Agonizomai: April 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

Heb 12 - 01-02 - Christ - Author and Perfecter of Our Faith

Heb 12 - 01-02 - Christ - Author and Perfecter of Our Faith

Heb 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

All of these examples were given, we recall, for the purpose of demonstrating the sort of perseverance that the Hebrews are exhorted to. {Heb 3:12-14} All of their heroes of the past, the major figures from the history of their nation and their faith are demonstrated to have been preserved through their perseverance. In other words, their perseverance is God’s appointed means by which they will be preserved. And this perseverance can only be exerted and exhibited through faith.

The saints triumphant are in heaven, but remain a part of the mystical body of Christ, awaiting the perfection of their final union with all the saints of all the ages. These are on every hand in the scripture because that is what the scripture is about - that God should be glorified in his church on account of the finished work of Jesus Christ being made manifest in them through faith.

They are an encouragement to we who follow. Their exploits were written down for us who come later for just such a purpose, as was stated earlier in this sermon. The seed of the church is the blood of the martyrs. And it is the faithful witness of the lives of all the saints who have since gone on to glory, and await us as we finish our own course using the same means as they.

Whether these saints in glory are actually watching us as we run, and whether this text is meant to imply such, is not clear. But we are certainly surrounded by their testimony on every hand. For we stand upon the shoulders of those who have gone before because God has ordained not only the salvation of His church, but the means by which the gospel will pass from generation to generation. Those who neglect Biblical history in the Old Testament neglect the gospel itself. And those who reject the prayer soaked experience and sage learning of New Testament saints throughout the church age do themselves a great disservice.

So faith lays hold of the finished work of Christ - indeed, of Christ Himself - and rests from work altogether, in the sense of no longer seeking to be justified, but resting in God’s perfect justification. But faith does not stop there. True faith, if present, produces the peaceful fruit of righteousness. A person trusting in God does not habitually sin - he does not continue in a lifestyle of unrepented sin. Of course believers still do fall into sin - sometimes most grievously - but they live a life of continual repentance. Sin disturbs them. They mourn first and foremost their own sin and, ultimately all the sin that they see in the world. But the sin principle no longer has control over them. They have died to sin. They have turned their back upon it. They have learned to hate it. They struggle against sin and temptation all the days of their lives until their very last breath. And, though despair is often close to hand, joy is ultimately found in knowing that, were they not Christ’s, there would be no struggle - for they would be happy and comfortable being lost and without hope in the world, wallowing in former sins and suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.

Jesus was the one Who endured for His church. He endured the cross, despising the shame, and we are to look to Him. Note - we are to look to Him. We are not called to do what he already did on our behalf. But we are called to live by faith, in the light of it. When we do this there will be crosses to be endured and shame to be despised, but they will be crosses and shame by which Jesus, abiding in us, manifests His overcoming through our faith in Him to do so. We share in the sufferings of Christ in this way - not that we could endure His cross, but that He endures ours with and within us.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Utility is when you have one telephone, luxury is when you have two, and paradise is when you have none.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Heb 11 - 36-38 - Christ - Glorified in His Saints

Heb 11 - 36-38 - Christ - Glorified in His Saints

Heb 11:36-38 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

The litany of the sufferings of the saints in the church triumphant continues with the contrast between their sufferings and the world in which they suffered. This is not something lost on the New Testament Hebrews to whom it is addressed. These were times of persecution for them, too. They were times in which to profess faith in the God of the Promise, who was now revealed fully in Christ, could be to die. It certainly had meant to suffer loss.

Why is the world not worthy of the saints? Do they render themselves somehow "above" the world by their derring-do? Are they better than the world? Are they more worthy, as it seems to imply here? Well, they would make no such claim. God may commend them and we also might cheer them on, or rejoice with them in their perseverance. But no saint will, having a proper understanding of His salvation, take any credit for himself. Nor will he give any credit to a fellow saint apart from the understanding that Christ wrought it in him. God may reflect His glory upon and through His people, but it is always His glory.

So the world was unworthy of them because Christ lived in them and displayed His glory in them through their persevering faith in Him - and not because they had a righteousness of their own.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

June 14th, 2010
Mark it in your calendar. June 14th, 2010 (should the Lord tarry) is the date this blog is scheduled to shut down for at least the summer.

I am considering what to do, if anything, going forward. There are other studies I could blog, but I'm not inclined to do so at this time. Or I could cut down on the volume of posts to, say, one or two a week and do more "Blasts from the Past" style audio material.

I might also change names, formats or even blogging locations. Then again I may just stop blogging altogether. If the fishin' is good this summer maybe I'll find a way to go all year.

Anyway, you've got what will be almost 1200 posts and complete commentaries on 5 books plus other material to recap if you want. Before I go, I'll put up links to the audio archive so you can listen to all the audio posts I've ever done.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Heb 11 - 32-35 - Christ - Sustainer of His People

Heb 11 - 32-35 - Christ - Sustainer of His People

Heb 11:32-35 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.

Having made the point about some of the historic figures by supplying at least some detail of their exploits, in the interests of space and time (one assumes) the writer now resorts to simply listing many of the others, or of giving general descriptions of their plights.

Amongst these are what seems at first sight to be some surprising examples. Barak was hardly a bulwark of intrepidity, needing Deborah to hold his hand. Samson was not anything like the paragon of virtue and devotion that we would like all Biblical heroes to be. Jephthah made a hasty and foolish vow to God which cost him his own daughter.

But then, David was a lying, murderous adulterer. And Gideon had 70 sons by many wives and named one of his sons "My son a king" or "Son of a king" (Abimelech), contrary to all the tenor of God’s dealings with Israel. He also made an ephod from the spoils of his warring and set it up as an idolatrous memorial.

So, these great men of faith suffered from the same corruptions as the pagan people all around them. They were undoubtedly worse than some of the people they vanquished. There were braver people than Barak among the pagans. There were less licentious men than Samson among the Philistines; wiser men than Jephthah among the Ammonites; men in the nations who had not murdered, as David did.

We must see both sides of these men to properly understand righteousness and the grace of God. The whole point is that God saves sinners, not righteous people. There is none good but God alone. {Mr 10:18} The perfect righteousness of Christ, the Messiah, is the only righteousness that gives a right standing before the burning purity of God’s holiness. God doesn’t save people because they are good - but when people are saved they bear the fruit of the righteousness of Christ.

All Christians and especially all the Biblical examples from Jewish history were people with feet of clay. All were flawed. All sinned both before and after they were justified through faith. This does not give us license to emulate their shortcomings. We do not take the sins of others and use them as an excuse for our own. For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and each shall answer for the deeds done in his own body. We shall live because of the righteousness of Another, but we shall answer for our own iniquities. Christians will not be condemned, but they will have exposed before them, and in the presence of God, the far worse evils of having sinned in the light, thus necessitating abounding grace.

And through all of this is seen more and more clearly that salvation is of the LORD. {Jon 2:9} Grace abounds to those whom God effectually calls. And he leaves us with thorns in the flesh that cause us pains and stumblings for a purpose that we may not always know, but which surely recall to mind our helplessness to do good, apart from him.

With these things in mind, we look at the writer’s intent, which is not to glorify the people of faith, but to glorify God in the faithfulness He both shows to, and produces in, his chosen instruments. Faith is the gift of God, and it is His chosen means by which His people bring glory to His name. Yes - again, faith is not passive; the children of God must walk in it. But the children of God understand, as they walk, that their walking is due to the working of God in them.

And so we see these children of God who bore up through their circumstances under the irresistible call of God, trusting in him - desiring him to be their deliverance and to supply their needs. And we see past the faith they exhibited to the grace and favour and faithfulness of the God who, at times, delivered them from - and at other times delivered them through, what they were called to face.

We can plainly see that some received great deliverance and timely supply while others demonstrated faith unto death. They resisted unto the shedding of their blood. The determining factor was not the people, but the God Whose plan was being worked out by, through and in the people. How can this be understood? How can these saints in glory be honored and credited with having run and completed a race in which God moved and upheld them? In a few verses we shall examine this question (See note on "Heb 12:1")

Finally, note that the knowledge of and hope in the afterlife with the God of deliverance was not alien to these people. They looked forward to ultimate deliverance from even the presence of sin, by coming, fully justified, into the presence of God their Savior.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sermon of the Week
The Role of Women in the Ministry of the Church - Part 2

Here again is Robert Fisher of the Reformed Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky with the second of two parts on this often controversial topic. I hasten to add that this is controversial not because the facts and the teaching are in any way disputable - but because some people simply refuse to accept them.

The Role of Women in the Ministry of the Church - Part 2

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Manning Up

Here's a clip from Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs fame, speaking at the 2010 Shepherd's Conference at Grace Community Church.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Heb 11 - 31 - Christ - Savior of Sinners

Heb 11 - 31 - Christ - Savior of Sinners

Heb 11:31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

And while on the topic of Jericho, the writer reminds us of a character about whom much could be said, though there is little written of her. In the context of the faith of the saints in the church triumphant (and as an encouragement to the saints in the church militant) we remember that this harlot gave a welcome to the Israeli spies and demonstrated her alliance by risking her life and the life of her family by hiding them.

Think of all the alternatives. She could have earned reputation and gratitude by warning the city and turning the spies over. Undoubtedly, as a prostitute, her status in society was not good. She lived in a house built into the wall, rather than in a safer haven far inside the city. Her house would be first in the line of assault as the walls were stormed and battered.

But she did not turn them in, and we are told that it was on account of faith in the God of Israel that she did not. She believed that God would make Israel victorious and made provision by securing a promise that she and her family would be spared. And they were. Everyone else perished, man woman and child.

And so here you have a profligate sinner - a Canaanite woman - who made a living selling her body to men, and who kept a house of entertainment, finally betraying her countrymen by deceiving them and by aiding and abetting enemies bent upon their destruction. This is the woman who married Boaz’s father, Salmon, and became one of four women mentioned deliberately as being in the line of the Messiah. What a black eye for the religionists, if they only had eyes to see! {The other women in the list were no more pristine than Rahab, being Tamar who prostituted herself to her father-in-law, Judah; Ruth - a Moabitess, which was a race in intrepid enmity with Israel and with whom Israelites were forbidden to intermarry; and Bathsheba - an adulteress.}

And in all of these we see the underlying current of grace at work, even at the time of the dispensation of the law. This is what the higher dispensationalists miss when they insist upon God dealing with Israel in one way and the New Testament church in another. He deals with both by saving all true Israel by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

So don’t miss the grace here. See its beauty. See its all-encompassing mercy. See its complete provision. See that it is sufficient to make even the basest of sinners not only just in God’s eyes, but a part of the family of God in every sense of the word. Such is Rahab. She is a woman whose name is memorialized by the grace of God. A woman found in immorality. A woman of the meanest heritage living among the most depraved people. A woman who believed God and it was counted to her for righteousness. What hope this gives to people like us! O that God should lay His hand upon us and, out of the same lump as the rest of humanity, make of us vessels of honour!

So Rahab was justified by faith and saved by faith - a faith that was a gift of God’s grace, but which was proven genuine by the fruit of her commitment in obedience to the call.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Dissemination of Truth
"Belief cannot argue with unbelief, it can only preach to it."

Karl Barth

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Heb 11 - 29-30 - Christ - Our Power and Strength

Heb 11 - 29-30 - Christ - Our Power and Strength

Heb 11:29-30 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.

These things seem a bit more obvious than some of the earlier examples. Who ever walked through the midst of the sea? I’m not speaking of that scatterbrained humanistic idea that makes the Red Sea into shallow marshland (the “Reed Sea”), pushed aside by a strong wind and, perhaps a favourable tide. No! I am speaking of a deep and drowning abyss with towering walls of water on either side which, when God’s ceased to restrain them, crashed down upon the Egyptians and swallowed them all into the depths.

It was indeed by faith that the people crossed, but was it the people’s faith or was it Moses’ faith? In this is an interesting study found by comparing how the faith of Christ delivered a people who then had to walk by faith in their deliverance - or, more correctly, in their Deliverer. Moses was the intercessor between the people and God. Moses opened the way, led, encouraged, and communicated the will of God to the people. The people followed. Moses’ faith was at the pointed end and the people’s faith was by trusting in a provision already provided. They could see the way that had been made. But did they trust their eyes? Did they believe God would bring them all the way through?

Just as we can see the cross and the resurrection as a plain way of escape from the judgement of God, and from the realm of Satan - yet we must prove our faith by walking in the Way that God has provided. But, just as we do not put our faith in the route, but in He who has made the way, so we do not follow in the way by looking to our faith, but by looking to the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ. And this “proving” is not a proving for the benefit of God, but so that we may know that we truly trust him. The genuineness of our faith is made clear to us through the obedience to which it gives rise. {John 7:17-18,8:31-32} Faith is for our benefit, not for God’s.

Then we come to the walls of Jericho. This was no longer about escape or deliverance (as had been the exodus) but about the manifestation of God’s victory. God’s will done in His way, and in His power - as Moses had learned. But would the people also learn the same lesson? Or would they embellish, overlay, alter, "improve," or otherwise change what God’s perfect plan provided? Or worse, would they resist, complain and rebel?

In the first instance we see the flush of enthusiasm about having crossed Jordan carries them through their first encounter with opposition. Israel is, by this time, a large but rag-tag band of nomads. They have little battle experience, few advanced weapons and a baggage train of over a million dependent souls. They have never attacked or besieged a city in their lives. God has them exactly where they need to be. They are powerless, ignorant (in the right way), helpless and clueless. They must depend upon God.

So when God gives these strange commands and promises that the city will fall simply by marching around it daily for 6 days and seven times on the seventh, it does not seem so ridiculous to them as it might to battle hardened and experienced armies. After all, would not such armies, in the past, have assaulted walls and torn them down by brute strength? Would they not, in the past, have raised towers and cast blazing balls of pitch into the town? Would they not, in the past, have taunted and called out the valiant men of the city and fought with them before the gates? And would not all these past successful experiences have taught them to rely upon the strength of their own arms?

But God’s whole point with Israel is that He is their deliverer and that they are not to make flesh their arm. Their confidence must be not in themselves, or in what they think that they can do, or in what they have done before - their confidence is to be in God alone to use them as the instruments of His victorious purposes. And, O, how this parallels the Christian life! And this is the point of the sermon of the writer to the Hebrews here; it is to preach the means by which the victory of Christ is manifested in the world through the lives of the saints. It is by doing God’s will in His way and in His power. Nothing has changed since Jericho.

And so it was by faith that the walls of the city fell down but I hope it is plain once more that this "faith" was not some mysterious substance or power possessed of men that, of itself, effected the collapse of a city. It was the God in whom the faith was placed that effected the result, and it was the people believing in Him (shown in their obedience to His directions) that were blessed to be the witnesses of His great power and faithfulness enacted through their obedient actions.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism
Here is my friend Nick Bogardus of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, interviewing Micheal Horton of Westminster Seminary, California about one of Horton's keynote phrases, namely, "moralistic, therapeutic deism".

Horton also discusses theology, along with colleagues and associates of varying denominations on "The Whitehorse Inn" podcast.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Heb 11 - 28 - Christ - The ONLY Inheritor and Our Inheritance

Heb 11 - 28 - Christ - The ONLY Inheritor and Our Inheritance

Heb 11:28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

This demonstration of Moses faith came 40 years after what transpired in the last verse. It is a testament to the patience, providence, grace, mercy and wisdom of God, Who is always working all things together for good for those that love him and are the called, according to His purposes. He finishes in us the good work that He started.

In Moses the immature faith of his "youth" had been perfected by long periods of communion with God in which he had found humility and a deeper understanding leading to reliance upon God and God’s ways rather than his own. Now he was serving God rather than trying to do something for God. He was finally creature and God was finally omnipotent and wise creator. Now he was doing God’s work in God’s way by God’s power.

So it was in this frame of mind, in this trusting, leaning, believing, hoping attitude of heart that Moses not only did those things God had commanded, but also taught them and passed them on to God’s people. Just as today, we must believe that the only means of deliverance is found in the commandment of God that we be under the blood of the Lamb of God. When He sees Christ’s blood He will pass over us. If He does not see the blood of His perfect Son upon the portals of our hearts, then we shall die the eternal death of torment under the condemnation that abides over all mankind on account of the fact that all men are sinners.

Note that the Destroyer of the firstborn is the slayer of all continuity of the succession of the flesh - of all hope in the flesh. The firstborn had the premier blessings and the double portion of the inheritance in the human system of family governance. In God’s system of heavenly government the firstborn (inheritor) of all creation - the Eternal Son - the only begotten Son of God - this Firstborn is the only one that truly matters. All things are from and through and to Him. True inheritance is only to be found in the True Inheritor, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sermon of the Week
The Role of Women in the Ministry of the Church - Part 1

Here is Robert Fisher of the Reformed Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky speaking coolly and evenly on a topic which more often than not generates more heat than light. If I were preaching this I would doubtless be more polemical, which is why God had this man preach it and not me.

This is the first of two parts, the second of which will be presented here next Sunday.

The Role of Women in the Ministry of the Church - Part 1

Saturday, April 17, 2010

OK Go Fun
Perhaps for no other reason than that this is fun to watch, I give you OK GO having fun on treadmills. I hear this was all done in a single take. Amazing!

In passing I have to say that I find it absolutely stunning that a chance and meaningless universe could somehow come up with creatures this creative; they imagine the whole thing, call upon something inventive from the random firing of their neurons and then put it into practice by organizing it all unpredictably (even to themselves) and without any actual order - and all entirely without real meaning, of course. [/heavy, dripping sarcasm]

Regardless of whether you are an atheist or you actually have it right and are a believer, enjoy this one...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Heb 11 - 24-27 - Christ - Our ONLY Help

Heb 11 - 24-27 - Christ - Our ONLY Help

Heb 11:24-27 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

The faith that is mentioned here is that which disdains worldly privilege when it gets in the way of identification with God’s people. We must live in the world and nothing in and of itself is evil. It is the love of the world and of worldly things that is to be avoided - no, rejected. Moses had rank, "security," privilege, luxury - but these things came from the system that was at enmity with his people.

This is the perfect picture of the dominion of Satan and of this world, and of how we are to choose God and His church above all the blandishments and enticements that are put in our way. He was of God’s people and he was God’s child. God had promised His people nationhood, a land and a Saviour.

It would be a stretch to think that, in his early struggles, Moses was clear in his motives and pure in his methods. He killed a man in passion, believing this was an effective means of delivering his fellow Israelite. This would not turn out to be the means of God’s ultimate deliverance. But God so often takes our mistaken, fleshly and even sinful actions and uses them for good in the end. We are not excused, but we are being sanctified. We may not deliberately sin thinking that God is backing us up somehow. But we will stumble and do the wrong thing and we can know that there is not only forgiveness on account of Christ, but that God will make silk purses out of our sows’ ears.

So, like Sinatra, Moses did it his way at first. But we must not miss the fact that he did it his way thinking it was helping, because he trusted in the promise and because he belonged to God’s people. And like all of us, his faith was imperfect. He was in need of God’s sanctifying grace and he would receive it over the period of 40 years, starting with his exile from Egypt. Though he may not have had the light he later came to see, he was ready and willing to receive the consequences of his identification with God’s people, including the loss of all rank and privilege, and being sent out into the desert with no visible means of support or defence.

And this is where the real work of God began. A man stripped of all the things that the world considers to be necessary for life and success is the more ready to be trained in relying upon God through the Spirit to work His purposes in His way.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

And Can it Be that I Should Gain
Here is a hymn by Charles Wesley. I have to confess it is difficult for me to get past the Arminian theology of the Wesleys and I'm always parsing their words for potential departures from Reformed teaching. Phrases talking about "God dying" or of Christ dying "for Adam's race" sail close to the borders of my sensibilities and I have to restrain my need for precise definitions of what the writer actually meant by using such phrases.

On the other hand, as in prayer, so also often in their hymns, the Arminians seem to temporarily lose their distinctives and form expressions that are congruent with a more proper theology. Anyway - for what it's worth, here is a beautiful rendition with nice graphics of that old Wesleyan hymn, And Can it Be...."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Heb 11 - 23 - Christ - Our Help and the Sender of Help

Heb 11 - 23 - Christ - Our Help and the Sender of Help

Heb 11:23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

And now we come to a person whom, alongside David, the Israelites most held in honor. The one led them into the land promised by God, and the other established it as a kingdom.

Note it is not the casting of Moses into the river Nile that is given as the example of the faith of Moses’ parents. It was their keeping him hidden through early infancy in defiance of the Pharaoh’s edict. And it was the perception given to them about some peculiarly special quality in the boy. All parents think their babies beautiful. But there is attached to this idea about the infant Moses some connection between his appearance and his future destiny. He was a child of promise at a time when the expected deliverance of Israel was drawing near.

But it was also Moses’ parents who exhibited the faith of casting him on the river. This is a great picture of how faith in God lets go of what is most prized and cherished and even admired - and gives up on the conceit that believes that we have the ability of ourselves to preserve and to protect and to keep it. It commits all things to God. It rends human self-sufficiency and carnal affections from our hearts and casts all upon God.

But neither does faith tempt God. We must remember that baby Moses was certain to die if his parents did nothing - for all Hebrew babies were condemned under the Pharaoh’s edict. The picture is reminiscent of the state of all mankind - all being already under the condemnation of death from God and needing to be given up to another sort of death, willingly, through trust in the God of the promise.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Theology Matters

Here's a delightful little video from Josh Harris of Covenant Life Church, from his book "Dug Down Deep". In it, he makes a case not only for the need for theology, but also fo the fact that, whether we admit it or not, we are all theologians of one sort or another. Question is - what sort are we?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Heb 11 - 22 - Christ - Glorified in the Faith He Gives Us

Heb 11 - 22 - Christ - Glorified in the Faith He Gives Us

Heb 11:22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

Again, we see that it is in connection with the promise of God that Joseph is seen to exercise faith. Faith must have an object. It is not a numinous experience or a substance that we posses, that emanates in a sort of semi-conscious glow. Faith seizes hold of the God of the promise, by means of believing in His ability and His faithfulness to do all He has said - and then refuses to let go, come hell or high water.

Why did Joseph prophesy concerning the exodus? Because he believed the God of the promise - that Abraham’s descendants would possess a land of promise and become a great nation. He believed that the land in question was Canaan and not Egypt because God had shown the land to his fathers. And he believed that the children of Abraham would be a sovereign nation under the rulership of God Almighty - the God of the promise.

It was by faith that Joseph and all these others did these things. But it was not that sort of faith that the world thinks of - a screwing together of the eyes and teeth-gritted, determined effort to make something happen by sheer dint of believing. That is making faith into a work. It is un-faith. It is humanism in disguise. It is the world and the devil’s imitation of faith. It is counterfeit. "If I just believe it enough then the power of my faith will make it happen."

No! Jesus said that if we had faith as a mustard seed it would grow into the largest of shrubs, and that this smallest of seeds was enough to move mountains. That is because it is not the faith itself, but the God of the promise, upon Whom the faith is trusting that has the power to effect things. We do not have faith in our faith, but in God. Faith is entirely un-self conscious in this sense - that it looks completely away from self and from circumstance, and lays hold of the unseen God with a certainty - a Biblical hope - that perseveres. This not only pleases, but also glorifies God.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sermon of the Week
Fighting the Finished Fight

Randy Wages pastors at Eager Avenue Grace Church in Albany, GA. In this sermon he deals with what some call the paradox, and others call the tension, between God's sovereignty and man's will. - especially as it relates to believers and the gospel.

He lucidly makes the case that God alone saves and that our good works are the fruit of that divine action produced in our will by the principle of grace working in apprehended love.

Fighting the Finished Fight - Randy Wages

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Faith of Science
"Even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is a rational basis to physical existence manifested by a law-like order in nature that is at least in part comprehensible to us. So science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview"

Davies, Paul 1995. "Physics and the Mind of God". First Things (August/Sept.)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Heb 11 - 21 - Christ - The True Firstborn

Heb 11 - 21 - Christ - The True Firstborn

Heb 11:21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.

In what way was this faith exhibited in Jacob’s case? The context is once more that of the promise. Jacob prefaced his blessing of Joseph’s sons by referring to God’s gracious dealings with him and to the promise of nationhood and a land for an everlasting possession. {Ge 48:3-4}

But he then went on to prophesy concerning them, favouring the younger, Ephraim over the elder, Manasseh. Never having seen either of them before, he believed God that Ephraim would excel, and he blessed him contrary to all the traditions of the culture. In fact, Jacob did not see either of them clearly, even then, because he was blind with age. Once more, the principle of the failure of the firstborn was maintained. Only one firstborn Son would ever amount to anything and that would be the only begotten Son of God, the firstborn of all creation, Jesus Christ.

Abraham was not a firstborn son. Isaac was not a firstborn son. Jacob was not a firstborn son. Judah was not a firstborn son. All these patriarchs represent not only the succession of the line of faith, but also the failure of the line of man. It is at one and the same time both stunning and humbling to see how God wove this all together in history.

But Jacob showed faith by prophesying (concerning all his sons) what God had ordained rather than what men expected.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


"Since all scientific observations are made at the present time, any conclusions about origins must rely on theory. There were no scientists present at the beginning, so only God knows what really happened. The origins debate is thus not about facts, but their proper interpretation. Here it is not a case of science versus Christianity but, rather, a case of naturalist explanations versus Christian explanations."

John Byl, 2009 - "War of the Worldviews"

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Heb 11 - 20 - Christ - The Master of Providence

Heb 11 - 20 - Christ - The Master of Providence

Heb 11:20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.

How so? Wasn’t Isaac fooled by Jacob precisely so that he could obtain the blessing that was due to Esau? Didn’t Isaac mistakenly (in his own mind) give the double portion to the wrong son - to the younger instead of the elder? So how can it be said that "by faith" Isaac invoked blessings on his two sons?

I mean, isn’t faith a bit more than an accident? Doesn’t it require some sort of consciousness of the facts? For example, our faith is useless unless it is faith in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and, in order to put that faith in Him we must have knowledge of the facts about him. Otherwise we have the sort of faith that many lost people have, who know the name "Jesus," but have no concept of the power and meaning of His Name, and all that it entails.

But to think that Isaac was blessing his children in ignorance follows a wrong premise. To be sure, he was fooled by Jacob and Sarah but, when that duplicity had been revealed to him, he both confirmed the blessing of Jacob (mistakenly given as it was) and gave other blessings to Esau. It was these later actions that most displayed faith. Isaac went against his favouritism and his traditions and bowed the knee to God’s providence by confirming the fraudulently obtained birthright of Jacob. {Ge 27:33} He knew that it would be wrong to undo what God had permitted in this case.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is faith in action - the same sort of faith by which Abraham was willing to sacrifice to God’s hand all of the hopes he had in Isaac for the future. He had blessed Jacob in the Name of God. Any failure of discernment was his own fault because his favouritism and his own senses became his guide. In his blindness he was susceptible to being fooled and Jacob was wrong to do it, but Isaac had enough awareness to know better, had he not gone with his own gut (in both senses of the word).

This is not judgement on my part, but recognition of reality. When we sin in ignorance our culpability is diminished, but not excused. When we make judgements in ignorance we are still culpable before God for acting in our ignorance, rather than waiting and/or informing ourselves better. Isaac showed faith in God by bowing to this truth. It was a sign of that humility of mind which is fruit of a spirit living by faith.

Thus Jacob was heir of the spiritual and kingdom blessings - the eternal elective graces of God. And Esau was blessed with temporal grace to be increased and made wealthy and fruitful in earthly things. This shows the great love of God even for those who are not of his flock. He makes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Praise Round

Today enjoy this simple, Biblical song of faith and joy in the Lord from our friend, Roxylee.

Praise Round by Roxylee

Praise Round

My soul finds rest in God alone
my salvation comes from Him
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress,
I will never be shaken

Hallelujah, Lord!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Heb 11 - 17-19 - Christ - The Tester of the Faith He Gives Us

Heb 11 - 17-19 - Christ - The Tester of the Faith He Gives Us

Heb 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 he considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

This is not the place for a digression into the poignant typology contained in this story. The writer is using it not for typology, but to illustrate faith in action. It wasn’t the work itself, but faith in the God of the promise that availed. So we leave for later the type of both Christ and ourselves in Isaac and the Father in Abraham - as well as the concepts of a wooden burden, burning, sacrifice and all such things.

Instead, the mechanism of faith in action is given for the faltering Hebrews so that they might be encouraged by examples from their rich history and heritage. Abraham did not so much as blink when commanded to offer up Isaac. In fact, he arose early on the day commanded, to do all God’s will. He did not drag his heels to steal a few more hours with Isaac until the day had almost passed.

It would be a mistake to even entertain the idea that either Abraham’s compliance or his "haste" implied a lack of love for Isaac. Rather, it exhibited a superior love for God. And that is the point. It is Biblical faith to love God above what we cherish the most in this life. It is Biblical love to hold the things of earth, the relationships, the joys and pleasures and hopes of earth so lightly that we would sacrifice them to His love.

By this standard it is not the recluse, the monk nor the eremite that glorifies God in his life, but the person who lives and loves life, nevertheless deferring all things to God’s will. If we eschew the pleasures of living altogether then is God truly glorified? If we refuse to dance, to laugh, to take a drink of wine or beer, to have friends who are lost - if we wear skirts down to our ankles or hats on our heads - and if we do these things (or don’t do them) because we think that of themselves they make us more spiritual then we have missed the point.

Where in all of that is the Jesus who celebrated at a wedding - even making more wine for those who were already having a good time? Where is the Jesus who was the friend of sinners such as tax collectors and whores? Where is the Jesus who enjoyed the great religious feast days of his nation, partaking enthusiastically with a thankful heart? And all of this without sin.

Thus Abraham, a man of wealth; a man blessed with a large household and many flocks and servants; a man blessed with a beautiful wife whom he loved; a man with a son of promise in whom all his hopes for posterity and for future salvation were vested - this man moved swiftly to do God’s will even though it seemed it would cost him much.

So greatly had God worked in Abraham’s heart to bring him to this ultimate act of faith that Abraham was ready to put God before his most precious hopes and dreams. This is sanctification in the raw. This is God working and then testing in order to show the fruit of His work. God already knew what Abraham would do. He had not only ordained it from eternity, but had been at work in him from the moment of his justification, and before even that, to bring forth fruit to the praise of the glory of his grace.

But now Abraham himself would know the work and the power of God in him. He would obey. He would believe. He would take the action based upon faith in the God of the promise. But he would also see that what God promised to him, God also had power to bring about - and he would rest upon that. God cannot lie. God is omnipotent. So if Isaac was put to death as a sacrifice Abraham knew full well that God not only could, but would bring him back to life.

How could the promise of earthly seed through Isaac by realized apart from Isaac’s living to marry and procreate? How could God’s promise of a future Messiah from Abraham’s line through Isaac be realized unless Isaac lived? So God would have either to be a liar or to be impotent to do all his will in order for the death of Isaac to ruin what had been promised by God. But that is not the God that had revealed himself to Abraham and it was not the God that Abraham had learned.

Again, how did Abraham arrive at this point? Was it because he was different from all the other moon worshipping idolaters in Ur? Did Abraham have latent propensities toward the One True God that recommended him as a candidate for this great foundational work for the Jewish system of belief? Was he a "seeker" that aroused God’s empathy and elicited a response from God proportionate to his own hard wrought efforts?

To believe such things is to put the cart before the horse. God can commend Abraham. In a certain sense we can appreciate and commend him. But Abraham had better not. Abraham was such as we all are and had the attitude that we must all come to {1Co 4:7, 2Co 4:7} - that whatever we do that commends itself to God is solely on account of God. He justifies us. He sanctifies us. He will glorify us. Anything in us that transcends the corruption of humanity is there to show that God is at work reaching down and in, in order to bring forth Christ in us.

Abraham is, therefore, a great example and encouragement to us and to the Hebrews of the first century. He shows where our confidence should lie, which is not in ourselves, nor yet in our faith - but In God alone.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Sermon of the Week
When the Past Catches up with You
Roy Hargrave
An Easter Sunday Post

Time for some small sharp stones. I mean not only the gravelly tones of Pastor Hargrave's voice, but also the gritty truth of his theology.

This is really a sermon about God's overarching providence. It is a sermon that recognizes the sovereignty of God at work over and through the will of men. It speaks to the heart of the believer, explaining the way God uses circumstances, hardship, opposition and tribulation of all kinds in order to shape and grow and mature His people.

This is not one for seeker-sensitive crowd; this is one for the found, the saved, the child of God who is already embroiled in the battle. It is a sermon preached to and for the church of God, and not tailored in ANY way to the "possibles" or the "maybes" or the "wannabes". It reminds me of that time when Jesus, by speaking the truth about the real condition of his hearers succeeded in driving away all the hangers-on and the miracle-seeking flesh-ites (John 6). That's what the true gospel, rightly preached does - it divides and separates wheat and chaff, good and evil, sincerity and hypocrisy.

I'd better stop before this turns into a sermon of my own. Enjoy this one...

Saturday, April 03, 2010

With No Apology - Part 5
What About Suffering?
This is the last in a 5-part apologetics series by Joe Boot and J. John. An important and serious topic like suffering can hardly be dealt with properly in a 23 minute video, but this does at least acknowledge that there are difficult questions for Christians associated with forming a consistent and defensible theodicy.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Heb 11 - 13-16 - Christ - Source, Journey, Destiny
[A Good Friday Post]

Heb 11 - 13-16 - Christ - Source, Journey, Destiny

Heb 11:13-16 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

The "these" who all died not having received the things (plural) promised are Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob. Enoch, for example did not die, but was taken up to heaven.

There were numerous promises that were made to Abraham by God, involving the literal Canaan, seed/heirs, a great nation, the Messiah coming in the flesh, and a glorious resurrection to a heavenly Jerusalem. Only one of these was fulfilled before the patriarchs died. At the time of going down into Egypt there were only about 75 souls in the household of Jacob. That is not, by any standard, a great nation. And it is certainly not a nation in possession of a land. And that deals only with the earthly aspects of the promises. The heavenly aspects of a coming Messiah and a heavenly resurrection were even further removed.

What the writer is pointing out here is the nature of enduring faith. It is a faith that holds fast to the end - including past the veil of death. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him," was the heartfelt cry of Job’s faith, and it is the attitude of all the faithful because they see in part, by the grace of God in His promises to them, an eternal God of omnipotent power and unmoveable faithfulness. We have an anchor that holds fast within the veil. That veil is death to our flesh, but is open to all who are in Christ by the Spirit.

Enduring faith sees beyond this life. Its treasure is in heaven. It hopes in what God has promised - some of which applies here and now to practical matters of living, and some of which applies to the hereafter, but which has profound effects on the way we live now.

But once more we are reminded that the dominant attitude of believers is that we are strangers and exiles on earth. In the world but not of it. Sojourners. Temporary residents. Just passin’ through. Holding all things lightly. Loving not the world, nor the things of the world. Fixed upon a heavenly destination toward which we journey because our hearts are already there.

Notice the statement that these ancient saints "saw" the fulfillment of the promises "from afar". That is faith in action. Hope and faith go arm in arm, looking to God to be faithful and relying upon Him to the end, no matter what befalls.

See how, amazingly (to me, at least), the Old Testament saints and patriarchs are depicted not as being focused so much on the earthly fulfillment of the promised land, but upon the heavenly city to which they were journeying, or the fulfillment of promises after their own death. It may be that they came to this as they approached the end of life, realizing that some things were not going to be fulfilled in their lifetime. Perhaps it was in the dark face of their own mortality that clarity was reached and they fully understood the transience of life. We are not told when, but that they thought in this way.

One hears stories about faithful mothers praying for their unbelieving sons and going to the grave in the hope that God would eventually save them. And some of them were indeed saved, we hear. To trust God as we sink into the darkness of death is a great calling. To be trusting as our flesh dies that our spirit will survive, that sorrows and evils are left behind and there will be joys forevermore at the Table of the Lord - this is the ultimate fruit of the Spirit. Endurance from a living hope and faith.

God owns His people. Not only in the sense of possession, but in the sense of acknowledging them when He sees faith at work. Whenever people are looking heavenward towards the God of the promise and have died to the things of earth as far as their affections are concerned, then they are exhibiting Christ and are beloved in Him. He has, from eternity been preparing a place for all who would be given genuine faith and would, thereby, endure to the end. It is amazing that God gives to us what he loves in us. This He has done with all the saints through the ages.

They will hear "Well done thou good and faithful servant," when they know that, of themselves, they were neither good nor faithful. They will not hear, "Depart from me you workers of iniquity, for I never, ever knew you." And that is because they were known in Christ from the foundation of the world and destined to be in Him for eternity.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Green TULIP
(A Limerick)

Sin messes you up through and through;
God's choice rests on nothing in you;
Christ bears his sheep's sins;
God's grace always wins,
And the saints, by God's power, will stay true.

(Bible Bus Limericks)