Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Sacramental World and the Sursum Corda

Psalm 73:24-25 (ESV)

24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

Two important truths are found in these verses:

First, from verse 24, we learn that if we want to be received into glory in heaven after our life is over, we would do well to follow the Lord's counsel here on earth.  We fool ourselves if we ignore or care nothing for Jesus' teaching as found in God's Word, and then expect to enter his heaven.

Second, from verse 25, we are taught that the creation or material world is sacramental.  In other words, all of creation points to the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all things derive their being, beauty, and meaning.  The reason the psalmist can say that he desires nothing but the Lord on earth, is that created things are penultimate, not ultimate, secondary, not primary.

Do we desire our daily bread?  Yes, but Jesus is the bread of life and is our true portion.  Do we desire friendship with others?  Yes, but Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Do we delight in the beauty of nature?  Yes, but nature derives its beauty and glory from Jesus.  Do we desire that closest communion of a husband or wife?  Yes, but we are the bride of Christ, and our fellowship is with the Father and the Son, by the Spirit.  In other words, our earthly desires, rightly understood, point us to the Lord himself.  And, if we use created things rightly in a sacramental way that finds the Lord in all things, we can find true satisfaction as we look to heaven and lift our hearts to him (in the historic Christian liturgy, this lifting up of our hearts during the Supper is known as the sursum corda).  

Therefore, let us follow our Lord's regular pattern as we partake and make use of created things: "And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves . . . . and they all ate and were [truly] satisfied."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Jesus Our Only Teacher



I was struck in my devotions today by this verse from Luke 9:26:
"For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."
Of course, all the words of Jesus come to us via his apostles and the associates of the apostles, who wrote the New Testament. Therefore, we are not allowed to separate the Gospels from the Epistles or Jesus and Paul, as some are prone to do. We have an apostolic faith, and we must be committed as Christians to all of the apostolic writings.
There is lots of pressure on us to be ashamed of Jesus and his words, as mediated to us by the apostles. Especially on the issue of homosexuality, marriage, and sexual immorality, our culture wants us to ignore and reject Jesus' teaching via his apostles. But to do this would be to be ashamed of Jesus and his words, when he returns. Sadly, this is what millions of professing Christians are doing.
Part of the problem is that these nominal Christians rarely, if ever, read the New Testament. They do not know what Jesus taught through the Gospels and Epistles, because if they have devotions at all, they consist of one Bible verse and some sentimental, sappy comments. We need to recover the truth that Jesus is our sole teacher, who transforms and challenges our beliefs, worldviews, and lives, for our good and his glory.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hymn About Jesus' Family

Wondrous Priv'lege to Us Granted
                                                             
Suggested tune: REGENT SQUARE (http://www.opc.org/hymn.html?hymn_id=44).  Meter: 878787.  Based on Luke 8:19-21.  Words: William Weber, 2014. (song after sermon, adoption, union with Christ, family of God, the church, incarnation, new birth/regeneration, God's love, trinity)

v. 1
Wondrous priv'lege to us granted,
if to Jesus we belong.
Into Him are we engrafted,
if His name we call upon.
Blessed to be in Jesus' fam'ly,
give Him praise in joyful song.

v. 2
Jesus is our older brother,
in His mercy came to earth.
On an errand from the Father,
to bring many sons to birth.
Blessed are we in Jesus' fam'ly,
praise the Son of matchless worth.

v. 3
Father, You in love adopted,
rebel orphans sought to bless.
We were barred from Your blessed presence,
now in Jesus, free access.
God our Father, Christ our brother,
In His fam'ly we are blessed.

D v. 4
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
love from all eternity.
Father, help your church to model,
triune love for all to see.
Through the Son and by the Spirit,
form a loving family.
                                        


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Meditation on Psalm 52:1

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
The steadfast love of God endures all the day. (Psalm 52:1)

I was thinking about this verse today. At first glance it appears as though the second line has nothing to do with the first. But what we have is antithetical parallelism, with the righteous man implied in the second line.

Those who boast in evil, make a foolish choice when they could be boasting in the steadfast love of God. This steadfast love will last forever, in contrast to evil, which will come to an end, either at the end of man's life or in the eschaton. In this sense, it seems that the verse pokes fun at the "mighty man," who is really not so mighty if he or she is mortal! How foolish of man, whose breath is in his nostrils (dependent on God for each breath), to consider himself mighty.

But what exactly is the "evil" in view in this verse? Based on the context of the rest of the psalm, at least two of the threefold lust of 1 John 2:15-17 are in view, namely, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

Lust, of course, excludes us from the love of God, for which we were made. It is something we need to put to death through Jesus' death and resurrection, for if we indulge our lusts, we cannot abide in our heavenly Father's love. May the Spirit teach us how to boast and abide in the love of the triune love, which Jesus has revealed to us and enables us to participate in.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is Lust Always Wrong?

The struggle with sexual lust is not just common to me, but I am in my 45th year of the struggle, and I've learned something new that I think is a big help.

For years I struggled with this dilemma: How can lust be wrong outside of marriage but right inside of marriage? This question always lurked in the back of my mind for years, and has given me much grief. The problem seemed insoluble. It seemed impossible to solve.

Then I began noticing verses like this:
Galatians 5:24: And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
1 John 2:15-17: Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
2 Peter 1:4: For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 
1 Peter 2:11: Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 

The thought finally began to dawn that maybe lust in all its forms, whether for money or sex or whatever, was always wrong! Maybe there was no safe haven where lusts are ok to indulge, not even marriage!

That brought me to the words of Jesus, where I noticed he did not add the caveat, except your wife in marriage:
"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28).

A superficial reading of this verse seems to say lust is ok, because, of course, you cannot commit adultery with your own wife! But Jesus here is ruling out lust toward all women, and vice versa, by not adding the caveat that it is ok in marriage. He says this because lust is fundamentally wrong and the opposite of love. Lust is self-grasping, but love is self-giving. Lust uses the other person and turns them into an object, but love respects the other person as a subject/person, and gives.

Of course, there is much more to say on all of this (for example, how is marriage a remedy to lust if lust is not something we are to indulge?), and it doesn't end the battle with sexual lust. But it is a good first step to identify the enemy and to be clear intellectually that lust is always wrong, even in marriage. This truth will never fly in the world, but then Jesus' teaching never does in a world characterized by lust, not love.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Ultimate Concern for Christian Parents

"If there is any concern that lies close to the heart of godly parents, it is their children. And rightly so, for children are precious pledges that God will demand at the hands of parents.

"Now, if godly parents ponder this fact, the will earnestly commend their children to God in prayer before they are born, and later they will bring their children with them when they come before God. Godly parents pray in particular that God would give their children pious hearts and the Holy Spirit, who will sanctify, govern, and guide them. This is the true foundation of their happiness; compared with this, wealth, skill, and prudence are to be deemed nothing."
  
  --Johann Starck, from "Starck's Prayer Book"
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lust and Hell

"Lust and hell can both be defined by the same five words: the 

absence of God's love. This is why lust is so serious. If God's love 

constitutes man's origin, vocation, and destiny, then lust constitutes

the antithesis of 
man's very existence." --Christopher West

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