, Tertullian and Iranaeus.

But the strange teachings spoken of here are those of a nascent asceticism akin to the old Jewish legalism. It was being bandied about by some that certain dietary regulations would improve a person’s spirituality, if followed. This is, of course, just another form of enslavement. There is only one food by which the Christian is truly sustained, and that is the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ made known to us through the Word by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Christ is the bread of life. And the written word is God’s ordained means of breaking Him unto us that we may be nourished and grow.

We must meditate upon the work of Christ from the creation, through the redemption and on to the eventual consummation of all things. And as we learn and marvel at how all things not only hold together in Him, but are from Him and through Him and to Him and for Him - how all things, including life and death, heaven and hell, saved and lost are for His glory. They are to the praise of the glory of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, or to the praise of the glory of His judgments. The wonders of Christ may start at the cross for we time-bound mortals, but they extend into eternity in all directions, from eternity past to eternity future. And God has drawn back the curtain on some of these things enough, in the here and now, for us to by awed, and strengthened and encouraged by them.

The writer once more draws his audience back to the contrast that exists between the old ways to which some of them are being redrawn, and the entirely new Way, which is Christ. Thus he states quite categorically and (for today’s tastes) rather insensitively, that those who follow the old rituals have no right to partake of the new sacrifice. There is finality here. Closure. Exclusion. Exclusivity. They can’t have it both ways. {Ga 5:2} The old has been done away with and the new has replaced it completely. If you follow the one, then you cannot partake of the other. No fallen human contribution can be mixed with the grace that justifies the believer. None.

It is this exclusivity of Christ that is so often the cause of hatred and retribution by unbelievers. In past days, those worshiping idols were sometimes quite disposed to any religion, so long as it would admit that it was no better a way than all the others. The Romans were not opposed to almost all of the religions of the countries they conquered. They had a sort of pantheon exchange with them. And the Athenians, as we have seen in Acts, were quite disposed to allowing every imaginable god in their philosophy, including the unknown god, just as long as its adherents would get along with all the others. But let once the cry of "Christ is the only way" go forth, and every weapon in the arsenal of hell will be brought to bear through the agency of unbelieving people to ridicule, ostracize and - eventually - to crush and eradicate those holding true to that faith.

Was it not so with Christ Himself? He Who declared "I am the way," and not "I am a way" was hated and despised and cast outside the camp. He was sacrificed outside the holy city of Zion where the old religion held sway. He was rejected by His Own - He came to them and they received Him not. Yet the amazing plan of God used even this rejection, this desire not to pollute the holy city with this "usurper’s" blood, as the very fulfillment of the prefiguration of the act itself in the foreshadowing Levitical sacrifice. O, the wisdom of God! The means of His rejection was the instrument of the salvation of many.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t just skip over this. It is profound. It is Christ, the power and the wisdom of God manifested and hung out there for all to see - utterly cast aside and debased by the foulest and most cruel means mankind had been able to invent until that time. Persian impaling brought to perfection by Roman cruelty. And this was all that mankind could do to Him, though it was not all that was done.

Had he been just a man then it would have been cruel and tragic but nothing particularly exceptional. Hundreds of thousands have died on crosses or by impaling - and millions more by other sadistic cruelties. “So - another one bites the dust. In the end, it’s sad, but - oh well, I’ve got my own stuff to worry about!” “O, but he was a really nice man, loving and harmless and he died unjustly.” I’ve got news for you. In purely human terms people die unjustly every day, many of them children. Many a good person has been wrongfully accused, persecuted for no good reason and died for a noble cause. So what’s one more?

Well, you get the point. It’s not how Christians think, but it is how the world thinks - and it is even sometimes how we ourselves portray Christ. The movie "The Passion of the Christ" was to many Christians a moving reminder of the physical torments of their Saviour. But touting it as a means of evangelizing the lost was a bit like talking Swahili to a cockney, or Newfanese to an Ontarian and expecting them to understand. The lost see a man suffering. The saved see the Son of God. The lost see the outward cruelties, the saved see the most wrenching cut of all - separation from His Father. And in that separation, the Divine wrath poured out upon His very soul for the endless indignities perpetrated upon the infinite and eternal God through the rejection of His creatures. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, where His love for His people satisfied His wrath at their culpable wickedness.

These are spiritual things, unknowable to the natural man because he cannot receive them. He can look at a representation of Christ on a cross and be moved to tears, can cover his eyes and be sickened by the carnage - he can even have an emotional response that attaches to this "Jesus" person for a season - until the shocking imagery wears off and the cares of the world once more consume his being. But the missing component is the Spiritual birth that implants the godly seed by which that person is made alive and kept alive in Christ forever.

But let once a human soul see Christ, the Eternal Son of God, holding Himself upon that cross with the nails He made, and on the wood He grew, found in the agony of soul that He sustained, keeping Omnipotence utterly helpless at the centerpiece of existence and history - eternal God surrounded by eternity and casting into eternity the just wrath He rightly bore towards those He came to save. The only Help in the universe, holding Himself helpless. The only truly eternally holy Being (that is from and to eternity) becoming sin for us. How could it be? How can holiness and sin be reconciled in God? If we think we know we are fools. We know, but we don’t really know. Our knowledge is found in the gift of faith in what God has said happened there. But the depth and dimensions of what truly happened is something for our eternal contemplation.

Now, knowing this, though it is known but in part and poorly, how could any professor of Christ go back to mere sheep and bulls and ceremony? As the writer to the Hebrews would say, "Give me a break!"

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Blasts from the Past
Faith's View of Christ

Here is a sermon from Robert Murray M'cheyne, who lived from 1813-1843, dying of Typhus just a few weeks short of his 30th birthday. He was a Presbyterian minister in Scotland and a friend of Andrew Bonar.

There is a great deal of exhortation and encouragement in this sermon, together with a few quite direct warnings and/or rebukes. By today's standards, the rebukes might be considered harsh or rude by some - but not by me. And not by anyone whose heart is tender enough to know we all need at least periodic, if not constant, admonishment. Enjoy this one...

Faith's View of Christ

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Eden, Avatar and the Kingdom of Christ
Here we have Dr. Al Mohler, President of SBTS holding a panel discussion with other eminent theologians and teachers regarding Christianity and culture in general, and the movie Avatar and Christian thinking in particular.

The discussion ranges broadly and often with great humor and sometimes irony. These are largely academics in an academic environment, but many of them also have practical pastoral experience. Nevertheless, their conversation addresses the broader issues and seems light to me on practical application - or even in proposing Biblical guidelines regarding an approach to culture.

And although Dr. Mohler quotes numerous past theologians as being opposed to such things as novels and movies, he seems to avoid identifying fellow Baptist C.H. Spurgeon as one who anathematized the theater. (/smile) Enjoy this one....

Friday, May 28, 2010

Heb 13 - 07-08 - Christ - Unchanging Forever

Heb 13 - 07-08 - Christ - Unchanging Forever

Heb 13:7-8 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Many a legalistic, controlling, fundamentalist Southern Baptist minister would rejoice at words like this. "Give me your brains, along with your allegiance and your obedience. Toe the line no matter what I do and say, and even if I don’t do as I say, you jump when I say so because I have the authority of God on my side."

Well, I’ve got news for such people. You have God’s authority only inasmuch as you act and teach responsibly and truthfully. I’m not following you if you teach heresy. I’m not winking when you do things that you would discipline others for. But when you speak the truth I will strive to apply it, even if you don’t.

Now that’s just my orneriness and rebellion peeking through. But a careful reading of these verses clearly shows that leaders are to be "remembered" (for which read the old fashioned word "minded") only because or only insofar as they both delivered truth and lived it.

But the imitation of the faith of true and faithful ministers - far from being the idolization of mere men - is a harkening to Christ. For we are not imitating men, but imitating their faith. By "their faith" is meant both what they believed and how that belief was worked out in their lives. Now, what they believed and how they lived is more a question of Whom they believed and Who was manifested in them. This is why verse 8 draws our attention immediately not to the Apostles and prophets and ministers themselves, but to He Who never changes. He is what they all had in common. He was the unifying factor, the common (actually the uncommon) denominator, the Shekinah glory in the temple, the power at work in and through them.

They were witnesses to Christ - no more. Christ is the one witnessed to, attested to by all the saints in all the ages. Christ, not men. Christ the Rock, the Lord, the Almighty, the Creator and Redeemer of men. The same Christ through whom the universe received its existence still sustains it by the Word of His power. He did in olden times. He did while hanging on a cross. He does today. He was God then and he is God now. In the past, he brought things to pass according to his purposes and plans, as determined in the councils of eternity - and in the present and the future the same truth holds. Alpha and Omega. Beginning and end.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thy Will Be Done...

Do I believe that God "works all things after the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11) or not? If so, then why would I exclude the Fall?

This "all things" includes the fall of sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Psalm 44:11), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the failing of sight (Exodus 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Samuel 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Peter 4:19), the completion of travel plans (James 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Hebrews 12:4-7), the repentance of souls (2 Timothy 2:25), the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), the growth of believers (Hebrews 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Samuel 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27-28).

John Piper