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Archive for October, 2011

Pastor Martin

Emma’s got some Reformation Day Lutheran gold here.  Which reminds me of these, also from his Galatians commentary:

“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 small 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… [Yet because my transgressions are multiplied]… therefore Christ the Son of God gave Himself unto 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.”  (Galatians 1:4)

“By faith in Christ a person may gain such sure and sound comfort, that he need not fear the devil, sin, death, or any evil. “Sir Devil,” he may say, “I am not afraid of you. I have a Friend whose name is Jesus Christ, in whom I believe. He has abolished the Law, condemned sin, vanquished death, and destroyed hell for me. He is bigger than you, Satan. He has licked you, and holds you down. You cannot hurt me.” This is the faith that overcomes the devil.”  (Galatians 2:19)

“Whenever sin and death make you nervous write it down as an illusion of the devil. There is no sin now, no curse, no death, no devil because Christ has done away with them.”  (Galatians 3:13)

“Let us become expert in the art of transferring our sins, our death, and every evil from ourselves to Christ; and Christ’s righteousness and blessing from Christ to ourselves.” (Galatians 3:14)

“[Galatians 5:5: “We eagerly await for the hope of righteousness.”] This is sweet comfort for us. And we are to make use of it in comforting the afflicted. We are to say to them: “Brother, you would like to feel God’s favour as you feel your sin. But you are asking too much. Your righteousness rests on something much better than feelings. Wait and hope until it will be revealed to you in the Lord’s own time. Don’t go by your feelings, but go by the doctrine of faith, which pledges Christ to you.”

Defy Satan in times of despair. Say: “O cursed Satan, you choose a nice time to talk to me about doing and working when you know very well that I am in trouble over my sins. I will not listen to you. I will listen to Christ, who says that He came into the world to save sinners.  This is the true Christ and there is none other. I can find plenty of examples for a holy life in Abraham, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Paul, and other saints. But they cannot forgive my sins. They cannot save me. They cannot procure for me everlasting life. Therefore I will not have you for my teacher, O Satan.” (5:8)

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Creation to New Creation – Bible Studies

I just discovered these again, having written them ten years ago.  It was back before we knew the dangers of Comic Sans font, so please forgive me.  I post them here, more for my own filing than anything else!

Study 1 – Creation

Study 2 – Fall

Study 3 – Incarnation

Study 4 – Cross

Study 5 – Resurrection

Study 6 – New Creation

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Reformation Day

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Here’s one for IDEA magazine:

What is the most famous verse in the Bible?
Think of your instinctive response.
Was it John 3:16 by any chance?

If so, we may have understood the Bible and our faith too narrowly. Consider these contenders for the mantle of ‘Most famous Scripture’: “By the skin of my teeth.” “No rest for the wicked.” “Salt of the earth.” “How the mighty are fallen.” “The Spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.” “In the twinkling of an eye.” “Turn the other cheek.”

The list runs into the hundreds. Sometimes the sayings are a misquote of the Bible: “Money is the root of all evil.” Sometimes they are paraphrases such as “pride goeth before a fall” or “going the extra mile”. Often we use a summary of Bible stories: “Giant killing”, “The writing is on the wall”, “The good Samaritan.” In most cases the Scriptures “put words in our mouth” even though “we know not what we do!”

This year I have been blogging my way through 365 biblical phrases. If the general public ranked this list according to familiarity, I wonder where “God so loved the world” would come? I doubt it would make the top 100.

That’s the first thing I’ve learnt this year: The Scriptures are also secular….

—  Read the whole thing (only short!)

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And here’s a post on why atheists love the King James Bible…

….The triumph of a Bible in the vernacular was at the heart of the English renaissance.  What it did was to put the word at the heart of worship instead of images… Images without words keep people enslaved to the interpretations of the establishment.  Power is kept when images are at the centre.  But words written in the language of the people devolves power.  This was the revolutionary thing.  But it was revolutionary because the words conveyed ideas – and those ideas were liberating….

…A love for the King James Bible should not stop at its lyrical beauty.  If it does it betrays the real revolutionary power which the English Bible unleashed in the 16th and 17th centuries.  The English renaissance was birthed out of the content of the Bible – the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And if we want another renaissance, that’s the place we’ll find it!

—  Read the whole thing.

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crisis1) This is the occasion for change not the reason for change.

It’s great if you’ve come to some sort of crisis moment.  It’s good that you want to change.  But you ought to know that this is the struggle of your life.

I don’t mean: This is the struggle of your life.  I mean: This is the struggle of your life.  Welcome.

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Struggle2) If you’re not struggling, you’re losing.  Or worse, you’re not even a Christian.

Christians struggle.  We are the product of two births.  Our flesh is from Adam, our Spirit from Christ.  If you’re not struggling then you’re simply gratifying the cravings of your flesh (however respectable you may look).  And perhaps you don’t even have the Spirit.  Let the comfortable be disturbed.  And let the strugglers be comforted – your battle is a sign of the Spirit’s work.

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 Fruitful-Tree3) If you are struggling, you have a Power within you to live new creation life.

This is not the first thing to be put into practice, but it is one of the first things to say – there is hope!  If Christ is in you, you have the power that called forth the universe and He is determined to bring supernatural change.  Mark 4 comes to mind – the power of Christ’s word can and will produce 30, 60, 100-fold growth but of course it will be as gradual and organic as the growth of a seed.  Nonetheless this is what you are aiming for – not simply the correction of some annoying habits but the transformation of your character through Christ’s word.  Be encouraged by your struggle – it means that an other-worldly Power is at work and willtransform you in ways you can only begin to imagine.

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prodigal son34) Your righteousness is entirely outside and above you.

These problems do not define you.  Your success at handling these problems does not define you.  Christ defines you.  The Spirit will strive with the flesh as long as we live.  And when our problems get on top of us we feel like we live on the battlefield.  We don’t.  We fight on the battlefield, but we occupy the high ground – seated with Christ.  Our righteousness is secure. We don’t struggle for but struggle from freedom.

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community5) You must deal with this struggle in community

All the real action happens outside of you.  You need the word of life to come from outside.  As Bonhoeffer says ‘The Christ in the word of a brother is stronger than the Christ in my heart.’  At the same time you need to put words to your darkness and, again, bring it outside.  Sin thrives in the dark, you must bring it into the light.  1 John 1:5-10James 5:16.  Find someone.

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David confessing6) The person you reveal yourself to be in the midst of these sins is the person you’ve always been. 

We tend to think that we’re generally righteous and these problems have been a blip.  David knew better.  When he committed adultery and murder he realised that this was the person he’d been ‘from birth – sinful from the time my mother conceived me.’  (Ps 51:5)  These problems are just you with the hand-brake off.  Ugly huh?

But know also…

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prodigal son27) The person you reveal yourself to be in the midst of these sins is the person Jesus loves and has forgiven.

Jesus did not die for ‘me-on-my-best-behaviour’.  ‘While we were still sinners Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8).  ‘God justifies the wicked’ (Rom 4:5).  Which ‘me’ does Jesus love?  The cleaned up me?  No.  Jesus loves the me I showed myself to be in my worst moments.  When we grasp that Jesus is committed to us even and especially as we stink of sin it’s a hundred times worse but a thousand times better.  We must grasp the depths of this love for me the sinner – this is fundamental to real change.

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Jesus looking8) With 4-7 in place – we can learn to hate and hope appropriately.

Focussed in on ourselves we tend either to lose hatred or hope.  Either we don’t really hate our sin because we’re too attached to the ‘me’ who committed it.  Or we don’t really hope for transformation because we can’t imagine such a ‘me’ changing.  The problem is that we’re too attached to ‘me’.  Number 4) is the truth that releases us from that attachment and number 5) is the practice of it.  We then learn how to address this ‘me’ the way we’d address a brother or sister in sin.  As another addresses you in your sin with appropriate hatred and hope, learn to see things from this much healthier perspective.

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9)  Often your ‘problems’ aren’t your real problems.

Many’s the time a young guy has come to me about a struggle with pornography.  Yet after talking for a bit it becomes clear that “a clean internet history” would appear a long way down the list of ‘things to address.’  There’s pride, superiority, callousness, selfishnesss, etc, etc.  Now obviously all these things are inter-related.  But it’s worth having a sense of perspective.  When we talk about our ‘personal problems’ it’s easy to be distracted by certain behaviours rather than underlying attitudes of the heart.

solutions10) Actually your problems are your ‘solutions’.

You’ll be tempted to think…

“I have a recurring personal problem with X.”

Don’t be so sure.  Probably the truth is something much closer to…

“X is my solution to its insufferable alternative – Y”

X is a chosen strategy to avoid what you consistently reckon to be an even worse state of affairs.  You need to be thinking about what is Y, and why Y is so unbearable that you’d choose X.  Your deep fears (of Y) may be completely irrational and out of control.  But your chosen strategy, X, is not.

Therefore…

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strategy11)  Even the most seemingly compulsive and irrational ‘personal problems’ (non-organically caused) are, on deeper examination, chosen and intendedstrategies.

It might take some digging (Prov 20:5), but you will find volition at play.  This ought to reinforce the hope and hatred mix.  Hope because you’re not bound to sin like this.  Hatred because you’ve consistently and deliberately chosen these sins in defiance of Jesus and His way.

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nothing-but-the-blood12) Until you’ve diagnosed your problem as one for which Christ is necessary, you haven’t defined your real problem.

Your problem is not low self esteem or negative thoughts or panic attacks or over-eating or self-harm etc etc.  None of those require the blood of God.  Until you do the hard work on 4-7 and get to the heart issues – your angry defiance of your Father, your petrified mistrust of Christ, your obdurate resistance of the Spirit – you’re treating your wound lightly.

Jesus had to die.  Divine wisdom and heavenly encouragement have never been enough to address the human problem.  You don’t just need a bible study and a pep talk.  You need bloody, wrath-bearing atonement on your behalf, while all you can do is watch aghast.  Until you see your problems in that light you won’t be appropriately humbled and all your efforts at change will be a re-arranging of the flesh.

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resurrection13) Until you’ve set your hopes on a change for which Christ is necessary, you’re not aiming for Christian growth. 

It’s tempting to aim for a re-arranging of the flesh.  For instance, with the porn example above you may make a resolution to be porn free from now on.  Well, ok.  But Ephesians 3 tells you that resurrection power is available to effect in you far above all you can ask or imagine (Eph 1:19-203:20).  To aim for a clean internet history is not really to aim for Christian growth.  To aim for a pure heart that knows God and a burning zeal for Christ that takes you out of yourself and into the world – that’s your prayer.  And it’s impossible.  You can’t do it.  Only resurrection Power can.  But that’s where you aim if you want Christian growth.  And kicking pornography is just a little part of that.

Putting 12) and 13) together you get this:

Christ’s cross tells you to dig deeper,

Christ’s resurrection tells you to reach higher.

Therefore

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prayer14) Pray

The cross drives us down so that we call out in desperation, the resurrection lifts us up so that we ask for that which is humanly impossible.  There is therefore a gospel shape as well as a gospel power to our prayers.  Perhaps use the Lord’s Prayer as your guide. Every line of the prayer calls us to change.  Don’t move on in the prayer until you’ve prayed through the issues that each line is raising.  Here is the really hard work of change, but only because it’s so powerful.

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Scheming15) In your desire to change there will be both flesh and Spirit at work.

Your flesh wants you to change to gain control, look better, escape guilt feelings, avoid the need for dependence, achieve a righteousness of your own, etc, etc.  Bring these false motives before the Lord and repent of your repentance strategies.  True repentance comes from a brokenness that realizes even our tears of regret need washing in Christ’s blood.

At the same time be aware that there is a true yearning from your new nature – a deeper desire to know Christ and be conformed to His image.  Get in touch with the Spirit’s stirrings here through prayer and conversation with others.  Figuring out why you want to change and having this answer come from the right place is priceless.

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entitlement16) Address your entitlement spirit?

The flesh is ever desiring to establish its own righteousness.  How, specifically, are you seeking to make a name for yourself?  According to your flesh – what are you trying to earn?  What do you feel you are owed?  What do you have to do to earn this?  What has blocked your goals?  Having thought about this, try to articulate the shape of your entitlement spirit.  How does the gospel address your entitlement spirit in general?  Specifically, how does the gospel address the specifics of your entitlement spirit?  Real change is happening when the Gospel demolishes your flesh-strategies.

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17) You already have the solution

Not within you!  In Christ.

4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  (John 15:4-9)

Allow these words to live in you and allow yourself to live in Christ.

Again, these struggles don’t define you.  Our calling is not to dwell on them.  Our calling is to dwell in Him!

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Happy Friday

Here’s my Friday challenge.  Resist the urge to watch the whole thing….

 

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Dan Hames eats patristics for breakfast, that’s why he glows with an ancient and other-worldly glory.

He passed this onto me today from his studies in Eusebius.  This is from Timothy D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 1981, p. 126–127

‘Christianity, for Eusebius, was not a new religion but the primeval religion from which the traditional religions of mankind were mere offshoots or declensions.  The Christ who was crucified in the reign of Tiberius was the Divine Word, the Son of God, the Wisdom of God, the Light of the World, the first and only-begotten Son of God.  He was, in philosophical terms, the second cause and hence partner with God the Father in the creation of the universe and its inhabitants.  Since the dawn of history, the human race has been divided into two classes.  The righteous and reverent (who included Abraham and the Jewish patriarchs, Moses and the prophets) have always worshipped the Son of God, who has acted as a mediator between God and man, instructing the pious in the knowledge of his Father by the theophanies which the Old Testament records.

‘The majority of the ancients, however, neither worshipped the Son of God nor originally possessed the capacity to receive his teachings.  Adam disobeyed God, forfeited a life of blessedness and delight, and was condemned to a mortal and accursed existence.  Adam’s immediate descendants filled the earth and, with few exceptions, lived no better than beasts: they had no care for political organization, for law and morality, for intellectual activity, but lived as nomads.  Their self-inflicted wickedness destroyed their natural reason, and they indulged in all types of unholiness, even preparing to go to way with their creator.  God therefore chastised them with floods, fires, famines, plagues, and wars.  Yet, when mankind was sunk in a drunken torpor of wickedness, the Word of God appeared to some of the ancient worshipers of God, who planted the seeds of godliness on the earth and soon made a whole nation devoted to godliness.  They were the ancient Hebrews, on whom God enjoined, through the prophet Moses, religious practices which were the images and symbols of a spiritual reality not yet clearly revealed.  The laws of Moses became widely known and had a gradually civilizing effect throughout the world.  Hence, when the Roman empire came into existence, the whole world, including the gentiles, was ready to receive knowledge of the Father.  The Word of God, therefore, appeared on earth as the savior of all mankind.  His birth, life, miracles, teaching, death, and resurrection had all been predicted exactly by Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament, who even revealed, to those who could read the Bible aright, that the incarnate Word would be called Jesus Christ…

‘The Christian religion, therefore, Eusebius holds, is not novel or strange…  Christianity is identical with the religion of the patriarchs, and the worshippers of God from Adam to Abraham were Christian in all but name…

Thus Christianity is the most ancient and most venerable of all religions: accepted of old by Abraham and the patriarchs, now proclaimed to all mankind through the teaching of Christ, Christianity is the original, the only, the true way to worship God.’

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