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Archive for February, 2009

Sanctification by Faith

Just an excellent podcast (25 mins)

Tim Rudge talks to Mike Reeves on living by faith on an hour by hour basis – applying the truths of the gospel to our sin and cultivating a healthy and happy walk with Christ.  I’ve listened to it twice already.  Great stuff.

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Luther on Galatians 1:4

Galatians 1:4:  [Jesus Christ] who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.

You will readily grant that Christ gave Himself for the sins of Peter, Paul, and others who were worthy of such grace. But feeling low, you find it hard to believe that Christ gave Himself for your sins. Our feelings shy at a personal application of the pronoun “our,” and we refuse to have anything to do with God until we have made ourselves worthy by good deeds.

This attitude springs from a false conception of sin, the conception that sin is a small matter, easily taken care of by good works; that we must present ourselves unto God with a good conscience; that we must feel no sin before we may feel that Christ was given for our sins. This attitude is universal and particularly developed in those who consider themselves better than others. Such readily confess that they are frequent sinners, but they regard their sins as of no such importance that they cannot easily be dissolved by some good action, or that they may not appear before the tribunal of Christ and demand the reward of eternal life for their righteousness. Meantime they pretend great humility and acknowledge a certain degree of sinfulness for which they soulfully join in the publican’s prayer, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” But the real significance and comfort of the words “for our sins” is lost upon them. The genius of Christianity takes the words of Paul “who gave himself for our sins” as true and efficacious. We are not to look upon our sins as insignificant trifles. On the other hand, we are not to regard them as so terrible that we must despair. Learn to believe that Christ was given, not for picayune and imaginary transgressions, but for  mountainous sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for sins that can be discarded, but for sins that are stubbornly ingrained. Practice this knowledge and fortify yourself against despair, particularly in the last hour, when the memory of past sins assails the conscience. Say with confidence: “Christ, the Son of God, was given not for the righteous, but for sinners. If I had no sin I should not need Christ. No, Satan, you cannot delude me into thinking I am holy. The truth is, I am all sin. My sins are not imaginary transgressions, but sins against the first table, unbelief, doubt, despair, contempt, hatred, ignorance of God, ingratitude towards Him, misuse of His name, neglect of His Word, etc.; and sins against the second table, dishonor of parents, disobedience of government, coveting of another’s possessions, etc. Granted that I have not committed murder, adultery, theft, and similar sins in deed, nevertheless I have committed them in the heart, and therefore I am a transgressor of all the commandments of God.

“Because my transgressions are multiplied and my own efforts at self-justification rather a hindrance than a furtherance, therefore Christ the Son of God gave Himself into death for my sins.”  To believe this is to have eternal life. 

Let us equip ourselves against the accusations of Satan with this and similar passages of Holy Scripture. If he says, “Thou shalt be damned,” you tell him: “No, for I fly to Christ who gave Himself for my sins. In accusing me of being a damnable sinner, you are cutting your own throat, Satan. You are reminding me of God’s fatherly goodness toward me, that He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In calling me a sinner, Satan, you really comfort me above measure.” With such heavenly cunning we are to meet the devil’s craft and put from us the memory of sin.

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What Matthew 8:1 does not say…

And lo, having spoken thus, He didst ascend from the mount before their eyes.  And He spake unto them saying, “Remember this that I have taught you.”

And lo, angels didst appear saying, “Why doth ye lookest into the sky?  He hath given to thee thy programme of reform…”

Instead there’s an unclean wretch who runs to the LORD of Israel even in His uncleanness.  And He is cleansed, healed, restored.

Oh, and then there’s that whole death and resurrection thing too.

Might be important.

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Good to have a laugh

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The excellent Marc Lloyd has posted the juciest quotation on Christ the Mediator of all revelation.  It’s from Ronald Wallace’s book Calvin’s Doctrine of Word and Sacrament.  Here he is summarizing Calvin’s view especially of christocentric revelation in the OT.

The Mediator of all revelation between God and man in the Old Testament is the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity, the same Christ who became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. Throughout the whole national history of Israel, it was always He, the Son of God, who dealt with His people in judgement and mercy, bringing them, with His Presence in their midst, light and life and salvation. Calvin asserts positively that Christ, the Word of God, who “remains with God perpetually one and the same and who is God Himself” (Inst 1:13:7), was “always the bond of connection between God and man” (Comm on Gen 48:15), and “the source of all revelations” (Inst 1:13:7), being “always present in all the oracles” (Comm on Gen 16:10). He is equally emphatic in the frequent negative assertion, “Never did God reveal Himself outside of Christ” (Comm on Jn 5:23). “Nor indeed, had any of the saints ever had communication with God except through the promised Mediator.” (Comm on Ex 3:2) “God formerly manifested Himself in no other way than though Him.” (Comm on Gen 48:15) God never otherwise revealed Himself to the Fathers “but in His eternal Word and only begotten Son” (Comm on Is 6:1). The whole story of the Old Testament is thus the story of how Christ, the Word of God, breaks in upon the life of those whom He has chosen to make his people, and confronts them in these veiled forms through which they can come to know His nature and have communion with Him….

The frequent appearances of the “Angel of the Lord” as the representative of God to the Old Testemant Fathers, and as a guide of the people throughout their history is a sign that Christ is always fulfilling His Mediatorial office of saviour and revealer, and uniting even then the members of His Church to Himself as the Head through whom they are joined to God Himself. Calvin, following the “orthodox doctors” (Inst 1:13:10) on this point, identifies the “chief angel” who appears among the other angelic visitors to earth with “God’s only begotten Son who was afterwards manifest in the flesh” (Comm on Ex 14:19). Even then He performed in a preliminary fashion “some services introductory to His execution of the office of Mediator” (Inst 1:13:10). “There is then no wonder,” says Calvin, “that the Prophet should indictriminately call Him Angel and Jehovah, He being the Mediator of the Church and also God. He is God, being of the same essence with the Father; and Mediator, having already undertaken His Mediatorial office, though not then clothed in our flesh so as to become our brother; for the Church could not exist nor be united to God without a Head” (Comm on Zech 1:18-21). “The angel who appeared at first to Moses, and was always present with the people during their journeying, is frequently called Jehovah. Let is then regard it as a settled point that the angel was Son of God, and was even then the Guide of the Church of which He was the Head” (Comm on 1 Cor 10:9).

Calvin’s Doctrine of the Word and Sacrament (Edinburgh, Scottish Academic Press, 1995) first edition 1953, pp8-10

 

I bang the same drum (endlessly) here.  For more quotes in support from the big guns go here.  Or read Bible Overview, especially appendix 2.

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I’m loving Pascal’s Thoughts.

He would have had a great blog.

Check out this one on “Diversions” (basically our lack of contentment).

Given that, as I type, I have no less than 15 active screens on my computer, perhaps I should take heed…

139.  …I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber. A man who has enough to live on, if he knew how to stay with pleasure at home, would not leave it to go to sea or to besiege a town. A commission in the army would not be bought so dearly, but that it is found insufferable not to budge from the town; and men only seek conversation and entering games, because they cannot remain with pleasure at home.

But, on further consideration, when, after finding the cause of all our ills, I have sought to discover the reason of it, I have found that there is one very real reason, namely, the natural poverty of our feeble and mortal condition, so miserable that nothing can comfort us when we think of it closely.

Whatever condition we picture to ourselves, if we muster all the good things which it is possible to possess, royalty is the finest position in the world. Yet, when we imagine a king attended with every pleasure he can feel, if he be without diversion and be left to consider and reflect on what he is, this feeble happiness will not sustain him; he will necessarily fall into forebodings of dangers, of revolutions which may happen, and, finally, of death and inevitable disease; so that, if he be without what is called diversion, he is unhappy and more unhappy than the least of his subjects who plays and diverts himself.

Hence it comes that play and the society of women, war and high posts, are so sought after. Not that there is in fact any happiness in them, or that men imagine true bliss to consist in money won at play, or in the hare which they hunt; we would not take these as a gift. We do not seek that easy and peaceful lot which permits us to think of our unhappy condition, nor the dangers of war, nor the labour of office, but the bustle which averts these thoughts of ours and amuses us….

….Thus passes away all man’s life. Men seek rest in a struggle against difficulties; and when they have conquered these, rest becomes insufferable. For we think either of the misfortunes we have or of those which threaten us. And even if we should see ourselves sufficiently sheltered on all sides, weariness of its own accord would not fail to arise from the depths of the heart wherein it has its natural roots and to fill the mind with its poison.

Thus so wretched is man that he would weary even without any cause for weariness from the peculiar state of his disposition; and so frivolous is he that, though full of a thousand reasons for weariness, the least thing, such as playing billiards or hitting a ball, is sufficient to amuse him…

 …Consider this. What is it to be superintendent, chancellor, first president, but to be in a condition wherein from early morning a large number of people come from all quarters to see them, so as not to leave them an hour in the day in which they can think of themselves? And when they are in disgrace and sent back to their country houses, where they lack neither wealth nor servants to help them on occasion, they do not fail to be wretched and desolate, because no one prevents them from thinking of themselves.

Read them all here.

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Michael Spencer absolutely nails this one.  Go and read the whole thing here.  Here are some highlights:

“Anything that one imagines of God apart from Christ is only useless thinking and vain idolatry.”- Martin Luther

…It truly breaks my heart to hear, see or read anyone who is a Christian approaching the subject of God, God’s will, God’s guidance, God’s message—without going to Jesus and camping right there with no intention to move or be impressed with anything else.

There are dozens, hundreds of ways to avoid Jesus when talking about God. There are dozens, hundreds of ways to manipulate Jesus to a less than defining place.

Many of these are fun. Some have the approval of important and powerful people. Some are wrapped in scripture verses. Many are surrounded by books or endorsed by ministers.

But at bottom, Jesus isn’t defining the God conversation. So the conversation is on the wrong foot and making a wrong turn. It may not be worthless, but it isn’t reliable.

…Jesus will break our idols, complicate our assumptions, overturn our tables and put himself squarely in the center of every question. He is the way, the truth, the life. He is the answer. He is the one way we think about, know, love, worship and relate to God.

When you think about God, go to Jesus.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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