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Archive for April, 2011

Happy Friday

Hermeneutics as applied to a STOP sign

“The Cat Sat on the Mat” as interpreted by the Church of England

From Marc

And here’s a marvellous little piece on the true Royal Wedding from Barry Cooper.

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By promise

By prototype

By presence

Genesis 22 is a good example of Christ being there in all three senses.

By promise, He is there in the Seed, first promised in 3:15, threatened through sacrificial death but renewed so that in Abraham’s Seed all nations will be blessed (22:18).

He is also promised very strikingly in v14.  Abraham said the LORD would provide a lamb (v7-8).  On this occasion a ram is provided (v13).  And “So Abraham caled the name of that place “The LORD will provide.”  As it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”   The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world will be provided on that mountain in the region of Moriah (Jerusalem – cf 2 Chron 3:1).  And everybody knew about it.  They kept saying ‘On that mountain the LORD shall provide Himself the lamb.’  (It’s a reflexive verb, tricky to translate but fascinating all the same!)

By prototype, there is Isaac the very first promised offspring of Abraham.  The beloved son.  The heir of the promises.  He carries the wood on his back up the hill while his father holds the tools of judgement (v6).  He is laid on the wood for sacrifice, but through divine intervention Abraham receives him back from death (cf Heb 11:19).  And all of this on the third day (v4)

By presence, the Angel of the LORD intervenes.  In v12 He sees that Abraham fears God because he didn’t withhold his son from Himself (that is, from the Angel).  In verses 15-18 the Angel speaks as the LORD, swears by Himself and promises to bless Abraham as above.   He both is the LORD but He is also clearly distinct from another Person called LORD.    Interesting isn’t it – this is the only time the Angel is said to speak from heaven.  Christ chose not to come down to this pre-enactment of the cross.

So Christ is present in a mixture of these three ways throughout the OT.

And it’s important to highlight all three and to relate them to one another.  The Angel is present not as a freaky apparition but as a portent of the gospel work He would do as the promised Seed, the promised Isaac etc.  Check out these quotes by John Owen that interweave Christ as actually present and Christ as promised:

“After the promise [of Gen 3:15] was given, he appeared ‘in human form’ to instruct the Church in the mystery of his future incarnation, and under the name of Angel, to shadow out his office as sent unto it and employed in it by the Father; so here, before the promise, he discovered his distinct glorious person, as the eternal Voice of the Father. (John Owen’s Works, Volume 18, p220)

[On the LORD’s appearance in Genesis 18]  Neither is there any ground for the late exposition of this and the like places, namely, that a created angel representing the person of God doth speak and act in his name, and is called Jehovah; an invention to evade the appearances of the Son of God under the old testament, contrary to the sense of all antiquity, nor is any reason or instance produced to make it good. (ibid, p221)

[On Genesis 32:24-30]  From what hath been spoken, it is evident that he who appeared unto Jacob, with whom he earnestly wrestled, by tears and supplications was God; and because he was sent as the angel of God, it must be some distinct person in the Deity condescending unto that office; and appearing in the form of a man, he represented his future assumption of our human nature.  And by all this did God instruct the church in the mystery of the person of the Messiah, and who it was that they were to look for in the blessing of the promised Seed. (ibid, p225)

[On Exodus 3:1-6] He is expressly called an “Angel” Exod. 3:2 – namely, the Angel of the covenant, the great Angel of the presence of God, in whom was the name and nature of God.  And he thus appeared that the Church might know and consider who it was that was to work out their spiritual and eternal salvation, whereof that deliverance which then he would effect was a type and pledge. (ibid, p225)

When we highlight the presence of Christ with the people it is not to minimize the importance of the promise nor the proto-types.  Christ is present among them that He Himself might prefigure His promised work.  So the OT is not various promises and types moving towards Christ but is Christ Himself striding towards His own incarnation.  (Blackham’s phrase).

But then why specifically highlight the presence verses?

Well often when I speak about Christ in the OT I mention the promises and people say “Ah yes, but they spoke better than they knew.”  Sometimes they’ll bring up 2 Cor 1:20 and say ‘There were lots of promises about all kinds of stuff but, unbeknown  to the OT saints, these promises ended up being about Christ.’  Of course they never quote v19 which says ‘These promises have always been ‘Yes’ in Christ.’  But still the ‘promises’ route seems to slide off people’s backs.

The proto-types route very readily slides off backs too.  ‘David was David’ they say, ‘No-one had to know he prefigured the divine Messiah.’  Now of course you can quote Gen 49:10, you can point to the immensely exalted ways David is spoken of in the OT, you can do what Jesus did and quote Ps 110 or what Peter did and quote Psalm 16, but still people don’t want to admit that the OT saints consciously knew about the typology in which they participated.

And so we turn to the presence verses.  And here there is still resistance – “Ok so Jacob knew that the name of the God of Abraham was the Angel (the Sent One) and He was the Source of blessing (Gen 48:15-16).  So what?”

But my hope is that banging on this particular point may just soften up an assumption that resists this teaching very strongly.  The assumption is that OT saints could not have understood that the divine Visitor who encountered them was Himself LORD and also sent from the LORD.  It is assumed that OT saints are effectively unitarian in their understanding.  It is assumed that the OT saints had no ability to conceive of ‘God from God’ the way we do and therefore no conceptual framework for knowing and trusting the distinct Person of the divine Mediator.

My hope is that banging on these verses may just loosen up such a tight set of assumptions, because those assumptions really do straight-jacket these discussions.

It’s not by any means the only way by which we should speak of Christ in the OT but it’s a significant plank in the argument.

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— Based on the early chapters of Hebrews…

God our Brother, with us He sides;
Sanctifier one with sanctified
 
Assuming Flesh, His life to give;
That we in Him, His life may live
 
True God from God, true Man for men;
He sang His children’s glad “Amen”
   
Bone of His Bones, Flesh of His Flesh;
The LORD Himself our Righteousness!
  
Our Great High Priest, Apostle true;
The Great I AM, is human too
 
Always to stand, for us to bring;
His sweet, eternal Offering
 
Though in myself is nothing pure;
Yet on His heart my name endures
  
Bone of His Bones, Flesh of His Flesh;
Christ is my Life, my Righteousness!
 

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Audio

This passage is the story of two cups.  Easter is the story of two cups.

One cup was offered in the upper room.  The other cup was offered in the Garden of Gethsemane.

One cup Jesus gives to us.  One cup Jesus drinks for Himself

One cup is a cup for the forgiveness of sins.  One cup is a cup of wrath and judgement.

One cup brings life.  One cup brings death.

One cup the bible describes as a cup of blessing.  The other cup is a cup of curse.

But this is the story of Easter – Jesus drank the cup of curses so that we can drink the cup of blessings.  In other words, Easter is all about a wonderful exchange.  That’s how Christians for thousands of years have described it: a wonderful exchange:  Jesus takes the curses that we deserve in order to give us the blessings that only He deserves.  He doesn’t deserve the Garden of Gethsemane.  He doesn’t deserve to drink the cup of curses, but He does.  And we don’t deserve to sit at the Feast with the LORD Almighty.  We don’t deserve to drink the cup of blessings, but we do.  It’s a wonderful exchange.  He takes what we deserve to give us what we don’t deserve.

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Coming soon…

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Double Standards

Here are some double standards I’m aware of from my corner of conservative evangelicalism:

* When we preach “Come to Christ and you won’t have such a lousy eternity” it’s “God-centred.”

* When they preach “Come to Christ and you won’t have such a lousy life” it’s “man-centred”

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* When our preachers go outside the text for 6 historical witnesses to support its truth it’s because we value the word.

* When their preachers go outside the text for 6 inspiring stories to support its truth it’s because they don’t value the word.

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* When we run a toddler group for the community it’s gospel ministry.

* When they offer DIY around the local housing estate it’s a social gospel.

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Others???

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I wrote these two last week.  In the end I ditched the first in favour of the second.  We sang about fishes not seeds on Easter Sunday…

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A great resource.  Definitely more a lean-back than lean-forward site.  Loads of videos.  You could recommend this to any of your friends with great confidence.

Go forth!

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Josh VB gives some great thoughts on reading the word in community – check it out!

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Christ is Risen

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In the wake of Nigerian presidential elections in which a Christian from the south has won, the north has erupted in violence. Open Doors reports that 60 churches have been torched and thousands of Christian homes destroyed.

My brother in Christ Yahaya Ibrahim is a brave pastor of a congregation in Kaduna. He contacted me to ask for prayer:

Please pray for:

* God’s intervention,
* Pray against fear,
* Pray against retaliation,
* Pray against rumour mongering.

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This is such a beautiful song and I couldn’t find it on youtube (not to this tune anyway). So here’s a Good Friday effort. Someday I’ll learn how to fingerpick…

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Oh Happy Day

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[A repost]

And I quote:

Real manliness is defined by Christlike character, and not just the Gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild-style character, but the full-orbed fruit of the Spirit rounded out with strength, courage, conviction, strong passions, manly love, and a stout-hearted willingness to oppose error and fight for the truth—even to the point of laying down your life for the truth if necessary.

From TeamPyro’s More on the Sissification of Church

Just the other day I was going to post on the fruit of the Spirit – wondering whether ‘real men’ would find Paul too feminized at this point.  All that girly ‘patience and gentleness’ and nothing about mechanical, athletic or barbecuing ability.

Then I read the quote above. Now I think I agree with much of what the author says.  He himself is reacting against a kind of John Eldredge ‘wild man’ myth.  And who could disagree that manliness is defined by Christlike character?  But to say the fruit of the Spirit requires ’rounding out’ when it’s applied to real men….  ??

Does this mean that ‘faith, hope and love’ are a bit ‘chickified’?  Perhaps they require rounding out with ‘strength, honour and belching’?  Or maybe ‘be joyful, pray and give thanks’ (1 Thes 5:16-18) need augmenting with ‘build, fix and kill.’

Oh look, I’m all for stout-hearted fighting spirit.  I know that men are cowards.  I know what a problem this is.  After all, the silence of Adam got us into this mess in the first place.

But when true, stout-hearted, courageous manhood is expressed, you know what it will look like?  Cheek-turning, cloak-giving, rights-yielding, foot-washing, burden-bearing, shame-absorbing, sacrificial love.

It will look like the fruit of the Spirit.  And even though these qualities may look sissy to the world – well…  Real men don’t care about looking sissy.

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Other posts on men stuff:

Models of masculinity

Three thoughts on Headship

He said – She said

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There is the strongest link between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others.  Therefore, what does it mean when we find another’s sin “unforgiveable”?

Well, what does God find unforgiveable?  Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30) – for more thoughts from me on that, see here.

So what about sins we find unforgiveable?  What’s going on there?  Well, in my limited experience of my own struggles and in talking to others, it’s involved blasphemy against the offended person’s true god.  I’ve spoken to people who are well aware that:

1) Christ has forgiven them,

2) that Christ commands them to forgive, and that…

3) the offences against them are minor – not only relative to Christ’s forgiveness but even when compared to other atrocities in the world.

Yet they say “I simply cannot forgive that.”  Essentially they consider the offender to have committed the unforgiveable sin.   In these cases it’s not that the offender has rejected Christ (the basic issue at the heart of the unforgiveable sin).  But they have opposed the offended person’s real god (their “functional saviour” to use a Tim Kellerism).

I might find countless offences to be “water off a ducks back” but if someone ruins my reputation, or if they harm my career or if they in any way hurt my children – that’s unforgiveable.  At those moments it’s good to be aware that “unforgiveable” is synonymous with “sacrilegious.”  And it’s good to identify the real god who we think is being blasphemed.

When the idol of “my reputation” or “my career” or “my family” is uncovered, it’s actually a huge step forwards in forgiveness.  Because now there’s something very concrete for me to repent of.  You see, she may have ruined my reputation.  But I worshipped it.  My eyes are taken off the horizontal for the moment and fixed on the vertical.  I realize I’m not so much “offended party” as “offender”.  In the language of Matthew 18, I start to realize the vastness of the ten thousand talent debt.  And the 100 denarii becomes instantly relativized – not just in theory, but hopefully as a felt reality.

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Today was my last official 1662 Book of Common Prayer communion service as curate.  Aside from the prayer of humble access, this is the prayer I really love from the service.  It’s said after receiving communion and saying the Lord’s prayer:

ALMIGHTY and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs through hope of thy everlasting kingdom, by the merits of the most precious death and passion of thy dear Son. And we most humbly beseech thee , O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen

What is communion according to this prayer?

1) The Father feeding us with Christ,

2) Assuring us of His favour and goodness towards us, namely…

3) That we are members of Christ, and…

4) We are heirs of the kingdom

5)  All through the death of Christ

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Now what?

1) Please Father, helps us to continue in communion with Christ

3) And that we walk in the good works you’ve prepared for us.

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Glory!

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Seed Song – for Easter

Sorry for lightweight blogging recently.  If I had the time I’d record the audio of this for you too.  If anyone wants to use it before Sunday, let me know and I’ll give you the chords etc.  But the tune and feel of the song is very much like My Old Man’s A Dustman.

My text for our All Age Easter Sunday is Matthew 28:16-20, so I came up with this.

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I went into a garden and asked the gardener
How will I grow my fruit and veg, I’d like to know please sir
He said “I’ll give you good advice and tell you what you need
Sit down my son and listen to the lesson of the seed.”

Plant it down, down, down, down, down into the ground
Let it lay, lay, lay, lay through the month of May
Watch it rise, rise, rise, rise, high into the skies
Then it grow, grow, grow, better fruit you’ll never know.

Well Jesus wants his people to spread throughout the earth
To share good news that anyone can have a second birth
Come everyone get grafted in it is your greatest need
But first, Jesus has to play the part of the Seed.

He went down, down, down, down, down into the ground
There He lay, lay, lay, lay on the Saturday
Then He rise, rise, rise, rise, high into the skies
So we go, go, go, tell the world what we know

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Sermon audio: Mark 15:21-41

Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul said this:

the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  (1 Corinthians 1:18)

The cross splits the world.  Either you look at the cross and think – that’s pathetic – or you look and you think – that’s powerful.  It’s either pathetic or powerful.  If you think it’s pathetic, Paul says “you are perishing.”  The way milk perishes and goes off and soon it gets chucked away for good – that’s you if you think the cross is foolish.  But if you think it’s the power of God, you are being saved.  That means you have been plucked from the perishing crowd and set on a one-way street to heaven.  But it’s one or the other.

The cross splits the world.  And tonight we’re going to hear the message of the cross.  If you have not become a Christian, the bible says that right now you are in the perishing camp.  And you need to look again to find salvation.  But you can, tonight, you can look at the cross and say “Wow!  That is the power of God!”  And you can go home saved from your perishing.

And if you are a believer already, you and I need the message of the cross daily.  A few verses later in 1 Corinthians, Paul says “I’m determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).  Christians grow in their faith as they contemplate the cross.  So let’s look at the cross together, and let’s allow Mark’s Gospel to be our guide.

Turn to the beginning of Mark. Have a look at chapter 1, verse 1.  And here’s where we need to begin with the cross.  We need to begin by realizing WHO is hanging on the cross. Who is He?  Mark 1:1

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

So who is Jesus?  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  Those are two different titles for Jesus.  Christ means “The One Anointed with the Holy Spirit.”  In Hebrew it’s the word “Messiah.”  In Greek it’s the word “Christos.”  In English we say Christ – but it’s all the same thing.  Christ means, “The One Anointed with the Holy Spirit.”  It means that Jesus is King, because KINGS are anointed.  We usually think about “crowning” a King, but in the bible (and even in the British coronation service) you ANOINT kings.  It means pouring oil on their head.  The oil symbolized the Holy Spirit.  The King would reign in the power of the Spirit.

So Jesus is THE Christ.  THE King.  THE Anointed One.  And it’s not like Jesus has been anointed by mere men.  Even before the universe began, Jesus has been the One anointed with the Holy Spirit. The One filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit.  The One who has the most intimate and intense relationship with God the Spirit.  That’s what it means that He is the Christ.

And He is also “the Son of God.”  That means He has always called the Almighty God, Daddy.  Before there was a universe, Jesus was always calling God Most High, Daddy.  He’s the eternal Son of the Father.

This is Jesus:  He is the Christ – He has the ULTIMATE relationship with the Spirit.  And He is the Son of God – He has the ULTIME relationship with the Father. Jesus is one of the Trinity.  He is God the Son, loved by God the Father and filled with God the Spirit.  He is God filled by God with God.  He is God filled by God with God – He is the Christ, the Son of God.

Now then, think, who is hanging on the cross?

He is God filled by God with God.  He is the Lord of this world.  He is our Maker.  He is the Author of Life, the Centrepiece of all reality.  And He is nailed to a piece of wood until He dies.

Here is the message of the cross:  Does that sound powerful or does that sound pathetic?

God filled by God with God comes to planet earth.  And we kill Him.  And He lets us.

Does that sound powerful or does that sound pathetic?

God filled by God with God comes to planet earth.  And we kill Him.  And He lets us.

If that’s true then what are we like?  And what is He like?

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